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Avianca’s LifeMiles program has just announced that they’ll be offering a 100% bonus on purchased miles through May 29, 2015.
LifeMiles is actually offering a total of 120% bonus if you have an account registered outside of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, or the United States. If your account is eligible for the promotion, you should automatically see the increased offer showing up in your account.
How much are LifeMiles to purchase?
Through the US version of the promotion (with the 100% bonus) you can purchase a maximum of 75,000 LifeMiles (plus the 100% bonus), at a cost of 1.65 cents per mile all-in. With the 120% bonus you’re paying 1.5 cents per mile.
Up until last year the cost to purchase LifeMiles with a 100% bonus was 1.5 cents per mile, though as of September 30, 2014, LifeMiles raised the cost per purchased mile by 10%. This is only the the second promotion under the new pricing scheme.
The promotion is only valid for those that were members of the LifeMiles program prior to May 5, 2015. You can purchase a maximum of 150,000 LifeMiles per calendar year.
How does this compare to past promotions?
To put this promotion into the context of past promotions, LifeMiles has alternated between 100% bonuses on purchased and shared miles several times a year for quite a while now:
- In February 2015 there was a 100% bonus on shared LifeMiles
- In December 2014 there was a 100% bonus on purchased LifeMiles
- In September 2014 there was a 100% bonus on purchased LifeMiles
- In July 2014 there was a 100% bonus on shared LifeMiles
- In May 2014 there was a 100% bonus on purchased miles
- In March 2014 there was a 100% bonus on shared LifeMiles
- In December 2013 there was a 100% bonus on purchased LifeMiles
- In October 2013 there was a 100% bonus on shared LifeMiles
In other words, they’ve offered a 100% bonus on purchased miles three times per year, and a 100% bonus on shared miles three times per year. That being said, they seem to be going at a slower pace this year. The terms have always been more or less identical, though now the cost has gone up by 10%.
Unfortunately not only have they raised the cost of purchased miles, but LifeMiles also devalued their award chart for bookings made as of October 15, 2014. The increases are substantial, though could have been worse, in my opinion.
For more information on the LifeMiles program, check out my post about Avianca LifeMiles Award Chart And Redemption Basics. That post isn’t updated to reflect the new award chart, though.
Is this a good deal?
As I’ve mentioned in the past, LifeMiles are simultaneously my favorite and least favorite mileage currency. The things I love about LifeMiles include:
- They allow one-way awards at half the cost of a roundtrip
- They don’t impose fuel surcharges on award redemptions
- They have competitive redemption rates (you can find their Star Alliance award chart here), even after having devalued their award chart
- As long as you have 40% of the miles needed for a redemption, you can purchase the remaining miles at the time you issue your ticket for as little as 1.56 cents per mile
And then there are things I hate with a passion about LifeMiles:
- Their call center is horrible, so if your redemption requires servicing over the phone, you might as well forget about it
- They don’t allow mixed cabin awards, meaning if you book a business class award all segments have to be in business class
- They block quite a bit of Star Alliance award space, including Lufthansa first class space
Still, given United’s award chart devaluation and US Airways no longer being in the Star Alliance, there aren’t many ways to economically book premium cabin Star Alliance awards anymore. LifeMiles is one of the best programs for those awards, even with the higher cost to purchase miles and devalued award chart.
So while I personally wouldn’t speculatively purchase LifeMiles, with a specific use in mind they can be a great value.
For example, LifeMiles charges 90,000 miles for first class between the US and much of Asia, so at 1.65 cents per mile, that’s like paying ~$1,500 for a one-way first class ticket between the US and Asia on ANA or Asiana.
Asiana A380 first class
ANA 777-300ER first class
Which credit card should you buy miles with?
It’s worth noting that Avianca processes the purchase of LifeMiles directly, so it does count as airline spend for the purposes of your credit card. Therefore you’ll want to consider using one of the following cards for your purchase, since they offer the following bonus miles for airfare spend:
- Citi ThankYou® Premier Card – 3x ThankYou points per dollar spent
- American Express Premier Rewards Gold — 3x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent
- Chase Sapphire Preferred — 2x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent
I’d say if you have an account that’s eligible for the 120% bonus on purchased miles, it could be worth taking advantage of this promotion even speculatively. With just the 100% bonus, I think it could be worth taking advantage of the promotion with a specific use in mind, or at least a short term use in mind.
At the end of the day there aren’t many good ways to redeem miles for Star Alliance premium cabins anymore, so LifeMiles remains one of the best options, despite the increased cost of purchased miles and devalued award chart.
If you’re looking to fly first class on one of the top Asian Star Alliance carriers, this promotion is probably your best bet.
Do you plan on purchasing LifeMiles through this promotion?
(Tip of the hat to @jooliang1982)