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Update: See this post for how you can do even better and get up to a 145% bonus on purchased LifeMiles
LifeMiles has just announced what’s on paper their best cost of purchased miles in a very long time. Through September 30, 2015, Avianca’s LifeMiles program is offering up to a 135% bonus on purchased miles.
In the past, LifeMiles’ most common promotion has been a straight 100% bonus on purchased miles. In this case LifeMiles is offering a tiered bonus, whereby you get a bigger bonus the more miles you buy, as follows:
- Purchase 1,000-3,000 miles, receive a 50% bonus
- Purchase 4,000-6,000 miles, receive a 75% bonus
- Purchase 7,000-12,000 miles, receive a 100% bonus
- Purchase 13,000-25,000 miles, receive a 105% bonus
- Purchase 26,000-40,000 miles, receive a 110% bonus
- Purchase 41,000-60,000 miles, receive a 115% bonus
- Purchase 61,000-100,000 miles, receive a 125% bonus
- Purchase 101,000-150,000 miles, receive a 135% bonus
In the past, LifeMiles has capped the number of miles you can purchase per account per calendar year to 150,000, though during this promotion they’ve more than doubled that cap to 360,000 miles.
If you max out this promotion and purchase 150,000 miles, you’d end up receiving a bonus of 202,500 miles, for a total of 352,500 miles. Those 352,500 miles would cost you $4,950, which is a cost of ~1.4 cents per mile.
You can buy miles in smaller increments at that price as well. If your goal is to achieve the lowest cent per mile ratio but buy fewer miles, you can otherwise purchase 101,000 miles and receive a 136,350 mile bonus. That’s a total of 237,350 miles at a cost of $3,333. But if you buy fewer miles than that you’d pay a higher rate on a cent per mile basis.
This is a great promotion, and I’m guessing LifeMiles hasn’t been quite at successful at selling miles as they used to be. 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%. Shortly thereafter LifeMiles also devalued their award chart, which was sort of a double whammy.
Should you buy LifeMiles?
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 early 2014 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.
With a specific use in mind, this promotion can be an incredible value. And this is the lowest cost I recall seeing on the purchase of LifeMiles.
For example, LifeMiles charges 90,000 miles for first class between the US and much of Asia, so at 1.4 cents per mile, that’s like paying ~$1,300 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
This is a really tricky promotion in terms of recommending whether or not to take advantage of it. On one hand, the rate of ~1.4 cents per mile is excellent, and one I’d definitely take advantage of. On the other hand, in order to achieve that great rate you need to purchase at least 237,350 miles, which isn’t an insignificant sum.
But still, LifeMiles are the best way to redeem for many premium cabin Star Alliance award tickets, in particular for travel to Asia. I do at least believe that LifeMiles will provide some advance notice before their next devaluation, so I wouldn’t worry about miles being devalued overnight.
I’d say this is a rate at which it could speculatively make sense to purchase miles if you feel like you can redeem them in the next six (or so) months, even if travel is on a subsequent date. And ideally you’d be redeeming them for premium cabin products to Asia or Europe (with a preference for Asia based on the relative value of the award charts).
Personally, I have a sizable balance of LifeMiles already, so probably won’t take advantage of this promotion. My assumption is also that this probably won’t be the last time such a promotion is offered, since it sure seems like the demand for LifeMiles’ promotions has been weaker recently than it was when they first joined Star Alliance.
Do you plan on purchasing LifeMiles through this promotion?