Avianca’s LifeMiles program has just announced that they’ll be offering a 100% bonus on transferred miles between July 8 and July 22, 2015. Obviously this is only useful if you have an existing LifeMiles balance, since you can’t transfer miles you don’t have.
LifeMiles 100% transfer bonus cost & rules
LifeMiles isn’t usually very good at setting the rules for their promotions, and this is no exception. Here’s what I’ve gathered about the cost & terms of the LifeMiles 100% mileage transfer bonus promotion:
- Per the terms of the promotion, you can transfer anywhere between 1,000 and 75,000 miles as part of this promotion; that doesn’t include the bonus, meaning that in theory you can generate up to 150,000 LifeMiles through this promotion
- However, I don’t seem to be able to max out this promotion — even though I haven’t made a transfer yet this year, the highest number of miles I can transfer is 74,000 before the bonus (148,000 with the bonus)
- The cost to transfer miles is 1.5 cents per mile, which nowadays is cheaper than buying LifeMiles
Putting the promotion into context
A few more general thoughts:
- In the past, outright purchasing LifeMiles and transferring LifeMiles cost the same (1.5 cents each), but last year LifeMiles increased the cost of purchased miles, so transferring is now a better deal as a means of generating miles
- LifeMiles devalued their Star Alliance award chart last year, but despite that they still have some of the most lucrative Star Alliance redemption rates
For a bit of context on LifeMiles promotions, every couple of months (or so) they seem to alternate between a bonus on purchasing miles and a bonus on transferring miles:
- In May 2015 there was a 100-120% bonus on purchased LifeMiles
- 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
Is this a good deal?
LifeMiles are simultaneously among 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 generate additional LifeMiles (I have a healthy balance and can always generate 60% of the miles needed at the time of ticketing), 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 if you’re generating miles for 1.5 cents each, that’s like paying ~$1,350 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
While I almost never recommend speculatively generating miles at this cost, there are definitely instances where it could make sense here. Why do I think it’s sort of worthwhile?
- Nowadays the cost of transferring LifeMiles (~1.5 cents each) is cheaper than the cost of purchasing LifeMiles (~1.65 cents each)
- For the airlines they can book, LifeMiles really offers among the most compelling premium cabin Star Alliance redemption rates, despite their devaluation last year
- I think LifeMiles learned from back in the day when they’d devalue their award chart without notice; they provided advance notice with the last round of changes, so I trust them more than in the past
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:
|Card||Points earned on airfare spend|
|The Platinum Card® from American Express||5x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent|
|American Express® Gold Card||3x Membership Rewards points per dollar spent|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve®||3x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent|
|Citi Premier℠ Card||3x ThankYou points per dollar spent|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||2x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent|
If you’re into Star Alliance premium cabin award redemptions and have an existing LifeMiles balance, I do think this promotion is seriously worth considering.
Do you plan on transferring LifeMiles with a 100% bonus?