Review: Avianca LifeMiles Credit Card

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Avianca LifeMiles is one of the most useful frequent flyer programs for Star Alliance award redemptions. LifeMiles often sells miles at a discount directly, which can be a great value, and they also have some transfer partners, making their miles easy to come by.

However, many don’t realize that they also have two co-brand credit cards in the US — the Avianca Vida Visa® Card and Avianca Vuela Visa® Card.

In this post I wanted to look at those two cards more closely.

Avianca LifeMiles Card welcome bonus

The Avianca Vida Visa Card offers a welcome bonus of 20,000 bonus miles after first use within 90 days.

The Avianca Vuela Visa Card offers a welcome bonus of 40,000 bonus miles after first use within 90 days.

These are the best publicly available bonuses I’ve seen on the cards. However, in the past there have sometimes been promotion codes to boost the welcome bonuses on these cards, though I don’t know of any that are active at the moment.


Redeem LifeMiles for travel in Lufthansa first class

Avianca LifeMiles Card annual fee

The Avianca Vida Visa Card has an annual fee of $59.

The Avianca Vuela Visa Card has an annual fee of $149.

As you can see, that’s a significant difference in annual fees, though the cards also come with different benefits and welcome bonuses.

ANA First Class
Redeem LifeMiles for travel in ANA first class

Avianca LifeMiles Card rewards structure

The Avianca Vida Visa Card offers two miles per dollar spent on Avianca purchases, and one mile per dollar spent on everything else.

The Avianca Vuela Visa Card offers three miles per dollar spent on Avianca purchases, two miles per dollar spent on gas stations and grocery stores, and one mile per dollar spent on everything else.

Avianca LifeMiles Card perks

The Avianca Vida Visa Card offers a 15% discount on purchases made with “Multiply Your Miles.” For those of you not familiar with this, it’s different than their typical promotions on purchased miles. Instead “Multiply Your Miles” allows you to earn bonus miles when flying with Avianca. So this can be useful if you fly Avianca frequently, but if not, it’s of limited use.

The Avianca Vuela Visa Card offers the following perks:

  • 15% discount on purchases made with “Multiply Your Miles”
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • A free additional piece of baggage for travel between the United States and Central America on Avianca
  • A 50% discount on an award ticket redeemed for travel to Central America or Colombia from the United States after $12,000 spent each year; this is exclusively valid for travel on Avianca, and can be in economy or business class
  • An additional 50% discount on an award ticket redeemed for travel to Central America or Colombia from the United States after $24,000 spent each year; this is exclusively valid for travel on Avianca, and can be in economy or business class


Avianca’s 787 business class

As you can see, on the premium version of the card there are some benefits that can be worthwhile if you do fly Avianca frequently to/from Latin America. Those perks are of limited use for those who are using LifeMiles as a program for earning Star Alliance miles, but they are useful for travel on Avianca.

Getting approved for Avianca LifeMiles Cards

These credit cards are issued by Puerto Rico-based Banco Popular, which seems to be a quirky card issuer. There are lots of reports of Banco Popular issuing big credit limits for their cards, often $25,000.

I’ve heard mixed reports regarding getting approved for their cards. Some get approved with no issue whatsoever, while I’ve also gotten data points of people getting denied with very high credit scores. So if you have any data points here, that would be useful.

Furthermore, note that Banco Popular only seems to let you apply for one of these cards. So if you have or have had one of these cards, don’t expect you’ll be approved for the other.

Which version of the LifeMiles Card is better?

If you’re trying to decide between these two cards, I think it’s almost a no brainer to get the Avianca Vuela Visa Card. The card’s annual fee is $90 higher, but:

  • It offers a welcome bonus that’s 20,000 miles better
  • It offers an extra mile per dollar on gas station and grocery store purchases
  • It has no foreign transaction fees
  • It offers useful perks for travel on Avianca, like an extra checked bag, and the potential to earn discounted award redemptions on Avianca in conjunction with spend

Best credit card alternatives

The good news is that if your goal is to earn Avianca LifeMiles, there are several cards that are worth considering. Avianca LifeMiles is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and Capital One.

In the case of Amex and Citi, points transfer at a 1:1 ratio, while in the case of Capital One, points transfer at a 2:1.5 ratio.

So there are several cards that you might want to consider in place of this that can also earn you LifeMiles at a faster rate:

  • The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card earns unlimited 2x Venture miles per dollar spent; the card has a $95 annual fee that’s waived for the first year
  • The Citi Premier℠ Card offers 3x points on travel and gas, and 2x points on dining and entertainment; the card has a $95 annual fee, though it’s waived the first year
  • The Citi Prestige® Card offers 5x points on air travel and restaurants, and 3x points on hotels and cruise lines; the card has a $495 annual, though offers a $250 travel credit every calendar year that helps offset it
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express has a $550 annual fee (Rates & Fees) and offers 5x points on airfare purchased directly from airlines
  • The American Express® Gold Card has a $250 annual fee (Rates & Fees) and offers 4x points at US restaurants, 4x points at US supermarkets (on up to $25,000 of spend per calendar year), 3x points on airfare purchased directly with airlines, a $100 annual airline fee credit, and an annual dining credit of up to $120

So if you are looking to earn LifeMiles, it could make the most sense to get a card like the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, where you earn the equivalent of 1.5 LifeMiles per dollar spent.

Bottom line

It’s always nice to see more credit cards in the US market. The Avianca Vida Visa Card and Avianca Vuela Visa Card have decent welcome bonuses. On top of that, the premium card can be worth it for the perks that it offers for travel on Avianca. However, that’s only useful for travel on Avianca, and not if you’re primarily using LifeMiles for the purposes of Star Alliance redemptions.

Long term if you want to earn LifeMiles for Star Alliance redemptions, you’re best off earning Amex, Capital One, or Citi points, and then transferring them to LifeMiles.

I’d say the one exception is if you’d get value out of putting spend on the premium version of the card in order to earn 50% off redemption vouchers.

If you have either of the Avianca Cards, what has your experience been like?

The following links will direct you to the rates and fees for mentioned American Express Cards. These include: American Express® Gold Card (Rates & Fees), and The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees).

Regarding Comments: The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Comments

  1. I applied to the Vuela Visa card when you reported on the 60,000 bonus about 3 months ago and was instantly accepted. However, although Banco Popular claims that the 60,000 miles were credited on December 13, they haven’t shown up on my LifeMiles account, almost 9 weeks later.

  2. I have applied twice and twice rejected. The stated reason by Banco Popular is that they cannot verify who I am!!! In the meantime have applied and obtained credit cards from AMEX and Citibank without issue. Also, been a member of LifeMiles for years and have scored many business class seats using their purchased miles through InsideFlyer.

  3. Even after you get approved and receive the card, they have issues believing you are who you are. You’ll have to go through a tedious and very frustrating IDying process which involves sending photo copy of your DL. Then, they make you wait a few weeks until everything gets verified by their fraud department, which I honestly believe is staffed by 1 single personnel. It came pretty close to canceling my account even before my first purchase.

  4. Was anyone able to book any award flights recently using LifeMiles? I had no luck since the website was changed last week. I am able to search and select flights, but I get an error message when clicking enter traveler info.

  5. The actual credit card works as expected most of the time. The bank shuts down the card frequently due to “fraud detection”. I attempted to pay for the charges associated with the Vietnam visa on arrival and the charge was declined and the card was shut down, as an example. Annoying…

  6. @lucky Do you think they’ll ring back the extra 20k miles promo anytime this year? Thanks for writing this article! I am currently considering whether to get this card.

  7. They really ought to rename LifeMiles to “Fiasco”. Their old website was a disaster, their new website is even more of a disaster, and their credit card is issued by a bank that seems to make ample use of a random number generator in its credit decisions.

    What a joke.

  8. Same boat as everyone else. Don’t expect to receive your bonus anytime soon. I completed my minimum spend for the statement ending in November and still have yet to receive ANY miles, much less the bonus.

    The bank will not even investigate the issue until at least 8 weeks after the statement closing date. They can then kick off a claims process that takes between 60-90 days to investigate. Yes, that’s not a joke. At least the frontline reps have been very pleasant.

  9. Here is my experience – there was fraudulent activity on the card ($1000 western union)….. I was never alerted. As I wasn’t using the card I didn’t notice. 3 months later I try to use the card and it’s blocked. I call fraud, report situation. Drains did nothing, they did not drop the charge and did not initiate an investigation. Then I started getting calls from their collections department who don’t communicate with fraud…. interest continued to accumulate and I watched my credit score drop from 850 to 650. Finally someone with a functioning brain cell realized this was not right and 6 months in initiated a fraud investigation but not before claiming I was outside the window to claim fraudulent activity until I pitched a fit. Meanwhile a second card (replacement) had been issued which I never received and I start getting 2 state MRS every month, interest still accumulating, credit score getting worse – it took 9 months for these idiots to communicate department to department and don’t get me going about trying to get them to reverse the negative impact on my credit score. Banco Popular are a hot mess, the phone tree doesn’t work, nobody knows what they are doing and they could care less about any issues you have – 12 months in the assured me I have no active account and my credit score restored (it bumped up 20 points)….. my advice is to stay the heck away from this disasterous bank and their products or you can look forward to what I went through

  10. Have to agree with the above posters…this is an extremely poorly run bank, and their credit card department is incompetent at best. I got my card, but then they froze it because they “needed proof of my identity.” Completely stupid.

  11. Reading the comments here, BP is quite clearly a Dumpster Fire of a bank, and many people who apply for these cards are going to greatly regret it. I really think this post should have contained more of a warning about the potential perils of applying for them. The reason it didn’t should be obvious to all long time readers.

    Yes… I’ve finally become one of “those posters”, who carp about prospective profits over candor. First rule of a honest travel blogger should be “do no harm”. 😉

    Especially love the picture of the LH FC cabin, as I’m guessing that anyone who needs to book more than a week or so in advance has the same chance of getting that award as they have of winning their State lottery. But I do feel sorry for any nooby readers who see that photo, and naively think all they need to do is get one of these cards, and spend a bit on it, and soon they will be flying LH FC. 🙁

  12. @Tahsin. Same issue here but if you call in, they will book for you. Happened last week but after calling, flight was booked within 10 mins.

  13. I think that’s the biggest issue, LifeMiles new website simply does not work. And if you can’t book with them what good is the any of this?

  14. I got the card and the miles, and used it without any problem, about three years back, but then found “sold out” whenever I tried to book any awards, and that was on the old site which people are saying was bad, but better than now. I kept persisting, looking there first whenever I wanted to book any award, and after a couple of dozen failures, I finally was able to use up the miles. I won’t be going back until I see solid evidence the program has improved a lot. It think it mostly exists as a “buy miles” operation, doesn’t it?

  15. I was denied on one application and several months later I was approved. The 60K showed up quickly. I have used them mostly for cheaper United flights in the US. Their website did fail on me one time and when my son calls me saying his flight was never booked, I had to buy his seat outright to get him to meet up with my wife and I. Not sure what happened as I had record locators for the ticket. The old site was very buggy. I have not tried the new site.

  16. @JohnH: Thanks for that comment. I had idly considered applying for one of these cards a while back, and now I’m very glad I didn’t.

  17. BP is a mess of a bank. Asked for everything except my first born before they approved me. Circled the bowl for weeks with them requesting an absurd amount of information: bank statements, DL, W-2s, tax returns. It was all ridiculous. They probably sold it all on the black market for all I know. I ended up getting 60k miles after a single purchase because I had a code. I would say avoid it like the plague unless you get a 60k code. Just not worth all the trouble except for a monster bonus with little effort.

  18. It seems like it is not longer possible to apply for these cards at all? The link does not work for me nor does googling the card name. Is this because I am in the UK or is it totally inaccessible?

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