LifeMiles Modifies Award Costs Within The US

Filed Under: AviancaTaca, Awards

LifeMiles is a useful frequent flyer program that I use all the time for Star Alliance award redemptions. LifeMiles frequently sells miles at a discount, and they’re also transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and Capital One.

The program has done a good job maintaining steady award rates, so we haven’t seen many devaluations.

Well, LifeMiles has just announced that they’re adjusting redemption rates on some US routes for bookings as of July 15, 2019. First of all, kudos to LifeMiles for the amount of notice they’re providing, because a lot of programs don’t do that.

LifeMiles says that this change is being made to “align [their] program with other loyalty programs.” Their only major airline partner in the US is United Airlines, which sure makes me wonder if this is somehow tied in to United’s new dynamic award pricing.

So, how significant are the price increases? According to LifeMiles:

  • Awards within the US will change in cost from anywhere between 7,500 miles and 12,500 miles to anywhere between 6,500 miles and 13,500 miles
  • The fees associated with awards will be adjusted, from a flat $25, to $10-25

So LifeMiles is both increasing and decreasing the range of award costs within the US by 1,000 miles. LifeMiles indicates that most award costs will remain the same, though there will obviously be both increases and decreases.

Here’s the chart LifeMiles provides with a few examples comparing old and new award costs:

My instinct is that these changes aren’t a huge deal. I’d guess that on balance we’ll see cost increased based on redemption patterns, or else I imagine we wouldn’t see these changes.

Bottom line

LifeMiles is adjusting some award costs within the US as of July 15, 2019. Frankly I’m surprised they’re not making more significant changes, so I don’t view this as a huge deal.

On some level I can’t help but wonder what prompted this change:

  • Has United renegotiated their reimbursement rates for LifeMiles awards within the US?
  • Maybe this is a borderline conspiracy theory, but could it be that United forced/encouraged LifeMiles to adjust award costs to try and get people away from the mindset of thinking that domestic awards cost no more than 12,500 miles, as MileagePlus moves to dynamic pricing?
  • The most likely explanation is that LifeMiles is adjusting domestic award costs to better align them with the costs they incur

What do you make of these LifeMiles award pricing adjustments?

  1. I’m still puzzled by how LifeMiles get away for being such a valuable program (And that’s from someone who had a comically bad communication with them.

  2. I don’t get the hype behind LifeMiles. If you have an extremely flexible travel schedule (i.e. you’re a travel blogger) and can deal with less award flight availability than other star alliance programs, as well as horrible customer service, then I guess LifeMiles is great option.

  3. @Jules Absolutely agree. I can never find business class space on LifeMiles. If you’re looking to save a few thousand miles on an international economy class ticket then the program can work for you but premium space is nearly non-existent and if you do find it, it’ll be just one seat and on unpopular travel days. I wish I could say better things about the program but I cannot find value here.

  4. @Tom , @Jules I think every time this blog talking about LifeMiles, there are complaint about it. I had very good experience with this program so puzzled what was wrong with your experience.

    Me too not a travel blogger with very limited flexibility. Matter of fact, I am working parent with school age kids. You know what does it mean , right? I can only travel with family on school break which is always peak time.

    I am flying to Geneva from JFK this good Friday on spring break. 4 ( yes, 4! ) B class ticket redeemed on LifeMiles booked only 2 months before travel. I found Lufthansa group ( Swiss Austrian ) have very large number of reward space and release them fairly close to flight time. Seems they are using the partner mile programs as a dumping ground to fill space.

    Also consistent available is Air China spaces, which were absent a year ago but somehow a n improvement happened. There are always 2 B class 2 first class available , even in July ( but not in August or late June , I guess those are student travel peak time so CA blocked those times. You won’t find anything on UA website either. )

    Now last time someone gave me a valid example of UA has it but LM doesn’t. I found the space is there just the connection weren’t searchable. I guess they may have a issue with connection algorithm. Other than that , I haven’t found anything wrong with LM.

    By the way, one thing I love LM besides the price, it is that they show the number of tickets available. If there is no number, you can assume there are more than 8. This is hugely convenient for a family traveler like me

  5. @Jules — because they sell their miles incredibly cheaply. The bottom line in this game is that it is now completely over saturated. I heard a colleague at work yesterday talking about using miles he got with freedom 5x to book PHX to OGG on AA using 12.5k Avios. This would previously have been unthinkable to hear in casual conversation.

    As demand for outsized value goes up, the winners are those who can persevere with the programs that are difficult to use. The more difficult a program makes it to redeem, the more potential value it present to those who fight through it. Lifemiles is very very far from perfect. But I’m a guy with limited travel dates and usually travel with family. Lifemiles is a nice piece of the puzzle. But I’m fine with them making it difficult.

  6. The flat $25 changing to $10 for most medium-haul routes is a great improvement.

    Previously the choice was 12,500 United miles + $5.60 versus 10,000 LifeMiles + $25, a very close call. At 10,000 LM + $10, better to book with Avianca through a Capital One transfer

  7. @Lu @Larry. Really appreciate your feedback on LifeMiles and it’s great the program is offering you good value. Perhaps I need to reconsider my current view and I’ll do some more comparison searches against UA, Aeroplan, and Aegean prior to booking future star alliance flights. For me, it all comes down to availability and the ability to make changes easily, specifically on flights between Europe and North America. This is where I’ve found the program to be lacking in the past.

  8. @lu the only way yoy can talk well about lifemiles is because:

    1) you are not a frecuent traveller
    2) you work in lifemiles
    3) you are new on lifemiles and you don’t know what it was two or three years ago.

    I used more that 2.800.000 miles with lifemiles. I know what i mean.

    Now in lifemiles econony is not an option, business most of the routes are not available and the price almlst the same than buying cash and getting the miles.
    First is a good option..but only a few spaces!!

    Lifemiles new website is horrible to use… horrrrrrrible

  9. Lifemiles is a disaster now! I hate it. As soon as you need to solve a problem you are dead. Try! Haha

  10. I miss old lifemiles a lot! Now is not good! Very bad experience with the new plataform!

    Now you can’t find all the routes the airlines have…. only limited routes.
    And always appears avianca when is possible. Incredible bad!

    I won’t buy lifemiles anymore… tired!

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