Update 8/2/13: TACA still charges only 1.5 cents per mile during frequent 2 x 1 sales (like the current one in August 2013). But TACA now charges more than 1.5 cents for the miles purchased from the More Miles <-> More Money Slider. The roundtrip award price to Europe in business class has increased to 105k miles. That means the cheapest miles are 1.5 cents each and the price of a roundtrip to Europe is now $1,575 + taxes in business class.
Over the weekend, TACA announced that it was selling its LifeMiles at a 2 for 1 rate. (H/T View from the Wing and One Mile at a Time.)
This is huge news because it means you can fly roundtrip from the USA to Europe in flat beds for under $1,500 all in. Let me explain.
TACA is a new Latin American addition to the Star Alliance. TACA’s award chart is reasonable and in line with other Star Alliance carriers. For instance, like United and US Airways, TACA charges 100k LifeMiles for a roundtrip to Europe in business class. (TACA chart)
TACA charges 50k oneway between the USA and Europe in business class. Oneway awards are available for half the price of roundtrips.
TACA sells its miles for $30 per 1k–3 cents per mile. That’s outrageous, but they commonly run 100% bonuses, like the one happening right now through September 28 if your account was opened before September 3. (Register now for the next one.)
With the 100% bonus, TACA miles cost 1.5 cents each. (Plus an excise tax. This tax is not charged if your account is registered in the USA.)
One and a half cents is already pretty good, but there’s an even cheaper way to buy TACA miles.
TACA has a cash-and-miles price for award tickets. If you have at least 40% of the miles required for an award, you can make up the shortfall in miles for 1.28 cents per mile.
That means to get to Europe, you can buy 20,000 miles today with a 20,000 miles bonus. The 40,000 total miles will cost $600.
Now you can book a business class roundtrip with the 40,000 miles and $765.60 (60k * ~1.28 cpm). Since the 40k miles were just purchased for $600, the total cost of a roundtrip business class award is $1,365.60 plus tax!
Are you blown away yet? Here’s a step-by-step, screen-by-screen guide. First log in to LifeMiles at lifemiles.com.
Then hold your cursor over Earn and click Need More LifeMiles?
Then click the Purchase LifeMiles tab. Select that you would like to purchase 20,000 miles, since this amount will be doubled to 40,000 automatically after you click Continue.
The next screen confirms you are purchasing 40,000 miles for $600. Halfway there!
Then I would go to united.com to search for the flights I wanted. United.com is the best, easy way to search Star Alliance space. TACA will have access to all the Star Alliance space you find on united.com.
For this example, I’ll do a simple San Francisco to Frankfurt roundtrip, though you can go from anywhere in the USA or Canada to anywhere in Europe for this price.
On united.com, I found saver business class space on direct flights and noted their dates.
Then go back to lifemiles.com. After holding your cursor over Enjoy, click Air Tickets.
Then select Star Alliance Airlines as the Preferred carrier, round-trip, put in the dates and cities for which you found availability on united.com, select the number of passengers, and the class of service.
Then select the flights you found on united.com. On the bottom, where there are More Miles and More Money buttons, click More Money all the way to its maximum.
The minimum miles, maximum money combo is 40% miles, which in this case is 40k miles. “Buying” the other 60k miles will cost $765.60. That means the 100k miles needed for the award were bought for a paltry $1,365.60.
To that $1,365.60, we’ll have to add the taxes for the award, which in this case will be $118.40. And according to this FlyerTalk thread, there is now a $25 award booking fee, but no fuel surcharges.
The total cost of more than 22 hours on United’s flat bed BusinessFirst seats then would be $1,509. (My review of United BusinessFirst.)
And the taxes and fees can be lowered by flying somewhere other than Germany. Here is the tax breakdown of the return leg:
You must have a million questions, and I’ll try to answer the ones I foresee:
Is this against any rules; will this get shut down?
The methods in this post are possible because of concerted business decisions by TACA. You are not violating any rules by taking advantage. I do not expect this to be shut done. At some point, the price of miles will increase, but that has happened in every loyalty program.
Can I get open jaws, stopovers, and free oneways?
Not online. If you click multi-city search, each segment will price separately meaning no free stopovers or free oneways. And the destination city of each leg will be auto-populated as the origin city of the next leg, which means no open jaws. If you call in, you may get better routing rules, but online you’ll only get vanilla roundtrips.
Isn’t buying US Airways miles for 1.2 cents a better deal?
I don’t think so. I haven’t talked about that “deal” because I think it’s not the result of a conscious business decision by US Airways but the result of a glitch that allows Mileage Multiplier miles to stick in your account even after cancellation. Plus there are some reports of people using this trick and having their accounts closed. I haven’t blogged about it, and I’m not linking to more info here because I don’t recommend this “deal.”
Nor have I mentioned a few glitches some people are taking advantage of with the LifeMiles program because they are unintentional and unsustainable once discovered. Nor do I blog about something if someone sends me a tip and asks me not to share it. All this is to say, I have a filter. It’s something like: is this within the rules and spirit of a program, such that the deal won’t be killed by more publicity?
What are some other great deals besides Europe in business class for $1,500?
If you buy 40% of miles needed for an award during a 2 x 1 period, and you use the the cash and miles feature, here are some roundtrip award prices. None of these prices include taxes and fees, and all these awards originate in the continental USA.
Hawaii (economy)- $546
Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama (economy)- $410
Argentina, Chile, Brazil (economy)- $819
Argentina, Chile, Brazil (business)- $1,366
Europe (first)- $1,843
Thailand, Singapore, China, and most of Asia (economy)- $887
Is there a maximum number of miles I can buy?
75,000 per account with this promotion. With the 2 x 1 bonus, that 150,000 miles for $2,250. With the “40% down” requirement for cash and miles awards, that’s 375,000 miles worth of award potential.
Do the purchased miles appear instantly?
I haven’t purchased any, but the experience of others is yes.
Will I be charged a foreign transaction fee?
The fact that the purchase is denominated in dollars does not eliminate the possibility of a foreign transaction fee. Citi charged me a fee on a dollar-denominated transaction with British Airways!
To remove all possibility of a foreign transaction fee, use a card that doesn’t charge one like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or American Express Platinum Card.
LifeMiles can currently be purchased with a 100% bonus. This makes the purchase price 1.5 cpm.
You only need 40% of the LifeMiles that the LifeMiles award chart says you need to book a flight. You can pay the other 60% in cash at 1.28 cpm.
Combined, this means you can buy any award on the LifeMiles chart for 1.365 cents per mile plus taxes plus a $25 fee with no fuel surcharges!
Don’t forget: Qatar Airways disappears as a United miles option on September 14. Have dinner with me in Los Angeles on Friday. Sign up for the MileValue RSS feed, like the new MileValue facebook page, or follow me on Twitter @milevalue. Get your friends involved too, so you can have more companions for your Free First Class Next Month.