Update 3/14/14: The 50k mile offer is dead. All links in this post go to the following offer:
- Earn 20,000 award miles after your first purchase or balance transfer
- Earn up to 15,000 award miles with balance transfers (1 mile per $1 transferred) within 30 days of account opening
- Earn 2 award miles per $1 on ticket purchases directly from Miles & More integrated airline partners
- Earn 1 mile per $1 on all other purchases
- Annual Complimentary Companion Ticket after first purchase, then annually thereafter
- No foreign transaction fees on purchases made outside the U.S.
- Redeem miles for flight awards and upgrades on Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, SWISS, Star Alliance airlines and other partners
- $79 Annual Fee, waived for SEN and HON Circle Members
Application Link: The Lufthansa Miles & More World MasterCard
This new sign up bonus is major news and represents a major upgrade over the standard sign up bonus–a paltry 20,000 miles.
I plan to open the card for myself to take advantage of one of the two best ways to use 50k Lufthansa miles.
1. 17,500 miles each way in flat beds across the country
Since Lufthansa and United are both members of the Star Alliance, Lufthansa has access to all of United’s Saver awards space. Of particular interest to me are United’s two p.s. transcontinental routes from JFK to Los Angeles and San Francisco.
United p.s. transcontinental routes feature planes with fully flat beds in business class, arguably the absolute best product for domestic flights.
Lufthansa’s chart makes domestic business class an incredible sweet spot at 17,500 miles each way. United charges 25,000 miles each way to get into business class on its p.s. routes. US Airways charges 50,000 miles for a roundtrip with no discount for a oneway booking.
After meeting the minimum spending requirement, you’d have 55,000 Lufthansa miles, which would be enough for two economy roundtrips in the US or three United domestic first or domestic business one ways.
United has incredible award availability on its p.s. flights, even for this summer, so redeeming should be a breeze.
Each oneway segment should will cost 17,500 miles and $2.50 and must be booked by phone by calling Lufthansa at 800-581-6400. There is no phone fee.
2. Booking Lufthansa or Swiss First Class more than 14 days in Advance
Lufthansa and Swiss First Class are justifiably famous for being world class. They are the ultimate aspirational awards.
Unfortunately I frequently break the bad news to clients of my Award Booking Service that their United and US Airways miles can’t get them their dream Lufthansa or Swiss First Class seat. Lufthansa only releases first class seats to partners like United two weeks in advance, and I never see Swiss First availability. Even worse, US Airways recently prohibited redemptions in Lufthansa First Class even when Lufthansa releases award space.
If you want to book a Lufthansa or Swiss First Class award more than two weeks in advance, you’ll want Lufthansa miles. I found both airlines’ first class to be wide open with Miles & More miles on my searches.
Unfortunately since my Lufthansa account doesn’t have the 85,000 miles required for a one way first class award from the US to Europe, I had to call in to price the awards.
I priced LAX to Zurich in Swiss First on February 4, 2014 at 85,000 miles + $430.50. Washington-Dulles to Frankfurt in Lufthansa First on January 15, 2014 was the same 85,000 miles + $430.50.
This corresponds to $2.50 in taxes and $428 in fuel surcharges (YQ).
For me personally, this is not a great use of miles. I have a lot of flexibility, so I would prefer to spend 67,500 United miles + $52.50 to book a Lufthansa First Class award at the last minute. United charges fewer miles and no fuel surcharges. The only fee is the up-to-$75 fee for ticketing an award within 21 days of departure, which would be reduced because of my Silver status.
But if you want Lufthansa First Class for a dream trip, this could be your best option. Of course, the sign up bonus only gets you most of the way there. You will be 30,000 miles short of a first class one way. You can make up the shortfall by transferring 25,000 Starpoints to 30,000 Lufthansa miles.
Drawbacks of the Lufthansa Program
The big drawback is fuel surcharges on awards. This is common with non-US based programs. The easiest way to estimate the fuel surcharges on a particular award is to figure out the surcharges on a paid ticket on the same flight.
Or you can avoid fuel surcharges by booking partners without fuel surcharges. I’ve read online that no fuel surcharges are collected on Miles & More awards on United, US Airways, and LOT flights.
Unfortunately the Lufthansa call center is closed on weekends, but I did price three awards on Friday night. Besides the two I mentioned above (Lufthansa and Swiss First), I priced Newark to Frankfurt on United on February 11, 2014 at 85,000 miles + $260.50.
That price implies fuel surcharges on a transatlantic United First Class award of $258. But United First Class is a bad Lufthansa-miles redemption in terms of miles too, so this surcharge doesn’t bother me much because I would never pay it.
Domestic United and US Airways flight awards with Lufthansa miles should have no surcharges, and I will double check this on Monday.
I didn’t price any LOT awards by phone because I found zero LOT award availability on united.com while I was calling Lufthansa. I would also like to verify the surcharges on LOT flights.
A minor drawback of the program is that you can’t search milesandmore.com for Lufthansa award space without having some miles in your account. Luckily new accounts earn 500 miles by signing up as long as you leave the email subscription choice checked. With miles in your account you can search, but you can’t see the final price including fuel surcharges unless you have enough miles in your account or call Lufthansa.
The bottom line is that while Lufthansa miles have major drawbacks and aren’t the kind of miles you stockpile, they have strategic uses that make a 50,000 mile sign up bonus enough to get me excited.
Whether you use the miles for United domestic flights or Lufthansa First Class, there should be way more than enough value to justify the $79 annual fee. This current offering makes only three current Barclay’s credit cards that I would recommend along with the US Airways card and Arrival World MasterCard. And since this bonus is two-and-a-half times bigger than normal, I think this is a card people should consider jumping on.
The Lufthansa Miles & More Premier World MasterCard comes with 50,000 bonus Lufthansa Miles & More miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months.
Fifty-five thousand miles are enough for two domestic roundtrips or three domestic first class awards flown by United. Combined with 25k Starpoints, the sign up bonus is enough for a one way first class award on Swiss or Lufthansa.
Application Link: The Lufthansa Miles & More World MasterCard