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LifeMiles is a frequent flyer program of Avianca, Colombia’s biggest and oldest airline. Avianca is one of the Star Alliance member airlines so when you earn or redeem LifeMiles, you have access to the biggest airline alliance in the world and its extensive networks. Theoretically, you can get anywhere in the world with LifeMiles. 

The program has lots of fans, but it’s not the easiest to use. Airlines don’t grant all of their partners the same access to award space, and LifeMiles’ website also leaves a lot to be desired. I’ve done countless searches across various frequent flyer programs and often I can easily find award space via United’s MileagePlus or Air Canada’s Aeroplan programs, but nothing comes up on LifeMiles. 

Customer service also leaves a lot to be desired. If you need to get in touch, you might be faced with long holds or delayed email response times. So consider yourself warned, but if you want to learn about a program with multiple credit card transfer partners and some really great “sweet spots,” keep reading. Personally, I have a love-hate relationship with Avianca, yet I keep going back to it practically every time I need to book a trip.    

Best Ways to Earn LifeMiles

It’s fairly easy to earn a great stash of LifeMiles through various means. LifeMiles has multiple credit card transfer partners, issues its own credit cards, often puts its points on sale at really affordable rates and runs very generous transfer bonuses. 

You can, of course, fly Avianca or credit your other Star Alliance flights to LifeMiles, but unless you are flying a lot, it won’t make a big difference to your LifeMiles balance. 

Earn Avianca LifeMiles With Credit Card Transfer Partners

LifeMiles is a transfer partner of four major transferable currencies. This is important because if you are booking a trip for a family, especially in a premium cabin, you can pool points from various credit cards.  

LifeMiles credit card transfer partners include:

  • Capital One Venture Miles
  • Citi ThankYou Points
  • American Express Membership Rewards
  • Marriott Bonvoy

With the exception of Marriott Bonvoy, points transfer 1:1 and the transfer is usually instant. Marriott Bonvoy points transfer 3:1 and you get 5,000 miles for transferring 60,000 Bonvoy points. So if you transfer 60,000 Bonvoy points to LifeMiles, you’ll get 25,000 miles. We wouldn’t recommend transferring from Marriott, as there are so many other ways to earn LifeMiles.   

You’ll often find big transfer bonuses that come either from LifeMiles’ side or from one of the credit card partners, which make the already-affordable LifeMile awards even more attractive. When I was writing this, I got an email from LifeMiles with a 25% transfer bonus. This is a generous offer but I never transfer points speculatively because I always wait till I have a specific award in mind. 

For example, if you transfer 70,000 ThankYou Points and take advantage of the 25% bonus, you can score a one-way ticket in Lufthansa first class to Europe. Or you can take advantage of one of LifeMile’s sweet spots and fly to Europe in business class for 26,250 ThankYou Points. That’s less than most programs charge per direction in economy class.

Earn Avianca LifeMiles With Credit Card Transfer Partners

Avianca Co-Branded Credit Cards

Avianca also has a couple of co-branded credit cards issued by Banco Popular. These aren’t the best options for most people, but worth mentioning nevertheless. 

The Avianca Vida Visa card has a 20,000 LifeMiles welcome bonus after your first purchase and comes with a $59 annual fee. We might see an increased offer from time to time, which will make this card more attractive. 

The Avianca Vuela Visa card comes with a 40,000 LifeMiles welcome bonus after making one purchase and has a $149 annual fee. Avianca Vuela Visa cardholders get a free additional bag for travel between the U.S. and Central America. Like the Avianca Vida card, the Vuela card sometimes comes with better, increased welcome bonus offers.

Buy LifeMiles

We usually don’t recommend buying points and miles, but buying LifeMile is one of the few exceptions to this rule. LifeMiles will often offer huge bonuses when you purchase miles, up to 140%. The bonuses are usually tiered so the more you buy, the bigger the savings and the bonus. You can easily buy enough points for about $900 for a one-way award flight to Europe in business class. 

Moreover, LifeMiles processes points purchases itself, so the miles purchases code as travel. If you use one of the cards that offers 3X to 5X on airfares, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees) you’ll also earn a good stash of points for future use.  

Best Ways to Redeem LifeMiles 

There are a few reasons why we like LifeMiles: 

  • No fuel surcharges on award flights
  • No close-in booking fees
  • Last-minute award availability
  • Miles don’t expire with qualifying earning activity every 12 months, includes purchasing or transferring LifeMiles
  • Reasonable award rates
  • Book any Star Alliance partner online
  • Award flights can be booked with a combination of points and cash 
  • Award sales on select routes

Keep in mind that there’s a non-refundable $25 booking fee.  

Here are a few suggestions to help you get the best value out of your LifeMiles. 

U.S. to Europe 35,000 Miles One-Way in Business Class 

One of our favorite sweet spots is the New York (JFK) to Lisbon, Portugal (LIS), in business class for 35,000 miles one-way. Most programs charge 30,000 one way in economy to cross the Atlantic, so if you are near JFK or can get there inexpensively, that’s an unbeatable deal. 

London to the U.S. for 60,000 Miles One-Way in Business Class in Brussels Airlines Business Class

London to the U.S. for 60,000 Miles One-Way in Business Class in Brussels Airlines Business Class

This is another example of how quirky this program really is. You can fly from the U.K. to the U.S. for just 60,000 miles in business class—3,000 miles below the more customary Europe to the U.S. 63,000 miles one-way rate. Does this make sense? Not really, but that’s LifeMiles for you. 

U.S. to Europe in Business Class for 63,000 

This definitely isn’t as good as flying across the pond for 35,000 mies, but still a good use of LifeMiles. You can fly from anywhere in the U.S. to anywhere in Europe for 63,000 miles one-way in business class on any Star Alliance partner. This would include the amazing SWISS business class and United Polaris. 

LifeMiles counts Turkey as Europe, so you can try out the great Turkish Airlines business class all the way to Istanbul, Turkey (IST), for 63,000 miles. 

Mixed-Cabin Awards

Another great way to use LifeMiles is to book mixed-cabin awards. When you add a short economy segment to a long-haul business class award, you’ll need fewer miles than if you booked just the long-haul segment. 

Here’s an example of this strange LifeMiles quirk. A business class ticket from Chicago (ORD) to Vienna will cost you 63,000 one-way on the nonstop flight.

Flying from Cleveland, Ohio, to Vienna will cost significantly less thanks to the domestic economy segment. 

This doesn’t mean that you need to look to add an economy flight on purpose, but it can work out in your favor if you live near a secondary airport or if your destination is a smaller airport without a lot of nonstop flights.  

Lufthansa First Class

Lufthansa First Class between the U.S. and Europe for 87,000 LifeMiles and about $30 in fees is definitely one of the best redemptions. Lufthansa usually doesn’t release first class award space to partners more than 15 days out, so if you have flexible travel plans, it might be worth it to wait for this special redemption.

Transcontinental Business Class on United Airlines 

If you get extremely lucky, you can find nonstop award space in business class between the East Coast and West Coast for 25,000 miles. This is a great way to try United Polaris with its lie-flat seats and updated catering. The caveat is being able to find award space. United could be extremely stingy with releasing award seats to partners, especially in premium cabins. 

Short-Haul United Domestic Flights in Economy

You can often find better rates on United economy flights than you’ll find through United’s own program. The rates for the short-haul flights start at just 6,500 miles. Considering how much easier it is to earn LifeMiles than United miles, keep this option in mind when you need to do a short hop across the U.S.  

U.S. to the Middle East or South Africa for 78,000 miles in Business Class

Whether visiting the Middle East or heading to a South African safari, 78,000 miles one-way in business class is a fair price for such a long journey. 

U.S. to Australia for 80,000 Miles in Business Class 

If the Land Down Under is on your bucket list, then using 80,000 miles one-way in business class to get there in comfort is well worth it. It’s extremely hard to find award space on the nonstop flights to Australia, but flying on one of the partners is also a great option. For example, ANA has comfortable business class seats, great onboard service and delicious food. 

U.S. to North Asia for 90,000 Miles in First Class

If your goal is to get to Japan in the lap of luxury, then dropping 90,000 miles on the first-class award is worth it. There are other ways to save miles on a first class trip to Japan, but with LifeMiles you can book one-way awards and, considering how easy it is to earn LifeMiles, this could be a good proposition.  

From 25,000 Miles to South America

One-way award in economy from the U.S. to South America will set you back just 30,000 miles. 

And thanks to the quirks of the program, you can get to some places in South America for as little as 25,000 miles in economy or 45,000 miles in business one-way.

Credit Cards to Help You Earn LifeMiles 

The Citi Premier Card has recently bumped up its welcome bonus to 80,000 ThankYou Points. This already-great card that earns the underappreciated points could be a great tool in your points earning arsenal. It has generous bonus categories and a reasonable $95 annual fee. The transfer bonuses that come from either the LifeMiles or the Citi side, make this card even more valuable.  

The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees) is a high-annual fee card that comes with a lot of benefits and perks and a generous welcome bonus. American Express also often runs transfer bonuses when you transfer Membership Rewards points to LifeMiles. 

Capital One® Venture® Credit Card also earns miles that can be transferred to LifeMiles. 

Both Amex and Chase issue co-branded Marriott credit cards. Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card (Rates & Fees) comes with $300 in statement credits at Marriott properties, 15 elite night credits and a Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status. 

Final Thoughts

There are quite a few great ways to redeem LifeMiles. The award space could be inconsistent at times, and you’ll often find better availability on the Star Alliance partner flights through other programs. The program is full of quirks, and the more persistent award seekers will be rewarded with finding those “sweet spots”. 

Considering how easy it is to accumulate a good stash of LifeMiles with the help of various credit card partners, transfer bonuses and even by buying miles on sale, you can take a whole family on a great trip.