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According to this very active thread on FlyerTalk, Taca Airlines is offering 250 LifeMiles for each purchase made through its e-shopping portal through October 31st. (Hat Tip Mommy Points.) The most important part of this deal is, according to the terms and conditions, there are NO minimums on purchases. Conceivably, you could order many inexpensive items separately and rack up Taca miles quickly.

Many in the FlyerTalk forum are attempting to order multiple $1 items from various stores in the shopping portal. If everything goes as planned, they will receive 250 miles for each $1 purchase. Placing many separate $1 orders should allow the LifeMiles to rack up quickly.

Why should I care about a 250 mile deal from an airline I’ve never heard of?

Taca LifeMiles are a currency with legitimate value. Taca belongs to the extensive Star Alliance network, the biggest alliance. Here’s a list of the member airlines of the Star Alliance. Their award chart is roughly in line with other Star Alliance carriers, meaning to many places, it takes the same amount of LifeMiles to book an award as it would on other carriers like United.

Even better, Taca does not impose fuel surcharges on award tickets like many international carriers. They also allow members to book oneway award tickets at half the price of a roundtrip ticket. Some Star Alliance carriers, like US Airways, charge the same amount of miles for a oneway ticket as a roundtrip.

How to get the miles

To take part in this shopping portal bonanza, you will first need to register for a Taca LifeMiles frequent flyer account if you have not done so already. Go to this link to create an account and click Enroll.

Once you have filled out all pertinent information, including your passport number, you should receive your personal Taca LifeMiles frequent flyer number and PIN to log into your account. You will need to write these numbers down, as they are important to access the LifeMiles shopping portal.

With your LifeMiles number and PIN in hand, click to the Taca shopping portal via the Earn button at the top right of the site.

Enter your LifeMiles number and PIN in the top right corner of the screen. Shopping portals track purchases using this member-specific information. If you don’t enter your number and PIN, you will not be properly credited miles earned through purchases. (If you’ve never heard of a shopping portal, read this post from my beginners’ series: Exploiting Shopping Portals.)

If your log in was successful, you should be taken back to the exact same page. Instead of the blanks to input your information, there should be a greeting, “Welcome, <Your Name>.” If you see this message, you are logged in successfully and can begin searching for merchants that can be exploited for easy and inexpensive purchases.

I’ll give two examples of inexpensive purchases mentioned in the FlyerTalk thread.

The first is a $1 PetSmart donation. To access PetSmart from the shopping portal, search for the site on the Taca portal, and click on its logo. You should be taken to this page below.

Again, make sure you see the “Welcome, <Your Name>” message at the top to ensure you are logged in properly. If you see the message, click on the button at the bottom that says “Take me to PetSmart.”

You should be taken directly to the PetSmart site. From here, you can scan for small, inexpensive items that can be purchased multiple times. There is certainly no shortage of inexpensive items on the site, but we want to make sure each transaction is for as little as possible. To do so, put ANY PetSmart item in your shopping cart and proceed to checkout.

For purposes of demonstration, I chose a simple dog toy for $5.99.  At the checkout screen, you should see a button at the right side of the screen asking if you wish to donate to PetSmart charities. Any amount can be chosen from $1-$20.  Choose $1 and click the “Donate” button.

Clicking the “Donate” button will add $1 to your shopping cart total. You should see your estimated total along with an item labeled “PetSmart Charities Donation.”

At this point, you should remove your original item from your cart (in this case, the dog toy). By doing so, you will be able to “purchase” a charitable donation for only $1 with no shipping costs. If you did this step properly, your cart should look like the picture below.

The FlyerTalk thread on this deal also gives many examples of inexpensive, small purchases that can be made through Drugstore.com, another partner of Taca’s shopping portal. By ordering shampoos and beauty products for less than $1, you should be able to rack up transactions quickly. To access Drugstore.com from the shopping portal, search for the site on the Taca portal and click on its logo. You should be taken to this page below just like when you accessed PetSmart.

Again, make sure you see the “Welcome, <Your Name>” message at the top to ensure you are logged in properly. If you see the message, click on the button at the bottom that says “Take me to drugstore.com.”

You should be taken directly to the Drugstore.com site. From here, you can scan for small, inexpensive items that can be purchased multiple times. There is certainly no shortage on items around $1 on the site. For example, here is a cheap item I found after a few clicks.

Shipping, of course, tacks $5.99 to these orders and makes the deal far less lucrative (almost 3 cents/mile, not even worth it, in my opinion). However, many of the sites that can be accessed through Taca’s shopping portal (including Drugstore.com) also partner with ShopRunner, a frequent-online-shopper service.

Coincidentally, ShopRunner is currently offering a 30 day free trial which includes complimentary two day shipping at its partner sites. If you sign up for their free trial membership, you can order many separate small items and the shipping will be free. Just make sure to cancel your membership before your free trial ends; otherwise you will be billed the membership fee–$8.95 for the monthly plan or $75 for the annual plan.

I signed up for a ShopRunner account–making sure to note the cancellation phone number–and used it to purchase the Conair brushes above. According to Taca’s shopping portal site, these transactions should post in the next three days.

Is this a good deal?

It’s not a great deal for me. And it’s an uncertain deal because we don’t know how this will play out. Let me explain.

I’ll know in a few days whether my purchases post. They should only earn a few points, but if they post, that’s a good indication that I’ll get the 250 bonus points in the next few weeks.

There is no guarantee though. Taca might see the unusually high interest in this promotion and unilaterally change the bonus conditions. If they do that, I don’t think we’ll see our miles. I’ve found on many trips through Latin America that customer service is not a strong point. And American airlines are more than willing to change promotions with no notice–like United just did with the Mileage Plus Explorer card bonus–so I would think foreign airlines would be doubly likely.

There’s a lot that could go wrong. But even if everything goes right, how valuable is the promotion? Let’s use some simple assumptions to see how much this promo is worth for an average person.

  • Let’s value Taca miles at 1.5 cents each, which I think is appropriate but conservative.
  • Let’s value our time at $60 an hour. Ask yourself what someone would have to pay you to spend your time buying things online.
  • Let’s assume that it takes us three minutes per transaction. Make a purchase, sign out, sign back into the portal, click through to the site, make another purchase.
  • Let’s assume each item costs $1 and has no value to us.

 

That would mean in one hour, we could make 20 purchases costing $20. That would earn 5,000 miles worth $75. We would have spend $60 worth of time though. $75 in miles – $20 in cash -$60 in time equals -$5 (negative five dollars.) And that’s if everything goes right!

Now maybe you value your time less than I do, or you can make purchases more quickly. But it sure seems like a lot of work for not much upside to me. Plus I don’t expect everything to go smoothly. I think odds are good that Taca will limit the bonus miles earned, or maybe the donation to PetSmart won’t count as a purchase. Proceed with caution.

Recap

Taca is offering 250 bonus miles per purchase through its portal. Many people are attempting to earn a points windfall with many micro-purchases. I don’t advise it.

I don’t think it’s worth the time even if everything goes right, and I don’t expect everything to go right since this deal involves airlines, portals, and Latin American businesses–three things that have spotty customer service records.

Taca has run lucrative mile promotions before, such as when they sold LifeMiles with a 100% bonus. I wrote about that special promotion in detail in the post, Roundtrip Business Class to Europe for under $1,500 All In. With that 2-for-1 deal, you could conceivably book a roundtrip business class ticket between the USA and Europe for $1,500. I analyzed that deal to show what a great program Taca LifeMiles is and how valuable their miles could be.

This shopping portal bonus promotion could be very beneficial as well, but will require more work and diligent record keeping. Good luck if you try to get in on the deal, and I’ll be reporting whether I get the bonus miles.

Update:

It seemed too good to be true. But the terms and conditions that were included in the e-mail seemed to confirm the offer:

These terms and conditions state not once, but twice, that “bonus miles apply for each purchase you make during October 2012.”

Slow your roll
About 24 hours after the promotion was first offered, this tweet from The Wandering Aramean suggested that that everything was not as it seemed:

He was referring to the terms and conditions of Incentive Networks, the company that runs the LifeMiles e-store.  When you navigate to the e-store, at the bottom of the page is a link to the overall terms and conditions that govern the LifeMiles e-store. This is what pops up when you click that link:

It is likely that these particular terms and conditions–which limit the 250 bonus LifeMiles to the first e-store purchase of $50 or more—refer to the ongoing pg promotion, unrelated to the more lucrative deal that was emailed to LifeMiles members.  This line of thinking is supported by the lack of October-specific language and the fact that that the pg promotion is advertised elsewhere. In contrast, the terms and condition of the 250 LifeMiles per purchase promotion that was emailed specifically refers to purchases made in October.

Update Update:

The offer page still says 250 miles per order. I mistakenly said that was no longer on the website.

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