Maximizing Avianca LifeMiles

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Avianca LifeMiles are easier to earn than ever thanks to the Avianca Vuela Visa that was introduced at the end of 2016.  In light of that fact, today I’m going to go over strategies for maximizing your LifeMiles.

Best Ways to Get Avianca LifeMiles

  • The new Avianca card issued by Banco Popular comes with 40,000 Avianca LifeMiles after your first purchase on the card and a $149 annual fee. You can easily boost that bonus to 60,000 LifeMiles after your first purchase by using the following promotion code when applying: AVSPWE. Enter the code in the Financial Information section of the application. You can read the rest of the details of the Avianca Vuela Visa’s offer here. I double checked to see if the code is still working to garner the 60k bonus, and this FlyerTalk thread has evidence that it does. FYI, I’ve read multiple data points that Banco Popular has asked applicants to provide proof of income.

Maximizing Your LifeMiles

Before I dive into any specific redemptions, I want to draw attention to what I think is a major strength of LifeMiles. At least for the churners in the audience.

If you take a look at Scott’s Comprehensive Spread Sheets of Eight Star Alliance Award Charts: Cheapest Awards to Every Region, you’ll see that LifeMiles award prices tend to be average. You’re not going to find a ton of “sweet spots”. However…

A) Avianca is in Star Alliance, and

B) they don’t collect fuel surcharges on awards, no matter what airline you’re flying.

A problem many of us face (a show of hands please? I know I’m not the only one!) is our inability to earn United miles due to the Chase 5/24 rule. Sure, I can collect Singapore miles via tons of cards, but I have to stick to redeeming them solely on United flights if I want to avoid fuel surcharges. United miles give you fuel surcharge free access to Star Alliance award availability, so it’s a bummer being locked out of them.

LifeMiles lend a helping hand in this aspect, since they unlock Star Alliance award space and don’t collect any fuel surcharges. United, Copa, and Avianca are the only miles I’m aware of that can book fuel surcharge free awards across Star Alliance.

One way LifeMiles awards cost half the price of roundtrip awards. Since you can book one way awards, a roundtrip can have two open jaws.

Here is Avianca’s award chart for redeeming LifeMiles on Star Alliance partners. The chart also includes region definitions. I think Avianca’s award prices for flying partners are much fairer than their award prices to fly their own flights, which were devalued in March of last year.

Sweet Spots

  • 63k LifeMiles To Fly Any Star Alliance Business Class to Europe
  • 87k LifeMiles To Fly Lufthansa First Class to Europe (No Fuel Surcharges)*
  • 25k LifeMiles to Fly United Transcontinental Business Class
  • 36k LifeMiles To Fly Thai Airways Business Class Between North and Southeast Asia

63k LifeMiles To Fly Any Star Alliance Business Class to Europe

For just 63,000 LifeMiles, you can fly any Star Alliance carrier between Europe and the United States, and Star Alliance has great (probably the best) premium cabin award space out of all the alliances.

While it would cost you less (57,000) United miles to fly United Business Class to Europe, it would cost you 70,000 United miles to fly any other Star Alliance carrier.

Lufthansa Business Class on a 747-8
Lufthansa Business Class on a 747-8

Scott has used LifeMiles to book Europe to the United States in Business Class for 63,000 miles. He helped a friend go through the process of buying the LifeMiles for this award, so ultimately he paid a thousand dollars for his Business Class ticket. LifeMiles sales are pretty frequent so you can consistently buy Business Class tickets to Europe this way for about $1,000.

87k LifeMiles To Fly Lufthansa First Class to Europe*

This one has an asterisk next to it because award space is hard to find, so let’s call it a tentative sweet spot.

LifeMiles have had a rocky relationship over the years with Lufthansa First Class. For a while you couldn’t book the renowned premium cabin with LifeMiles, nor could you mix the class of service with any LifeMiles award. Luckily now you can do both, so the ability to book Lufthansa First Class between the United States and Europe for 87,000 LifeMiles is alive again (caveat: if you can find the award space).

Scott flying Lufthansa First
Scott flying Lufthansa First

It can be hard tracking down Lufthansa First Class award space on the LifeMiles website as it doesn’t always show the same availability that United or Aeroplan might, and LifeMiles’ call centers are known for being useless.

I recommend searching on an engine with a better interface like united.com where you can see months of award space at a time, and when you find your desired flight, look it up on lifemiles.com. That advice applies when searching for any award space you want to book with LifeMiles.

25k LifeMiles to Fly United Transcontinental Business Class

You can use 25k LifeMiles to book domestic First Class or Business Class on United, including United’s fully flat beds on its routes from Los Angeles and San Francisco to New York (Newark). It costs 35,000 United miles to fly those same transcontinental flat beds.

Scott also goes over the process of buying the LifeMiles to redeem on this award in his post Using LifeMiles to Book Transcontinental Flat Beds for $400.

36k LifeMiles To Fly Thai Airways Business Class Between North and Southeast Asia

Scott redeemed 36k LifeMiles on a Thai Airways Business Class award between Japan and Thailand a little over a year ago.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 1.26.22 PM

Out of all your options redeeming miles on Thai Airways Business Class between these two regions, using LifeMiles is the cheapest. That being said, you can book Cathay Pacific flights between North Asia and Southeast Asia (say, Tokyo to Hong Kong, for example) for just 30k American Airlines miles. So this isn’t some crazy sweet spot, but useful to know if you want/need to fly Thai Airways.

Bottom Line

LifeMiles have a decently priced award chart for flying partners with a few good deals to be found here and there. It’s my opinion that the utility of LifeMiles lies in the fact that they open up the ability to book Star Alliance award space with no fuel surcharges, which you can’t do with many types of miles. The main type of mile you can do this with is United miles, but if you’re anything like me, you can’t earn United miles from credit card bonuses/spending because you’re locked out by Chase 5/24.

So for those of you that are like me, LifeMiles can be your United miles! If only it was a little easier to earn them… we might be onto something.

Made any particularly good LifeMiles redemptions lately that I can add to this list? Let us know in the comments.

If you want to apply for the Avianca Vuela Visa, here is the application link: https://www.lifemilescreditcard.com/WLInternet/avianca.aspx, and don’t forget the promo code AVSPWE or you’ll only get the 40k LifeMiles bonus. We do get commissions when you sign up for some cards, but not this one–we just want you to be aware of the best deals.


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

The comments section below is not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all questions are answered.

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Sarah Page Maxwell became a miles nerd after moving her base to Buenos Aires and beginning a transient lifestyle that would be otherwise too expensive without miles and points. In addition to travel, her other passions include hot sauce, yoga, and her boston terrier Omar.

17 COMMENTS

    • Check availability on the United site, write down the travel dates and all info and call Avianca and book.

  1. My 60k miles just posted. I’m new to the program, so looking for all information on best uses. Thanks for the post, and I’m sure we’ll see more as time goes by.

    One problem I’ve had in limited trial so far is getting itineraries to price at the website, compared to United. I tried one city pair from Asia to Europe on United and saw availability for my preferred date at Saver level. Interested, I tried pricing the same city pair with LifeMiles, but got a “sold out” response. However, when I tried again, now searching leg by leg, the flights in question really did each have availability with LifeMiles, but only as two separate tickets at a considerably higher total cost in miles, not as a single redemption as I could have done if using United miles. Any comments/experience related to this?

  2. I had my 60,000 LifeMiles post last week – I was relieved, as I couldn’t be sure the promo code would work with it credit card (it did). My wife, her friend, and I all opened the card at the same time, and we each spent $3000 since business class to Europe costs 63,000 points. As soon as it posted, we booked 3 business class tickets Chicago to Rome on Swiss Air next October. The stress was waiting for the points to post, praying that the space would still be available.

    • Glad you were able to book what you wanted! And thanks for the data points about the promo code working.

  3. Never hurts to have a 60,000 for $149. Other than a little ding on the credit score, these should become handy. Applied for me and the Mrs. and got the 7-10 day note. I actually think this card would have worked in Cuba at the few places that took a credit card. If so, that is another big benefit.

    • Congrats! If you don’t mind me asking, any issues with your spouse getting the card? My spouse doesn’t work and so income is zero. My app (800+) was approved but only after I uploaded my 2 pay stubs. As spouse would have zero income I fear it would be a wasted hard pull (she’s 800+ as well) and a quick denial. Were you in my boat or is your spouse an earner? Would appreciate the help!

      Congrats again and have a great trip!

  4. Thanks for the article! I, too, see these as opening Star* potential especially for TG (for my needs). Regarding ‘confirming income’, I received the ‘Congratulations’ you’ve been approved with NO request for income docs. Possibly because I had, in the past, the ‘USBank’ LM card before it was converted last summer.

  5. Im confused how to use life miles for Star Alliance flights listed on UA or Aero plan.
    to search on Lifemiles site, i can only put in departure and destination , date and then site lists one or two flights… i asked for business and their offer was economy on trans alt. flights DPS, TAE, LAX, and bus. on Aviana Lax to SJO. not good. I called and tried to explain to agent that i understood one could use Lifemiles by calling with flight info after finding available flights on UA or Aeroplan. she said, ‘no, you can only choose from he flights listed on life miles.com’ which are almost worthless.
    Had any experience with this?
    Rod Weidman, Quepos, Costa Rica.

  6. When I applied for the card, we needed three business class flights from Chicago to Rome in October. We applied for 3 cards, and got immediate approvals. Checked for flights, and it showed availability. We each spent the $3000 necessary for the 63,000 miles required for business class (if we didn’t hit the spend the first month, I simply would have purchased the difference in miles from Avianca). We then waited for the statement to come and the miles to post. When they did, three seats still showed availability online. My angst was that we had to book them one at a time, since we had three different accounts. But it worked out fine, and we had three business class seats on Swiss Air Chicago – Zurich – Rome. If I had to call, I would not be happy. I did call, after the fact, only to tie our three confirmation codes together, to notify them that we were travelling as a group.

  7. My recent experience that life miles.com shows very little word space and often one bad flight combo when you know it is showing up to 10
    .
    Is it possible to find the desired flight on United.com and book it by calling Avianca if it is not showing up on LifeMiles.com?

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