On Friday, I wrote about a revolutionary idea:

You can use the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® to get 1.52 LifeMiles per dollar on all purchases. Read the whole post to find out how.

The Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® is the king of cash back cards (without even being one) because it offers 2.28% back on all purchases toward travel on top of 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days, which is worth over $500 in free travel.

But Arrival miles are terrible, no good, very bad miles for premium cabin redemptions just like all fixed-value points earned on bank cards.

That’s why you’d  convert Arrival miles to LifeMiles, the miles of Star Alliance carrier Avianca, at a rate of 1 Arrival mile to 0.76 LifeMiles: to book business class and first class awards on Star Alliance carriers like Lufthansa, United, Austrian, ANA, Thai, and South African.

Getting 1.52 LifeMiles per dollar on all purchases through the Arrival Plus would be the highest rate of airline miles per dollar of any card. But that doesn’t mean anything if the LifeMiles chart isn’t any good.

Luckily the LifeMiles chart is solid, much better than United’s for instance, for Star Alliance redemptions.

I’ve prepared side-by-side comparisons of United’s and LifeMiles’ award charts from the United States.

All award charts show the roundtrip price in thousands of miles.

Both programs allow one way redemptions for half price. Neither program ever collects fuel surcharges on any awards. Government taxes should be the same no matter which miles you use, but might differ by a few cents depending on currency conversions.

Economy Award Charts

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United miles offer cheaper awards from the United States to Pacific Islands like Guam. (Though Guam is famous with LifeMiles for another reason. 😉 )

LifeMiles offer cheaper awards to Asia, Alaska, Hawaii, and part of Central America.

For many regions, the two programs would charge the same price, but even to those regions LifeMiles are better than United miles because there is no card that earns 1.52 United miles per dollar on all purchases.

Business Class Award Charts

Slashes indicate the price for United metal/partner metal. Since United’s February 2014 devaluation, it charges extra miles to fly partner Business and First Class.

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LifeMiles offer a far better deal on Business Class awards to most of the world.

The most popular award at the MileValue Award Booking Service is a couple taking a roundtrip to Europe in Business Class.

If the couple flies Lufthansa or Austrian or Swiss, it would cost 280k United miles versus only 210k LifeMiles.

Remember that United and LifeMiles have access to the exact same award space on other Star Alliance airlines.

First Class Award Charts

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LifeMiles charges 195k miles roundtrip to North Africa and 205k to South Africa.

Here LifeMiles is usually cheaper than United. Remember that you can’t fly United Global First Class to a lot of the world, so you’d have to use partner airlines and incur that higher, partner price on United’s chart.

United and LifeMiles have access to the exact same access to the top First Class space in the Star Alliance like Lufthansa First Class and Thai First Class. But while United wants 110,000 miles each way for Lufthansa First Class to Europe, LifeMiles charges a much more reasonable 72,500 miles each way and with no $75 fee for booking within 21 days of departure.

Caveats

Benefits of LifeMiles

  • One way awards
  • Up to two open jaws on roundtrips
  • Much better award chart than United
  • Access to all the same Star Alliance award space that United miles can access
  • $50 Award Cancellations (vs. $200 on a United award)
  • Easy online searching and booking tool

Drawbacks of LifeMiles

  • No stopovers on LifeMiles awards
  • All flights on an award be in the same cabin of service
  • No-notice devaluations have occurred to the LifeMiles chart in the past

If you want to convert Arrival miles to LifeMiles, keep the Arrival miles until you are ready to book an award with LifeMiles. The best way to buy LifeMiles is AFTER award searching and IMMEDIATELY BEFORE award booking. Your LifeMiles balance should almost always be zero, and you should really only have the miles in your account for a few minutes while you book an award.

Recap

The LifeMiles award chart is much cheaper than the United award to most regions in most cabins for the exact same flights. You can effectively get 1.52 LifeMiles per dollar on all purchases by using your Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® and converting Arrival miles to LifeMiles during the frequent 2 x 1 sales on LifeMiles.

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