Avianca LifeMiles is a useful frequent flyer program with a big Achilles heel: miles expire after 12 months. Spending miles does not reset the clock. Other issues include their poor website search tool, their mandatory $25 booking fee, and notoriously poor phone customer service.
Despite all of this, there are a number of reasons to like the LifeMiles program:
- Avianca is a member of the Star Alliance. Since this is the largest airline alliance, it means that miles can be used for flights on a huge number of airlines.
- Like United, Avianca does not pass along fuel surcharges to their members. So, for example, you can book Lufthansa first class without paying exorbitant fees.
- Unlike United, Avianca doesn’t charge a close-in booking fee (United charges up to $75 per ticket when booking within 21 days)
- Within-US awards are as low as 7,500 miles one-way.
- Avianca’s mixed-cabin award pricing makes it possible to get amazing deals (see this post for details).
- You don’t have to always have enough miles: Avianca often sell miles cheaply, plus they allow cash + miles for all award bookings.
Nick states that if he had to dump his Citi Prestige card and was looking for a place to park his points, he would transfer them to Avianca LifeMiles. I think that makes sense, but he will have to make sure to do something proactive to keep his miles alive every year…
LifeMiles Expiration Policy as of April 15 2018
- Miles expire after 12 months.
- You can reset the clock to extend the life of your miles by earning more miles.
- Spending miles no longer resets the clock.
- You can extend the expiration by 24 months by earning miles from an Avianca branded credit card or by earning miles while you have Avianca elite status.
You can find the full details here (scroll down to “Miles Expiration Policy valid from April 15th , 2018.”)
Options for keeping points alive
- Fly a Star Alliance carrier (United, for example) and credit the flight to Avianca in order to earn miles.
- Sign up for an Avianca Vuela credit card.
- Transfer points from a transferable points currency or hotel program to Avianca.
- Buy miles from Avianca. You can do this automatically and at a good rate through a LifeMiles subscription (details here).
Transfer points to keep points alive
The easiest way to extend the life of your LifeMiles is to transfer points from Citi ThankYou points (if you have the Citi ThankYou Premier or Citi ThankYou Prestige card), or from SPG (Starting August 2018, you can transfer from the combined Marriott SPG program at a rate of 3,000 points to 1,000 LifeMiles).
I tested to make sure that transferring points into LifeMiles actually resets the clock. It does.
I transferred the minimum 1,000 points from Citi to LifeMiles. The transfer completed instantly. And as soon as I logged into my account again I saw that my point expiration date was reset:
Before transferring points my miles were set to expire in January 2019:
After transferring points (which I did in May 2018), my miles were set to expire in May 2019:
Of course I would have been better off waiting until December 2018 to transfer points to miles, but I wanted to confirm that this works before publishing these recommendations.
One easy way to track your mileage expiry is to setup AwardWallet with all of your loyalty accounts. AwardWallet will email you when your miles are close to expiring. Full details about AwardWallet, including a code for a free upgrade to AwardWallet Plus can be found here: AwardWallet.