(EXPIRED) LifeMiles sale from 1.29c per mile

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Avianca LifeMiles is selling miles with a best-ever 155% bonus for those who register through One Mile at a Time, dropping the price to 1.29c per mile even if you only buy 1,000 miles pre-bonus. That can be a great deal if you have a use for the miles, though there is obviously some question as to the future of Avianca. While I’m not terribly concerned about Avianca going out of business, neither would I buy or recommend buying miles without a specific relatively near-term use in mind.

The Deal

  • Avianca LifeMiles is offering a 155% bonus on purchased miles to those who register for the promotion through One Mile at a Time
  • Direct link to One Mile at a Time to register for this deal

Key Terms

  • This promotion applies for miles purchases made between June 23rd and June 26th, 2020 (between 00.00-23.59 GMT -6, El Salvador).
  • The bonus percentage applies as follows: for purchases from 1,000 – 200,000 LifeMiles receive 2×1 + 55% additional miles.
  • The promotion is exclusive for subscribers of the “One Mile at a Time” blog who are LifeMiles Members and have subscribed to the promotion thru the link provided by the blog.
  • The client must be previously enrolled to the LifeMiles Program. The last day to enroll and to subscribe to the promotion is June 26th, 2020.
  • The bonuses are calculated based on the miles purchased per individual transaction without taking into account the 2×1 bonus.
  • The miles must be purchased in multiples of 1,000.
  • The minimum miles to purchase per transaction is 1,000 LifeMiles.The maximum miles to purchase per transaction during this promotion is 200,000 LifeMiles. Additionally, the maximum miles that a member can receive during the promotion, including applicable bonuses is 510,000 miles, minus the miles that the member has previously purchased in 2020 and their respective bonuses.
  • The purchase transaction cannot be made if the amount of miles to purchase and the corresponding bonus, including all miles purchased in 2020, including the bonuses, exceed the 510,000 miles limit, unless the amount of miles to receive without applying the promotional bonus is less or equal to 510,000 miles, in which case, the transaction will be processed but no bonus will be granted, giving such warning to the member.
  • See full terms on the promotion page

More Details

The “public” bonus is only 150%, but One Mile at a Time has an exclusive 155% bonus for their readers, so you’ll need to register for the promotion through their site. As they note in their post, One Mile at a Time does not receive any commission / kickback, LifeMiles just periodically offers them exclusive deals for their readers.

LifeMiles typically requires you to buy a larger quantity to get the highest bonus amount, but this time around they are offering the bonus on any amount of purchased miles in increments of 1,000 miles.

Keep in mind that means that you need to buy 1,000 miles for the pre-bonus price of 3.3cpm ($33) to get a 155% bonus for a total of 2,550 miles for $33 (1.29cpm).

There are a few key considerations here:

  1. Avianca (the airline) has entered bankruptcy. LifeMiles has not. The loyalty program is a separate entity. Bankruptcy is typically a process of restructuring meant to keep a company in business. If we were in Vegas, I’d bet Avianca staying in business, but it’s certainly possible that they won’t make it. If they don’t, LifeMiles likely will continue on, but if Avianca is gone LifeMiles likely won’t be able to book Star Alliance flights. It is additionally possible that existing bookings with Star Alliance may not be honored in that case (particularly if LifeMiles no longer has the cash flow to pay for them).
  2. LifeMiles has promised not to devalue for those who buy. The promotion page indicates that LifeMiles has no imminent award chart changes planned, but to give some peace of mind they are guaranteeing members who purchase during this sale that they will maintain access to the current award chart pricing until at least January 2021.
  3. Buying any miles speculatively is always questionable and even more so now.

That last point is really the main key: I would not recommend buying miles simply because they are a good deal. While 1.29c per mile is the best I recall ever seeing from LifeMiles, we’ve seen enough opportunities to buy at 1.375c or 1.4c per mile over the past couple of years that I wouldn’t sweat missing out on this if you’re not yet sure how you’ll use the miles.

On the flip side, Avianca can be great for domestic US itineraries, with flights within a single region usually costing 7500 miles each way in economy class. If you’re intending to travel domestically on United in the near-term, buying miles might make sense (though keep in mind that cash ticket costs may also be quite low right now depending on your dates and routes).

Avianca LifeMiles sweet spots

LifeMiles are particularly good for booking Lufthansa first class (when that is available through LifeMiles) since LifeMiles does not pass on Lufthansa’s very high fuel surcharges.

For those curious about the best Avianca sweet spots, the key is that they do not impose fuel surcharges on award tickets. Unfortunately, they sometimes do not have access to the same Star Alliance award itinerary as other programs. On the flip side, they have great mixed-cabin award pricing. There are pluses and minuses. Here are the various Avianca sweet spots we’ve written about:

North America

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers one-ways on United within a single "zone" at excellent prices. Some flights price even less than the "official" rates.
  • Miles required: As per the old award chart, the US is split into 3 zones. Within a single zone is officially 7.5K one-way in economy class or 10K one-way in business class. Between Zone 1 (most of the East Coast) and Zone 2 (most of the states apart from the far west) is 10K one-way in economy or 15K in business class. Note that some routes price below the chart for no clear reason. Note also that mixed-cabin itineraries can price favorably in some instances. See: Avianca LifeMiles' awesome mixed-cabin award pricing. First class for less.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

South America (premium cabins)

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers competitive Star Alliance pricing to both Northern and Southern South America with no fuel surcharges. Note that you can mix cabins on partner awards to save miles, which can be useful if you need a positioning flight.
  • Miles required: According to the old award chart, flights to Northern South America are 35K each way in business class and Southern South America costs 60K one way in business class. However, flights on Avianca metal appear to be pricing out at 40K - 55K (while partner awards follow the old chart).
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Also note that as of May 2020, Avianca has filed for bankruptcy protection. LifeMiles is not yet affected by this process and may not be, but given the uncertain state of global economics it may be wise to hold off on bookings that aren't time-sensitive.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

Caribbean

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers one-ways on United to the “rest of North America” (i.e. not the US) for 12,500 miles each way in economy class.
  • Miles required: 12,500 miles each way in economy class
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

Asia (premium cabins)

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers decent pricing to Asia with no fuel surcharges. Business class awards may be semi-hackable by finding the right partners and/or adding a long economy class leg.
  • Miles required: From 62.5K each way in business or 75K each way in first class, no fuel surcharges. Note that there is some variance (See: The secret LifeMiles award chart). Also see: Avianca LifeMiles’ awesome mixed-cabin award pricing: First class for less for ways to fly first class for even fewer miles).
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Keep in mind that the mandatory $25 booking fee (added to all bookings) is the same whether one-way or round trip, so book round trip to save.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Capital One, Citi, Marriott

Africa (premium cabins)

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers competitive pricing for Star Alliance awards with no fuel surcharges.
  • Miles required: Officially, 78K each way in business or 105K each way in first class with no fuel surcharges. Note that there is some variance (See: The secret LifeMiles award chart). Also see: Avianca LifeMiles’ awesome mixed-cabin award pricing: First class for less for ways to fly first class for even fewer miles). In short, it is possible to pair the long-haul flights in business with connecting segments in economy class to pay fewer total miles.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Keep in mind that the mandatory $25 booking fee (added to all bookings) is the same whether one-way or round trip, so book round trip to save.
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou points, Capital One miles, Marriott Bonvoy

Europe (premium cabins)

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers competitive pricing for Star Alliance awards, especially in first class, with no fuel surcharges.
  • Miles required: 63K each way in business or 87K each way in first class, no fuel surcharges. Note that there is some variance (See: The secret LifeMiles award chart). Also see: Avianca LifeMiles’ awesome mixed-cabin award pricing: First class for less for ways to fly first class for even fewer miles). In economy class, some routes price from 16.5K one-way and some mixed-cabin business class itineraries can price from as low as 49K. See: Trying to crack  the LifeMiles secret code to Europe.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Keep in mind that the mandatory $25 booking fee (added to all bookings) is the same whether one-way or round trip, so book round trip to save.
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou points, Capital One miles, Marriott Bonvoy

Oceania (premium cabins)

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles might have somewhat hackable awards if you could find premium cabin space on the long-haul.
  • Miles required: 80K miles in business class from the US to Australia / New Zealand / Oceania, but see Avianca LifeMiles' awesome mixed-cabin award pricing: First class for less for info on how this might be hackable if premium space exists. Note also that Air New Zealand economy class flights price lower than the chart shows for flights to/from Los Angeles. Business class may also price lower if you can find availability.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you'll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points.

Africa in economy class

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers competitive pricing for Star Alliance awards with no fuel surcharges.
  • Miles required: Officially, 40K each way in economy class to South Africa (which includes most of Africa) or 42.5K each way to North Africa (and the Middle East). Note that there is sometimes variance (See: The secret LifeMiles award chart), though we are not aware of any such pricing anomalies to Africa.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Keep in mind that the mandatory $25 booking fee (added to all bookings) is the same whether one-way or round trip, so book round trip to save.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

Europe in economy class

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers competitive pricing for Star Alliance awards, with some routes to Europe inexplicably pricing lower than the award chart.
  • Miles required: Officially, the LifeMiles award chart offers economy class at 20K one-way from the Northeastern US to the British Isles, Scandinavia, and Russia or 30K one-way on all other routes between the US and Europe. However, there is some inexplicable variance (See: The secret LifeMiles award chart), with some routes pricing well under the expected 30K economy class price (such as JFK to Zurich for 16,500 miles or Denver to Brussels for 23K). Also see: Trying to crack  the LifeMiles secret code to Europe.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com, though note that you may be able to make a manual booking if individual segments are available separately. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Keep in mind that the mandatory $25 booking fee (added to all bookings) is the same whether one-way or round trip, so book round trip to save. Also note that as of May 2020, Avianca has filed for bankruptcy protection. LifeMiles is not yet affected by this process and may not be, but given the uncertain state of global economics it may be wise to hold off on bookings that aren't time-sensitive.
  • Transfer fromAmex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

Would you buy Avianca LifeMiles right now?

Personally, I probably wouldn’t buy LifeMiles right now for future international travel. There is just far too much uncertainty in terms of which flights will actually go and what restrictions we may face to purchase miles in a program with an uncertain future.

Again, I’m not particularly concerned that Avianca is on the brink of collapse, but I don’t expect that travel to most international destinations will resume for at least a few months and perhaps more — and at this point, it is hard to predict what could happen in that time.

On the other hand, I could see LifeMiles being attractive if you are planning to travel within the US in the coming months and award tickets beat paid tickets for your needs. I’m personally not planning travel right now, so I’m not a miles buyer even at what is a pretty good deal.

As One Mile at a Time points out, Avianca processes the purchase of LifeMiles, so you can earn a travel/airfare bonus on various credit cards when purchasing, which could drop your “net” cost depending on how much you value those points. I’ll still sit this one out.

Update: All that said, Stephen Pepper just convinced me to go ahead and buy miles: As he notes, it wouldn’t be shocking for an award program to say “we won’t devalue, but…” only to imminently follow that with a devaluation. It is therefore at least possible (and the more pessimistic among us may say probable) that a LifeMiles devaluation looms. Given that the minimum purchase to receive the bonus here (and lock in the award chart until at least January) is 1,000 miles, the cost of admission to lock in the LifeMiles award chart until January 2021 is $33 plus tax (keep in mind that you have to buy 1,000 miles at the “normal” price of 3.3cpm in order to get the 155% bonus, which means you’ll end up getting 2,550 miles for a cost of $33 (1.29cpm). Will I need to book a LifeMiles award at the current pricing badly enough to pay $33 to insure that I get the current award chart rate? I don’t know. But the gamble is relatively low given that I am 85% confident that I’ll be able to use a US Zone 1 award for 7500 miles sometime during 2021 that I could book in January if a devaluation sneaks up. I’m not recommending that everyone needs to buy the minimum for this purpose, but he convinced me that this isn’t a bad idea.

Bottom line

Avianca LifeMiles is currently offering miles for sale at a very low price of 1.29c per mile. That could be a terrific deal in some situations, particularly if you are able to use the miles for premium cabin international travel. However, with the future of international travel being very uncertain and the relative frequency of deals that are almost as good, it doesn’t make sense to buy miles speculatively. On the other hand, it might be worth a relatively small investment to lock in the current award chart until at least January.

H/T: One Mile at a Time

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