9 Awesome Award Redemption Sweet Spots With Avianca Lifemiles, The Newest AMEX Airline Transfer Partner!

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Earlier today we broke the news that AMEX has added the ability to transfer Membership Rewards points to Avianca Lifemiles, a Star Alliance airline. You can transfer points instantly at a 1K:1K ratio.

Lifemiles is one of the rare mileage programs that doesn’t collect any fuel surcharges. United is another program that does not collect fuel surcharges, but AMEX points can’t be transferred to United as they are exclusively with Chase.

You can also transfer Marriott points to Lifemiles at a 60K:25K ratio or Citi ThankYou points to Lifemiles at a 1K:1K ratio.

Back when I used to give regular seminars I talked about many of the glitch cities that existed that allowed you to fly to Europe or Asia for just 12.5K Lifemiles, but a blogger managed to have them killed by complaining to the DoT about a flight that involved a trip from North America to Guam via Asia that Lifemiles used to count as a domestic US award.

That being said, there is plenty of value to be had with Avianca Lifemiles.

Lifemiles splits up the US into 3 zones:

US Zone 1: Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, Washington DC.

US Zone 2: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin

US Zone 3: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming

Here are the one-way mileage requirements for travel within the US:

From/ToUS Zone 1US Zone 2US Zone 3
US Zone 1 7.5K Coach
15K Business
10K Coach
15K Business
12.5K Coach
25K Business
US Zone 210K Coach
15K Business
7.5K Coach
15K Business
12.5K Coach
25K Business
US Zone 312.5K Coach
25K Business
12.5K Coach
25K Business
7.5K Coach
15K Business

The 7.5K and 10K short-haul awards are even better than with BA Avios in many scenarios as United availability is generally much better than American’s and they allow for free connections as well.

Let’s take a look at some comparisons between using United miles and Avianca miles.

1. A flight from Chicago to Miami on 11/13 would cost 12.5K United miles in coach or 25K United miles in business class. Plus there is $5.60 tax and a $75 fee for booking an award within 3 weeks unless you have elite status or a United Club card. That $75 close-in fee is the same on a one-way award as it is on a round-trip.

 

With Avianca Lifemiles this is an intra-Zone 2 award, costing just 7.5K miles in coach or 15K miles in business class. Note that Avianca has a $25 partner airline redemption fee, regardless of when you’re booking the award, so you’ll also need to pay $30.60 per passenger. That partner award fee is the same on a one-way award as it is on a round-trip.

 

2. United does have 10K short-haul awards for flights under 700 miles, such as Cleveland to LaGuardia, subject to the $75 close-in fee.

 

However with Lifemiles you can redeem a points+cash award by moving the slider on the flight search results page. The price per mile varies, so you can move the slider and divide the cash by the miles saved to determine the best rate. In this case you can spend $60 to save 4,000 miles.

In other words you can redeem 3,500 Lifemiles, plus $60 for the 4,000 miles,  plus the $25 booking fee, plus $5.60 tax, or a total of 3,500 Lifemiles plus $90.60:

 

The cost of the paid flight is $432.20, so that’s a value of 9.76 cents per Lifemile ($432.20-$90.60=$341.60/3,500)!

Plus there is no close-in fee, making this a better option than using 10K United miles plus $80.60. That would value the United miles at 3.52 cents per United mile ($432.20-$80.60=$351.60/10,000)!

3. A flight from San Francisco to Newark in business class on 11/22 would cost 35K United miles. United domestic first class saver awards are typically 25K miles, but it costs 35K on premium lie-flat transcontinental routes. Plus there is $5.60 tax and a $75 fee for booking an award within 3 weeks unless you have elite status or a United Club card. That $75 close-in fee is the same on a one-way award as it is on a round-trip.

With Avianca miles this is 25K miles in business class. Note that Avianca has a $25 partner airline redemption fee, regardless of when you’re booking the award, so you’ll also need to pay $30.60 per passenger. That partner award fee is the same on a one-way award as it is on a round-trip.

 

4. United charges 70K miles for Lufthansa business class or 110K miles for a Lufthansa first class flight between the US and Europe. Note that Lufthansa only releases first class award space within 2 weeks of a flight.

 

 

 

With Avianca miles this is just 63K in business class or 87K miles in first class:

 

5. You can save even more miles flying Lufthansa First Class to a different city in Europe besides Frankfurt or Munich. For example if you search for JFK to Madrid and pick the flight from JFK to Madrid via the first class flight to Munich and business class from Munich to Madrid the price is actually less than just the JFK to Munich flight! It will display 87,000 for this flight, but after you select it, it goes down to 81,460 miles:

 

Searching from JFK to Paris and picking Lufthansa first class via Munich is 84,700 miles:

 

 

6. United charges 85K miles for Lufthansa business class or 140K miles for a Lufthansa first class flight between the US and Israel. 

 

With Avianca miles this is just 78K in business class or 97,180 miles in first class:

 

7. United charges 120K miles for a Asiana first class flight between the US and Asia:

 

With Avianca miles this is just 90K miles in first class:

 

 

8. United charges 60K miles for a United business class flight between the US and Brazil:

 

 

With Avianca miles this is just 50K miles in business class:

 

9. United charges 30K miles for a coach flight or 55K miles for a business class flight between Israel and Africa:

 

Avianca charges just 17.5K in coach or 35K in business, however the Avianca website struggled to find the same coach space that United has available:

 

 

Of course there are caveats to all this:

  • If you have a United credit card you have access to expanded saver availability on United flights. Avianca Lifemiles can’t book awards like that.
  • United’s website is far more capable at finding awards than Avianca Lifemiles. That applied to both nonstop flights and connecting flights. You can try calling Avianca to book award tickets, but that rarely works as their call center is mostly incompetent and frustrating to deal with.
  • Lifemiles charges just $50 to cancel intra-region awards. International award cancellation and change fees range from $100 to $200. Hover over where it says “Limited seats” on the page that displays the award flights to check the change and cancellation/refund fee to see the fee for your itinerary. Oddly on some awards it will be cheaper to cancel an award than to change it, while on other awards it will be more expensive to cancel an award than to change it.
  • You can’t book a multi-city award, such as Cleveland to LaGuardia and Newark back to Cleveland, without booking it as 2 separate one-ways. That means you need to pay the $25 booking fee twice on such an itinerary and the $50 cancellation fee twice should you need to cancel.
  • United allows a free stopover leg on a round-trip award, Lifemiles does not.
  • Lifemiles requires earning activity every 12 months in order to stop them from expiring. Redeeming miles will not extend the life of your miles. With United any earning or redeeming extends your miles for 18 months and if you have a United credit card your miles will never expire.

What other Lifemiles sweet spots have you used? Hit the comments!

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59 Comments On "9 Awesome Award Redemption Sweet Spots With Avianca Lifemiles, The Newest AMEX Airline Transfer Partner!"

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eg

It should be noted that Lifemiles allows you to top off your miles at time of booking. Rates vary from as low as 1.5cpm, it’s quite easy to find a sweet spot by moving the selector for Lifemiles+money.

Ljderm

Are Alaska and Hawaii not allowed with LifeMiles?

friendsflying

which blogger are you referring to?

Abka

Maybe if you search all references where Dam mentioned this you’ll find the blogger’s initials…

shelly

So will AMEX reward points be worth more when selling them?

B

Thanks a bunch, Dan
BTW, AMEX now has a promotion to transfer AMEX MR points to BA Avios 1000 :1400. good for travel to Brazil and more.
Thanks again !!

MarkG

Living near Miami i use Lifemiles a lot. Specially on Turkish Airlines and Austrian Airlines biz to Europe. From JFK I also flew Eva Air to BBK. That’s 20 hs in a very good biz class for 78k one way

Arye her

Do you mean BKK?

MarkG

Yes :0)

zee

will this make the sfo-ppt route cheaper?

SG

Dan
How long from transfer to availability with life miles?

A

Instant. He says it in the first paragraph.

reb yid

“The 7.5K and 10K short-haul awards are even better than with BA Avios as United availability is much better than American’s and they allow for free connections as well.”
Not necessarily. NY to FL 25% fewer miles with BA/AA. YMMV with availability but I’m looking at dates where UA avail is dismal and AA is great. Also not everyone wants to trapse to EWR.

CLE-LGA
“plus $60 for the 4,000 miles”
why would we do that?

Sexy_kitten7

“why would we do that?”

I thought the same thing. One of the reasons people use the Life-o-meter is the cpm goes down the more you buy. Sure 1.5 cpm is a steep price to pay (esp. for travel hackers aka cheapskates) but you have to figure you’re getting “8 cpm” anyways. So if you value the miles at significantly more than 1.5 cpm, it makes sense to buy.

Also, it makes your LM stash last longer. It’s a lot easier to shell out a couple hundred bucks vs getting a new credit card or MSing 6 figures.

And don’t think that I’m a shill for LM. I’ve been sitting on 50k miles since 2014 and can’t find a use for ’em since I never fly internationally 🙁

HE

Dan,
You didn’t mention here that AMEX charges some money (max $99) to transfer MR points to mile partners including Lifemiles.
Thanks Dan for all this valuable info!

DL

I thought they only charge for domestic airlines.

abey

now whos taking that lh f seat on 11/13 😉

weiss

competition with citi prestige

Games with kids

Among which airline mileage plans/groups, can one easily transfer miles among family members (siblings, children and/or spouse)?

chaim

you mentioned the former glitch of being able to fly to asia on a domestic mileage ticket(12.5 k).Did that mean using the same cities you were able to fly to asia in business class using only a domestic business class mileage ticket .I know it’s no longer relevant but I am curious

pa

what about marketing the banco popular card that gives you 60k lifemiles with one swipe and ussually pulls from equifax?

Yuliya

All of this is great if your transfer is, indeed, instant. I have been waiting for 2 weeks for my Citi Thank you points…. got a number of polite emails about “looking into it”….I hope to get my miles so I can book my flights…

clever

שלום דניאל, אודות הסמינרים, חיפשתי בה”לינק” שציינת אליו, וראיתי כמה דרכים שתוכל לעשות סמינר לציבור מיוחד.
אבל את זה לא ראיתי, למה לא להתפרסם את הסמינר רק בעברית ובזה תינצל מכל הפגעים רעים?
חשוב על זה, הסמינר הוא דבר שהציבור מאוד מאוד דורש.
תודה על הכל!!

המצפה לישועה בעניין הנקודות

מסכים בזה מאה אחוז! תוכל להעמיד שומרים בפתח שיעיינו היטב במי שמגיע . ובוודאי לא לעשותו במקום שרבים משתמשים בבלוגים, למשל לייקווד, אלא לעשותו במקום שאין רבים שם בבלוגים, כמו קרית יואל!

ExGingi

עברית בקרית יואל???

Eli

What terrible website, wouldn’t enter any origin or destination

sm

What’s their expiration policy?

Maiven

miles will expire after 12 months of activity, and only earning miles will extend the expiration date of your miles (meaning that redeeming miles will no longer reset the expiration date of your miles)

chaim

does transferring miles reset the date or just earning

tassojunior

But terrible website.

Does buying miles extend the 12 months?

As eager as Avianca is to sell miles, I’m assuming a transfer bonus will be coming soon.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE

ive used them for luftansa first via frankfurt and the first class terminal to tlv
but…
they dont allow lap infants
there call center absolutely SUKS!!!!

@DAN

YOU CAN NOT BOOK LAP INFANTS AT ALL WITH LIFEMILES

Jacob

What’s Infant fees?

dave

can you book saver United awards with Avianca miles from nyc-tlv? why not?

Toasted

What’s the charge for ewr-yul?

Bob

It doesn’t give you a final price on the fees that will be charged unless you have enough miles to book the ticket.. any ideas how to get around this?

Mppp

What about ny to london?

yanky

can we book with lifemiles same day of travel?

wpDiscuz