Avianca LifeMiles: An Underrated Frequent Flyer Program

In the world of points and miles, hobbyists gradually become aware of the possibilities for award travel. When you’re getting started accumulating miles, you tend to look for award flights on your designated airline only. At some point, you realize that your airline’s partners open up a new universe of destinations. Eventually, seasoned travelers understand that transferable points are far more valuable and flexible than miles in a fixed frequent flyer program.

The final stage is when all of these factors come together: If you have a stash of transferable points, you can shift them into a program with the lowest redemption rates and the greatest number of partners.

Avianca LifeMiles is one of the prime sweet spots for award travel. Of course, as the flag carrier of Colombia, the airline offers discounted awards to South America. But what if you don’t want to go to Bogota? Avianca is also a member of Star Alliance, the world’s largest consortium of airlines, which allows travelers to redeem miles on all alliance members:

  • Aegean
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air India
  • Air New Zealand
  • ANA (All Nippon Airways)
  • Asiana
  • Austrian
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Copa Airlines
  • Croatia Airlines
  • Egyptair
  • Ethiopian
  • EVA Air
  • LOT Polish Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • SAS
  • Shenzhen Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Swiss
  • TAP Air Portugal
  • Thai
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United

This is a formidable list, even if Air India is experiencing financial difficulties and South African Airways is under that county’s equivalent of bankruptcy protection. The sheer number of combinations and possibilities almost guarantees that you’ll be able to find an award to your desired destination.

On top of that, here’s the really good news: Avianca doesn’t impose fuel surcharges or other inflated fees on award tickets, nor do they charge close-in booking fees. This makes them a top choice for awards within Star Alliance. The redemption rates aren’t the lowest around—but they’re reasonable, and there are a number of sweet spots in the award chart.

You can fly from the U.S. to Europe for 30,000/63,000/87,000 miles in Economy/Business/First. While there are some other airlines that are theoretically lower, they don’t seem to have the award inventory that Avianca has (American offers a Business Class Saver award from the U.S. to Europe for 57,500 miles each way, but just try and find one). 87,000 miles each way for International First Class is a bargain, particularly considering the award will book into Swiss or Lufthansa.

Other noteworthy highlights of their award chart include 25,000 miles each way for transcontinental Business Class within the U.S.; 40,000 miles in Economy to Australia and New Zealand; 78,000 miles in Business Class to the Middle East; 39,000 miles in Economy to South Asia (including Bali, Vietnam and Thailand), and 22,500 miles in Business Class within North Asia.

The easiest way to accumulate miles with Avianca is to transfer points from one of their credit card partners: American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Capital One or Marriott Bonvoy. Amex and Citi transfer at a 1:1 ratio, while Capital One is 2:1.5. The Marriott Bonvoy transfer rate is 3:1, but you get a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points, with a net result of 25,000 miles per 60,000 points.

Avianca also offers two credit cards of their own, both issued by Banco Popular of Puerto Rico:

Avianca Vida Visa Card

The current signup bonus is 20,000 LifeMiles after first card use. You receive two miles per dollar on all Avianca purchases, and one mile per dollar on everything else, along with a 15% discount on purchases with Multiply Your Miles (more on this in a moment). The annual fee is $59.

Avianca Vuela Visa Card

The current offer is 40,000 miles after the first card use, with three miles per dollar on Avianca purchases and one mile elsewhere; you receive the same discount when buying miles. The annual fee is $149.

Multiply Your Miles is a useful way to boost your balance. Every time you fly on Avianca or spend on their co-branded credit card, you can triple your mileage—essentially, you’re buying twice the number of miles you’re entitled to at a heavily discounted rate. And if you do have either of the two cards, you’ll receive a 15% discount on top of that.

Other than flying, there are many other ways to accumulate LifeMiles. You can earn them through Avianca’s hotel, restaurant and car rental partners. You can make purchases through the LifeMiles shopping portal, or with their booking partner Rocket Travel. Avianca allows you to purchase up to 200,000 miles each year, and they run frequent sales at extremely attractive rates. You can also subscribe to Club LifeMiles, which gives you the option of making recurring monthly mile purchases; the more miles you buy, the larger the bonus.

If you’re still short of miles for an award, consider the LifeMiles + Cash option, which gives you the opportunity to buy up to 60% of the miles you need for the award. Avianca miles don’t expire as long as there is activity on the account every 24 months.

Given the constant devaluations in frequent flyer programs (think United and Singapore as cases in point), Avianca LifeMiles is a program to keep on your radar for award redemptions.

Source: frugal travel guy

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