LifeMiles has run countless mileage sales in the past, but the bonuses of late have been pretty unprecedented.
There’s a good reason for that though- ever since Avianca’s recent bankruptcy filing, LifeMiles members have been casting concerned glances at their account balances (LifeMiles is a separate legal entity from Avianca, but relies heavily on Avianca for revenue). The only way to get people to bite now is to offer sky high bonuses, and that’s what we’re seeing for 11.11
11.11 Sale: Buy LifeMiles with a 200% bonus
From now till 16 November 2020 2 p.m SGT, LifeMiles is offering a 200% bonus on miles purchases, its highest bonus ever. This is even better than the previous 200% sale because you only need to buy a minimum of 1,000 miles. Previously, you had to buy at least 101,000 miles to trigger a 200% bonus.
LifeMiles members can purchase a maximum of 200,000 miles (pre-bonus) per calendar year, so you could walk away with 600,000 miles in total for US$6,600. This works out to 1.1 US cents per mile.
LifeMiles does not pass on fuel surcharges for redemptions, and here’s how much it costs for selected Business/First Class awards out of Singapore (full award chart)
|One-Way Prices||Business Class||First Class|
|Singapore to North America||78,000 miles||99,000 miles|
|Singapore to Hawaii||51,000 miles||75,000 miles|
|Singapore to Australia||40,000 miles||60,000 miles|
|Singapore to Europe||78,000 miles||102,000 miles|
|Singapore to Japan||36,000 miles||50,000 miles|
During LifeMiles’ previous sale, they promised not to change their award charts until January 2021 at the earliest, so that provides some kind of reassurance (assuming the program is still around).
Even though we do not intent (sic) to change our award rates, for the members who purchase this promotion we will honor these award tables until at least January 2021.
With price of 1.1 US cents/mile, you could achieve some pretty phenomenal redemptions in Business and First Class, and the lack of fuel surcharges only sweetens the deal.
Of course there’s a but coming…
What does Avianca’s bankruptcy mean for LifeMiles?
On 10 May 2020, Avianca filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States after failing to meet a US$65 million bond payment deadline. Avianca took pains to emphasize that the filing was voluntary, and have positioned it as a temporary measure to buy time for reorganization.
Now, LifeMiles is a separate legal entity from Avianca. It was previously owned 70% by the airline and 30% by a private equity firm called Advent International, but Avianca recently increased its stake to 89.9%.
The fact that it’s a separate legal entity means it’s unaffected by the filing- it has its own bank accounts, its own balance sheet, its own liabilities. That said, Avianca accounts for 27% of all LifeMiles’ gross billings (and probably more indirectly- banks only buy LifeMiles because Avianca exists), so its fortunes are still tied to Avianca’s.
That symbiotic relationship is reflected in the fact Moody’s downgraded LifeMiles’ debt instruments from B3 to Caa1 (with a negative outlook) after Avianca’s bankruptcy filing. Investment-savvy folk will find the report well worth reading.
At the end of August, it was reported that the Colombian government had agreed to lend up to US$370 million to Avianca, but if the worst still happens and LifeMiles goes under, here’s some things you’ll need to consider:
- Your LifeMiles may not have any more value
- Your yet-to-be-flown tickets redeemed through LifeMiles may not be honored, even if the flights are operated by other Star Alliance carriers. Generally speaking, cross-carrier reimbursement for award tickets only takes place after the flight is flown, not when the ticket is issued. Therefore, carriage may be refused if LifeMiles isn’t around to pay the operating carrier
Given how unlikely international travel is over the next six months (or even more), these are things you’ll definitely want to keep in mind.
What else do I need to know about buying LifeMiles?
Although a 200% bonus on LifeMiles might have been the deal of the decade a year ago, there’s a reason we’re only seeing this offered now. The risk of holding LifeMiles has increased exponentially, and it’s only fair that the acquisition price comes down to reflect that reality.
Just like the previous 200% sale, I’m going to sit this one out, but if you nonetheless decide to purchase LifeMiles, the usual caveats apply:
- Don’t buy them speculatively. Only buy them if you have a confirmed trip in mind and have found award space on LifeMiles (you don’t need to have any miles in your account to search for award space)
- You can’t redeem Singapore Airlines First or Business Class cabins on selected routes with LifeMiles
- LifeMiles may not see the same award space as other Star Alliance partners. Just because you see something on Aeroplan or United doesn’t necessarily mean it will appear on LifeMiles
- All changes and cancellations must be done through the Avianca call centre; they cannot be done online. It costs between US$100-200 to cancel an award ticket, depending on your origin and destination
- LifeMiles tickets can be redeemed for anyone you choose
LifeMiles expire after 12 months of account inactivity, but you shouldn’t be holding on to them for that long anyway, especially not right now.
What card should I use for LifeMiles purchases?
LifeMiles purchases are processed directly by Avianca in USD, meaning that they code as foreign currency airfare spend. You’ll want to use one of the following cards to maximize the miles you earn:
|UOB Visa Signature
|4 mpd||Min S$1K max S$2K FCY spend per s. month|
|DBS Woman’s World Card
|4 mpd||Max S$2K per c. month|
|UOB Lady’s Card
|4 mpd*||Max S$1K per c. month|
|UOB Lady’s Solitaire
|4 mpd*||Max S$3K per c. month|
|4 mpd||S$1,000 per c. month|
|SCB Visa Infinite
||3 mpd||Min S$2K per s. month|
|3 mpd||Max S$5K per c. month|
|S. Month= Statement Month | C. Month= Calendar Month
*Must declare travel as quarterly 10X category
Buying LifeMiles with a 200% bonus could potentially be fantastic value, but you need to be able to stomach the risk. Even when the travel bubble with Hong Kong opens up, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to redeem miles in the near term as award space has been zeroed out on the route (not to mention you’d be better off redeeming KrisFlyer miles to Hong Kong than LifeMiles).
Therefore, you may have to hold on to these LifeMiles for longer than you anticipated, which might lead to a few sleepless nights in the current environment.
I’ll probably pass on this one.