Avianca LifeMiles offering 150% bonus sale: Is it time to buy again?

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With Singapore's borders now fully open and the VTLs scrapped, is it time to take a second look at buying LifeMiles?

LifeMiles is the frequent flyer programme of Colombian airline Avianca, and you might find it useful even if you never intend to visit South America. That’s because Avianca is part of Star Alliance, and LifeMiles’ periodic sales allow members to purchase miles and redeem First and Business Class tickets at a fraction of the retail price.

While LifeMiles continued to run sales throughout the pandemic, I haven’t written about them in a while (17 months, to be exact) because of the uncertainity involved. But now with Singapore’s borders fully open and the VTL concept scrapped, I think it’s time to take another look at the case for buying LifeMiles. 

LifeMiles offering up to 150% bonus

Lufthansa Business Class

From now till 23 April 2022, 2 p.m SGT, LifeMiles is running a public sale with up to a 145% bonus on purchased miles. However, readers of One Mile at a Time (i.e. anyone) can register for up to a 150% bonus via this link.

The 150% bonus is tiered as follows:

  • Buy 1,000-20,000 miles: 130% bonus
  • Buy 21,000-50,000 miles: 140% bonus
  • Buy 51,000-200,000 miles: 150% bonus

After registering, you should see the upsized bonus reflected immediately in your account. Members can buy up to 200,000 miles (pre-bonus) per account, per calendar year. 

Example of 150% bonus

A 150% bonus works out to paying 1.32 US cents per mile, and while generous, is not the largest bonus we’ve ever seen. During the height of the pandemic, bonuses went up to 200% (though I imagine the news of Avianca’s bankruptcy had something to do with that; the airline has since emerged from bankruptcy protection). 

What can you do with LifeMiles?

LifeMiles uses zone-based award charts, and here’s the cost of selected Business/First Class awards out of Singapore (classified under “South Asia”). 

LifeMiles Redemption Prices
(from SIN, one-way)
 Business ClassFirst Class
To Japan36,000 miles50,000 miles
To Australia40,000 miles60,000 miles
To Hawaii51,000 miles75,000 miles
To North America78,000 miles99,000 miles
To Europe78,000 miles102,000 miles

LifeMiles does not pass on fuel surcharges for redemptions, so you’ll only pay airport taxes. 

A few important things to note about LifeMiles: 

  • Don’t buy them speculatively
    • Only buy LifeMiles 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)
  • Singapore Airlines First and Business Class space will be restricted
    • You can’t redeem Singapore Airlines First or Suites Class through LifeMiles (rare exceptions apply, and should not be taken as the norm). Business Class will only be available on certain routes
  • 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. Always check availability via LifeMiles
  • All changes and cancellations must be done through the Avianca call centre
    • Changes to LifeMiles tickets cannot be done online, so you’ll need to use Skype to call and the experience can be hit and miss (some agents are excellent, others barely understand English). 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
    • You can put anyone’s name on a ticket- yours, your wife’s, the queen of England
  • LifeMiles expire after 12 months of account inactivity
    • Earning or redeeming at least one mile extends the validity of the entire balance by a further 12 months

Another important point to note is that the LifeMiles website is notoriously temperamental, and has been giving me issues of late. Most of my searches turn up “more fare options” instead of actual award space, and clicking on that button causes the site to error out. 

This has been reported by other LifeMiles users as well, and appears to be an intermittent error that comes and goes.

If anything it just highlights the importance of not buying miles speculatively- only buy when you’ve found something and are ready to redeem. 

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:

CardEarn RateRemarks
UOB Visa Signature
Apply
4 mpdMin S$1K max S$2K FCY spend per s. month
DBS Woman’s World Card
Apply
4 mpdMax S$2K per c. month
UOB Lady’s Card
Apply
4 mpd*Max S$1K per c. month
UOB Lady’s Solitaire
Apply
4 mpd*Max S$3K per c. month
HSBC Revolution
Apply
4 mpdMax S$1K per c. month
SCB Visa Infinite
Apply
3 mpdMin. S$2K spend per s. month
DBS Altitude AMEX or Visa
Apply
3 mpdMax S$5K per c. month
S. Month= Statement Month | C. Month= Calendar Month
*Must declare travel as quarterly 10X category

I’d recommend pairing the Amaze with the DBS Woman’s World Card or UOB Lady’s Card in order to stack 4 mpd with zero FCY fees. 

Conclusion

LifeMiles is now offering up to a 150% bonus, allowing members to buy miles at 1.32 US cents each.

If you’re the sort who buys LifeMiles hoping to transfer them to KrisFlyer (and believe me, I’ve been asked this question a lot), may I gently suggest that this isn’t for you. Otherwise, there’s definitely use cases for this, but it’s important that you go in with both eyes open.

I personally haven’t bought LifeMiles in ages, but that’s more because of the surfeit of KrisFlyer miles I now have on my hands. If I didn’t have these, I could see myself buying LifeMiles at this price provided I already had a booking in mind.

Even then, I’d be a bit nervous until the e-ticket actually came through (given how notoriously buggy the LifeMiles website is), and do my best not to make any changes since the call centre experience is far from ideal.

Any successful LifeMiles bookings of late?

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Argentum

LifeMiles are the airline points equivalent of a BOC credit card. Value is a function of your willingness to put up with peripheral nonsense. I stay away for the same reason I stayed away from BOC cards even in the good old days of great earn rates. Simply not worth it.

JW19

Aaron, bother to get a post out on premium class availability on Lifemiles ex-SIN to any destination? In the past EVA and Ana generally has consistent seat availability in J or F, but that’s no longer the case from where I searched today, what’s the optics from your perspective?

adam

are lifemiles awards more expensive when you choose more options?

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