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Avianca TACA is once again offering a 100% bonus on purchased Lifemiles now through April 30, 2013. You can buy anywhere between 1,000-75,000 Lifemiles to end up with between 2,000-150,000 miles thanks to this bonus, and you will only get the bonus on one transaction. The other thing to note is that this offer is only open to members who were enrolled in Lifemiles prior to April 8, 2013. These promotions often come with such conditions, so even if you don’t plan to take advantage of this one but might want to in the future, enroll in Lifemiles now.
For members in the US, 1,000 miles cost $30 including all taxes, so with this bonus, you’re bringing your per-mile cost to just 1.5 cents each.
Avianca is a member of Star Alliance and you can view their award chart here, but for instance, roundtrip business class from North America to Southern South America (Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia) is 100,000 miles (135,000 in first class). So that roundtrip business class ticket to Argentina would only cost you $1,500 if you used miles. North America to Europe in business has gone up recently to 105,000 miles, but that’s still puts the cost of a ticket in terms of miles purchased with this promotion at just $1,575. Plus, Avianca lets you redeem for one-way awards, adding an extra level of flexibility that some other Star Alliance carriers including US Airways do now. Note: Avianca does not allow mixed class awards, so the same class of service must be available on all segments, which can be a major hassle. Check out this post for a rundown on buying Lifemiles vs. US Airways miles.
One of the other interesting and potentially extremely lucrative elements of the Lifemiles redemption process is that you only actually need 40% of the miles necessary for a particular award in order to book it and you can then “buy” the other 60% of the miles at a rate of 1.275 cents each.
For example, this roundtrip business class ticket from New York JFK to Zurich via Frankfurt aboard Lufthansa would cost 105,000 miles.
However, notice that there’s a “More Money” button, which when you click, purchases back bundles of 1,000 miles until you hit 40% of the total redemption level. In this case you’d be paying $803 for the 63,000 miles and would need just 42,000 miles in your account to book this ticket.
That would mean that with this promotion, you’d only need to purchase 21,000 miles for a cost of $630, bringing your entire out-of-pocket expense to $1,433 – pretty phenomenal for a roundtrip business class ticket to Europe.
What’s more, Avianca doesn’t levy fuel surcharges on awards, so you won’t end up paying hundreds or even thousands more dollars in fees.
US Airways is the only US-based Star Alliance carrier that has offered buy miles bonuses this big in the recent past, and now that the airline is merging with American Airlines and will become part of Oneworld, there’s no telling just how long you’ll have to use your Dividend miles for Star Alliance awards. So if you have some Star Alliance redemptions in your future and will need to purchase miles to book them, it might be a better long-term strategy to buy miles through Avianca TACA instead rather than hoping US Airways will still be part of Star Alliance when you go to redeem.
Before you do, though, as I always counsel with buy miles promotions, do the math and make sure this makes sense for you. If you’re thinking about taking advantage of this for a particular award, search Lifemiles and make sure there is availability on the routes you’re interested in around the dates you are considering before committing to a mileage purchase. However, there are some great values to be had here where premium international tickets will cost you a mere fraction of what they would normally cost if you were just buying them, so do your research and see if this promo makes sense for you.