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Card Review: LANPASS Visa Signature Card by U.S. Bank

by on May 7, 2014 · 20 comments

in Card review, Credit Cards, Lan, US Bank

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With major devaluations from United and Delta as well as a string of surprise announcements from American Airlines/US Airways, I’ve been taking a closer look at foreign frequent flyer programs, including their co-branded credit cards.

If you’re as big a fan of traveling in Latin America as I am and have dreams of visiting Peru’s Macchu Pichu, Lima or Cuzco; sipping your way through Argentina’s Mendoza wine region; or attending this summer’s World Cup festivities in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, you might want to look into the LANPASS Visa Signature Card by U.S. Bank.

In addition to a 20,000-mile sign-up bonus, the card offers double miles per $1 on LAN (Latin America’s largest carrier) and its affliates as well as TAM now that are purchased through LAN.

lan-card-sig

Fees, Benefits and Terms 

20,000 bonus miles with your first card use. There are no restrictions on what/how much  you need to purchase in order to receive this benefit. Considering it takes 48,000 miles to fly LAN round-trip in economy from the US to Peru, Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador, this bonus isn’t particularly impressive, but flying almost halfway to Latin America is better than nothing. Just be aware that these bonus miles have a shelf life of 36 months – if you don’t book an actual flight at least once every three years, the miles will disappear.

Earn double miles on LAN, TAM and affiliated-carrier (other LAN affiliates) ticket purchases. On the same LANPASS Visa statement, the first mile credits per dollar spent will appear as Purchase Miles and the second mile credits will appear as Double Miles.

1 LANPASS Mile for every net $1 you spend. Miles are only earned on the purchases you make with the card, minus credit and returns. There are no restrictions on what you can/must purchase, but as you’ll see below, you’ll just want to make your purchases within the US – rather than while you’re traveling.

4,000 bonus miles with your annual credit card renewal. After the first year, the payment of your $75 annual fee, and a wait time of 6-8 weeks, these 4,000 miles will show up in your LANPASS account, equivalent to a little more than half the price of the annual fee itself.

20% discount on first LAN, TAM or affiliated-carrier ticket purchase (up to $1,000), 1 time per year. To be eligible for this benefit, tickets must be purchased via lan.com, through LAN’s call center at (866) 435-9526 (be sure to choose option 2, and not that the connection quality of calls between the US and LA’s Chilean call center are pretty grim), or via tamairlines.com. Considering economy LAN and TAM tickets from US cities to various points of South America regularly go for $900-$1,600 in coach, you could save hundreds of dollars with this discount – and you can save up to $1,000, so if you’re buying a $5,000 business class ticket, you’re maxing it out. Just be sure you do this on the first LAN/TAM flight you purchase each year with your card since that’s what the discount applies to.

25% flight miles bonus.  This bonus is awarded above the actual miles accrued on every flight on LAN or its affiliate carriers, excluding TAM. (For example, an accrual of 6,000 miles will earn you 1,500 extra miles.) After the first cardmember year, renewal of this benefit requires a calendar-year spend of $15,000.

LAN's fare rates

LAN’s fare rate groups – only Base Plus, Flexible and Full Flexible rates are eligible for upgrades

3 one-way upgrade coupons per year. Upgrades (which are subject to space availability) are only possible on tickets purchased from LAN’s Base Plus, Flexible and Full Flexible fare rate groups, and have to be redeemed at lan.com between 48 hours and 2 hours before your flight’s departure time – which does limit their usefulness. As with the 25% flight miles bonus, after the first cardmember year, renewal of this benefit requires a calendar-year spend of $15,000.

Annual fee is $0 for the first year, and $75 each year thereafter. See below for more information on a 4,000-mile bonus awarded each year that you renew this card, for a mileage stash that compensates you for slightly more than half the $75 annual fee.

Foreign transaction fees are 2% for US dollars and 3% for foreign currency. In other words, this is a good card to use at home rather than abroad. Go ahead and accrue miles by making purchases in the US, but when you’re actually traveling in Latin America, you’ll want to bring along a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, like Chase Sapphire Preferred, Barclaycard Arrival, Amex Platinum or Capital One Venture Rewards.

My Thoughts

This card has some interesting benefits like that one-time annual 20% discount, the space available upgrades and 25% mileage bonus on flights – which is pretty unique. However, before you sign up, I’d be sure to study the LAN award chart carefully and make sure you’ll be putting your miles to use on high-yield routes – like expensive ones within South America and especially the Chile-Argentina-Uruguay zone where roundtrips start at 20,000 miles but can cost nearly $1,000 on some routes.

If you are planning on purchasing a LAN ticket anytime soon, it might be worth looking into anyway since you get the bonus with first use – no spending requirement – there’s no annual fee the first year, and the 20% ticket purchase discount might save you hundreds of dollars right off the bat, plus you’ll earn bonus miles on your flight itself. Then at the end of the year, you can evaluate your needs and use of the card and see if it makes sense to keep or investigate other options.

Any readers have the card yet? What are your thoughts, and how have you been able to maximize the benefits like the 20% discount and the upgrades?

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • VVFF

    TPG – which foreign Star Alliance Airlines (other than Lufthansa) have credit cards issued in USA? Once DM and AAdvantage mege, I want to give up my USAirways card and get a card on another Star Alliance Airline.

  • Miles

    IIRC, I believe there’s a LifeMiles credit card.

  • http://creditcardjoint.com Credit card Joint

    It’s surprising that no other bloggers ever mention this card.

  • CanesLawMarty

    Brian, like you I live in and fly out of MIA primarily and did my homework before applying for this card as I saw it as very useful for MIA-based flyers, especially as we all know LAN in coach is way better than AA, and their 767 J seat is a huge upgrade over AA’s as well (for the time being at least). I was primarily drawn in by the upgrades, figuring if I could use those, along with the nice discount code, that’d be worth at least several hundred bucks. WRONG. Despite having all the major travel cards, an almost 800 score and no recent apps when I applied, I was only approved for the worthless “regular” LANPass Visa, which came with no upgrades, a 10% instead of 20% discount, and only 15K miles. Their reconsideration line sucked and was of no help. A total bait and switch cause I have no use for this card but was basically stuck with it. Let this be a cautionary tale to anyone thinking of applying for this card. Not worth the very real risk that even with a great credit profile you’ll get approved for a lower version of the card that has no real benefits to speak of. In the end, I was able to use my LANPass KMs to book better connecting flights between LIM and CUZ, saving about $600, when I went to MP last fall. I will say that LAN’s availability on these short but expensive flights for their own members is significantly better than what you’ll see on BA.com or through AA, they use a variable pricing and distance-based model, which means that unless its at the absolute lowest mileage level, no partner will be able to book it. Feel free to ask me questions in the comments as I have a fair amount of experience flying LAN out of MIA and with LANPass as well.
    @VVFF: Try Avianca LifeMiles CC, although unfortunately its also issued by US Bank, has a small 20K sign-up…assuming you get approved for the Signature version, doesn’t come with many other benefits and is a crappy overall card to put daily spending on. You’re probably better off just buying LifeMiles when they do their 100% bonus like they have going on now.

  • Will-A-Way

    Since the award miles are in miles, I am wondering if that means it would be converted to kilometers? Once the bonus miles are awarded, 32k kilometers would be posted to our LANPASS accounts, correct?

  • David

    Which MR transfer partner has the best awards availability to Latin America, without excessive fuel charges?

  • Brian C. Lee

    Aeroplan used to have a BofA Mastercard, but that went away a while ago. :(

    ANA has a Visa card issued by 1st National Bank of Omaha, but with their short expiration policy for ANA miles, I don’t know if that’s an option for most people.

    OZ has a BofA AmEx, but they also have a Byzantine process of redeeming miles for *A partners.

  • dgenelhu

    LANPASS 1 miles = 1,6 kilometers

  • Brian C. Lee

    “A total bait and switch cause I have no use for this
    card but was basically stuck with it. Let this be a cautionary tale to
    anyone thinking of applying for this card”

    The T&Cs of most applications say that they may approve you for a lesser card if they determine you don’t qualify for the premium card. And US Bank, like Barclays, is known to be pretty picky about approving people for credit.

  • Anita

    My husband and I each got LANPass cards 2 years ago to prepare for our family trip to Peru. I got two, he got one. We ended up with enough LAN km for 5 roundtrip flights from Lima to Cuzco with km to spare.

    Paid flights LIM-Cuz would have run about $300 per person so the three applications saved us $1500.

  • Anita

    Also, to CanesLawMarty’s point below, I was also originally approved for the lesser card with only 15,000 km bonus despite an excellent credit profile in April 2012. I applied again in Oct 2012 and got the highest card with the higher bonus (sorry, can’t recall the names of the various offers).

  • pcg

    I suspect that dealing with LAN, who is notoriously bad with their FF program (cf. SPG transfers taking a month because the person who does those transfers (on paper!) does them once/twice a month), would negate most of the value of this card except in very simple circumstances. Getting halfway to SA is great, so long as they allow one-ways and you have a way to get home because you’re not going to be able to easily generate enough LANPASS KMs to get home. A mediocre card and offering, IMO.

  • JimmyBear

    1) The bonus is in miles. The award chart you link to is in kilometers. They are not the same.1 mile = 1.6 km.

    2) There are two (maybe 3) different USBank LanPASS visas. One with 20,000 mile bonus, one with 15,000 mile bonus. You can sign up for both at once, no annual fee and no minimum spend on either. I have signed up for both on the same day and gotten both bonuses.

    3) You cannot do “one-ways” on LAN but you can do open jaws (i.e. Santiago to Buenos Aires, and then Buenos Aires to Rio de Janiero is okay). Also, unlike British Airways Avios, the awards are not higher if a stop is required. So Santiago to Cuzco flying through Lima isnt more expensive because you have to stop in Lima. When you price out Avios, stops always add to the price.

    4) I have had no problem booking with LAN for inter-South American flights. All through the website, low booking fees, and never had a problem.

    Since LAN is merging with TAM, there may also be some more Brazil awards opening up. This could be good for trips like Rio-Iguacu Falls-Salvador de Bahia (the three brazilian destinations most people want to visit when the go to brazil).But I would not say it is good for North America-South America trips since LAN only flies to Miami and it seems like AAdvantage or Avios awards are better for that.

  • JimmyBear

    Yes. This is correct.

  • StanD

    “I got stuck with this card that was free and cost me nothing that I had no use for, except for saving $600 when visiting Machu Picchu. Total waste of time.”

  • The flyer

    When I applied I did not have good credit, they approved me for the lesser one but I asked them to reconsider and I got the top one. Us Bank reconsiders limit increase every 3 months and I duplicated my limit after 4 months when I requested it. By using the card for everyday purchases, rent, and other stuff I have already acquired a roundtrip flight to deep south America in les than 4 months.
    Customer service is overall good. The fraud department is annoying, if you do not call when you travel to a different state they might block your card until you call. At the same time it seems they keep an eye which brings some peace of mind.
    I yet need to try out the upgrades, I am not in Florida, but since I live in AA’s hub, the miles are worth too, in fact, some flights from dallas to south America are offered by LAN but using AA so the miles for international travel are good too.
    The renewal miles bonus is good and LAN has partnership with some hotels and rental car.
    As a frequent flyer to south America I would stay away from TAM tho… the worst airlines I have dealt with in my life, followed by Delta.

  • Glenning

    My wife and I have both had this card for several years (we travel back and forth between Peru/NYC often). The real benefit is the 20 percent discount on first purchase per year. It can be substantial. Everything else is pretty worthless on this card. Paltry mileage bonus, very limited availability at low mileage levels, and those upgrade certificates are largely unusable. US Bank’s customer service tends to be rather poor and uninformed, to boot. Definitely worth getting if you plan to buy tickets for a family trip — can easily save $700+. But otherwise, no so much.

  • TravelB

    Looking into this now…good info about expiration:

    5. Kilometer expiration
    At what point do kilometers expire?

    Kilometers earned by flying are valid for a period of 36 months after they are earned. Kilometers earned by using the services of LANPASS-associated businesses are valid for three calendar years. Independent of the limitations stated above, If you fly with LAN and earn one or more kilometers for the flight, ALL your kilometers will be revalidated for another 36 months.

  • TravelB

    Also looks like the new card offer is 30k miles (offer expires 10/31/14)

  • Paula

    LAN flies to Miami, LA and SFO . Not just Miami

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