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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.
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.
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.
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?