3 reasons your family needs LifeMiles for domestic travel

Nov 27, 2021

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While some foreign airline loyalty programs can be a bit daunting, in many cases, they are a better option than those of U.S. airlines — even for flights operated by U.S. carriers.

In particular, Avianca LifeMiles has an especially strong appeal for domestic trips on United. My family has used the currency to book numerous trips over the years, getting thousands of dollars in value in the process. So, let’s take a closer look at why LifeMiles are valuable for traveling families, and why you should consider keeping some on hand.

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In This Post

A short-haul redemption sweet spot

Chicago's Lakefront on Lake Michigan
Take your family to Chicago with Avianca LifeMiles. (Photo by photoiva/Shutterstock.com)

Avianca LifeMiles has one of the more unique award charts for travel within the United States. Rather than include the Lower 48 in a single zone, like most other programs, the LifeMiles award chart breaks the U.S. up into three zones, which roughly translate to the East Coast, Midwest and West Coast.

Avianca is a Star Alliance member, and you can redeem its miles to fly on United Airlines. Economy flight awards generally range between 6,500 and 13,500 miles, depending on the route. Most short-haul awards price at 7,500 miles, which is the “intra-zone” price. These short-haul awards can also include connections, making them ideal for flyers tied to smaller, regional airports.

For example, here’s an example of a LifeMiles itinerary from Phoenix (PHX) to San Francisco (SFO) for 7,500 LifeMiles plus taxes and fees.

PHX to SFO LifeMiles award
(Screenshot courtesy of lifemiles.com)

Oftentimes, you’ll find flights priced even lower on a one-off basis. For example, Newark (EWR) to Pittsburgh (PIT) clocks in at just 6,500 LifeMiles plus taxes and fees.

LifeMiles award from PIT to EWR on United
(Screenshot courtesy of lifemiles.com)

Likewise, Austin (AUS) to New Orleans (MSY) via Houston (IAH) costs just 6,500 LifeMiles plus taxes and fees.

AUS to MSY LifeMiles flight
(Screenshot courtesy of lifemiles.com)

Every single instance where I have redeemed LifeMiles for domestic flights has resulted in a value of at least 2 cents per mile. This is because I often fly from small regional airports or book flights at the last minute when cash fares are expensive. Being able to cover the cost of these flights with my LifeMiles is a huge money saver, especially when I’m traveling with family.

Related: Here’s why you need a healthy stash of Avianca LifeMiles

Get a great deal on flights to Canada

Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal
Fly Air Canada or United to Montreal with LifeMiles. (Photo by Andrew Kunesh/The Points Guy)

You’re not limited to domestic flights either. LifeMiles recently revamped its Canada award chart and now charges as few as 6,500 LifeMiles for a cross-border flight up to 500 miles. Longer flights are more expensive, but you won’t pay more than 13,500 LifeMiles for a flight from the U.S. to Canada.

EWR to YUL LifeMiles award
(Screenshot courtesy of lifemiles.com)

Unfortunately, flights to Mexico aren’t as good of a deal. The published LifeMiles award chart states that economy flights between the three U.S. regions and Mexico all cost 17,500 LifeMiles. This seems to be the case on most routes, with short flights like San José del Cabo (SJD) to Los Angeles (LAX) falling into this pricing tier.

SJD to LAX LifeMiles award
(Screenshot courtesy of lifemiles.com)

LifeMiles are easy to earn

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Avianca LifeMiles are a transfer partner of three bank rewards currencies, so you don’t need to stockpile LifeMiles themselves. Instead, you can earn American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Rewards or Citi ThankYou points and transfer them to LifeMiles when you’re ready to book. Transfers from all three programs are instant and process at a 1:1 transfer ratio.

If you’re thinking of earning Capital One miles to transfer to LifeMiles, consider applying for the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card. This new card is currently offering 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $10,000 on purchases within the first six months from account opening. This is enough for up to 15 domestic one-way short-haul flights using LifeMiles.

If you want to earn LifeMiles directly, Banco Popular issues two cobranded cards that earn LifeMiles: the Avianca Vuela Visa® Card and the Avianca Vida Visa® Card.

The information for the Avianca Vuela and Avianca Vida cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: A guide to earning transferable points and why they’re so valuable

Other things to know about LifeMiles

LifeMiles never passes on fuel surcharges — even on high-fee carriers like Lufthansa. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

LifeMiles redemptions carry a fee of $10 to $25 per ticket. This is unavoidable and is levied per redemption. It doesn’t matter whether you’re booking a one-way or round-trip.

I’ll admit that LifeMiles can be a frustrating program at times. The amount of award space that shows online often doesn’t match what is available through United’s own website, and some routes don’t ever display any award inventory. You’d think that calling LifeMiles would let you book award flights not available through the website, but it often depends on the phone agent you call.

LifeMiles often runs buy miles promotions. I’m personally not interested in these, but they do offer you the potential to save a significant amount of money if you have an immediate need for LifeMiles but don’t have any points available. LifeMiles are also ideal for premium cabin award redemption on Star Alliance partners since they never pass on fuel surcharges.

Related: How Avianca LifeMiles is best for mixed-cabin award itineraries

Bottom line

I’m rather possessive of my United miles, only using them when absolutely necessary. In many cases, I find that LifeMiles is an ideal alternative for domestic family travel, as I can often accrue LifeMiles more quickly and use fewer when we go to redeem them.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.