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Sweet Spot Sunday: Use Avianca LifeMiles to save on United domestic short-haul awards

August 7 2022
6 min read
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United Airlines flies to just about everywhere in the U.S. So collecting airline miles that allow you to fly on United is a smart move for anyone with domestic travel in their future.

The simple approach would be to collect and redeem United Airlines miles to achieve your goals. But often you’re better off redeeming Avianca LifeMiles instead.

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Avianca partners with United Airlines. You can book United flights with Avianca miles — and if you’re booking short-haul flights, you’ll probably pay much less depending on where you're traveling.

Why it’s special

(Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

The amount of miles United Airlines charges for any given domestic flight is difficult to predict. A short coach flight may cost 9,000 miles one day and 15,000 miles the next. And while you may occasionally stumble upon some showstopper deals, you’ll often find that the same flights through Avianca cost significantly fewer miles.

For example, a flight from Washington, D.C.'s Dulles International Airport (IAD) to Myrtle Beach costs 7,500 Avianca LifeMiles plus taxes and fees.

(Screenshot from lifemiles.com)

But if you booked the same flight through the United website, you’ll pay 12,500 United miles plus taxes and fees. By booking through Avianca, you’ll save 5,000 miles each way.

(Screenshot from united.com)

Here’s another example. When booking a flight from Austin to New Orleans, you’ll pay 6,500 Avianca LifeMiles plus taxes and fees.

(Screenshot from lifemiles.com)

Booking that same flight through United Airlines will again cost 12,500 United miles plus taxes and fees. That’s a savings of 6,000 miles.

(Screenshot from united.com)

Add to this the fact that it’s considerably easier to earn Avianca miles than to earn United miles. Avianca may be your award currency of choice if you fly around the U.S. regularly.

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

How to book this award

1. Log in and enter your travel details

To book United Airlines flights with Avianca LifeMiles, you’ll first need to log into your LifeMiles account. Then enter your domestic origin and destination airports.

Remember, shorter flights tend to be the best deals. As long as United serves those airports, the search results should return the flights you’re after.

(Screenshot from lifemiles.com)

2. Find eligible dates

You’re now taken to a calendar where you can view dates with available award space. Blue dots indicate that you’ll find award seats.

(Screenshot from lifemiles.com)

The downside to booking United flights through Avianca tends to be that less award space exists — particularly if you’re a United Airlines credit cardholder or if you’ve got United elite status. That’s because United gives these members access to hidden award space that can’t be found anywhere else.

3. Choose your United flight (and compare prices with the United website)

Click on the date you want and you’ll be given a list of available flights. You can clearly see if the flights are operated by United by looking at the icon next to each flight.

Be sure to compare these prices to the prices on United’s website, as United Airlines may sometimes be the cheaper option thanks to dynamic pricing.

(Screenshot from lifemiles.com)

Related: Can’t find award availability with Avianca LifeMiles? Don’t give up until you try this trick

How to earn points for this award

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

United Airlines is a transfer partner of Bilt Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy. These flexible currencies aren’t particularly difficult to earn, so United miles are relatively easy to rack up. However, Avianca LifeMiles are significantly easier to earn. They’re a transfer partner of the following transferable points programs:

In other words, you can quite effortlessly achieve a small fortune of LifeMiles by opening cards such as:

Avianca also publishes generous points sales a few times each year. We recently saw the opportunity to purchase LifeMiles with up to a 145% bonus.

Related: The buy points and miles promotions worth considering

Bottom line

If you use United Airlines miles for short-haul flights around the U.S., consider shifting your points and miles strategy toward Avianca LifeMiles. You’ll often find that redeeming LifeMiles for United Airlines flights will give you significantly more value than United’s own program.

Featured photo by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

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  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
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  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees