Skip to content

Save on Star Alliance awards – buy LifeMiles with a 150% bonus

Feb. 16, 2021
11 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

LifeMiles is the mileage program of Colombia-based airline Avianca. But even if you aren't interested in flying Avianca — or traveling to Colombia — it's worth getting to know LifeMiles. That's because the program has made itself known as a wholesaler of cheap Star Alliance miles and award tickets, as well as offering regular sales of airline miles.

From now through Feb. 25, 2021, you can purchase LifeMiles with a 150% bonus, dropping the price to a solid 1.32 cents per mile.

With prices this low, members can use the promotion to score super cheap Star Alliance awards on carriers like Lufthansa, United and Turkish Airlines. For example, a one-way business class ticket to Europe costs just $832 before taxes and fees with this promotion.

That said, Avianca filed for bankruptcy last May, so there are some things to keep in mind if you're thinking of buying miles during this promotion. Here, we'll walk you through everything you need to know.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Should you buy LifeMiles right now?

An aircraft of Colombian company Avianca lands at El Dorado International Airport in Bogota on August 28, 2019. - Avianca Holdings, the largest airline in Colombia and the second largest in Latin America, denied being bankrupt on August 27 after a leaked video in which the president of the board of directors ensures that the company is "broken" went viral in social media. (Photo by Juan BARRETO / AFP) (Photo credit should read JUAN BARRETO/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by JUAN BARRETO/AFP via Getty Images)

Before we get into the deal, let's discuss the risks of buying LifeMiles right now. Avianca — the airline attached to LifeMiles — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May of 2020. LifeMiles operates as a separate company from Avianca and isn't included in this bankruptcy filing.

Chapter 11 means that the company can continue to operate as it goes through the bankruptcy process. The airline has stated that it plans to "right-size" and resume flights, so we're confident that the airline will make it through bankruptcy without going belly-up.

That said, if Avianca does go out of business or is forced to liquidate completely, LifeMiles members could lose the ability to redeem miles on Star Alliance flights. Thankfully travelers would be unlikely to actually lose their miles in this case, but having much more limited redemption options would massively devalue LifeMiles.

Additionally, we don't recommend buying miles without an immediate plan to use them. The world is still in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, and despite travel slowly starting to resume, there's no telling when international travel will completely recover.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Even if you do book a ticket now for future travel, you could be forced to cancel your trip if there's a second wave of the pandemic or if the country you're traveling to keeps its borders closed. Make sure to keep the LifeMiles program's change and cancellation policies in mind before you book your ticket — otherwise, you could be met with surprise fees if you have to cancel.

Long story short: only purchase LifeMiles if you're confident in the future of Avianca and are comfortable with the risks of booking travel during the coronavirus outbreak. Otherwise, steer clear and save your money for the next buy miles promotion.

Related: What does Avianca’s bankruptcy filing mean for the LifeMiles program?

Buying LifeMiles at 1.32 cents per mile

Buying miles is easy: head over to the LifeMiles buy miles page, sign in and select how many points you'd like to purchase. You can purchase up to 200,000 miles per year, equal to 500,000 miles with the 150% bonus.

This time around, any number of miles is eligible for the full bonus for targeted members — even if you buy the minimum amount of 1,000 LifeMiles (equal to 2,500 with the bonus).

(Image courtesy of Avianca LifeMiles)

That said, it's worth noting that only a portion of the miles you purchase are available immediately. The full bonus will be credited to your account within "a few hours" of purchase.

As with most programs, the standard rate for buying LifeMiles is pricey. However, this offer drops the cost down to as little as 1.32 cents per mile. That's a solid deal compared to TPG's valuation of 1.7 cents per mile.

While you'll normally need to buy a significant number of miles to get the top bonus, that's not the case with this promotion. That makes the bonus chart pretty easy to understand:

  • Buy 1,000 – 200,000 miles, get a 150% bonus (1.32 cents each)

Related: Get up to a 100% bonus when you buy points and miles

Why buy LifeMiles?

Although LifeMiles has a reputation for less-than-reliable IT and phone support, the program has made some notable improvements to its online booking process. It has some nice features — including mixed-cabin ticketing on award flights.

In fact, LifeMiles lands at number one on our list of most undervalued airline loyalty programs due to the number of hidden gems in the program coupled with low taxes and fees. One of the best benefits of LifeMiles is that it doesn't pass along carrier surcharges, making it an excellent way to book Lufthansa first class for cheap.

Taxes and fees on LifeMiles awards from the U.S. to Germany only cost $25 out of pocket. Other programs can charge more than $500 one-way in taxes and fees.

Related: 3 reasons your family needs LifeMiles for domestic travel

Things to consider before buying Lifemiles

Be aware that LifeMiles usually expire 12 months after the most recent mileage accrual. Other transactions, including redemption transactions, don't extend the validity of the miles. However, earning miles from a cobranded LifeMiles credit card or having Avianca elite status will extend the validity of miles by 24 months.

Points and miles are a poor long-term investment, since devaluations can be announced at any time — even during a pandemic. So, it's never a good idea to buy miles without having a planned use for them. If possible, it's best to search and confirm award availability before buying miles and then redeeming the purchased miles as soon as they hit your account.

Related: Another airline bailout may mean devalued airline miles — can we stop it?

Avianca sweet spots

With all of that said, here are some great sweet spots in the LifeMiles program and how cheap you can score these awards with the targeted 200% bonus.

One-way domestic United flights from $86

LifeMiles offers excellent redemption rates on domestic United Airlines flights. Short-haul tickets start at just 6,500 miles, meaning that you can buy them for just under $86 when buying miles at 1.32 cents apiece.

Booking Domestic United Tickets with LifeMiles
(Image courtesy of LifeMiles)

One-way transcontinental lie-flat United business-class for $330

Fly on United's 787-10 from Newark (EWR) to Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO) for just $330 when you use 25,000 LifeMiles to book a transcontinental ticket in United Polaris — as long as you can find saver-level award availability.

One-way to Europe in Lufthansa business class from $832

The upper deck of a Lufthansa 747-8 (Photo by JT Genter/TPG)

Fly one-way to Europe in business with Austrian, Lufthansa, SWISS or another Star Alliance partner for just $832 when you purchase 63,000 LifeMiles at 1.32 cents apiece.

(Image courtesy of LifeMiles)

One-way to Europe in Lufthansa first class for $1,148

Lufthansa first class is one of the best premium products in the sky, and you can book it for just $1,148 when you purchase 87,000 LifeMiles. Keep in mind that you can only book these tickets two weeks out from the date of departure.

Related: Everything you need to know about Avianca LifeMiles

Other ways to earn LifeMiles

Other ways to pick up more LifeMiles include Avianca's "Club LifeMiles" monthly subscription plan. And if you need to top off your account, remember that LifeMiles is also a transfer partner of four major transferable currencies:

There's also the Avianca Vuela Visa® Card is currently offering a 40,000-mile bonus after your first purchase in the first 90 days of account opening and the Avianca Vida Visa® Card is currently offering a 20,000-mile bonus after your first purchase in the first 90 days of account opening.

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

Earn more by paying with a travel credit card

Avianca has traditionally processed mileage purchases directly, which means that you should earn bonus points on credit cards that are great for airfare. This includes The Platinum Card® from American Express, which offers 5x Membership Rewards points on airfare purchased directly from the airline or via Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year), as well as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which offers 3x Ultimate Rewards points on most travel purchases — including past purchases of LifeMiles from TPG staff.

That said, you may want to make a small test purchase with your travel credit card of choice to see how the purchase codes. If it codes as travel and you earn bonus points, purchase the rest of your miles with the same card. Otherwise, use a credit card that earns bonus points on non-bonused spending, like The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, which earns 2x points per dollar spent on all purchases (up to $50,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x).

Benji Stawski and JT Genter contributed to this post


This is The Points Guy’s permanent page about Avianca's “buy miles” promotions, so you can bookmark it and check back regularly for the latest offer. Keep in mind you may see some reader comments referring to older deals below.

Featured image by An Avianca Airbus A321 at the Miami airport (Photo by Alberto Riva/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.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
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.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • 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.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023