Save on Star Alliance awards – buy LifeMiles with a 200% bonus

Sep 8, 2020

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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.

LifeMiles just launched its best buy miles promotion we’ve seen this year. From now through Sept. 25, 2020, you can purchase LifeMiles with up to a 200% bonus, dropping the price to a best-ever 1.1 cents per mile. With prices this low, you can use the promotion to score super cheap Star Alliance awards on carriers like Lufthansa, United and Turkish Airlines.

That said, Avianca filed for bankruptcy in 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.

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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 this year. LifeMiles operates as a separate company from Avianca and isn’t included in this bankruptcy filings.

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 completely liquidate, LifeMiles members could lose the ability to redeem miles on Star Alliance flights. Thankfully travelers would be unlikely to actually lose your 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.

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 opts to keep 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 1.1 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.

The bonus you’ll get will depend on how many miles you purchase — here’s a look at all the bonus levels:

  • Purchase 1,000-50,000 miles and get a 150% bonus (1.32 cents each)
  • Purchase 51,000-100,000 miles and  get a 175% bonus (1.2 cents each)
  • Purchase 101,000-200,000 miles and get a 200% bonus (1.1 cents each)

As with most programs, the standard rate for buying LifeMiles is pricey. However, this offer drops the cost down to as little as 1.1 cents per mile once you register for the 200% bonus. That’s a solid deal compared to TPG’s valuation of 1.7 cents per mile. You can purchase up to 200,000 miles per year (excluding bonuses).

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 and has some nice feature — including mixed-cabin ticketing on award flights.

Now, LifeMiles lands at number one on our list of most undervalued airline loyalty programs due to the number of hidden gems in the program and 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.

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.

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 — though note that all of the calculations below assume you purchased at least 101,000 miles, even if you don’t need that many for the specific redemption.

One-way domestic United flights from just $72

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 $72 when buying miles at 1.1 cents apiece.

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

One-way transcontinental lie-flat United business-class for $275

Fly on United’s 787-10 from Newark (EWR) to Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO) for just $275 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 $693

The upper deck of a Lufthansa 747-8, configured in a 2-2 business-class layout (Photo by JT Genter/TPG)
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 $693 when you purchase 63,000 LifeMiles at 1.1 cents apiece.

Booking JFK-TXL with Swiss using LifeMiles
(Image courtesy of LifeMiles)

One-way to Europe in Lufthansa first class for $957

Lufthansa first class is one of the best premium products in the sky, and you can book it for just $957 when you purchase 87,000 LifeMiles. Keep in mind that you can only book these tickets two-weeks out from the date of departure.

Stack with new award sale

You can stretch the value you’ll get from your miles by taking advantage of LifeMiles’ latest award sale. Now through Sept. 25, LifeMiles is offering up to 20% off Star Alliance awards to Asia. With this sale, you can book a first-class award from San Francisco (SFO) to Tokyo (HND) on ANA for 72,000 miles one-way. That comes out to just $792 if you buy all of the miles you need through this promotion.

Fly ANA First Class with Avianca LifeMiles (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)
Fly ANA First Class with Avianca LifeMiles (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

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.

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 (starting Jan. 1, 2021, earn 5x points 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

Featured photo by Alberto Rivera/The Points Guy.


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.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,600

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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