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Last chance: Fly United Polaris to Europe for 39k Citi points, dozens of other awards at up to 43% off

Dec. 09, 2019
14 min read
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Just before Thanksgiving, Avianca's LifeMiles program put dozens of routes to/from the U.S. on sale at up to 43% off of LifeMiles' already reasonable redemption rates. And, if you haven't booked yet, today -- Monday, December 9 -- is the last day to take advantage of these incredible redemptions.

With this sale, domestic U.S. flights on United are pricing as low as 4,500 miles each way. You can fly to Central America for just 10,000 miles one-way in economy or 18,000 in business class. Flights to Lima, Peru are pricing as low as 14,000 miles in economy or 26,000 in business class. And you can fly business class to Europe from 48,000 miles or to Asia for 56,500 miles each way.

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If I didn't have confirmation from LifeMiles about this sale, I might assume that this award sale was too good to be true -- especially as this sale is being run at the same time as a 25% transfer bonus from Citi.

If you're new to Avianca’s LifeMiles program, it's worth getting to know. LifeMiles is a great way of scoring Star Alliance awards for cheap. Aside from reasonable redemption rates, easy ways to accumulate miles and no fuel surcharges, it offers somewhat regular promotions — both for buying miles and booking awards.

Let's break down this award sale by region:

Discounted domestic U.S. routes

Here are the 18 domestic U.S. routes that are discounted between 10% and 33% in economy. All of these are valid in either direction:

Image generated using Great Circle Mapper.
BetweenAndStandard RateDiscount RateDiscount
Boston (BOS)Newark (EWR)6,5004,500-31%
Newark (EWR)Pittsburgh (PIT)6,5004,500-31%
Las Vegas (LAS)Los Angeles (LAX)6,5004,500-31%
Las Vegas (LAS)San Francisco (SFO)6,5004,500-31%
Atlanta (ATL)Newark (EWR)7,5005,000-33%
Cleveland (CLE)Newark (EWR)6,5005,000-23%
Cleveland (CLE)New York LaGuardia (LGA)6,5005,000-23%
Washingon National (DCA)Chicago O'Hare (ORD)7,5005,000-33%
Detroit (DTW)Newark (EWR)6,5005,000-23%
Newark (EWR)Chicago O'Hare (ORD)7,5005,000-33%
New York LaGuardia (LGA)Chicago O'Hare (ORD)7,5005,000-33%
Chicago O'Hare (ORD)Philadelphia (PHL)7,5005,000-33%
San Francisco (SFO)Orange County (SNA)6,5005,000-23%
Los Angeles (LAX)San Francisco (SFO)6,5005,500-15%
San Diego (SAN)San Francisco (SFO)6,5005,500-15%
Seattle (SEA)San Francisco (SFO)7,5005,500-27%
Houston (IAH)Chicago O'Hare (ORD)10,0009,000-10%
Houston (IAH)San Francisco (SFO)12,50010,000-20%

The cheapest routes and biggest discounts are on some short hops -- like between Boston and Newark for 4,500 miles each way and between Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Some of the longer routes that jump out to me as solid options are Newark (EWR) to Atlanta (ATL) for 5,000 miles each way:

Flights from Washington National (DCA) to Chicago O'Hare (ORD) for 5,000 miles:

And Newark (EWR) to Chicago O'Hare for 5,000 miles:

Central and South America routes

There are eight routes from the U.S. to Central and South America starting at just 10,000 miles one-way in economy or 18,000 miles in business class:

Image generated using Great Circle Mapper.
BetweenAndCabinStandard RateDiscount RateDiscount
Miami (MIA)Panamá City (PTY)Economy17,50010,000-43%
Miami (MIA)Panamá City (PTY)Business30,00018,000-40%
Miami (MIA)Lima (LIM)Economy20,00014,000-30%
Orlando (MCO)Medellín (MDE)Business35,00024,500-30%
Orlando (MCO)Medellín (MDE)Economy20,00014,000-30%
Miami (MIA)Lima (LIM)Business35,00026,000-26%
Houston (IAH)Lima (LIM)Economy20,00016,000-20%
Las Vegas (LAS)Medellín (MDE)Business35,00028,000-20%
New Orleans (MSY)Tegucigalpa (TGU)Business30,00024,000-20%
New Orleans (MSY)Tegucigalpa (TGU)Economy17,50014,000-20%
Houston (IAH)Lima (LIM)Business35,00030,000-14%
Las Vegas (LAS)San José (SJO)Economy17,50015,000-14%
Las Vegas (LAS)San José (SJO)Business36,00031,000-14%
Las Vegas (LAS)Bogotá (BOG)Business35,00031,500-10%
Las Vegas (LAS)Bogotá (BOG)Economy20,00018,000-10%

One of the attractive options here is to book a nonstop business class flight from Miami (MIA) to Panama City (PTY) for just 18,000 LifeMiles one-way -- or just 14,400 transferred Citi ThankYou points:

Or, you can fly business class to Lima, Peru (LIM) for 26,000 LifeMiles:

Europe routes

New York City is blessed with seven discounted routes to Europe and Tel Aviv starting at 18,000 miles each way in economy or 48,000 miles in business class. Here are the routes:

Image generated using Great Circle Mapper.
BetweenAndCabinStandard RateDiscount RateDiscount
Newark (EWR)London Heathrow (LHR)Economy20,00018,000-10%
Newark (EWR)Tel Aviv (TLV)Economy42,50030,000-29%
Newark (EWR)London Heathrow (LHR)Business60,00048,000-20%
New York Kennedy (JFK)Budapest (BUD)Business63,00050,500-20%
New York Kennedy (JFK)Frankfurt (FRA)Business63,00050,500-20%
New York Kennedy (JFK)Zurich (ZRH)Business63,00050,500-20%
New York Kennedy (JFK)Geneva (GVA)Business63,00052,500-17%
New York Kennedy (JFK)Vienna (VIE)Business63,00054,000-14%
Newark (EWR)Tel Aviv (TLV)Business78,00055,000-29%
New York Kennedy (JFK)Tel Aviv (TLV)Business78,00066,500-15%

The best option on here for most travelers is going to be on the nonstop between Newark (EWR) and London Heathrow (LHR) for just 18,000 miles in economy or 48,000 miles in business class:

That means you can try out United's "high-J" Polaris product for just 38,400 Citi ThankYou points transferred during the ongoing 25% transfer bonus.

The Polaris cabin on a United high-J 767. (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy.)

Asia routes

There are also 18 routes discounted up to 25% off between the U.S. and Asia:

Image generated using Great Circle Mapper.
BetweenAndCabinStandard RateDiscount RateDiscount
Los Angeles (LAX)Seoul (ICN)Economy35,00031,500-10%
Seattle (SEA)Taipei (TPE)Economy35,00031,500-10%
San Francisco (SFO)Hong Kong (HKG)Economy35,00031,500-10%
Vancouver (YVR)Taipei (TPE)Economy35,00031,500-10%
Los Angeles (LAX)Hong Kong (HKG)Economy35,00032,500-7%
Los Angeles (LAX)Taipei (TPE)Economy35,00033,000-6%
San Francisco (SFO)Seoul (ICN)Business75,00056,500-25%
Los Angeles (LAX)Seoul (ICN)Business75,00060,000-20%
Los Angeles (LAX)Tokyo Narita (NRT)Business75,00060,000-20%
Seattle (SEA)Taipei (TPE)Business75,00062,500-17%
Houston (IAH)Taipei (TPE)Business75,00064,000-15%
Los Angeles (LAX)Hong Kong (HKG)Business75,00064,000-15%
Los Angeles (LAX)Beijing (PEK)Business75,00064,000-15%
Los Angeles (LAX)Shanghai (PVG)Business75,00064,000-15%
Chicago O'Hare (ORD)Taipei (TPE)Business75,00064,000-15%
San Francisco (SFO)Hong Kong (HKG)Business75,00064,000-15%
San Francisco (SFO)Taipei (TPE)Business75,00064,000-15%
Washington Dulles (IAD)Beijing (PEK)Business75,00067,500-10%
New York Kennedy (JFK)Seoul (ICN)Business75,00067,500-10%
Los Angeles (LAX)Taipei (TPE)Business75,00067,500-10%
Vancouver (YVR)Beijing (PEK)Business75,00067,500-10%
Vancouver (YVR)Taipei (TPE)Business75,00067,500-10%
Vancouver (YVR)Shanghai (PVG)Business75,00067,500-10%
Los Angeles (LAX)Seoul (ICN)First90,00072,000-20%
Los Angeles (LAX)Tokyo Narita (NRT)First90,00072,000-20%
Washington Dulles (IAD)Beijing (PEK)First90,00081,000-10%
New York Kennedy (JFK)Seoul (ICN)First90,00081,000-10%
New York Kennedy (JFK)Beijing (PEK)First90,00081,000-10%
Los Angeles (LAX)Beijing (PEK)First90,00081,000-10%

The economy award discounts only max out at 10% off for an award price of 31,500. That's not especially good considering the number of cheap economy fares you can find between the U.S. and Asia.

However, there are some solid business class discounts like 56,500 LifeMiles one-way between San Francisco (SFO) and Seoul (ICN). That's just 45,200 Citi ThankYou points:

And there's pretty good award availability on this route next spring:

You can also fly Los Angeles (LAX) to Seoul (ICN) or Tokyo Narita (NRT) for just 60,000 LifeMiles -- or just 48,000 Citi ThankYou points -- each way.

If you book to -- or route through -- Beijing or Shanghai on Air China's 747-8, make sure to grab seats either in the nose or on the upper deck.

The nose of Air China's Boeing 747-8. (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy.)

For flights to or through Taipei (TPE), check out EVA Air’s solid business class product.

EVA Air's business class (Photo by Alberto RIva / The Points Guy.)

In first class, you can book products like Air China's first class suite between Washington Dulles (IAD), New York Kennedy (JFK) or Los Angeles (LAX) to Beijing (PEK) for 81,000 LifeMiles each way.

Air China First Class (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy.)

Boosting your Avianca LifeMiles balance

If you're short LifeMiles, you can instantly transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards (1:1), Capital One miles (2:1.5) or Citi ThankYou Points (1:1) -- which currently has a 25% transfer bonus. Marriott Bonvoy points transfer at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for transferring at least 60,000 points, and transfers take around 24 hours to complete.

Another option is to purchase LifeMiles. Unfortunately, the incredible 150% buy LifeMiles promotion has ended, but you can still top off your account with miles if needed. To stretch your savings even further, you'll want to use a credit card that offers a high return on airline spending since LifeMiles purchases are directly processed by Avianca. The Platinum Card® from American Express will earn 5x Membership Rewards points, while the Chase Sapphire Reserve will earn 3x Ultimate Reward points per dollar.

If you're playing the long game with LifeMiles, you can 40,000 bonus LifeMiles with the Avianca Vuela Visa Card after you make a purchase with the card in the first 90 days of account opening. Also, you can get LifeMiles for as cheap as 1.35 cents each by subscribing to Club LifeMiles for an entire year.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Honig/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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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

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Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
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 Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
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

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • 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 Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases