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Avianca’s LifeMiles program may not be known by many travelers, but it’s a great way of scoring Star Alliance awards for cheap. Between reasonable redemption rates, easy ways to accumulate miles and no fuel surcharges, it’s the best way to score incredible rewards — like Lufthansa first class.

For the next week, there’s a way of scoring these awards for even cheaper for those in “two-player mode.” Now through April 3, you’ll get 125% bonus miles when transferring Avianca LifeMiles to friends and family.

Transferring miles costs $15 per 1,000 miles transferred, so if you have existing LifeMiles — or have points you can transfer over — you’ll effectively be able to mint LifeMiles for just 1.2 cents per mile.

How does this work? Let’s step through the process to show how it can be an excellent opportunity to score some fantastic premium cabin redemptions — even if you’ve never heard of LifeMiles before now.

First, the basics. LifeMiles is a transfer partner of:

That means even if you don’t already have LifeMiles, you can get some quickly just by transferring one of these points. In addition, LifeMiles has a miles+cash booking option that allows you to purchase as much as 57% of the miles you need during the process of booking at a rate of just 1.5 cents per mile.

Even better, now through April 1, there’s a 15% transfer bonus for transferring American Express Membership Rewards to Avianca LifeMiles.

Combine these three elements with this transfer promotion and LifeMiles’ reasonable redemption rates (plus low taxes and fees), and that means right now you can book:

  • Business Class one-way from US to Europe: 14,000 Membership Rewards points + $676 total out-of-pocket
  • First Class One-Way to Europe: 19,000 Membership Rewards points + $946 total out-of-pocket

Business Class to Europe

Here’s an example of how this can work in practice. Say you want to fly business class to Europe. LifeMiles charges 63,000 per person for the one-way business class flight.

Start by transferring 14,000 Membership Rewards points to one traveler’s LifeMiles account. After the 15% transfer bonus, that account will get 16,100 LifeMiles.

Transfers between accounts must be in increments of 1,000. So, you’ll transfer 16,000 miles to the other person’s account, paying $240 to get 20,000 bonus miles for a total of 36,000 miles transferred.

That gives you with a total of 36,000 LifeMiles, which is still 27,000 miles short of the miles needed. However, you can book the award using the LifeMiles + Money option to buy the remaining 27,000 miles for $405 at a rate of 1.5 cents per mile:

In total, you’ll spend: 14,000 Membership Rewards points plus a $240 transfer cost to produce another 20,000 miles plus $405 for 27,000 miles through LifeMiles+Money and $31 in taxes/fees, for a total of $676 out of pocket to purchase a one-way business class flights to Europe.

Let’s run through the same redemption starting with different numbers of American Express Membership Rewards points:

Business Class US-Europe Miles Cost Miles Cost Miles Cost Miles Cost
Amex Membership Rewards points 14,000 13,000 12,000 11,000
Amex Transfer Bonus (15%) 2,100 1,950 1,800 1,650
Total LifeMiles from Amex 16,100 14,950 13,800 12,650
Miles transferred from account #1 16,000 14,000 13,000 12,000
Transfer Bonus 20,000 $240 17,500 $210 16,250 $195 15,000 $180
Total LifeMiles in account #2 36,000 31,500 29,250 27,000
LifeMiles + Cash purchase 27,000 $405 32,000 $465 34,000 $510 36,000 $546
Redemption Amount 63,000 $31 63,000 $31 63,000 $31 63,000 $31
Total Out-Of-Pocket $676 $706 $736 $757
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, configured in a 2-2 business-class layout. Photo by JT Genter/TPG.

Lufthansa First Class to Europe

Now let’s run through the same example, but in first class. Avianca LifeMiles are especially valuable to use for booking Lufthansa First Class, as the program doesn’t pass along the pricey Lufthansa carrier surcharges. LifeMiles charges 87,000 miles for one-way first class awards between the US and Europe, and taxes and fees only add around $31 per person.

To get started, you’ll want to transfer 19,000 Membership Rewards points to one account, ending up with 21,850 LifeMiles:

By then transferring 21,000 LifeMiles to another account, you’ll effectively purchase 26,250 more miles for $315.

Next, head to LifeMiles and book a one-way Lufthansa first class tickets for $631 plus the 47,000 LifeMiles you’ve generated so far. All in, you’ll pay 19,000 Membership Rewards points plus $946 for a first class award ticket to Europe.

Other options include:

First Class US-Europe Miles Cost Miles Cost Miles Cost Miles Cost
Amex Membership Rewards points 18,000 17,000 16,000 15,000
Amex Transfer Bonus (15%) 2,700 2,550 2,400 2,250
Total LifeMiles from Amex 20,700 19,550 18,400 17,250
Miles transferred from account #1 20,000 19,000 18,000 17,000
Transfer Bonus 25,000 $300 23,750 $285 22,500 $270 21,250 $255
Total LifeMiles in account #2 45,000 42,750 40,500 38,250
LifeMiles + Cash purchase 42,000 $630 45,000 $675 47,000 $705 49,000 $735
Redemption Amount 87,000 $31 87,000 $31 87,000 $31 87,000 $31
Total Out-Of-Pocket $961 $991 $1,006 $1,021
Image by Zach Honig / TPG

Sweet Spots Using Other Points

Using Citi ThankYou Points, you can pay as little as:

  • Business Class one-way from US to Europe: 16,000 ThankYou Points + $676 total out-of-pocket
Business Class US-Europe Miles Cost Miles Cost Miles Cost
Total LifeMiles from Citi 16,000 13,000 12,000
Miles transferred from account #1 16,000 13,000 12,000
Transfer Bonus 20,000 $240 16,250 $195 15,000 $180
Total LifeMiles in account #2 36,000 29,250 27,000
LifeMiles + Cash purchase 27,000 $405 34,000 $510 36,000 $546
Redemption Amount 63,000 $31 63,000 $31 63,000 $31
Total Out-Of-Pocket $676 $736 $757
  • First Class one-way from US to Europe: 22,000 ThankYou Points + $931 total out-of-pocket
First Class US-Europe Miles Cost Miles Cost Miles Cost
Total LifeMiles from Citi 22,000 20,000 17,000
Miles transferred from account #1 22,000 20,000 17,000
Transfer Bonus 27,500 $330 25,000 $300 21,250 $255
Total LifeMiles in account #2 49,500 45,000 38,250
LifeMiles + Cash purchase 38,000 $570 42,000 $630 49,000 $735
Redemption Amount 87,000 $31 87,000 $31 87,000 $31
Total Out-Of-Pocket $931 $961 $1,021

Using Capital One miles, you can pay as little as:

  • Business Class one-way from US to Europe: 21,400 Capital One miles + $676 total out-of-pocket
Business Class US-Europe Miles Cost Miles Cost Miles Cost Miles Cost
Capital One miles transferred 21,400 20,000 18,700 17,400
Total LifeMiles from Capital
One
16,050 15,000 14,025 13,050
Miles transferred from account #1 16,000 15,000 14,000 13,000
Transfer Bonus 20,000 $240 18,750 $225 17,500 $210 16,250 $195
Total LifeMiles in account #2 36,000 33,750 31,500 29,250
LifeMiles + Cash purchase 27,000 $405 30,000 $450 32,000 $480 34,000 $510
Redemption Amount 63,000 $31 63,000 $31 63,000 $31 63,000 $31
Total Out-Of-Pocket $676 $706 $721 $736
  • First Class one-way from US to Europe: 28,000 Capital One miles + $946 total out-of-pocket
First Class US-Europe Miles Cost Miles Cost Miles Cost
Capital One miles transferred 28,000 26,700 22,700
Total LifeMiles from Capital One 21,000 20,025 17,025
Miles transferred from account #1 21,000 20,000 17,000
Transfer Bonus 26,250 $315 25,000 $300 21,250 $255
Total LifeMiles in account #2 47,250 45,000 38,250
LifeMiles + Cash purchase 40,000 $600 42,000 $630 49,000 $735
Redemption Amount 87,000 $31 87,000 $31 87,000 $31
Total Out-Of-Pocket $946 $961 $1,021

Bottom Line

LifeMiles is a program many beginner and immediate mileage collectors may have never heard of or are afraid to start using. Considering the complexities of the program in the past, that’s completely fair. However, LifeMiles’ online booking system has improved, and the program offers truly excellent redemption options, both for mileage cost and out-of-pocket cost. The system still definitely has its quirks and can be frustrating to use at times, but it’s certainly worth considering if you’re looking to book some excellent awards.

If buying LifeMiles at 1.2 cents per mile sounds good, don’t forget that you can also mine LifeMiles for as little as 1.35 cents per mile through “Club LifeMiles”.

Featured image of Lufthansa First Class by Julian Mark Kheel / The Points Guy.

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