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Beware: Your next transfer to LifeMiles might not actually be instant

March 09, 2022
4 min read
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There's lots to love about the Avianca LifeMiles program. It offers excellent redemption rates and doesn’t add fuel surcharges on Star Alliance flights. Even better, it's a transfer partner of most of the major point currencies (American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy) and frequently offers bonuses on transfers, such as one right now for transfers from Capital One.

The program does have some major restrictions, though. For example, LifeMiles doesn’t always have access to the same award space as Star Alliance partners and awards cannot be canceled online. Plus, it imposes a small partner booking fee on all partner-operated tickets.

In this post, we'll discuss another quirk that can be problematic if you plan on transferring points to the program.

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The problem

(Photo by Alejandra Parra/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

With the exception of Marriott Bonvoy, point transfers to LifeMiles are usually instant. This means that when you initiate a transfer, your miles should appear in your LifeMiles account right away (though you may need to log out and log back in before they pop up).

That still holds true. However, you might not actually be able to redeem your miles right away.

Based on multiple tests conducted by TPG staffers, transfer activity from Capital One is indeed showing up on account statements almost instantaneously. However, the mileage balance on the accounts isn't updating right away. In other words, the miles can't actually be redeemed right after you transfer.

(Screenshot from lifemiles.com)

We reached out to LifeMiles' customer support team and were informed that account balances might not update until around midnight El Salvador time (1 a.m. EST). Even more frustrating, LifeMiles agents have no way to manually update the account balances sooner.

(Screenshot from lifemiles.com)

The TPG team only experienced this issue when transferring points from Capital One, and the miles did end up becoming usable by the next day. However, readers have reported similar issues when transferring points from American Express.

Related: Save on Star Alliance award flights with 20% transfer bonus to LifeMiles

(Screenshot from lifemiles.com)

The implications

(Photo by Eric Rosen/The Points Guy)

Waiting an extra day or so for miles to post might not seem like a big deal, but it can have some major implications.

The biggest issue is that award availability can change while you’re waiting for miles to show up in your account. LifeMiles does not let you put partner awards on hold so there's no guarantee that you'll be able to book the flight you wanted by the time your miles post. Transfers are irreversible, so in the worst-case scenario, you’ll be stuck with thousands of miles you have little use for beyond your originally intended award ticket.

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

This also makes it harder to redeem miles for last-minute awards. Same-day and next-day bookings are effectively out of the picture if you won't be able to redeem your miles right away. This can also make it more difficult to secure Lufthansa first-class awards, for instance, which are generally released closer to departure.

Bottom line

You can often get great value by transferring flexible points to Avianca LifeMiles, especially now with the 20% transfer bonus from Capital One. However, there's some risk in doing so as you might not be able to redeem your miles right away and the award you originally intended to book might no longer be available by the time they become redeemable.

Unfortunately, LifeMiles' customer service agents have no way to expedite transfers, but hopefully, this issue will be resolved soon. For the time being, transferring points from Citi ThankYou Rewards might be your safest bet for boosting your LifeMiles balance.

Featured image by (Photo by Eric Rosen/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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  • 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)
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  • $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