AviancaTaca LifeMiles is the Most Generous Program in Star Alliance, and How You Can Use It

AviancaTaca joined Star Alliance just joined Star Alliance this summer. Most folks have never even heard of the Columbian-Salvadoran airline, let alone realize its potential even if you never fly to Bogota, San Salvador, or Latin America more broadly.

The airline frequently offers 100% bonuses on purchased miles (eg here, here, and here.) Last month they ran a 100% bonus on transferred miles.

Brand new accounts can’t usually participate in these bonus offers, so it makes sense to join their LifeMiles program to be prepared for when one of these offers comes back.

Here’s why the program is really valuable.

  • The award chart is pretty reasonable
  • One-way awards are available for half the cost of roundtrip
  • They offer cash and points awards bookings. As long as you have at least 40% of the miles needed for an award in your account, you can buy the difference in miles for US$12.75 per 1000 miles. That’s less than 1.3 cents per mile.
  • No fuel surcharges on awards
  • Online booking of Star Alliance partners

They have a pretty generous elite program, but it’s not the best for folks who don’t actually fly the airline. The point of this post is to underscore just how valuable this program can be for people that don’t fly the airline. It’s like british midland in that regard — I spent quite awhile as a british midland Gold member even though I never sat foot on one of their planes — they were exceptionally lucrative for crediting premium cabin awards to (after re-qualifying for Gold, paid first class travel — even first class domestic US — would credit 625% flown miles, and though I never did this I understand that they would also credit award flights flown on several of their Star Alliance partners to).

But most importantly and for the purposes of this post their miles stretched farther than anyone’s because of their cash and points options. And coupled with one-way awards and generous routing rules you could get tickets for fewer miles and less cash than through anyone.

With british midland you could fly between two regions, and if the only way to get there was to connect in a third region, that was fine. Back when Scandinavian was offering Greenland service, what some folks did was book an award between he US and Greenland, connecting anywhere they wanted in Europe — and from there connect up to the SAS flight to Greenland. But never take the flights beyond their European destination. Since the US and Greenland were in the same zone, you could get a US-Europe one-way award for the price of a US domestic flight. AviancaTaca acts similarly on its website.

Another feature of the program is that their cash and points awards function just like Priority Club’s — when you cancel a cash and points award reservation, you get the miles purchased at 1.25 cents apiece back and not the cash. So once you have some miles in your account, you can buy more miles at 1.25 cents apiece (and a $50 cancellation fee) when you book and then cancel an award. Reports are that mileage redeposit takes a few days and must be done by phone.

If you don’t want to wait until there’s a mileage purchase bonus to get started, there’s an AviancaTaca LifeMiles credit card from US bank that comes with 20,000 miles after first use and no fee the first year.

After that I wouldn’t put spending on the card. Since you’d be better off getting a 2% cash back card like the Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express, and then buying points for less than 2 cents apiece. You can then get about a point and a half per dollar instead of just one point for your spend.

There’s a long and complex Flyertalk thread discussing the ins, outs, and tricks of the program but some of the folks there are doing their best to communicate ‘in code’ and keep folks who aren’t already ‘in the know’ out. There’s a similarly long but much more accessible discussion at Australian Frequent Flyer where things are much more open. (To folks who would prefer to keep this all secret, there are over 550 public internet posts between just those two threads, it already isn’t a secret, I’m simply directing folks to a public resource on the internet, just sayin’.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] Sadly, there’s isn’t anything specific you can do or one blog you can read to get all the good tricks. Because of the code, it’s very hard to figure out these tricks, and I’d say that figuring it out is the only way to actually get in on it. Million Mile Secrets writes about a lot of these deals, but not all of them and not all the time. Other ones come out slowly, and you’ll know it’s one of them if you read angry comments talking about the inappropriateness of the post. I can point to several examples in addition to the ones I noted above, but here’s one more. […]

  2. […] Sadly, there’s isn’t anything specific you can do or one blog you can read to get all the good tricks. Because of the code, it’s very hard to figure out these tricks, and I’d say that figuring it out is the only way to actually get in on it. Million Mile Secrets writes about a lot of these deals, but not all of them and not all the time. Other ones come out slowly, and you’ll know it’s one of them if you read angry comments talking about the inappropriateness of the post. I can point to several examples in addition to the ones I noted above, but here’s one more. […]

Comments

  1. I’m thoroughly impressed by people who love what they do and are able to make a good living while doing it. So in my mind, go Gary.

    As a reader for several years now, I can honestly say I’ve taken advantage of many of the things Gary has posted, and some I pass on. Just because I’m informed about a certain program doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll jump on it. If it fits my needs, lovely….if not, another will come along that will. And since I’m on the senior side, some, I just….well, forget about.

    Love Gary, love Lucky. I’m grateful to both of them for their desire to help and inform others. If they make some money while doing it, more power to them.

  2. Since when is it illegal, (or unethical for the matter) to earn a profit doing something you are passionate about? Gary, you are by far the best travel blogger out there and I really enjoy your writings. Just want you to know that. Don’t mind the naysayers.

  3. Second frank. If Gary is not adding value, who do people come to his site, instead of just going to the forums (fora?)? Ignore the naysayers, Gary. Go Gary Go!

  4. I am completely on Gary’s side on this whole off-topic issue that has come up in the comments of this post. Gary has taken the time, for over a decade, to put out tons and tons of useful information that has benefited me more than I can possible quantify. Truly, I have no idea how many miles gained and dollars saved, this blog alone has benefited me. For example, a long time ago (I don’t remember when or how), Gary explained how to earn a bunch of free miles on BMI without ever flying them. I thought, “Sure, what the hell?” Up until last week, I had exactly 11,500 miles on BMI (all earned from Gary’s pointers) upon which I transferred them for free to BA Avios. Seriously?? I just earned 11,500 miles, INTO AN ACCOUNT THAT I REDEEM OUT OF, for absolutely nothing except for a few minutes of my time. Thanks Gary!

    Then there was the time, about a year ago, where Gary posted a different, obscure benefit from Virgin Australia which has allowed me any my wife to both have free access to Delta Sky Clubs for the last year. That literally translates to hundreds of dollars saved.

    Of course, there are many dozen more examples just like this, and I could not be more appreciative, which is also a reason why we use Gary’s cc links to show our thanks. Keep up the good work!

  5. Hi G,

    I have repeatedly been told by Airline reps that if you don’t fly an itinerary “all the way” to the destination, that the rest of the Itinerary gets cancelled. How were the SAS flyers utilizing flying to Europe and not all the way to Greenland without getting the rest of their itineraries cancelled?? Can you kindly, once and for all, shed some light on how this was done??
    Many thanks!

  6. @thunderstorm — these were one way tickets so of course the rest got cancelled but who cares? you were already at your destination

  7. Oh Gotcha, Thanks Gary!
    Guess it always makes sense to book one-way tickets rather than round-trips.
    Btw: I have still to figure out a benefit to booking round-trips.

  8. Oh my gosh! This is America people! Free enterprise, diversity…to each his own. Gary,thanks for what you do. I wouldn’t have had even one award trip if I hadn’t found my first blogger.I don’t follow him any longer, but I’m grateful for what I learned from him. I don’t fly for business and although I try to navigate FT from time to time it is pretty confusing and time consuming.

  9. Hi Gary,

    Thanks for all the wonderful information you share. I’m new to your blog and I’m reading EVERYTHING! Just wondering how to tell if the blog is still current? I see August 22 for this blog, but the year is not posted. How do I know that I’m reading a current blg?

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