Why You Want to Get Started with the AviancaTaca LifeMiles Frequent Flyer Program Right Now

Even though I think that frequent flyer programs moving to a ‘revenue-based’ model (where the number of miles you earn is based on how much you spend for your tickets rather than how far you fly, and where the number of miles an award ticket costs depends on the price of the ticket rather than where you are flying from and to) could go a long way towards undermining the exceptional value of the programs we enjoy, I’ve decided not to worry about it — for one simple reason.

If several U.S. frequent frequent flyer programs go revenue-based, we still have non-U.S. programs where we can achieve superior value.

And the fact is that many of these programs offer superior value now, they’re right in front of us. The risk that our favorite programs like Delta Skymiles, US Airways Dividend Miles, or Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan may choose to change for the worse is just an opportunity to focus our attention.

I want everyone to at least open an AviancaTaca LifeMiles account.

First, here’s why the program is really really good, as I explained back in August.

  • 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 is available (something you can’t do with US Airways..)

When they first joined Star Alliance at the beginning of June, folks were getting things the program likely didn’t intend… such as being able to book first class awards on Swiss that weren’t offered to the rest of the Star Alliance. Glitches like that aren’t the reason this program is great. It’s great because it’s an option to get a good award chart, one-way awards, online booking, and the very cheap acquisition of miles year-round.

Now the reason you want to open that account right now, even if you aren’t ready to get started with them, is because they frequently offer 100% bonuses on purchased miles.

In fact they’re offering it right now. But every time they do this, offering miles for sale at 1.5 cents apiece, the rules say that your account has to have been open prior to the start of the bonus. So having an open account is helpful, just to be ready to take advantage of their offers.

You can buy miles at 1.5 cents apiece. And you then only need to buy 40% of the miles for an award that way, and can then buy the rest at the time of booking for 1.275 cents apiece through cash and points awards.

Here’s the award chart. It’s true, they did recently bump up the price of several awards by 2500 miles each way, and without advance notice. Annoying, but also comforting at the same time, because they didn’t make even bigger changes to what’s a generous award chart (considering how easy it is to acquire miles). And because I usually don’t expect changes for awhile after an airline tweaks their chart.

Working with LifeMiles agents on the phone can be frustrating, but then calls to US Airways take a very long time and calls to Delta yield absurd comments from agents like that Vietnam Airlines isn’t a member of Skyteam, like Air France is the only member of Skyteam, and agents who have never heard of Saudia. (After all, Delta said they would never partner with that airline when their was a controversy over its treatment of Jews.. right before the airline joined Skyteam… so perhaps their agents simply believed their public pronouncements!)

So how to get started?

Open an account. And then you can either wait around until the next purchase miles bonus.

Or sign up for the LifeMiles Visa Signature® Card which comes with 20,000 points after first purchase (no minimum spend), 6,000 points each year at renewal, no fee the first year and $75 after that.

Another option is to get a good 2% cash back card like the Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express card or the The Priceline Rewards™ Visa® Card.

(The Priceline Visa is a hidden gem — a no annual fee Visa that effectively earns 2% cash back on all purchases plus 5% cash back on Priceline Name Your Own Price bookings, and comes with a $50 credit after first purchase.)

Then use the 2% cash back towards the purchase of miles at 1.5 cents apiece. That’s better than earning one mile per dollar spent with the LifeMiles card. Of course you can do both if you want more LifeMiles than the purchased mile bonus offer limit (150,000). And if you want to get started with the program right away.

(Note that the LifeMiles Visa is from US Bank, approvals from them can be tough but bonuses from banks other than Citi, Chase, and American Express are always great to have because there are only but so many cards that you can get from those issuers and they have so many of the best ones otherwise. The Priceline Visa is from Barclays. Both offer referral credit to me if you use my link and are approved. The Fidelity American Express do not.)

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 InsideFlyer.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. One thing that is a dealbreaker with aviancia’s lifemiles is the fact that they cannot book mixed cabin awards. That’s fine if you’re redeeming Y awards, but I haven’t remembered when was the last time where I was able to get J/F in all segments of an award

  2. I just signed up; the sign-up form seems to have a flaw (intentional or unintentional) where it reads the “send me marketing materials” checkbox as also being the “terms and conditions” checkbox that you are required to check off, so annoyingly, I had to click that as well in order to move to the next screen. I guess I’ll just unsubscribe from those emails as they come, but annoying nonetheless. Thanks for the tip, Gary.

  3. Yeah, I also signed up and noticed the same glitch as EggSS4. But I used a junk email account for the sign-up, figuring that LifeMiles was unlikely to be “important” to me.

    And, indeed, I think there’s a high chance I’ll never use it. But, as Gary says, you never know. The award chart is pretty good — especially for coach awards. The problem is that these awards are probably not worth buying unless you could buy the miles for LESS than a penny. At, say, 1.3 cents, you’re probably better off buying a revenue ticket in most cases, since you’ll be earning miles on that purchase. Especially when you factor in the hassle of finding award availability. And the front cabin redemption levels are probably a little too high to entice those who like to fly in style.

  4. Another huge problem with the program is that it simply refuses to acknowledge that a number of destinations exist. You cannot book to/from these destinations either online or via telephone (some of which are quite major cities and/or served by multiple *A carriers).

    Colombo, Sri Lanka (CMB)
    Durban, South Africa (DUR)
    Port Elizabeth, South Africa (PLZ)
    Lilongwe, Malawi (LLW)
    Blantyre, Malawi (BLZ)
    Mombassa, Kenya (MBA)
    Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (JRO)
    Harare, Zimbabwe (HRE)
    Windhoek, Namibia (WDH)
    Freetown, Sierra Leone (FNA)
    Niamey, Niger (NIM)
    Lome, Togo (LFW)
    Thunder Bay, ON, Canada (YQT)
    Windsor, ON, Canada (YQG)
    Fort McMurray, AB, Canada (YMM)
    Whitehorse, YT, Canada (YXY)

  5. @Sean M – on the other hand they have a ton of cities categorized into the wrong regions, which reduces the price of many awards well below what they should cost… 🙂

  6. Does purchasing Life miles go directly through AviancaTaca, or through a third party vendor such as points.com? Potential for AMEX Gold 3x or Chase SP 2x when purchasing miles?

  7. Please don’t be overly optimistic in describing this program….

    The negatives (as others have also pointed out) are in the redemption:
    – a flawed booking engine for awards that doesn’t allow open-jaws, mixed cabin bookings (a big problem when you need feeder flights), long or overnight connections.
    – poorly trained call center agents that also seem to follow the same rules as the online booking engine and charge $150 for making an award by phone.
    – a total lack of communicating any changes to the program as the introduction of the phone charges and the recent rise of the redemption chart.

    Or was this post simply needed to get the credit card link published again….?

  8. The call center agents offer no added value as they cannot do anything more than the simple on line booking engine which is extremely limited. If two segments are more than 8 hours apart, they won’t connect them, you need two separate awards.

  9. The call center agents offer no added value as they cannot do anything more than the simple on line booking engine which is extremely limited. If two segments are more than 8 hours apart, they won’t connect them, you need two separate awards.

  10. @Gerard @acbx I posted towards the bottom that the card exists, and suggested reasons why there are better ways to accumulate their points than the card, so speculate on my motives all you wish. Thanks!

  11. The deal breaker for me is the fact you cannot book a two cabin class award. Very few airlines offer First Class from Toronto. Normally, I book J to a connecting city such as BOS, ORD, EWR then onwards in F. That is not possible with Lifemiles.

    I’ll pass.

  12. Hey Gary

    I’m a loyal reader and really enjoy your work however. On this post I really do think that you do need to draw greater attention to the significant negatives of this program. I feel that especially new players in this game of ours could get burnt in this program due to the lack of flexibility.

    Just my honest opinion and once again thanks for all you do.

  13. How long is the elite status on Avianca Taca valid (i.e. 1 year, 2 years..etc). On Turkish Air Elite status is valid 2 years.

  14. Gary- Agree with what some of the others are saying you need to clearly state the negatives of the program in your post above. Lifemiles not allowing mixed cabin awards is a HUGE negative. Ben, at One Mile at a Time, is avoiding purchasing Lifemiles because of this.

  15. if u never book any ticket ith lifemiles, then u are just giving comments that are wrong. once you book a flight and enter all details, the booking then die and can not proceed.
    i

  16. Um, no way am I going to enter my passport number or drivers license number on an unsecured enrollment form (no https).

  17. I bought a lot of miles last time around and feel mixed about it. One is the lack of mixed cabin bookings that others have mentioned, but another problem is the lack of stopovers. US Air miles are superior in my view because of this. The other thing is that the devaluation wasn’t just 2.5k each way. On many of the first class (and other?) segments it was 5k each way. That’s 10k r/t. Also, they added fees a few months ago. Nothing drastic, but it seems the fee+devalu creep is a steady drip.

  18. Gary, although Lifemiles allows for 1 way redemption, I really don’t see it being that exciting.

    US Air was cheaper (1 .1 CPM last round and probably future rounds) Although Lifemiles does not have the same US Air fuel surcharge so cost may be a wash.

    Lifemiles is really upsetting people as they can not book a Domestic FIRST – Trans Atlantic Business. And with the very limited availability of Trans Atlantic First THAT is HUGE. Similarly with trans Pacific Business connecting to domestic First.

    Also it is often hard to book Lifemiles as connections need to be under 8 hours, and sometimes there just isn’t any possible connecting flights within 8 hours OR it means connecting to red eyes.

    I really think you owe your readers a post about the limitations with Lifemiles – as they are BIG.

  19. Hi Gary,

    Thanks ever so much for the ongoing information.

    Is there a limit on how many miles you can purchase?

    Missed out on this deal obviously but opening an account now.

    Dale.

  20. Just spotted the 150K purchase limit at bottom of post. By that do you mean can buy 75K and get 75K bonus or you can buy 150K and get another 150K as the maximum?

    Dale.

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