Avianca-Taca’s frequent flyer program is one of the newest to the Star Alliance but given that it’s hubs are in countries rich with birdlife, it’s a program that all eco-travelers should get to know.
BASICS OF AVIANCA-TACA LIFEMILES
1. First thing to do is join the program if you haven’t already. LifeMiles has frequent buy/share bonus miles promos and they always restrict them to people who are already members as of the day the promo begins. It’s free to join so no reason not to!
2. You only need to have 40% of the miles required to redeem an award. Then you can buy the remaining miles at $15 per 1000 miles. For example in this flight from LAX to San Jose, Costa Rica; the normal price is 12,000 miles but if you are willing to pay $90, you can get away with only using 5000 miles. You have effectively bought 7000 miles for $90 at a cost of $15.00 per 1000 miles. (The price has increased to $15.00 per 1000 miles since July 2013.) The technique remains the same is pictured.
3. The normal price to buy miles is $30 per block of 1000 miles. If LifeMiles is running a 100% bonus, this becomes $15 per block of 1000 miles. You will only need to buy enough to get you to the 40% redemption level, then use the “More money” button to buy the miles even cheaper.
4. The normal price to share miles is $15 per block of 1000 miles. If LifeMiles is running a 100% bonus, this becoomes $7.50 per block of 1000 miles. Bear in mind that the miles come out of your account and go into your friend’s account. There is a maximum of 50,000 miles transferred per calendar year.
So let’s say you have 20,000 miles because you got the LifeMiles Visa card. You transfer these miles during a 100% share miles promo to your spouse. You pay $300 for the transfer of 20,000 miles and your spouse gets 40,000 miles in his/her account. You have basically paid $300 to create 20,000 new miles (since you already had 20,000) so you bought those miles at $15 per block of 1000 miles. Now your spouse transfers the whole lot of 40,000 miles back to you. He/she pays $600 for the transfer. Now he/she has 0 miles and you have 80,000 miles, so again you bought the miles at a cost of $15 per block of 1000 miles.
4. You can kickstart your LifeMiles by getting the LifeMiles Visa (US Bank) with a bonus of up to 20,000 miles with first purchase.
SAMPLE BARGAIN ROUTES WITH LIFEMILES
For eco-tourists, the best uses of LifeMiles are to get you between airports in the birding hotspots of Central America and South America, or from the USA to Central/South America preferably on an Avianca or Taca flight. Here are some examples, please note the difference in base price and the price when you spend 40% of required miles and add cash.
SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA TO PANAMA CITY
There is a special on business class which makes this the cheapest way from A to B if you are paying cash.
Now if you don’t really care which class you are in, let’s compare with the price of the flight in miles and cash.
Depending on how many miles you have in your account, you can spend as little as 3000 miles plus $62 cash. If you used the bonus promo above, these 3000 miles would have cost $45, so your total out-of-pocket is $107, rather than $307.
LIMA TO SANTA CRUZ, BOLIVIA
If you are enchanted by the blue-throated macaws at Barba Azul, here’s how you can get there. First, the cash price-economy.
Now let’s see what it costs in miles. The normal price is 9000 miles which during the promo would be $135 to buy the miles. Or you can buy 4000 miles during the promo for $60 and another $66 for the remaining 5000 miles you need for a total of $126. Nice savings over the cash price of $435!
PANAMA CITY TO LAS VEGAS (STAR ALLIANCE AWARD ON COPA
$510 for the one way ticket using cash.
Now let’s see how much it costs with miles! Normal price is 15,000 miles. Using the 40% minimum to pay with 6000 miles plus $114 cash and $25 redemption fee we have paid (using a 100% buy/share bonus) $90 for the minimum miles plus $114 plus $25 plus $28 tax for a total of $257, about half the cash price!
GETTING LIFEMILES IN EVERYDAY LIFE
It’s a fairly new program so there aren’t too many opportunities yet, though this may grow.
1. Get the credit card and use it for purchases, get 1 mile per $.
2. LifeMiles shopping portal. They are having some problems with this and miles haven’t been posting while they work out the bugs. Hopefully they will and this will become a nice source of LifeMiles. Don’t buy things you don’t need just to get miles, but if you do need something, start at the portal and get free miles!
3. Buy flowers or a gift at FTD.com.
4. Transfer hotel points. These are not the best use of hotel points but if you have some orphaned points you need to get rid of, it’s one option.
- HiltonHonors: 10,000 HHonor Points for 1000 LifeMiles.
- Best Western: 5000 Best Western points for 1000 LifeMiles.
- Marriott: 10,000 Marriott Rewards points for 1500 LifeMiles.
1. Best uses of LifeMiles for eco-tourists are on Avianca or Taca flights, or some partner flights like Copa.
2. Credit card can kickstart your miles account.
3. Wait for Buy/Share bonuses to buy miles at a discount.
4. Only buy enough to get you to 40% of your desired award, then use the miles plus cash tool to buy the remainder at $12-13 per block of 1000 miles.
Anymore questions, please ask in the comments? Does anyone have plans to travel to Central or South America and planning to use LifeMiles for a cheap ticket?