How To Maximize Value Redeeming LifeMiles (2021)

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LifeMiles offers on purchased miles and other opportunities to earn LifeMiles are a frequent topic of mine. Although I do talk about the best way to redeem them, my writing style is generally rather vague.

This post will share my views on the LifeMiles program. How do I earn LifeMiles? When do I redeem LifeMiles instead of Star Alliance miles? How do I calculate it all?

The best ways to earn LifeMiles

Avianca LifeMiles can be earned in a variety of ways. LifeMiles often offers promotions on purchased miles. At the moment, there is a promotion for a 150% bonus for purchased miles (see this post, registration required).

This is not the only way you can earn LifeMiles.

LifeMiles are earned primarily by purchasing them directly. However, I also transfer points from Citi and Amex, particularly when there is a bonus.

Avianca's frequent flyer program LifeMiles offers LifeMiles

LifeMiles: Important facts to know

Before I talk about how I redeem LifeMiles specifically, I want to discuss some aspects of LifeMiles I think are important before you buy any miles.

Surcharges are not imposed by carriers

LifeMiles does not impose surcharges on partners for travel. Star Alliance frequent flyer programs have fuel surcharges that can add up, especially for business and first class tickets.

The fuel surcharges are included in the Lufthansa Miles & More program, for example. You can redeem these miles to book a business class one-way ticket on Lufthansa from the US to Germany. You will need to pay $700, plus the mileage and taxes. Ouch.

LifeMiles does not charge surcharges for Lufthansa tickets

LifeMiles doesn't require you to plan complicated itineraries

The LifeMiles program may not be right for you if youre looking to book an itinerary that has many layovers or stopovers.

I don't think I have ever booked a LifeMiles award flight that included travel on more then two segments. Some people report that they have had success emailing LifeMiles for ticket reservations. However, it seems very complicated and I want to be practical with my advice. LifeMiles to me is about easy, point-to–point travel.

Air Canada Aeroplan is a great option if you are looking to book complex itineraries that include stopovers.

For other Star Alliance programs, save complicated itineraries

Fly miles for a low price

LifeMiles is unique in that you can purchase up to 60% of the required miles at the time of booking. This cost ranges from 1.5 cents up to 3.3 per mile, but if you purchase between 40-60% and 1.5 cents per miles, you can expect to pay 1.5c per mile.

This is slightly more than what you would pay if your outright purchase miles during the best promotional offers, but it's still a viable option.

LifeMiles can be purchased at the time you book

LifeMiles may have access to other award availability

There are discrepancies in the award space LifeMiles has and that of Star Alliance frequent flyer programs. This is a problem that some people have reported as a major issue. However, I haven't noticed any discrepancies in my own experience. Again, let me emphasize that LifeMiles is for simple itineraries.

I was able book an award ticket through LifeMiles a few years back that was not available through any other Star Alliance programs. This was because of the availability for married segments. Sometimes it even works in your favor.

It is important to be aware of this and to do your research, but it is not something that I consider to be a problem with the program, at least according to the types of awards that I book.

LifeMiles may sometimes have availability discrepancies

How to determine whether you want to redeem LifeMiles

Miles are a currency to me. Each program has a value that I attach to them. Although I have many transferable points that can be used to exchange currencies, I still sometimes find myself redeeming LifeMiles.

Why? Why?

It makes sense to redeem transferable points currencies that are worth 1.7 cents per miles when I could buy points for 1.25 cents each. Sometimes, there is a bonus for transferring points from another currency into LifeMiles. This could alter the math.

This is often my situation, so I generally use the following approach:

LifeMiles will book if other programs charge roughly the same amount of miles or LifeMiles charges fewer miles. I also factor in any carrier surcharges from other programs when doing the math.

I use LifeMiles as a cost to calculate the transferable points that I would need to make. Any transfer bonuses can also have an impact on the math.

The best option is to transfer Amex, Capital One or Chase points to Air Canada Aeroplan. This is the most competitive Star Alliance program.

For me, this isn't a perfect science. Sometimes I don't want to spend money on miles. Other times, I am happy to save miles based upon my current mileage balances with different programs.

Here are some examples of recent LifeMiles redemptions

To give you some examples of real life, I'll take a look at some LifeMiles redemptions I have made over the past few years and share my reasoning for using LifeMiles in comparison to other programs.

Frankfurt to Chicago in Lufthansa's first class

This redemption has been used several times by my family, who have traveled between the United States of America and Germany quite often over the last year. Between Chicago and Frankfurt, there is the most availability of Lufthansa's first class awards across the Atlantic.

Three options were available to book this:

87,000 Avianca LifeMiles

100,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles

121,000 United MileagePlus miles

It's easy to book through LifeMiles. At 1.2 cents per mile, this is equivalent to paying around $1,000 for a first-class ticket across the Atlantic.

Redeeming LifeMiles for Lufthansa first-class is a joy!

Miami to Frankfurt in Lufthansa Business Class

Ford and I flew from Miami to Frankfurt a while back, and Lufthansa had nonstop availability for business class awards, so we decided to book it.

Three options were available to book this:

62,345 Avianca LifeMiles

70,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles

70,000 United MileagePlus miles

LifeMiles was the cheapest option so it seemed obvious.

LifeMiles is a great way to redeem Lufthansa tickets

Business class London to Brussels to New York in Brussels Airlines

Late 2019, I flew Brussels Airlines A330 Business Class from Europe to the United States. I was open to three booking options.

63,000 Avianca LifeMiles

55,000 Air Canada Aeroplan Miles (this was the price at the time; now, this award would be 70,000 Aeroplan Miles).

United MileagePlus: 70,000

Aeroplan seemed to be the best deal. However, Aeroplan couldn't book the ticket. It was a case of married segment logic. One program could book the ticket, but the other couldn't. This was because Aeroplan's system kept crashing on Aeroplans website. LifeMiles booked the ticket without any issues.

Brussels Airlines Business Class A330

Bangkok to Milan with Thai Airways business class

I flew Thai Airways A350 Business Class from Bangkok to Milan in the summer 2019. I was open to three options.

78,000 Avianca LifeMiles

75,000 Air Canada Aeroplan Miles plus $120 Surcharges (this was the price at the time. Now, this award would be 80,000 Aeroplan Miles).

100,000 United MileagePlus miles

LifeMiles once again proved to be the best value.

Thai Airways A350 business class

Bottom line

I'm not saying that LifeMiles is the best program for every Star Alliance redemption. Many redemptions can be booked through other programs, including Air Canada Aeroplan which I consider to be a very valuable program. But, LifeMiles has always been a great value and I'm happy to have a balance of miles with the program.

If I can get miles for 1.2 cents per mile, and redemption rates between programs are comparable, then that's a great alternative to transfer points from another currency.

In this example, LifeMiles could be purchased for 1.25 cents each and then I could redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points (review) for 1.5c each towards travel purchases. This would make me more competitive than transferring to Air Canada and United in similar situations.

That's my opinion on the LifeMiles program. I hope that it inspires others.

How has your experience been in redeeming LifeMiles