Best Uses of Avianca LifeMiles

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Avianca LifeMiles is one of our favorite airline programs because of its combination of unique sweet spots, the ability to manipulate awards to pay fewer miles than the rates listed on the published award chart and the fact that it doesn’t add fuel surcharges.

The purpose of this post is to provide an overview of the strengths of Avianca LifeMiles and also to serve as a reference when considering travel partners of the major transferable currencies.

Avianca LifeMiles Sweet Spots

Best ways to collect LifeMiles

Credit Cards

One of the easiest and quickest way to earn LifeMiles is through credit card welcome offers. Below are the current cards that earn LifeMiles directly:

Card Offer and Details
Up to 100K miles ⓘ Non-Affiliate
Up to 100K miles: Earn 60K bonus miles after $4.5K spend in first 90 days + 40K miles after $25K total spend in first 12 months
$249 Annual Fee
Information about this card has been collected independently by Frequent Miler. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.
FM Mini Review: If you were already interested in a LifeMiles+ subscription, this card might be appealing since it only costs $9 more than the cost of 12 months of the "Lite" subscription (or you can enjoy the same annual $240 in value toward higher subscription levels with a $20 monthly discount). It could be worth getting the card for the Silver Elite benefits if you would have considered buying a LifeMiles+ subscription anyway. However, for ongoing spend, it is less compelling given the fact that many transferable currency cards offer superior return on spend.
Earning rate: 3X Avianca purchases ✦ 2X dining and other travel ✦ 1X everywhere else
Base: 1X (1.3%)
Travel: 2X (2.6%)
Dine: 2X (2.6%)
Brand: 3X (3.9%)
Card Info: American Express issued by FEB. This card has no foreign currency conversion fees.
Big spend bonus: Earn double miles on up to 1,000 miles per month with the included "Lite" subscription.
Noteworthy perks: Complimentary Aviaca Silver elite status
Earn 40K bonus miles after $3K in first 90 days
$99 Annual Fee
Information about this card has been collected independently by Frequent Miler. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.
FM Mini Review: This card could be worthwhile for those who fly Avianca enough to take advantage of Silver Elite benefits but not enough to earn that status. However, it isn't a great way to earn Avianca Lifemiles long-term.
Earning rate: 2x Avianca purchases, dining, and grocery ✦ 1x everywhere else
Base: 1X (1.3%)
Dine: 2X (2.6%)
Grocery: 2X (2.6%)
Brand: 2X (2.6%)
Card Info: American Express issued by FEB. This card has no foreign currency conversion fees.
Noteworthy perks: Complimentary Aviaca Silver elite status

Transfer points

Avianca LifeMiles is a partner with many transferable points programs, which can be an easy way to accumulate miles. Standard transfer ratios are as follows:

Rewards ProgramAmex Transfer Ratio
(and transfer time)
Chase Transfer Ratio
(and transfer time)
Citi Transfer Ratio
(and transfer time)
Capital One Transfer Ratio
(and transfer time)
Bilt Transfer Ratio
(and transfer time)
Wells Transfer Ratio
(and transfer time)
Avianca LifeMiles1 to 1 (Instant)1 to 1 (Instant)1 to 1 (Instant)1 to 1 (~5 Minutes)1 to 1 (Unknown)

The programs listed above will also occasionally offer bonuses when you transfer their points to LifeMiles. Any current transfer bonuses will appear below:

Transfer FromTransfer Bonus DetailsEnd Date

Buy points on sale

LifeMiles offers frequent sales on points. We will list any current offers in this post. When on sale, LifeMiles typically offers miles for somewhere between 1.2 – 1.4 cents each. Buying miles can sometimes be useful when obtaining them for high value awards.

Three ways to pay less for Avianca LifeMiles awards

Avianca LifeMiles sweet spots
Use Avianca LifeMiles to fly Lufthansa First Class with no fuel surcharges and for less than sticker price with the right hacks.

Avianca LifeMiles is a very “hackable” program in the sense that there are a multitude of ways to pay less than the official award chart rates. There are generally three ways to save on LifeMiles awards: award ticket sales, award pricing anomalies, and mixed-cabin awards.

LifeMiles award pricing anomalies

Avianca inexplicably prices certain flights well below their listed award chart rates. We’ve written a number of posts about this phenomenon, including:

For reasons that aren’t clear, these anomalies pop up in various regions and routes. In many cases, the reduced pricing has stuck around for years and makes for good sweet spots on select routes. There are probably some routes that have either not been found or have not been widely reported, but a great is example is New York (JFK) to Lisbon in business class. This flight should cost 63K miles each way, but instead it prices out at 35K.

There are many more examples of this. You never know when you might stumble on one of these strange sweet spots that may fit your needs.

LifeMiles+ subscription

LifeMiles+ is a new subscription offering from Avianca LifeMiles. All subscription levels include a 10% rebate on all of your LifeMiles award redemptions. This includes Star Alliance awards as well as awards on other partner airlines. These miles are added to your account within 15 days of redemption.

The “lite” level is complimentary for

There are four different subscription levels. The “lite” version is complimentary for cardholders of the LifeMiles Elite Amex card, while the Basic, Pro, and Max subscription levels include free award changes and cancellations.

Details and pricing are as follows:

Award ticket sales

LifeMiles occasionally puts flights to select regions on sale for reduced-rate award tickets. This most commonly happens for awards to Asia or South America, though it’s possible that they may offer sales to other regions as well. It’s worth keeping your eye out for emails from LifeMiles and/or subscribing to your favorite blogs to be alerted when a region is on sale.

a group of seats in a plane
Avianca’s 787-9 Business Class can occasionally be found on sale to South America

Using mixed-cabin awards for lower prices

Perhaps the best tip for the lowering the price of an Avianca LifeMiles award to use mixed-cabin awards, which is when a portion of the itinerary is in business and the rest is in economy.

LifeMiles prices mixed-cabin awards based on a rough percentage of the distance traveled in each cabin. In other words, if you book a trip that is 10,000 miles in total distance and you will travel 4,000 miles of it in economy class and 6,000 miles of it in business class, Avianca will charge roughly 40% of the economy class price for that itinerary and 60% of the business class price (there are some other variables as well and the price doesn’t break down exactly according to these percentages). This can create some great opportunities in the right situation.

For example, the price for business class from most of Europe to the USA should be 63K miles one-way. See this flight from Paris to Newark at 63K in business class (right side) as an example.

a white rectangle with black outline

However, if you add some economy class segments beyond Newark, the total price decreases. For instance, here is Paris to Newark on that same business class flight and then continuing on to Seattle via Houston.

a screenshot of a computer

If you look at the small print at the bottom of that screen shot, the final itinerary costs only 47,390 miles. That represents a savings of 15,610 miles — almost 25% less than the cost of Paris to Newark alone. If you only wanted to travel to Newark, you could conceivably get off the plane in there, not take the connecting flights and save a huge chunk of miles.

Be aware that there are some potential issues. First, if there are irregular operations, you may end up rebooked on a route that doesn’t connect at Newark. If your bags get misplaced and don’t show up in Newark when you do (you’ll need to collect them and pass through customs at your first point of entry to the US), United is probably going to try to deliver them to you in Seattle.

Additionally, Airlines don’t like people taking advantage of this type of ticketing loophole on paid tickets, so it’s possible that United and/or Avianca might get upset if you make a habit of doing this regularly. On the other hand, people miss connecting flights all the time, so if you do this occasionally it may not even be noticed.

Avianca LifeMiles now (usually) charges 90K miles one way in business class from the US to Asia. Here is an award flight from Seattle to Tokyo in business class:

a screenshot of a computer

However, if you instead book Seattle to Singapore and take the same flight above combined with an economy class leg to Singapore, you’ll only pay 58,150 miles one way — a savings of more than 35% over booking the flight from Seattle to Tokyo alone:

a screenshot of a computer

Avianca LifeMiles Sweet Spots (Economy Class)

*The rates shown below are generally before considering the previously discussed methods to reduce the price.

Africa in economy from 40K each way

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers competitive pricing for Star Alliance awards with no fuel surcharges.
  • Miles required: Officially, 40K each way in economy class to South Africa (which includes most of Africa) or 42.5K each way to North Africa (and the Middle East). Note that there is sometimes variance (See: The secret LifeMiles award chart), though we are not aware of any such pricing anomalies to Africa.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account).
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings:
    • Availability at LifeMiles.com often doesn't match what you’ll find at United.com or Aeroplan. Phone agents usually do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com.  While it can be possible to book via E-mail, it is very slow and frustrating. ALWAYS check the LifeMiles site before transferring points.
    • LifeMiles expire after 12 months of inactivity.  Redeeming Miles does NOT count as activity, but buying miles does.
  • Transfer fromAmexBiltCapital One, CitiWells Fargo. Also can transfer from Marriott Bonvoy.

Caribbean in economy for 12.5K one-way

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers one-ways on United to the “rest of North America” (i.e. not the US) for 12,500 miles each way in economy class.
  • Miles required: 12,500 miles each way in economy class
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

See our Best ways to get to the Caribbean / Central America using miles for more information and a full comparison of options.

Europe in economy: 20-30K each way (exceptions from 16.5K one-way)

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers competitive pricing for Star Alliance awards, with some routes to Europe inexplicably pricing lower than the award chart.
  • Miles required: Officially, the LifeMiles award chart offers economy class at 20K one-way from the Northeastern US to the British Isles, Scandinavia, and Russia or 30K one-way on all other routes between the US and Europe. However, there is some inexplicable variance (See: The secret LifeMiles award chart), with some routes pricing well under the expected 30K economy class price (such as Denver to Brussels for 23K). Also see: Trying to crack  the LifeMiles secret code to Europe.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com and it seems that manual bookings via email have ended. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Keep in mind that the mandatory $25 booking fee (added to all bookings) is the same whether one-way or round trip, so book round trip to save.
  • Transfer fromAmex Membership Rewards, Brex Cash, Citi Thank You, Capital One, Marriott Bonvoy

North America from 7.5K in economy (or less on some routes)

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers one-ways on United within a single "zone" at excellent prices. Some flights price even less than the "official" rates.
  • Miles required: As per the old award chart, the US is split into 3 zones. Within a single zone, awards typically cost 7.5K one-way in economy class or 10K one-way in business class. Between Zone 1 (most of the East Coast) and Zone 2 (most of the states apart from the far west) is 10K one-way in economy or 15K in business class. Note that some routes price below the chart for no clear reason. Note also that mixed-cabin itineraries can price favorably in some instances. See: Avianca LifeMiles' awesome mixed-cabin award pricing. First class for less.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com.
  • Change and cancellation fees: Theoretically $50 within a region, though flights between regions can cost $200 to cancel.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Bilt, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

South America in economy from 20K/30K or less

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers competitive Star Alliance pricing to both Northern and Southern South America with no fuel surcharges. Note that you can mix cabins on partner awards to save miles, which means that in some cases you can fly your long-haul flight in business class for not much more.
  • Miles required: According to the old award chart, flights to Northern South America are 20K each way in economy class and Southern South America costs 30K one way in economy class. However, flights on Avianca metal may price out at less than 20K each way in some instances (and always keep your eye out for Avianca pricing anomalies).
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Also note that as of May 2020, Avianca has filed for bankruptcy protection. LifeMiles is not yet affected by this process and may not be, but given the uncertain state of global economics it may be wise to hold off on bookings that aren't time-sensitive.
  • Transfer fromAmexBiltCapital One, CitiWells Fargo. Also can transfer from Marriott Bonvoy.

Avianca LifeMiles Sweet Spots (Business and First Class)

*The rates shown below are generally before considering the previously discussed methods to reduce the price.

Asia in business class from 75K one-way or first class from 90K one-way (or less)

an airplane seat with a screen and a monitor
ANA’s new business class is called “The Room”. Photo courtesy of ANA’s website
  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles increased redemption rates in 2022, but business class awards may still be a good deal since they are semi-hackable by finding the right partners and/or adding a long economy class leg.
  • Miles required: From 90K each way in business or 120K each way in first class, no fuel surcharges. Those prices are not very good, but note two things: first, there is sometimes variance by partner or city pair (See: The secret LifeMiles award chart); second, it is possible to pay less by combining a long-haul premium cabin flight with a long-haul economy class flight. See: Avianca LifeMiles’ awesome mixed-cabin award pricing: First class for less).
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account). Note that you may need to toggle between "Smart Search", "Star Alliance", and a specific airline in the drop-down menu above city pair to find availability.
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible. In a pinch, you can try a manual booking, though that process is quite slow and is best used when you aren't concerned about award availability changing.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points (and keep in mind the need to toggle between Smart Search, Star Alliance, and an individual airline when searching to see all availability). The mandatory $25 booking fee (added to all bookings) is the same whether one-way or round trip, so book round trip to save.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Capital One, Citi, Marriott

Africa in business class for 78K each way or first class for 105K each way

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers competitive pricing for Star Alliance awards with no fuel surcharges.
  • Miles required: Officially, 78K each way in business or 105K each way in first class with no fuel surcharges. Note that there is some variance (See: The secret LifeMiles award chart). Also see: Avianca LifeMiles’ awesome mixed-cabin award pricing: First class for less for ways to fly first class for even fewer miles). In short, it is possible to pair the long-haul flights in business with connecting segments in economy class to pay fewer total miles.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible. Finally, it may be possible to email for a manual booking if individual segments are available but don't show up together.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Keep in mind that the mandatory $25 booking fee (added to all bookings) is the same whether one-way or round trip, so book round trip to save.
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou points, Capital One miles, Marriott Bonvoy

Europe in business class for 63K each way or first class for 87K each way

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers competitive pricing for Star Alliance awards, especially in first class, with no fuel surcharges.
  • Miles required: 63K each way in business or 87K each way in first class, no fuel surcharges. Note that there is some variance, with some routes inexplicably pricing well below the official award chart like Newark to Lisbon for 35K miles in business class (See: The secret LifeMiles award chart). Also see: Avianca LifeMiles’ awesome mixed-cabin award pricing: First class for less for ways to fly first class for even fewer miles). Mixed-cabin business class itineraries can price from as low as 49K. See: Trying to crack  the LifeMiles secret code to Europe.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account) or with any of several tools that support LifeMiles (see: Which award search tool is best?)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Keep in mind that the mandatory $25 booking fee (added to all bookings) is the same whether one-way or round trip, so book round trip to save.
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One, Citi Thank You, Bilt, Wells Fargo, Marriott Bonvoy

North America from 10K in business class (or less on some routes)

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers one-ways on United within a single "zone" at excellent prices. Some flights price even less than the "official" rates.
  • Miles required: As per the old award chart, the US is split into 3 zones. Within a single zone, awards typically cost 7.5K one-way in economy class or 10K one-way in business class. Between Zone 1 (most of the East Coast) and Zone 2 (most of the states apart from the far west) is 10K one-way in economy or 15K in business class. Note that some routes price below the chart for no clear reason. Note also that mixed-cabin itineraries can price favorably in some instances. See: Avianca LifeMiles' awesome mixed-cabin award pricing. First class for less.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com.
  • Change and cancellation fees: Theoretically $50 within a region, though flights between regions can cost $200 to cancel.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Bilt, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

Oceania for 80K each way in business class

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles might have somewhat hackable awards if you could find premium cabin space on the long-haul.
  • Miles required: 80K miles in business class from the US to Australia / New Zealand / Oceania, but see Avianca LifeMiles' awesome mixed-cabin award pricing: First class for less for info on how this might be hackable if premium space exists. Note also that Air New Zealand economy class flights price lower than the chart shows for flights to/from Los Angeles. Business class may also price lower if you can find availability.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you'll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points.

South America in business class from 35K one-way

  • The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers competitive Star Alliance pricing to both Northern and Southern South America with no fuel surcharges. Note that you can mix cabins on partner awards to save miles, which can be useful if you need a positioning flight.
  • Miles required: According to the old award chart, flights to Northern South America are 35K each way in business class and Southern South America costs 60K one way in business class. However, flights on Avianca metal appear to be pricing out at 40K - 55K (while partner awards follow the old chart).
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
  • How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
  • Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Also note that as of May 2020, Avianca has filed for bankruptcy protection. LifeMiles is not yet affected by this process and may not be, but given the uncertain state of global economics it may be wise to hold off on bookings that aren't time-sensitive.
  • Transfer from: Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott

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Jerry Love

Greg, please help me understand the coding. Isn’t “I” space Business Class Saver Award seats. I understand that United is no longer making their Business Class seats available for LifeMiles booking. However, I am looking at a few flights on May 7th, TLV-ORD, that do not involve travel on United, I space availability, yet these flights do not show up on LifeMiles. Have Luftansa, Lot and Austrian followed the same path as United?

Thank you in advance

David Jen

cant find anything on LM site for Asia in Business next few months

Sid

Lifemiles has blocked all Luftansa Flights award. I am not able to see any award flights for Luftansa from US (Specially SFO). Can Greg please confirm if this is correct or some site issue ?

Greg The Frequent Miler

I just checked SFO-MUC April 29th and biz class came right up. The trick is to search for economy and biz and first class will still appear in the results. Or, just use AwardTool since it does a good job of finding Lifemiles awards

Last edited 1 month ago by Greg The Frequent Miler
andrew

United blocking some award seats to partners will impact the ease of using Lifemiles for getting to/from a US gateway and your home airport. It may require you to do a UA award to/from your home airport then a Lifemiles award for the main part of the trip. Not the end of the world but a pain and probably a slight increase in # of overall miles.

Ken

Is there a way to search for award space at Avianca that’s *not* lifemiles.com? Such a slow, buggy platform….

Jos

Unfortunately, you’re gonna have to search using the Lifemiles website. And just because other airline websites show a flight is available with miles, doesn’t mean it’ll be available on Lifemiles. It’s a hit or miss. Its only redeeming properties are generally reasonable mileage prices and no fuel surcharges, which is really helpful for Lufthansa First Class, for example.

Greg The Frequent Miler

Yes, use an award search tool. Many of them, including the free versions, support LifeMiles. I like to use both PointsYeah and AwardTool because results are unpredictable (especially with LifeMiles) and sometimes show up on one but not the other. See details of tools here: https://frequentmiler.com/which-award-search-tool-is-best/