New Avianca LifeMiles LifeMiles+ subscriptions, a great deal for enthusiasts

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Cardless and Avianca LifeMiles announced this morning the details of their new co-branded credit cards. I’ll cover the cards separately, but I find a companion piece that came with the credit card news to be very intriguing even for those who are not interested in the LifeMiles credit cards: Avianca’s new LifeMiles+ subscriptions are going to present a potentially great value proposition for some — perhaps making LifeMiles a more compelling program for those willing to pony up for the cost of a subscription.

a red sign on stand

LifeMiles+ subscription levels and benefits

LifeMiles+ is a new subscription offering from Avianca LifeMiles. This new program includes some similarities to the former Club LifeMiles program, but with two features that could be really appealing:

  1. 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.
  2. Basic, Pro, and Max subscription levels include free award changes and cancellations.

That second bullet point is one that I didn’t see in the original press release bullet points, but I attended the Cardless x Avianca LifeMiles launch event last night in New York City where I learned about that feature from Matt Vincett, CEO of LifeMiles.

Other benefits listed above, like “up to 25% discount on your redemptions with Avianca” (for travel on Avianca metal) may be of interest.

Note that if you subscribe, you will only be able to cancel your subscription after a minimum of 6 months. In other words, you’re committing to at least 6 months of the subscription plan you choose.

Here are all of the subscription levels:

Is a LifeMiles+ subscription worth it?

I am actually very excited about the new LifeMiles+ subscription. I initially assumed this wouldn’t be attractive, but the new benefits are making me seriously consider a subscription.

As you can see, for your subscription fee, at first glance, it looks like you’re buying a monthly allotment of miles for a price that isn’t attractive. If you only valued the monthly miles, here’s what you’d be getting over the course of a year

  • Lite: 6,000 miles per year (500 per month) at a cost of $240 ($20 per month), which is about 4c per mile.
  • Basic: 24,000 miles per year (2K per mile) at a cost of $600 ($50 per month), which is about 2.5c per mile
  • Pro: 54,000 miles per year (4.5K per month) at a cost of $1200 ($100 per month), which is a cost of about 2.2c per mile
  • Max: 120,000 miles per year (10K per month) at a cost of $2400 ($200 per month), which is a cost of about 2c per mile

Avianca regularly sells miles for less than the prices above, so none of these subscriptions would be worth it for the monthly miles allotment alone. Note that you’ll also earn additional miles on credit card spend with a subscription, but frankly that will only bring the credit card on par with earnings you could get elsewhere, so I don’t think that offer is particularly compelling.

However, I think the real star of the show here is the 10% discount on all Avianca LifeMiles redemptions, which applies to all of the LifeMiles award tickets you book (including for others). The value of that rebate alone could be fantastic depending on how often you redeem LifeMiles. Beyond that, the Basic, Pro, and Max subscriptions offer no fees for changes or cancellations, which would suddenly make LifeMiles bookings even more appealing for many.

Let’s assume that you value LifeMiles at 1.25c per mile (in reality, for premium cabin Star Alliance travel, they can be far more valuable). Looking back at the subscription levels, let’s consider the net cost of the subscription after considering the value of the annual miles received with it:

  • Lite: $240 – 6,000 miles per year valued at 1.25c per mile ($75) = $165
  • Basic: $600 – 24,000 miles per year valued at 1.25c per mile ($300) = $300
  • Pro: $1200 – 54,000 miles per year at a value of 1.25c per mile ($675) = $525
  • Max: $2400 – 120,000 miles per year at a value of 1.25c per mile ($1500) = $900

In my opinion, both the “Life” and “Basic” subscriptions start to look very appealing when you consider that they come with:

  • Lite: 10% rebate on all award redemptions, including Star Alliance awards
  • Basic: 10% rebate on all award redemptions, including Star Alliance awards, and free changes and cancellations

Given that Avianca LifeMiles often charges in the realm of $150 to $200 per passenger for cancellations (the cost varies by route), those who redeem LifeMiles often or who would like to but can’t accept the inflexibility might be particularly intrigued.

Personally, in most years, I redeem a lot of Avianca LifeMiles. Last year alone, I redeemed more than 700,000 Avianca LifeMiles. Even if I didn’t value the monthly subscription miles, getting 10% of that total back would be a great deal. I’d take 70K back for $240 any year I could get it.

Of course I don’t redeem that many LifeMiles every year, but a single one-way to Europe for my family of four booked via LifeMiles would likely yield around 25,000 miles back. Again, if I would make one redemption like that per year, I’d consider the Lite subscription a win.

But I think I’m even more interested in the Basic plan. I would probably book with LifeMiles even more often if I had the ability to make free changes and cancellations. If I accept that “Lite” plan is worthwhile to me at $240 plan per year, the buy-up to the Basic plan is an additional $360 per year. For that incremental increase, I would get free changes and cancellations and an additional 18,000 miles per year.

That obviously won’t be a deal for everyone; many people lock in a trip and never need to make a change or cancellation. As a family traveler, I do place some value on flexibility. I especially like it when I can lock in a booking far in advance and then tweak it as plans firm up over time. Even if I only valued the incremental 18,000 miles at 1c each ($180), the buy-up to basic amounts to about a net $180 more in order to get free changes and cancellations.

Still, those changes and cancellations aren’t really “free” considering the $180 per year that I’d be committing — and keep in mind that this is just a loss if I don’t cancel any trips. And to that point, I would much, much rather see Avianca LifeMiles eliminate change and cancellation fees for all passengers. In an environment where all of the major US airlines have eliminated change and cancellation fees, and many (most?) major airline loyalty programs worldwide feature far lower change and cancellation fees than Avianca LifeMiles, I think it would be a better business move on Avianca’s end to just eliminate the barrier caused by those fees entirely. They’d probably see a huge bump in redemptions if they did.

But as long as Avianca is going to hang on to its current fee structure, I see value in the Basic subscription. To be clear, I don’t see this being broadly applicable. In fact, I can’t imagine that LifeMiles will see wide pick-up on these subscriptions in an era where many Americans have cut the cord on cable bills and many (at least in my circles) have been looking to cut back on the cost of subscription-type services rather than add them. I’m not sure that the LifeMiles+ subscription makes sense from a broader business standpoint. But as an Avianca LifeMiles enthusiast who appreciates the solid redemption rates, the lack of carrier-imposed surcharges, and the beauty of some of Avianca’s pricing anomalies, I could see this subscription making sense for me and for other award travel enthusiasts.

And since you have the option to cancel after six months, some will find it worthwhile to sign up for a subscription just for the large rebate on a single trip and/or as an insurance policy of sorts for free change / cancellation fees on that single trip. The rules indicate that you must be subscribed at the time of change / cancellation to benefit from the free change/cancellation fees. If I were about to book a big LifeMiles redemption that would cost my family let’s say half a million miles, singing up for even six months of the “Basic” plan would yield me 50,000 miles back for a six-month cost of $300 and it would give me free changes and cancellations if they happen within that six-month window. I’d think it a no-brainer to subscribe at least in the short term if you’re booking a family trip like that.

Bottom line

I am excited about LifeMiles+, a new subscription program from Avianca LifeMiles. While these subscriptions aren’t worth it for the monthly allotment of miles included, they absolutely can be worth it for the mileage rebate and potentially for free changes and cancellations (for all but the “Lite” level). I don’t imagine that these subscriptions will make sense for everyone, but I do think they will almost be a no-brainer for anyone making a significant LifeMiles booking. The rebate alone on a round trip to Europe even for a couple will almost certainly make it make sense to consider subscribing for six months. Again, I don’t think that LifeMiles will see broad pickup on these subscriptions, but I imagine that those “in the weeds” with award travel will see these are being pretty attractive in the right scenarios.

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41 Comments
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DangerDong

Does anyone know if Lifemiles+ Basic waives Redeposit fees, or merely Change and Cancellation fees?

jenXwanders

Both. I canceled a partner reservation to rebook in J and the miles were immediately redeposited into my LM account. I’m subscribed to Basic. Was not charged to re-deposit.

DangerDong

Thank you so much for the quick response! This might actually make Lifemiles better than Aeroplan for booking last minute travel. I think Aeroplan is $150 CAD for each cancellation.

Anne

Don’t Lifemiles expire after 1 year?

Yus

Tried to subscribe, it keeps hanging on the page after payment. Weird thing it asks for your “national identification number” with credit card information, what the heck is that? I tried random 4 Numbers and it allowed me to pay.

r2e

I’m guessing the # on some form of ID, based on this language “Please detail the type of identification, for example Visa, Passport, ID, etc.” on https://ayuda.avianca.com/hc/en-us/requests/new?ticket_form_id=12365195126043

I tried putting in 0s, and have also reached an infinitely loading page and am unable to complete payment for the subscription.

Charles

Another data point… the Lifemiles team says they got a memo saying that only tickets issued after May 20th, 2024 are eligible for a fee free refund. I talked to two separate agents. When I read the wording off the website: “To be eligible for this benefit, you must be subscribed to one of the Lifemiles + plans at the time of the cancellation or change. Members with a Lite plan are not eligible.” they told me I could create a ticket via the help center/black hole. Not optimistic.

Jeff

If you subscribe I would assume this means you’ll book more Avianca awards, especially speculative ones. Those speculative trips will require cancellations. Given Avianca’s support issues, what will be the cost of dealing with that? Will you be able to cancel online and get the refund w/o any hassle (ala Southwest or even AA)? Or will this mean a lot more work and pulling of hair for you?

Jay

I subscribed the Lifemiles+ basic plan after reading this article. I called in the agent 3 days ago to cancel my existing ticket and was told that their system cannot support the cancellation without a fee and created a service ticket for me. 72 Hours later, I have still not heard back from Lifemiles. I am very disappointed with the service and product provided by Avianca Lifemiles.

Michael

Have you heard back from them yet?

Brenna Fleck

Are the subscription plans only available to Avianca branded credit card holders?

Bill

Just to be sure, one option would be to

1) sign up for lite when you make an award booking (to get your 10% back)

2) upgrade to basic at some later point if you end up needing to change/cancel

This approach (delaying the upgrade to basic only in the event you need to change/cancel) could make sense if you think your probability of cancelling is low.

My guess is I will sign up for lite as I make enough redemptions in any six months that the 10% rebate easily pays for itself, while the cancellation fee for my family of 4 drops to ~$75. And if I am ok with temporarily tying up miles (not cancelling as soon as I realize I need to cancel), I can delay the 6-month “basic” windows to offer maximal flexibility to future award bookings.

wantlifemiles

I currently subscribe to the club lifemiles program already which provides better cost per mile. Do we know if existing club lifemiles subscriptions will continue or will they be forced to switch over to lifemiles+ ?

Also it would be interesting to know if we would be allowed to subscribe to both the old club lifemiles (for those who are already subscribed) and also get a basic subscription through the credit card

GaryBass

Does the benefit of free cancellations apply to ALL bookings you make from your account, even those bookings for other people? Based on the way you outlined it, I think answer is yes but just want to confirm. Thanks for the detailed write up!

Jonathan

Are the free cancellations only applicable to award bookings? Or would it extend to cash bookings? I actually paid for a cash booking last year when flying in South America in economy. We would have made a change to our itinerary if we could have done so without a fee.

FTer

Can cancellations be done online or will I need to call in?

beavis

So if sign up for the basic plan with the intention of canceling after 6 months, book round trip from US to Europe for say 100k points, I wind up paying $300 for the subscription (6 months x $50) and I get back 22k points (12k from the monthly bonus and then 10k from the booking) valued at $275 plus i get the ability to cancel or re-book. Sounds like a deal to me. It does get you tied into the system, though.

James

So if I’m reading this right and sign up for the Basic Plan then try to go for the 100k bonus offer ($25k spend), I’d spend ~$2k each month on the card. I’d get the 100% bonus 2k LifeMiles and another 2k LifeMiles for being a Basic Plan member?

Brent

One other question that I wanted to keep separate from the other conversations: would the monthly subscription make it so your miles stayed active? If I recall (I’m not currently looking this up), but I thought Lifemiles had a 12 month expiration policy for account activity. Presumably one of these subscriptions or one of the cards keep the miles active?

Grant

For once an airline subscription that actually benefits members! Wish this existed a few months ago before I paid $200 to cancel a LM award ticket and lost the additional $25 partner booking fee. I will definitely sign up for the Basic subscription before my next LM award ticket 🙂

TAO

Nick, nice article! I’m an existing subscriber, will anything change for me?