Stacking LifeMiles bonuses & “new” domestic theory

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Update 9/15/21: One Mile At A Time reports that LifeMiles is advising that there isn’t a separate 15% bonus after all – the bonus advertised on their site refers to the 15% bonus on the Membership Rewards end. It sounds like an extra 15% was being added on the LifeMiles end early in the promotion, but they’ve since fixed that.

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Stephen posted about 12 new Amex Membership Rewards transfer bonuses yesterday, one of which is a 15% bonus to Avianca LifeMiles. Then Avianca launched a 15% transfer bonus of their own on their side. The two bonuses stack for a net 32% transfer bonus from American Express Membership Rewards to Avianca LifeMiles (while you only see 15% on the Amex side, Avianca’s 15% posts immediately after moving the points from Amex). That can make for some great values. Additionally, Dan’s Deals has done some excellent work in attempting to decode the “new” domestic US award chart since Avianca had ditched its three US zones a while back (though it still isn’t perfect since LifeMiles doesn’t want to make anything too easy to decipher).

The Deal

  • In addition to the 15% transfer bonus from American Express Membership Rewards to Avianca LifeMiles, Avianca is also offering a 15% transfer bonus that stacks on top as follows:
    • With the Amex bonus, 1,000 Membership Rewards points = 1,150 Avianca LifeMiles
    • When those LifeMiles post, Avianca awards an additional 15% so 1,150 LifeMiles = 1,323 LifeMiles.
  • Direct link to Avianca’s transfer bonus (from the LifeMiles side, not reflected on Amex)

Key Terms

  • This Promotion is valid only for the transfer of American Express Membership Rewards to LifeMiles from September 1st, 2021 (12:00 AM GMT-6) to September 30th, 2021 (11:59 PM GMT-6).
  • A minimum transfer of 1,000 Membership Rewards point is required.
  • You must be previously registered as a LifeMiles member in order to participate in this promotion, you can sign up as a member at LifeMiles.com.
  • During the promotion, the member will receive a 15% bonus over the Membership rewards transfer rate.
  • The bonus miles and the transferred miles will be reflected in the account statement in two different transactions.
  • LifeMiles earned by transferring and the bonus Miles earned with this promotion do not apply to obtain or maintain the LifeMiles Elite Status.
  • Transferred LifeMiles as well as the bonus miles will be accrued no later than 24 hours after American Express Membership Rewards reports the request of miles transfer to LifeMiles.
  • American Express Membership Rewards is responsible for sending the report of mile transfer request to LifeMiles.
  • LifeMiles are accrued according to the reports received from the American Express Membership Rewards.
  • LifeMiles is not responsible for miles not accrued, accrued mistakenly or accrued late due to report errors or delays from American Express.
  • Once the Membership Rewards are transferred to LifeMiles, the transaction cannot be reversed.
  • Upon completion of the transfer, Terms and Conditions of the LifeMiles Program apply, available at LifeMiles.com.
  • LifeMiles is a trademark of LifeMiles LTD.

Quick Thoughts

Avianca LifeMiles is one of my favorite programs because of the many LifeMiles sweet spots. If you can stack this big transfer bonus with a good mixed-cabin international business or first class award (that has a lower-cabin leg added on one end or the other), you can get some amazing deals (see this post for more: Avianca LifeMiles’ awesome mixed-cabin award pricing. First class for less.

However, even for those whose travel will primarily be domestic for the foreseeable future, there are some terrific deals to be had for travel on United if you can find award availability thanks to favorable pricing on domestic United flights.

Historically, Avianca divided the US into three zones with the following pricing and zone definitions:

Unfortunately, they stopped publishing that chart and moved to unpublished award pricing on domestic US routes. I haven’t paid a ton of attention to pricing in part because I haven’t been traveling by air and in part because partner availability on United has been pretty consistently poor in my recent experience (which is just based on a handful of specific routes I needed; on the other hand, the searches I did for this post yielded easy availability).

The good news is that Dan has done some good work toward decoding Avianca’s new pricing model for US flights. He posited that domestic flights price at fairly predictable intervals: 6.5K, 7.5K, 10K, or 12.5K depending on distance (see his post for more detail, but note that exceptions may abound). That isn’t correct in some instances, but the nice thing is that the pricing bands he publishes seem to be based on the point-to-point distances in situations where they do follow that model regardless of how you connect.

For instance, based on Dan’s work, a trip from Albany, NY to Myrtle Beach, SC would cost 7,500 miles based on a nonstop distance of 685 miles.

Map courtesy of GCMap.com.

It’s good to see that the pricing holds based on that nonstop distance even when connecting far out of the path. There is no nonstop United flight from Albany to Myrtle Beach and connecting in Chicago more than doubles the distance of the trip:

Avianca LifeMiles still prices that itinerary at 7500 miles one-way though.

Unfortunately, I’m not 100% sure that this price is based on Dan’s theory. Albany and Myrtle Beach were both historically part of Zone 1, so this pricing has existed for years based on the zone-based chart.

If Dan is correct, the real winners here may be those located in the west (old US Zone 3) since only flights within that zone were priced favorably. Now, shorter flights to points in Zone 2 will also be standout values in some cases.

I expected the losers to be those who had previously enjoyed long flight options within their zone. For instance, a few years ago, I noted the huge distances one could travel within Zone 2 at very reasonable prices. An example I used in a post was Fargo, ND to Orlando, FL for 7,500 LifeMiles one-way in economy class.

Based on Dan’s distance bands, I would expect that route to cost 12,500+ miles in economy class today. However, it still prices at 7,500 miles one-way today.

Mixed-cabin business class still prices out in the 12,300’s also which seems to fit with the old zone chart pricing also.

I found the same pricing to hold on Milwaukee to Orlando: 7500 each way in economy and mixed-cabin awards suggested 15K as the full price of business.

Dan noted in his post that some routes didn’t price according to his model, so there are likely still more routes yet that price according to the old chart or with a mind completely of their own. The moral of the story is that despite many of us trying to crack the secret LifeMiles codes, we still haven’t quite gotten there.

Still, Dan has something with a lot of examples where his theories work (and he documents results that fit his model based on far more searches than I’ve done in reviewing his work), so it’s worth taking a look at the post. The stacking transfer bonuses make for some amazing deals — Fargo to Orlando for less than 6K Amex points each way certainly might look pretty appealing at some point in the future. A route like New York to Lisbon, which inexplicably prices at 35K miles one-way in business class, would cost fewer than 27K Amex points one-way. That’s a phenomenal deal in business class. Other deals abound for those looking to book international premium cabin travel.

H/T: Dan’s Deals

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