AviancaTaca LifeMiles for 3/10ths of a Cent Apiece

AviancaTaca LifeMiles is offering 250 bonus miles per purchase with no limit through their shopping portal during the month of October.

Regular readers know that this is one of the most generous frequent flyer programs in the world. As a Star Alliance member with a reasonable award chart, no fuel surcharges, one-way awards at half the cost of roundtrip, and ‘cash and points’ awards, their miles are quite useful.

Searching through the merchants that are a part of the LifeMiles shopping portal, I know that there are many inexpensive items at — I’ve used that site myself in the past to earn credit in shopping portal promos. And you get free shipping with Shoprunner no matter how small your purchase (so no need to hit $25 minimum for free shipping).

I went section by section and sorted results by price, there are gobs of items that sell for 99 cents. I only found 1 item that was less, Tresemme moisture rich vitamin E shampoo for dry or damaged hair at 74 cents.

I’ve never ordered anything less than a dollar from before. At that price point I’ve gotten miles. I assume a 74 cent item would earn points as well, enough to post a transaction to LifeMiles and thus earn the bonus. The problem is this offer only runs through the end of October so there’s not enough time to test this for certain, I suppose there’s a very small chance that a purchase under $1 won’t post at all. Some will thus be more comfortable at the $1 price point pushing the cost per mile up over $0.004 — still an amazing bargain.

When I leveraged the US Airways 2009 holiday shopping promotion in a big way, helping several folks earn in excess of 16 million miles, the cost per mile was over $0.007 (though donating products to charity dropped the cost to $0.005 after deductions).

Through October 14 there’s also an additional 20% off haircare products once per account with promo code HAIR20 but – and especially since it’s only usable once anyway — I wouldn’t use it at all. I don’t know whether coupon codes interfere with mileage earning at the way they do with some websites, but certainly not something I’d risk.

What I like about using is that they save your shipping address and full credit card information in your account, you don’t even need to type in the last 4 digits or security code on your card when you purchase. That makes each purchase go fairly quickly.

Still, at only 250 miles per transaction this promotion will be quite a lot of work to scale. It’s a very very low cost per mile in terms of cash outlay, but will take a lot of tedious time to complete thousands of transactions. Still, it should be lucrative for some.

I would take screen shots of the offer, of going through the shopping portal to the retail websites, and keep all purchase records. I don’t have experience with the reliability of purchases posting to LifeMiles for shopping transactions ad with these things there’s always the chance of having to argue to get miles to post later.

Incidentally, Shoprunner offers a free 30 day trial. According to RetailMeNot, if you sign up for a 30 day trial and before you order anything, go to the ‘My Account’ page and ‘Manage’ your membership. You can extend your free trial to 90 days and if you make 3 purchases with Shoprunner within that time you get it extended for a year.

Update: some great ideas in the comments to this post, such as making a $1 donation to charity via PetSmart and sending $1 e-gift certificates via eBags. In both cases we’d want to know that miles post from the activity before ‘going large’. And there’s only a couple of weeks remaining for this promotion which doesn’t leave a ton of time for that to happen. But if PetSmart points post as quickly as some think they we’ll, we’ll know soon enough.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. So basically to get 50K miles you’d need to:
    1) Do 200 small transactions
    2) Hope it isn’t flagged as fraud by your credit card issuer
    3) Hope the merchant doesn’t flag it either
    4) Hope the miles post

    I don’t plan do it due to:
    1) Time required to do 200 transactions (3 hours?)
    2) Likelihood of 2 and 3 with additional time to resolve
    3) Doesn’t feel right to abuse shoprunner to provide free 2 day shipping for 200 purchases of $1.
    4) Risk of not getting the miles.

    I’m sure there are a few folks out there who have bots programmed to do this. They will probably be screaming the loudest if the miles don’t post, and their abuse will probably the biggest reason if they don’t. 🙂

  2. @Timmer1001 – The promo has its own terms and conditions. The program’s T&C don’t reference the Ocfober promotion at all, but rather a 250 point promotion that’s an ongoing feature of the program (first purchase you ever make through the shopping portal). Two different promotions, the only thing they have in common is the amount of points, 250.

    Though I agree that if the shopping portal decides not to post the points it will be tough to argue – as it has been tough in the past to argue with other shopping portals.

  3. Quite honestly I hope this doesn’t work. Do we really need more strain on Star Alliance availability when it’s already so tight on some routes? At 3/10th of a dollar, people will probably start “donating” business class tickets to the neighbor or the maid! Or this will be the end of Avianca Taca LifeMiles program as we know it.

  4. @ Gary – with respect to post 53, can you speculate who “pays” for the 250 miles? Is it Lifemiles funded, or is does the portal operator, perhaps vesdia or someone else, that purchases the miles from Lifemiles?

  5. @HikerT though it’s more costly I kinda like the ideas folks have found like $1 charitable donations. No ShopRunner free shipping. No merchandise you don’t want. Miles for you and money for a good cause. You do still have to hope the promotion is honored, and spend a lot of time on this. But at least it might feel a bit more right 😉

  6. @jfhscott – it wouldn’t be the MERCHANT. It is either LifeMiles or the mall operator. I don’t know which in this case.

  7. Gary, the donation route is probably the best bet, but if I needed more *A miles I’d be making $1 charitable donations to US Airways this month, albeit for less miles and karma but no risk. 😉

  8. @ temptedtraveler – I would not think so, as your gripe would be with lifemiles, but not the merchant who was paid. I cannot imagine the CC company would intervene when the merchant delivered as required.

    Moreover, the remedy with the CC company would, at best, be a refund, which you would have to request for each of 100, or 500 or 1000 transactions,each of which might be for $1.34.

    So, between the likelihood of success and the remedy available from the CC company, I will not proceed upon the assumption that the CC company offers relief

  9. 50 orders. 15 x $1 donations on PetSmart. 35 orders on for stuff I actually needed. $163.99 all-in for what should be 12,500 miles. That’s 1.31 cpm. Plus 3 miles per dollar spent. Plus 5% cash back on my Discover Card for online purchases. And I saved a puppy. No regrets here even if I don’t get any bonus miles here at all.

    It was a fun morning. Time to actually leave my house

  10. If you use the freedom card for the small transactions and have chase checking, you would be getting 10 extra points for each transaction. Basically, earning a few extra ultimate rewards on top of everything else.

  11. @lovetofly, there are reports Chase will shut you down for doing lots of small transactions with Freedom. Don’t do it!

  12. Pulled? Can’t get up any longer. Got 50+ in before it went down. Was shooting for 80. Recommend Vimium plugin unless you have some kind of macro.

  13. so for $250 bucks you MIGHT get a round trip ticket to Europe after spending hours buying crap and fighting for your miles….. I would almost rather wait for whenever $600 tickets to Europe appear again and buy that…

  14. They have a cash and points award chart and some interesting routings, I’ve seen business class one-way Europe to Asia from 8000 points + cash…

  15. I noticed they have skype as a partner. And are offering 26 miles per dollar. So for a dollar, instead of getting 250 miles, one can end up with 276 miles. And it is still ‘shipping and moral’ friendly. One can use the skype credit too!

    What do you think!

  16. Let’s not forget this is a carrier from middle america and I would not be so sure that they won’t eventually pull the plug on this. With any US program like US,AA,UA I would be willing to try it but not with Avianca/TACA.

    I bought 150k miles during the last promotion. Sufficient for some nice awards headache free and instant.

  17. @Sky – and Travelocity had a deal for $200 off and we all know how well that worked…

    Why shouldn’t we question if we have question?

  18. @Rob – the Skype option appears to be only for new payers, so if you’ve never bought Skype minutes, you’re probably good.

  19. I see a lot more errors getting now as well. My suspicion is that macros/scripts may shut this sucker down.

    Haven’t been able to process a transaction. I appreciate Gary’s bringing this to our attention. By the way, if this dies due to scripting, I doubt that the casual reader of Gary’s blog would be to blame. It’s the experts that tend to get too greedy in these deals.

  20. Heads up – eBags is cancelling the $1 Gift Certificates so not sure that is going to work anymore.

  21. Oddly those Tresemme bottles are very useful to refill with whatever shampoo/conditioner/bodywash you use for travel. They are much higher quality than generic travel bottles that come empty and they are perfect size for the 3.5oz limit. They dispense easily, refill easily with a wide mouth, and won’t leak in your ziplock. I never fly without a refilled Tresemme bottle.

  22. Saw on the FT thread that people are using scripts to generate hundreds of transactions – this is greedy and will get it shut down.

  23. @ adz – Lifemiles can shut it down saying “‘cuz we want to”. And heaps of people will claim they will boycott TACA their next opportunity to fly from San Salvador to Managua . . . until they realize that TACA either has a monopoly on that route or otherwise that the competition is worse.

    It may cost some goodwill – mostly from folks who (1) will likely never fly Avianca or Taca and (2) are opportunistic, undesirable customers. Face it, Lifemiles does not need “loyalty” from members take notice of them only when opportunities such as there arise.

    I hope they will honor, but acknowledge that they might well make the business decision not to.

  24. Incidentally, I have contemplated how it might look if and when 1000 separately packaged bottles of shampoo arrive on my modest townhouse’s doorstep.

    Then it occurred to me that I can likely address these to anyone, and there are people upon whom I might like to play a practical joke . . . . .

  25. I don’t understand how people think scripting is greedy and bad — to get any sort of value out of this thing you need at least 25K miles for a domestic roundtrip, and that’s already 100 transactions — clearly, a script is nice and speeds everything up.

  26. Does anyone know how long it takes for a purchase to show up in your order history at the estore? (Not when the points post… just when you can see the order under the “My shopping history” tab.) Thanks!

  27. @ Michael – Your point is valid, but I’ll bet many folks won’t stop at 100 or even 1000, 5000, etc…

  28. Can’t “ship” to Canada, even if it is a donation. Ummmmmmm….

    “Some information in your shipping address is either incomplete or needs to be corrected. Please see below:
    We’re Sorry. Due to shipping restrictions, the following item(s) cannot be shipped to the shipping address you have selected.
    To continue checkout, please remove the restricted item(s) from your order or enter a different shipping address.Click here to return to your Shopping Cart.”

  29. @Michael at 30000 feet I would certainly agree. At sea level, I’m conflicted. Recent history indicates that the more these “deals” get “abused” (with the provider typically unilaterally deciding when “abuse” occurs), the more likely they will be to renege for everyone.

    As such, these opportunities do not, in practice, provide infinite benefits. Rather, they are finite in practical terms, and when the community collectively overgrazes them, no one benefits. Scripting makes such overgrazing that much more likely. This may provide a frequent flyer application of Coase’s “Tragedy of the Common”.

  30. @ Olala – If there is nothing being shipped, can your donation simply be “shipped” to some dummy US address. 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC comes to mind.

  31. Wondering if they’ve pulled the plug or if the scripts are bogging things down. After making about 30 purchases, suddenly I can’t gain access to the e-store.

  32. Ditto PointsObsession. Shopping site appears to be down right now, 1:00PM PST Sunday 10/14.

    I did 24 of the $1 PetSmart donations. Worth about 6,000 miles if they post. Like others I’m okay with this if they don’t honor. Recent experience in the FlyerTalk thread is we should see the miles within 3 days under “normal circumstances”.

  33. I wanna do this I do, but I have some main concerns:

    Is this shopping portal at all run by or backed by either FREECAUSE or CARTERA?

    If it is, I advise people to stay clear or be VERY lucky!

    1) Both shopping mall entities (who happen to handle 90% of all ‘malls’ on airlines and hotels) are notorious for backing out later on posting miles, confusing things and changing things so that even if you can keep track of it all, it’s hard to prove to THEM (or any other party like a court or AG office) exactly WHAT happened and how to fix it.
    2) They will brand you a gamer or a scammer even if it is them who did that and because of this, proving them wrong will be very hard and time consuming.
    3) others here will brand you as something bad just because you figured out how to run scripts, or you happen to have lots of money to spend just to get miles, or something involving morals or ethics even if 99% of that should not even be talked about here (but always is).

    I tend to think there WILL be a glitch and a percentage of people will have problems with their orders. And for every say 3 who have it work out, 1 will have it fail and when that 1 complains, everyone will naturally think it was their fault, not the company’s fault. In either case, the airline or the mall will back out somewhere in this and nothing will be as it should have been. For those who don’t believe me, consider that other *A member who did last year’s MOM UA promo.

    Is there anything wrong with doing a thing JUST to get miles? No.

    is there anything wrong with running scripts to generate many transactions? No, not unless the T&Cs forbid it.

    Is there anything wrong with buying 1000 shampoo bottles or dog treats and then keeping them, throwing them away or donating them? No.

    But will the miles actually post? It’s a risk!

    I will think on this one and maybe go for it. But I have yet to dig deeper and figure out what portal this shopping mall runs through.

    Chase UR runs with Cartera, but it is backed by Chase, meaning you can be safe in buying through that mall. But other malls are less secure in my opinion.

  34. @marathon man,
    I agree, started doing this. Then stopped. Will wait and see. Past experienced gives this <50% chance of being honored. Not worth spending $100s-1000s and possibly get nothing out of it.

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