Step Up Your Travel Game: 100,000 Miles And Elite Status With New Avianca Card

New Cardless cards for Star Alliance member Avianca LifeMiles are live. I’m really excited about the premium card, which is chock full of benefits. And if you joined the waitlist for these cards like I suggested you’ll earn even more points when you’re approved for a card within 4 weeks and meet minimum spend requirements.

Avianca LifeMiles American Express Elite Card

The $249 annual fee Avianca LifeMiles American Express Elite Card comes with:

  • Initial bonus: Up to 100,000 miles: earn 60,000 miles after $4,500 spent in the first 90 days, plus earn an additional 40,000 miles after $25,000 spent in the first 365 days.

  • Earn: 3x on Avianca or LifeMiles purchases, 2x on restaurant & non-Avianca travel spend; 1x on all other spend. Plus, they’ll double the miles you earn each statement up to 1,000 bonus miles. That means you could spend, for instance exactly $500 on restaurants and travel (and nothing else) on your card and earn 4x. And as part of the LifeMiles+ subscription noted below, cardmembers also get 500 miles per month (so an additional 6,000 miles per year).

  • Award discounts and bonus miles: The card comes with a complimentary monthly subscription to LifeMiles+ (Lite tier): 10% redemption rebate on partner flights – both Star Alliance and others like Iberia and Gol; up to 25% redemption discount on Avianca flights; up to 40% more miles on LifeMiles Hotels and up to 10% redemption discount on LifeMiles Cars on bookings made through LifeMiles.com.

    In addition they will have a 10% discount on paid Avianca tickets starting by mid-August, or earlier if the technical implementation finishes sooner.

  • Elite status: LifeMiles Silver elite as a cardmember.

Earning a 100,000 mile up front bonus with the card, bundling that with elite status and a discount when redeeming miles is a really strong value proposition. Getting this card and spending to earn this bonus is a strong value proposition.

And since LifeMiles are so easy to earn – in addition to their co-brand card, by buying miles and transferring from other partners, the redemption discount will continue to pay off for many.

The LifeMiles+ subscription play is interesting because this is something brand new that they’re selling for $20 per month. So this $249 annual fee comes with a $240 annual cost product. And you can take that $20 per month as a credit if you wish to upgrade to a higher tier of their subscriptions. There’s a $50, $100 and $200 per month offering.

While LifeMiles has change and cancellation fees on award tickets, LifeMiles+ customers above the first tier have redeposit fees on awards waived as long as it’s done at least 72 hours prior to flight. At the top tier doubling of miles goes up to 10,000 miles per month which means buying up to get up to 6x earn with Avianca (and 4x on dining and other travel).

Avianca LifeMiles American Express Credit Card

With an annual fee of $99, the Avianca LifeMiles American Express Card comes with:

  • Initial bonus: 40,000 LifeMiles after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days.

  • Earn: 2x on Avianca or LifeMiles spend and on restaurants & groceries spend; 1x on all other spend.

  • Elite status: LifeMiles Silver elite as a cardmember.

The card’s annual fee is clearly worthwhile in the first year given the up front bonus offer. You can easily make it back in subsequent years with the discount if you buy tickets on Avianca. And it’s a cheap way to base level status just for having and keeping the card.

Avianca LifeMiles Silver Status

Avianca Silver, with is Star Alliance Silver, gets you 30% bonus miles on paid Avianca tickets in classic, flex and business fares. You receive priority check-in, boarding, call center service and baggage handling on Avianca and get 5 lounge passes and 2 companion pass lounge entries for Avianca’s lounges. There’s an extra checked bag allowance on coach tickets as well.

Benefit Of LifeMiles

Star Alliance member Avianca LifeMiles has one of the most valuable frequent flyer programs for experts in award travel. They have reasonable redemption prices. There are no fuel surcharges. And when you have some coach segments along with business or first class, the price of the award drops.

They’re a transfer part of American Express, Citi, Capital One, and Bilt. And they frequently sell points inexpensively. That makes them a very useful program, and earning miles with them easy to leverage.


Redeem Avianca LifeMiles To Fly United Business Class

One Cardless Card Limit Will End

Cardless launched with a focus, initially, on sports teams and targeting their fans. It made sense that a fan of Manchester United might get that card, and not to extend another card to the same person applying for a Florida Marlins product. That person might just be interested in the card’s initial bonus, or in a portfolio of cards to have all their spend occur in accelerator categories.

However now that they’re more aggressively in the travel space with cards like LATAM and their Qatar co-brand as well as now the Avianca card, the same notion may not hold. People regularly hold more than one travel card.

Cardless has had a ‘one card per person’ policy. However they tell me that they plan to introduce the ability for people to have multiple Cardless products “in the coming months.”

Introducing 5/24

Every card issuer has an approach to limiting access to their cards to people primarily interested in a smash and grab – get the bonus, cancel the card. American Express limits the number of cards a consumer can hold, and limits each person to having a card one time (for as long as Amex keeps track). In most cases, Chase will only approve you for a new card if you’ve had fewer than 5 new cards in the last 24 months. This is known as “5/24.”

Cardless tells me they’re implementing their own rule that is largely similar to the Chase approach. So you can only expect approvals if your number of new cards in the last 24 months is 4 or less.

Makes Avianca LifeMiles Even More Compelling

I spoke with Matt Vincett, President of LifeMiles, about the product and all of the details which he acknowledged “it is a little confusing, I won’t say by design.” Instead they wanted to “embrace the miles enthusiasts” – they’ve had U.S. cards in the past that he’s blunt about not being very successful so that didn’t want “another me-too product.” Offering a lot of different ways to provide value means complication, but offered that they’ve put their “faith in the miles enthusiast” who are “savvy enough and read enough blogs” to figure it all out.

LifeMiles partners with other bank programs in the U.S. and consistent with wanting customers to get the most value out of the program, Vincett is happy with folks using both this new U.S. co-brand and other cards. Use this card with their highest subscription tier and earn up to 6x, and since it’s an Amex while not complement it with a Visa that transfers to LifeMiles. Customers have multiple cards in their wallet, and with this card’s award discount he’ll win more points transfers so they’re very much complementary.

Historically I’ve viewed Avianca LifeMiles as a real program for experts – reasonable redemptions, no fuel surcharges, and some absolute outstanding pockets of value but without great servicing. Reports are though that they’ve been much better with customer service lately, and their Chief Operating Officer recently walked me through the changes they’ve made that have made the program easier to work with.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Comments

  1. @ Gary — Thus is a pretty mediocre SUB. Basically 60,000 miles for $249 and opportunity cost of about 2.15% on the $4,500. Net gain is about $.0125×60,000-$249-$.0215×4500= roughly $400. Meh.

  2. The $249 annual fee also includes a $240 subsidy for a subscription to lifemiles+, where the benefits include monthly miles, a multiplier on miles earned on the credit card, 10% rebate on redemptions in air partners, 10-25% discount on redemptions with AV, no cancellation fees on all air redemptions as long as the cancellation is made >72 hrs before flight. Look more carefully, this card, combined with lifemiles+ is powerful.

  3. got rejected.
    800+ score
    but i’m probably around 5 or 6 new cards in the last 24

  4. TLDR: Without adding a complimentary award change/cancel fee waiver to the elite card, it only seems interesting if you want to lock in a lot of future transfer and redemption activity with Lifemiles and/or redeem on Avianca flights.

    The signup bonus is pretty basic me too for a mid level card, and a much higher annual fee than the Citi Strata Premier. Assuming an additional 10k miles from the waitlist, all the subscription add on miles after spend to 4.5k work out to about 85k for the Avianca Elite which is about the same as the Citi Strata Premier.

    So for $154 more a year, the Avianca elite card has less points flexibility and worse earning bonuses, and is trying to offset that with the Star Silver status and the Lifemiles+ subscription’s redemption benefits of 10% back (not off) on Star Alliance awards. Which is like buying their miles at 1c per mile if you redeem 160k per year. Potentially better if your redemptions are on Avianca.

    That’s a barely ok value prop compared to the Citi Strata Premier given the loss of flexible points and the Lifemiles website inconsistencies. Getting the waived redemption change/cancel fees included with the elite card would be the only thing that would make it interesting. Currently, that requires buying at least a basic subscription, which is additional $30 per month and all tiers have a 6 month minimum before able to cancel. Offsetting that they give you an additional 1500 miles per month and apparently you can change the tier any time for the following month, although unclear if the 6 month minimum applies to each tier each time.

    Without adding a complimentary award change/cancel fee waiver to the elite card, it only seems interesting if you want to lock in a lot of future transfer and redemption activity with Lifemiles and/or redeem on Avianca flights.

  5. Forgot to mention the improved 24 month expiration policy as part of the subscription benefits of the elite card vs 12 month regular policy. Nice but shouldnt be much of a concern if you are active enough with Lifemiles to consider this card, and any transfer in or earning including the card spend satisfies the requirement.

    Another issue not mentioned is their inconsistent award availability on Star Alliance partners for awards available through other programs besides the operating airline. Not sure if it’s them or the partners or technical issues, but it comes and goes. Let’s see if the improvements they pitched to Gary make a difference there.

  6. Launch a small business card and we’ll talk. No way I’m using up a 5/24 slot for either of these.

  7. That’s a 60k SUB and a 1.67x bonus on $25k in spend if done in THREE months. Headline misleading in my opinion. There may be features that make it worth having but it’s no 100k SUB

  8. Oof… declined with an 802 credit score for “Too many previously opened credit card accounts”.

    Only 2 new cards in the last year. My first declined application in 10 years, at least.

    Guess they’re only serious about appealing to hobbyists up to a certain point.

  9. Application summary page shows 2x travel and restaurants only, term details read “2 Miles for each $1 spent on Eligible Purchases charged with merchants whose merchant code with American Express is classified as restaurants, groceries, or supermarkets”. Which one is official?

  10. Cardless seems a bit clueless. I applied for the Qatar card with them and was turned down, in spite of an 848 fico score, a $50,000,000 net worth, all credit cards paid in full every month, and almost no debt. They are imbeciles.

  11. For me it was most difficult and tricky website to book rewards flights for non avianca airlines. No logic and not customer friendly search engine..

  12. Richard and all,

    Sadly, it turns out the Elite card’s T&C right before clicking the “apply” box does NOT include “groceries or supermarkets”. So, I think we have to conclude that the Elite won’t bonus in those categories.

  13. Thank you David. I will porbably stay pat. Hard to use a 5/24 slot for this card except for first year with so so value. Could be big Lifemiles user though.

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