Even though I think that frequent flyer programs moving to a ‘revenue-based’ model (where the number of miles you earn is based on how much you spend for your tickets rather than how far you fly, and where the number of miles an award ticket costs depends on the price of the ticket rather than where you are flying from and to) could go a long way towards undermining the exceptional value of the programs we enjoy, I’ve decided not to worry about it — for one simple reason.
If several U.S. frequent frequent flyer programs go revenue-based, we still have non-U.S. programs where we can achieve superior value.
And the fact is that many of these programs offer superior value now, they’re right in front of us. The risk that our favorite programs like Delta Skymiles, US Airways Dividend Miles, or Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan may choose to change for the worse is just an opportunity to focus our attention.
I want everyone to at least open an AviancaTaca LifeMiles account.
First, here’s why the program is really really good, as I explained back in August.
- The award chart is pretty reasonable
- One-way awards are available for half the cost of roundtrip
- They offer cash and points awards bookings. As long as you have at least 40% of the miles needed for an award in your account, you can buy the difference in miles for US$12.75 per 1000 miles. That’s less than 1.3 cents per mile.
- No fuel surcharges on awards
- Online booking of Star Alliance partners is available (something you can’t do with US Airways..)
When they first joined Star Alliance at the beginning of June, folks were getting things the program likely didn’t intend… such as being able to book first class awards on Swiss that weren’t offered to the rest of the Star Alliance. Glitches like that aren’t the reason this program is great. It’s great because it’s an option to get a good award chart, one-way awards, online booking, and the very cheap acquisition of miles year-round.
Now the reason you want to open that account right now, even if you aren’t ready to get started with them, is because they frequently offer 100% bonuses on purchased miles.
In fact they’re offering it right now. But every time they do this, offering miles for sale at 1.5 cents apiece, the rules say that your account has to have been open prior to the start of the bonus. So having an open account is helpful, just to be ready to take advantage of their offers.
You can buy miles at 1.5 cents apiece. And you then only need to buy 40% of the miles for an award that way, and can then buy the rest at the time of booking for 1.275 cents apiece through cash and points awards.
Here’s the award chart. It’s true, they did recently bump up the price of several awards by 2500 miles each way, and without advance notice. Annoying, but also comforting at the same time, because they didn’t make even bigger changes to what’s a generous award chart (considering how easy it is to acquire miles). And because I usually don’t expect changes for awhile after an airline tweaks their chart.
Working with LifeMiles agents on the phone can be frustrating, but then calls to US Airways take a very long time and calls to Delta yield absurd comments from agents like that Vietnam Airlines isn’t a member of Skyteam, like Air France is the only member of Skyteam, and agents who have never heard of Saudia. (After all, Delta said they would never partner with that airline when their was a controversy over its treatment of Jews.. right before the airline joined Skyteam… so perhaps their agents simply believed their public pronouncements!)
So how to get started?
Open an account. And then you can either wait around until the next purchase miles bonus.
Or sign up for the LifeMiles Visa Signature® Card which comes with 20,000 points after first purchase (no minimum spend), 6,000 points each year at renewal, no fee the first year and $75 after that.
(The Priceline Visa is a hidden gem — a no annual fee Visa that effectively earns 2% cash back on all purchases plus 5% cash back on Priceline Name Your Own Price bookings, and comes with a $50 credit after first purchase.)
Then use the 2% cash back towards the purchase of miles at 1.5 cents apiece. That’s better than earning one mile per dollar spent with the LifeMiles card. Of course you can do both if you want more LifeMiles than the purchased mile bonus offer limit (150,000). And if you want to get started with the program right away.
(Note that the LifeMiles Visa is from US Bank, approvals from them can be tough but bonuses from banks other than Citi, Chase, and American Express are always great to have because there are only but so many cards that you can get from those issuers and they have so many of the best ones otherwise. The Priceline Visa is from Barclays. Both offer referral credit to me if you use my link and are approved. The Fidelity American Express do not.)