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I have written before about Star Alliance member AviancaTaca and their LifeMiles program. They have a 100% bonus on purchased miles that I believe was supposed to end yesterday (Aug 30th), but it is still working as of about 10 minutes ago (Aug 31st) when I bought some miles at 1.5 cents per mile.
Why would you want to buy miles?
Buying miles is absolutely not for everyone, but there can be some reasons it makes sense for some families in certain situations. I will say upfront that I do not recommend speculatively buying miles unless you are willing to accept the risks that come from holding miles in a program like LifeMiles. They can make changes to their award chart without warning, and they have shown a willingness to do that in the past. There are some upsides to this program though since they seem to be able to access some award space on certain Star Alliance partners that US programs like United and US Airways don’t have.
When they are offering the 100% mileage purchase bonus, it can also be cheaper to buy miles at effectively 1.5 cents per miles and book a ticket with those miles than to buy the ticket outright with cash, depending on the route.
Here are a few examples of required miles from their award chart, along with a cost to buy that number of miles at 1.5 cents each.
North America economy round trip: 25,000 miles ($375)
North America – Europe economy round trip: 60,000 miles ($900)
North America – Europe business class round trip: 105.000 miles ($1575)
North America – North Asia first class round trip: 150,000 miles ($2,250)
But isn’t that expensive?
I know what you are thinking, I can get a domestic round trip ticket cheaper than $375, plus I can then earn miles on my purchased ticket. If you plan in advance, I would say you are right much of the time, and that is generally my preference. However, if you are looking at a last minute ticket, or a very expensive market, then this may actually be cheaper than buying a ticket. Of course, the reward availability on a Star Alliance carrier has to be there for you to use your miles.
The same thing is true if you are considering purchasing a ticket to Europe – most of the time a round trip business class ticket is going to cost you more than $1575, so buying the miles at 1.5 cents per mile can make sense. Of course, using miles that you earned without having to purchase them is preferable when possible, but there are some situations where this makes sense. The miles post instantly, so if you need miles for something right now, this can be a way to do it.
Cash + miles:
With AviancaTaca you can get an award ticket as long as you have 40% of the required miles, so if you did decide to buy speculatively (though I wouldn’t), you would only need to buy as few as 40% of the necessary miles and then you can supplement with cash when it comes time to redeem. Depending on what percentage of miles you have to use when you redeem, your cash component can come to around 1.5 cents per mile. This is a recent increase since you used to be able to supplement with cash at a rate of about 1.275 cents per mile.
This program has many nuisances, but a few you need to know upfront are: no stopovers on award tickets, all flights must be in the same cabin (ex. no mixing biz and first), one-ways price at 50% of round trip, spotty call center, no last minute booking fees, no fuel surcharges, $25 redemption fee. Also be sure to use a credit card that charges no foreign transaction fees.
In order to get the 100% bonus, your account must have been open before August 1st! If you are potentially interested in a future promo, then open an account now so you are ready. You can buy a max of 75,000 miles via this promo (for a total of 150,000 miles). Find the full list of terms at Loyalty Lobby.
I purchased miles as I have a specific and near-term redemption in mind where purchasing these miles would have been less expensive than buying the tickets. I do have other miles I can use that I already have, but in my case this route makes the most sense. I know that situation won’t apply to many folks, but in case it makes sense for you I wanted to pass along that the promo does seem to still be working today. Make sure you see the 100% bonus listed when you go to purchase miles if you do decide to buy since the promo was supposed to end yesterday.