Thursday, February 27, 2014

LifeMiles credit card with 40,000 mile signup bonus

Last year, I outlined how to maximize intra-Asia travel by purchasing LifeMiles.  And now, U.S. Bank is offering their LifeMiles Visa credit card with a 40,000 mile signup bonus.  You get 20k after your first purchase and an additional 20k after spending $3,000 within the first 120 days of card membership.  Normally, the signup bonus is only 20k, so this offer, which is good through the end of April, effectively doubles the bonus and gets you no annual fee for the first year (a $75 value).

So why should you care about LifeMiles and what are LifeMiles?  LifeMiles are the award mileage currency for Avianca, which is Colombia's flag carrier.  As a relatively new Star Alliance member, they have a good award redemption chart that is valid for all Star Alliance partners.  In light of United Airlines' huge devaluation earlier this month, LifeMiles now stands as one of the most valuable Star Alliance mileage currencies.

So what can 40k LifeMiles get you?  Generally speaking, a roundtrip economy flight from the U.S. mainland to Hawaii or northern South America (eg. Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, etc.).  But where the 40k can prove valuable is when LifeMiles offers double miles purchase specials, which has become a quarterly promo.  Lifemiles are sold at 1.5 cents each under the promo, which values your 40k miles at $600.  Buy another 25k LifeMiles for $375 for a total of 65k and you're looking at a free roundtrip economy flight to North Asia, or buy another 65k for $975 for a total of 105k and you'll get a free roundtrip business class flight to Europe.  So the 40k can get you a good start for your next award redemption.

The LifeMiles award chart has UA beat by a longshot now

LifeMiles does not impose fuel surcharges on award bookings, which can be booked online for all Star Alliance partners.  Avoid using their phone ticketing service as their agents are horrendous.  One-way awards are permitted at half the cost, but mixed awards (ie. biz and economy class on different segments of an itinerary) are not permitted, which is perhaps the biggest downside of LifeMiles.  Among the other benefits of the LifeMiles credit card:
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on Avianca purchases, and 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • No preset spending limit
  • 6,000 Annual Renewal Bonus LifeMiles
  • Excess Baggage Redemption Discount
  • $0 Introductory Annual Fee the First Year, thereafter $75
The card definitely doesn't boast the great benefits of the UA Explorer or the Chase Sapphire, but the 6k annual renewal bonus makes it worth the $75 annual fee.  Be on the lookout for devaluations as LifeMiles has been known to gut their award chart without prior notice.

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