I don’t recommend that most people maintain large balances of LifeMiles, because the program is generally untrustworthy. It can be difficult or impossible to redeem miles, and LifeMiles also has a history of suddenly devaluing the program with little or no notice.
However, the most recent devaluation came with plenty of notice: The LifeMiles expiration policy is changing. Up until today, April 14, 2018, any earning or redemption activity in your LifeMiles account will extend the validity by two years. However, after that, only earning miles will extend their validity, and (like Aeroplan) the validity will be only a short one year.
Most travel blogs are recommending that you buy miles through their link, presumably because they get a commission. However, there is a much less expensive way to accomplish the same thing: donate one mile. Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Log onto your LifeMiles account.
Step 2: Point to Use, and then click Donate Miles
Step 3: Donate whatever quantity of miles you want. The form is self-explanatory. I donated one mile.
Step 4: Ignore the error message that you receive. It’s just broken Avianca IT.
Step 5: Point to My Account, and then click Your eStatement:
Step 6: Verify that the donation shows up in the transactions detail:
Want to use this loophole to extend your LifeMiles? You only have a few hours remaining to do it. Transactions must be posted by midnight Colombia time!
Avianca LifeMiles is, in my opinion, one of the least trustworthy award programs out there. Nominally affiliated with the Colombian airline Avianca, but actually a spun-off independent company like Air Canada did with Aeroplan (which is owned by a company called Aimia, and whose points are likely to become worthless in 2019), they offer regular mileage sales, only to devalue the miles almost immediately. Devaluations have sometimes happened with no advance notice.
Well, LifeMiles is at it again. This time, it’s a stealth devaluation. You need to earn miles at least once every 12 months, or your miles will evaporate. If you somehow manage to get the LifeMiles credit card (which is issued by Banco Popular of Puerto Rico, an astonishingly difficult bank with whom to do business) activity will extend your miles by 24 months. Here is the official announcement:
I never advise anyone to maintain large LifeMiles balances anyway. If you use this program, have a plan to burn the miles (which can be more difficult than you may expect due to IT issues, Starnet blocking and more – you’re in for a roller coaster ride). And if you have points, prepare for their validity to be shortened. Burn your LifeMiles now – in my view, you cannot trust this program.
Frequent flier miles are a depreciating currency. Don’t hang onto them and never trust that they will maintain their value. The latest program to devalue is Avianca LifeMiles. You have until midnight (Colombia time) tomorrow to book under the old rates. Pay attention to the time zone so you don’t miss out!
The new award chart hasn’t been published (and won’t be until the devaluation has already happened) so it’s impossible to know precisely how much the program will be devalued. Accordingly, if you have Avianca LifeMiles, my recommendation is to redeem them now.
One of the most frustrating things about the LifeMiles program is that you can really only book what is offered online, and there are a lot of restrictions. It’s really best to use the program for simple point-to-point itineraries. You can book either one way or roundtrip itineraries. Unfortunately, the LifeMiles search engine is spectacularly stupid. A lot of itineraries fail to show up, even though they are available.
To search for flights, I recommend using the United search engine, which seems to work a lot better, to find an itinerary. Ideally, look for an itinerary involving only one airline. Once you find a workable itinerary on the United page (bearing in mind that only “United Saver” or “Partner” award space will be available when booking with LifeMiles), you can search for the same dates with LifeMiles. The LifeMiles search engine allows you to skip their “SmartSearch” option (which, in my opinion, is the opposite of smart) and select an individual airline. I have tested a few different itineraries and by using this method, have been able to make successful bookings that do not show up either with the “SmartSearch” or “StarAlliance” option.
Good luck, and burn LifeMiles now while you still can. At least Avianca gave advance notice of the devaluation this time. This doesn’t always happen.