Myanmar Tourist Visa Fees Double

Most visitors to Myanmar (apart from certain ASEAN countries) need a visa. Since 2014, e-visas have been available to citizens of a fairly large number of countries, but the pricing has always been a little strange. It costs $50 for a single-entry, 28 day tourist e-visa. However, it typically only costs $20 for a single-entry 28-day visa sticker issued at an embassy.

E-Visas also have some odd limitations, although these are gradually diminishing. You can use a visa sticker to enter Myanmar at any legal border crossing. However, you can only use E-Visas at designated points of entry. So in effect, by using the e-visa, you get less flexibility and it costs more.

Nevertheless, for many people, paying an extra $30 has been worth the faster issuing time and lesser hassle versus sending your passport and an application form to an embassy. However, budget-minded Seat 31B travelers have been happy to fill out a form and drop their passport in the mail to save about $20 (factoring in postage both directions). Unfortunately, this loophole is no longer available. Myanmar has raised its visa fees across the board, and it now costs $40 for a visa sticker. When you factor in mailing costs, a tourist visa sticker now costs the same (or more) as an E-Visa.

myanmar passport stamp image

There’s now no reason to apply for a Myanmar visa in an embassy unless you want a visa type that isn’t available in E-Visa (e.g. multiple entry or religious visa), you want to enter the country at a checkpoint where the E-Visa isn’t recognized (these are typically in border regions where travel is restricted anyway), or you need a visa in less than 3 days (express service is available at some Myanmar embassies and consulates by special arrangement for an additional charge). While I’m disappointed to see the price go up, the only thing that is really surprising is that it has taken so long to happen.

US Bank LifeMiles Visa Bonus: Read The Fine Print

A few months ago, US Bank ran a 40,000 mile signup bonus for the Avianca LifeMiles visa card. The Avianca program is one of the most generous in the StarAlliance for booking partner awards, if its limitations are acceptable to you. These limitations are substantial. The program doesn’t allow stopovers, you can only book what is available online even if other award space is available elsewhere, and the call centers are in El Salvador and Colombia (it’s best if you speak Spanish). However, there are some real advantages; award rates are reasonable and there are no close-in booking fees.

US Bank Avianca LifeMiles Visa

There’s always a catch.

I pulled the trigger and signed up. 40,000 miles is double the usual bonus offered for this card. As advertised, the deal was for 20,000 miles after the first purchase, and 20,000 miles after spending more than $3,000 within the first 120 days. Well, that seemed easy enough to achieve, and it was. I put the card at the top of my wallet and made the $3,000 minimum spend in the first month. A month later, 20,000 miles showed up in my Avianca account.

Wait a minute. Only 20,000 miles? I emailed US Bank, who explained that the bonus miles are delivered separately and I would receive them within 6-8 weeks. I was definitely not happy with the delay; frequent flier programs devalue very rapidly (often without prior notice) so 20,000 miles today could be worth the same as 10,000 miles tomorrow. However, I was also traveling on a complicated round-the-world itinerary and didn’t really have time to argue across multiple time zones so I just gritted my teeth and hoped that a devaluation wouldn’t happen in the interim.

8 weeks later, there were still no bonus miles!  I emailed US Bank again. What I found out (and which their Twitter team confirmed) is shocking. The 8 week clock starts after the first 120 days! Yes, it takes a full six months after completing the minimum spend to receive your bonus miles. And you will not receive the additional 20,000 miles if you close the card before then! This is something that I have never seen before with credit card bonus miles, and it’s a very disturbing trend.

A lot can happen in frequent flier programs in 6 months. I have not only missed the entire summer travel season (and I was counting on using this promotion for a flight this summer), but I would not be surprised to see a massive devaluation strike before my bonus miles are deposited. Avianca has devalued their LifeMiles program overnight in the past, and I expect they may do so in the future amid across-the-board devaluations in nearly all other frequent flier programs this year.

This definitely changes the game with credit card miles and points. For most people, collecting airline miles and points is a bad way to earn free flights. Hotel and other loyalty programs (such as American Express Membership Rewards) are starting to look a lot better.