The Basics Travel Guide

Two Things to Consider Before Transferring Amex Points to LifeMiles

lufthansa first class
Written by Charlie

With the current transfer bonus, it can be a good deal to transfer Amex points to LifeMiles for surcharge-free premium awards. But, consider these two things before making that transfer.

Last week, I wrote about the new transfer bonus from American Express Membership Rewards to Avianca LifeMiles. This is the first transfer bonus that there has been between these two since they partnered up and it is pretty decent at 15%. Even though Lifemiles can be a great program for rewards that may charge fuel surcharges in other programs, there are 2 big things to consider before transferring Membership Reward points to LifeMiles.

Two Things to Consider Before Transferring Amex Points to Lifemiles

This transfer bonus could not have come at a better time for me because I was looking for some business class flights between the US and Europe and the only flights consistently available on the dates I was looking for were using Lufthansa or Austrian. Since I was planning on transferring my Membership Reward points to Aeroplan, that would have meant paying some hefty fuel surcharges and I wanted to avoid that.

So, with the new transfer promo, I decided I would transfer over to LifeMiles since it would only cost 55,000 MR points that way. Of course, before I even went ahead with that transfer, I checked for availability.

I have not done much with LifeMiles because my main flexible point programs are Ultimate Rewards and Membership Rewards and, until last year, neither one was a partner with LifeMiles. After that partnership happened, I began to familiarize myself more with the program. It can be a great method of premium Star Alliance awards!

First Thing – Check for Availability with LifeMiles
transfer Amex points to LifeMiles

This same itinerary is available in business class when using United, Aeroplan, or Aegean miles – but not LifeMiles

Unfortunately, LifeMiles does not show all the same availability that you would see with pretty much any other Star Alliance airline. Aegean, Aeroplan, and United were all showing the same availability for the flights I needed but LifeMiles could not. Sure, I could have called and tried to see if they would help me but the LifeMiles call center is known to be something to avoid and I did not have the time.

So, before you actually transfer, make sure that the awards you see elsewhere are actually available through LifeMiles!

Second Thing – Consider If You May Need to Make a Change
plan your trip

LifeMiles is the most expensive of these airlines when it comes to changes or cancellations

One of the great things about foreign award programs is that you often pay much less in cancellation or change fees than you would with the US programs. United actually is not that bad with the fees since their fee restructure but you would still pay a $125 fee per ticket for any change or cancellation of an award inside of 60 days (as a customer without elite status).

With Aeroplan, you would pay $90CAD per direction for a change or $150CAD for a cancellation if you are more than 22 days before the flight. That works out (currently) to about $67 USD and $112USD, respectively.

With Aegean, you would pay a flat fee of €20 for either a change or a cancellation, a great deal indeed (works out to about $23 currently).

For a change with LifeMiles, you will pay a $150 fee while a cancellation for a transatlantic ticket will cost you $200! That is higher than the other 3 programs above! In fact, the change fee is only about $50 less than the other 3 programs’ change fee’s combined.

ProgramChange FeeCancellation Fee
Aegean Miles+Bonus$23 (converted)$23 (converted)
Aeroplan$67 (converted)$112 (converted) - 22 days or more from travel
Avianca LifeMiles$150$200 (for long-haul)
United MileagePlus$125 within 60 days (61 days or more is $75)$125 within 60 days (61 days or more is $75)

This means that you should consider, before transferring the points to LifeMiles, if you may need to make a change. Sure, things happen but if you think you may want to move the ticket around (or maybe you want to change to Lufthansa First Class when you are within 2 weeks), you would be better off considering a move to Aeroplan – especially if it is an airline with no fuel surcharges (LOT, Swiss, Turkish, United, SAS).

Takeaway

LifeMiles can be a great program for premium awards but make sure you take some of these things into consideration before making the point transfer between American Express and LifeMiles. It may actually be more worth your while to transfer to Aeroplan if you cannot get LifeMiles to show the same availability.

One more thing to consider (call it a bonus) – do not transfer to LifeMiles just to let the miles sit! I have not seen a program so aggressive in partners, sales, etc. for miles while not making some serious devaluations. With the addition of Citi and Amex as well as quite regular sales on miles and the option to purchase miles while making the redemption at a decent price, a devaluation could happen and likely no one would be surprised.

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About the author

Charlie

Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.

2 Comments

  • If you are making a LifeMiles redemption & are short it will cost you 1.6cents per point for the top-off. There are also several ways to pay for points and accumulate them at under 1.4cents per point. Using a 15% transfer bonus on the higher number gets you a value of 1.8cents per Amex MR point transfered. I value them more highly than that. Also something to consider; if you are expending the last of your MR points on a transfer there is the option to buy more to add to that transfer at the rate of 2.5 cents each. That is significantly higher. I would only use MR points for a top-off where there is no cheaper purchase points option, or for a redemption with a value of greater than 2.5cent each.

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