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
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
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.
|Program||Change Fee||Cancellation 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).
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.