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Avianca/TACA LifeMiles, a member of the Star Alliance, is offering a 100% bonus on miles transferred between accounts through March 17, 2014.

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 8.32.49 AM

During the promotion, the cost to transfer each mile is 1.5 cents. For every mile taken out of your account, the transferee receives 2 miles.


  • I pay $150 to transfer 10k miles to my friend.
  • My account loses 10k miles. His account gains 20k miles.
  • The net gain of 10k miles cost $150 or 1.5 cents per mile.

Is it a good deal? Should you transfer LifeMiles? Why should everyone pay attention to LifeMiles?

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Update: Deal is dead

TACA/Avianca is a Star Alliance carrier with a loyalty program called LifeMiles. LifeMiles are sold for 3 cents per mile, but frequent 2 x 1 sales–like the current sale through December 30, 2013–bring the cost down to 1.5 cents per mile.

Even better, LifeMiles are sold directly by TACA, not a third party website. That means buying them looks the same as buying airfare, which means you can redeem Arrival miles (here’s how) from the Barclaycard Arrival PlusTM World Elite MasterCard® for free LifeMiles.

LifeMiles has a solid award chart that is broadly in line with other Star Alliance carriers. It’s worse than US Airways’ chart, but better than United’s new chart.

LifeMiles has four incredibly flyer-friendly award policies that combine for some attractive deals like

  • a $190 one way flight from the US to Japan
  • a $190 one way flight from the mainland US to Hawaii
  • or a $340 one way in business class from Europe to Asia

The four awesome policies that combine to allow those prices are:

  • Cheap Miles. US Airways is currently “selling” miles for 1.13 cents, but other than that sale, you never see miles for as cheap as LifeMiles routinely sells them (1.5 cents per mile.)
  • One way awards for half the roundtrip price.
  • Not charging the award price for the most expensive region transited. You can route from North America to Japan to North America in one direction and pay only the “within North America” price instead of the more expensive price some airlines would charge for transiting a more expensive region.
  • Treating Guam as North America. Guam is part of the US, which is a big part of North America, so I understand LifeMiles’ thinking. Other airlines’ award charts treat Guam as part of Oceania, which is often a more expensive region.

How can you put it all together to get incredibly cheap economy and business class tickets to and within many regions worldwide?

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TACA/Avianca LifeMiles are being sold for 1.5 cents until December 30, 2013. The normal price is 3 cents per mile, but LifeMiles is running one of its frequent 2 x 1 sales.

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 9.28.46 PM Your LifeMiles account must have already been open on December 3, 2013 to enjoy this promotion. Since these sales happen every few months, sign up now to be eligible for the next sale if you aren’t eligible for this one.

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 9.30.42 PM

What are TACA/Avianca LifeMiles? What are their best uses? Should you participate in this promo?

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There were some great deals this week:

But there were also a few bad deals that superficially looked a lot like the good deals that I want to warn you about.

What are the bad deals to avoid this week?

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The Avianca/TACA LifeMiles program sells miles for around 1.36 cents per mile, which means you can get into luxury seats like Singapore business class beds on an A380 for less than the cost of a paid economy ticket.

LifeMiles selling for 1.3 cents is not new. Scott wrote about that deal in September. Every month or two LifeMiles has a “2 for 1″ promo that makes their miles a steal. What is new is that Singapore business class space is currently bookable on lifemiles.com.

Normally longhaul Singapore business class space on their 777-300ERs and A380s can only be booked with Singapore’s own miles (or Membership Rewards transferred to Singapore.) Singapore charges big fuel surcharges on redemptions; LifeMiles doesn’t. So now is your chance to get into longhaul Singapore business class beds for under $900 per direction, which in some cases could be cheaper than buying the same flight in economy.

Singapore 777-300ER Business Class

Here’s why LifeMiles rock:

  • During 2 for 1 promos, you can buy miles for 1.5 cents. There is a 2 for 1 promo until April 30, 2013. (To participate, your account needs to have been opened before April 8, 2013, the date the promo started. This is a common requirement, so open a LifeMiles account now to take advantage of the next promo.)
  • You only need 40% of the miles listed on the award chart to book an award. The other 60% of the award’s price can be purchased at 1.275 cents per mile.
  • Combined that means you can start with zero miles now and get the miles you need for an award for 1.36 cents per mile.
  • The LifeMiles chart is broadly in line with United’s chart. It’s not too much worse. For instance, roundtrip business to Europe is 105k LifeMiles versus 100k United miles.

For more detail, see Roundtrip Flat Beds (Business) to Europe for Under $1,500 All In.

Here are some example itineraries and prices in dollars.

Example 1: LAX-Singapore with LifeMiles account opened before April 8th

Cost: 62,500 Miles oneway

Miles to purchase with 2 x 1 promo: 13,000 @ $30/1000 = $390

Total Miles so far : 26,000 (13,000 * 2 x 1 Promo)

26,000 is about 40% of 62,500

Purchase the remaining miles required at $474 (37,000 miles * 1.275)

Redemption Fee: $25

Taxes: $2.50

Total: $891.50

That is some amazing value for a Business Class ticket to Asia! Keep in mind that this is one way, so roundtrip would be double that amount.

Example 2: LAX-SIN with account open AFTER April 8th

Cost: 62,500

Miles to Purchase: 26,000 @ 30/1000 = $780

Purchase remaining miles needed (37,000) at 1.275 CPM = $474

Redemption Fee & Taxes: $27.50

Total: $1,281.50

That is a pretty good deal for Business Class to Asia one way–especially if you were going to purchase a premium ticket anyways. But you would do better by waiting until the next 2 x 1 promo, when you are eligible.

Singapore Space BEFORE purchasing at 1.275 CPM
Singapore Space AFTER purchasing at 1.275 CPM

Why Is This Important?

LifeMiles are extra hot for one reason right now, and it is because you can gain access to Singapore Airlines business class award space. Flying from Newark-Singapore on the longest flight in the world is now possible for $900. That route will shut down later this year so it’s best to try to get on those flights.

In addition, you  don’t have to fly to Singapore. You can go anywhere in Asia on Singapore for 62,500 LifeMiles each way in business class. India is 62,500 miles in Business Class, and $891 is extremely cheap for one ways to India in Business Class!

Problems With LifeMiles

There are drawback to LifeMiles that you should know.

  • They don’t always show the same partner availability as other Star Alliance programs.
  • The agents are worse than US Airways reps.
  • You cannot combine two cabins like Business & Economy or First & Business. LifeMiles is the only program in the world that I know of that has this rule.
  • Their Multi-City search is horrible.
  • They show a ton of phantom space.
  • Sometimes, the system won’t ticket your reservation.

If you can get over these issues, then LifeMiles may be a good proposition. However, it comes with great caution. I bought 26,000 miles today and went to ticket my reservation only to find out how buggy the system is. For 30 minutes, the system crashed. Then, the flight I wanted to book became unavailable. 10 minutes later, it became available again. I ticketed an itinerary and an E-Ticket number wasn’t assigned for 24 hours, which made me nervous.

My Confirmation

But in the end everything has ticketed and for less than $900 I am flying:

  • Newark to Houston in United First
  • Houston to Moscow to Singapore in Singapore business

[Scott: I am very tempted to buy myself a seat Singapore to Frankfurt for this fall on the A380. I happen to need to get from Southeast Asia to Europe, and under $900 for a flat bed on Singapore’s A380 is tempting.

Singapore Business space for 65k miles (AKA $891)

And yes SQ26 that day is on an A380…

I still haven’t decided whether to book or not…]

If you have plans to travel in premium cabins to Asia, Africa, The Middle East or Europe, this is a great way to save some money!

For anyone who has booked with LifeMiles, what have your experiences been?

-Bengali Miles Guru

Tip to Canadian Kilometers & Ben for discussing this more!

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Pre-posting update: Wyndham is trying to renege on the deal. A rep posted on FlyerTalk:

Sorry for the confusion everyone. To clarify there were 2 parts to this promotion.

First part were for members who were targeted through email and the dates for that part were August 6, 2012 to October 6, 2012 and completed by October 9, 2012.

Second part is for member’s who were targeted through direct mail. Dates for this part are 9/12/12 to 12/31/12 and completed by 1/3/13.

To qualify you need to have been sent the direct mailer and book through the link provided. If you were not sent the direct mailer and you book through the link you will not receive the points for the promotion.

The second part of this promotion is not an extension of the first so if you had received the email and had not completed your stay you are not able to take part in the second part of the promotion unless you had also received the direct mail offer.

Hope this clears up any confusion.

This is pretty ridiculous because the terms and conditions mentioned nothing about the offer being targeted.

C’est la vie. How do you protect yourself on this promotion and generally?

On this promotion, don’t make new bookings until your favorite blogger or FlyerTalk reports trickle in that points are posting for everyone. This promo runs through the end of the year, so there is time to see others’ experiences and decide whether you’ll get the bonus points for no-show bookings even if you you weren’t targeted.

On future promotions, if the deal is incredible but there are a number of moving parts, hold off for others’ reports of success. This Wyndham deal is reminiscent of the Taca LifeMiles portal deal from a few days ago. On that one, the T&C seemed pretty clear that you would get 250 points for each portal purchase no matter how small.

But I raised concerns that you wouldn’t because of a last-minute change or reinterpretation of the rules by Taca. On a deal as good as the Wyndham one, there were concerns too. Sure the T&C say that no shows will receive points. Sure the T&C say that any paid stay at one of the listed properties will earn bonus points. But I thought there was an elevated chance that Wyndham would change the rules. In fact, they seem to have simply added one–that you had to be targeted by snail mail.

But here’s where FlyerTalk comes in. In the next few days and weeks, reports will pour in about people’s experience getting the bonus or not. We can use that info to decide whether to jump in ourselves. And in the future, when you have a chance to be a guinea pig on a deal, keep the community strong by posting your results. In that way, we all benefit from the community.

The Original Post

Per this thread on FlyerTalk and Gary Leff, Wyndham Hotels is hosting a promotion where stays at select hotels earn 16,000 bonus points. The complete list of participating hotels can be found on the promotion landing page here. Stays must be booked between September 12th and December 31st and be completed no later than January 3rd, 2013.

This promotion requires no registration, and is good for up to three stays during the promo period. You can earn up to 48,000 bonus points after three stays.

Why is this a good deal?

Wyndham points can be earned very inexpensively and transferred to a host of airline frequent flyer programs. In conjunction with this promotion, the transfer rates to airline miles are very favorable. The complete list of Wyndham’s North American airline transfer partners is below.

As you can see, the list is pretty comprehensive and includes all the major legacy carriers. Wyndham points can be transferred to frequent flyer miles in 8,000, 17,500, and 30,000 point increments only. The transfer ratio stays consistent no matter the transfer amount–2.5 Wyndham points will always convert to 1 airline mile.

If you earn 16,000 bonus points on a qualifying stay, you can convert them into 6,400 airline miles in two 8,000 point increments. Looking at the Mile Value Leaderboard, you can see that I value US Airways miles at 1.95 cents per mile. 16,000 Wyndham points convert to 6,400 US Airways miles, worth about $125 to me. Getting that much return from a single hotel stay is pretty intriguing. Read on to see how this deal makes sense for anyone looking to boost their airline mile balance.

I looked at the list of participating hotels, and I live nowhere near any of them. Why should I bother?

Wyndham’s reward program is unique in that no-show stays actually earn points. I have direct experience with this, as I booked a room at a Knights Inn in rural Tennessee during the US Airways Grand Slam Promotion two years ago. In the comments section of the reservation, I politely explained that I would not be coming and wanted the points credited to my account. Several days after my stay was supposed to end, the points were properly credited to my account.

If you are skeptical, see the picture below taken from Wyndham’s own terms and conditions. No shows are specifically addressed as normal points earning activity.

There are no certainties that stays will be properly credited, but the probability is higher with Wyndham than with any other hotel chain. It might take a phone call to Wyndham directly (as reported by one FlyerTalker), but points should be credited to your account.

It might make sense to wait and see if no shows from others are posting before diving into this deal. I will monitor the FlyerTalk thread to see if some of the properties are cancelling no shows or not posting points.

With that in mind, it’s important to find participating properties where cheap one night stays are readily available.

Which hotels on the promotion list are the least expensive?

The terms and conditions of the promotion do not specify which rates are eligible, but published rates such as the Best Available and Advanced Purchase should qualify.

I actually found several participating Hawthorn Suites properties that were very cheap during the promotional period. I focused on dates around Thanksgiving when business travel grinds to a halt and many hotels are practically empty. Take a look at a few of the room rates I was able to pull up.

You earn 5 Wyndham points for every $1 on the room rate (excluding taxes) at Hawthorn Suites, so the $51 base rate translates to 255 points. At all other properties in the Wyndham collection, you earn 10 points per $1. By paying $57.41 for one night at the Hawthorn Suites in Salt Lake City, you will earn 16,000 bonus points along with 255 points for a total of 16,255 points.

Maximizing the deal and staying three times will cost $172.23 and earn a total of 48,765 Wyndham points. Those points convert to 19,200 United, American, Delta, or US Airways miles, and I bought them for .89 cents per mile!  That’s an even better deal than the great US Airways share miles promotion I wrote about where miles could be purchased for 1.1 cents. This is clearly a deal worthy of your time even if you have no specific award redemption in mind.

Are there any ways to make this deal even more lucrative?

According to View from the Wing, Wyndham has another fall promotion where you can earn 5,500 points after your second stay between September 26 and November 26. Registration for this promotion is required and can be found here. The deals appear to be “stackable”–meaning you can get both bonuses for the same stay.

By registering, you could actually end up with 54,265 (765 base points + 48,000 from the big bonus + 5,500 from the small bonus) Wyndham points after completing your three stays. You would still get the same amount of airline miles–again, the minimum increment to transfer is 8,000–but you would have points remaining to use on gift cards or to work back to the 8,000 point threshold.

Wyndham points can only be transferred to miles in 8k, 17.5k and 30k increments. That means converting your points to miles is like one of those logic puzzles for kids where you need to fill a nine gallon jug and you only have six and five gallon jugs…

54,265 miles is best converted as one 30k conversion and three 8k conversions totaling 54k –> 21,600 miles. If you have 55.5k, do one of each 8k, 17.5k, and 30k conversions. You will end up with 22,200 airline miles.


Wyndham is offering 16,000 bonus points per stay at a select list of properties, some of which are very cheap. Wyndham gives points even on no-show stays, so there should be no problem booking a hotel night you’ll never use in another state.

Wyndham has a stackable promotion that awards 5,500 bonus points on your second qualifying stay. That means you can earn a total of 53,500 bonus points on three stays–the maximum number of stays on which you can earn the 16k bonus.

Wyndham points transfer at a 2.5:1 ratio to many major and minor airline miles. Add up all the details, and it means:

You can book three $50 hotel nights that you will not use. You can transfer the miles you earn to your favorite airline. Doing that, you’ve purchased miles for 0.8 cents each, which is less than half their value.

I will be maxing out this promotion. I’m thinking I’ll transfer to United, but I might choose American.


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According to this very active thread on FlyerTalk, Taca Airlines is offering 250 LifeMiles for each purchase made through its e-shopping portal through October 31st. (Hat Tip Mommy Points.) The most important part of this deal is, according to the terms and conditions, there are NO minimums on purchases. Conceivably, you could order many inexpensive items separately and rack up Taca miles quickly.

Many in the FlyerTalk forum are attempting to order multiple $1 items from various stores in the shopping portal. If everything goes as planned, they will receive 250 miles for each $1 purchase. Placing many separate $1 orders should allow the LifeMiles to rack up quickly.

Why should I care about a 250 mile deal from an airline I’ve never heard of?

Taca LifeMiles are a currency with legitimate value. Taca belongs to the extensive Star Alliance network, the biggest alliance. Here’s a list of the member airlines of the Star Alliance. Their award chart is roughly in line with other Star Alliance carriers, meaning to many places, it takes the same amount of LifeMiles to book an award as it would on other carriers like United.

Even better, Taca does not impose fuel surcharges on award tickets like many international carriers. They also allow members to book oneway award tickets at half the price of a roundtrip ticket. Some Star Alliance carriers, like US Airways, charge the same amount of miles for a oneway ticket as a roundtrip.

How to get the miles

To take part in this shopping portal bonanza, you will first need to register for a Taca LifeMiles frequent flyer account if you have not done so already. Go to this link to create an account and click Enroll.

Once you have filled out all pertinent information, including your passport number, you should receive your personal Taca LifeMiles frequent flyer number and PIN to log into your account. You will need to write these numbers down, as they are important to access the LifeMiles shopping portal.

With your LifeMiles number and PIN in hand, click to the Taca shopping portal via the Earn button at the top right of the site.

Enter your LifeMiles number and PIN in the top right corner of the screen. Shopping portals track purchases using this member-specific information. If you don’t enter your number and PIN, you will not be properly credited miles earned through purchases. (If you’ve never heard of a shopping portal, read this post from my beginners’ series: Exploiting Shopping Portals.)

If your log in was successful, you should be taken back to the exact same page. Instead of the blanks to input your information, there should be a greeting, “Welcome, <Your Name>.” If you see this message, you are logged in successfully and can begin searching for merchants that can be exploited for easy and inexpensive purchases.

I’ll give two examples of inexpensive purchases mentioned in the FlyerTalk thread.

The first is a $1 PetSmart donation. To access PetSmart from the shopping portal, search for the site on the Taca portal, and click on its logo. You should be taken to this page below.

Again, make sure you see the “Welcome, <Your Name>” message at the top to ensure you are logged in properly. If you see the message, click on the button at the bottom that says “Take me to PetSmart.”

You should be taken directly to the PetSmart site. From here, you can scan for small, inexpensive items that can be purchased multiple times. There is certainly no shortage of inexpensive items on the site, but we want to make sure each transaction is for as little as possible. To do so, put ANY PetSmart item in your shopping cart and proceed to checkout.

For purposes of demonstration, I chose a simple dog toy for $5.99.  At the checkout screen, you should see a button at the right side of the screen asking if you wish to donate to PetSmart charities. Any amount can be chosen from $1-$20.  Choose $1 and click the “Donate” button.

Clicking the “Donate” button will add $1 to your shopping cart total. You should see your estimated total along with an item labeled “PetSmart Charities Donation.”

At this point, you should remove your original item from your cart (in this case, the dog toy). By doing so, you will be able to “purchase” a charitable donation for only $1 with no shipping costs. If you did this step properly, your cart should look like the picture below.

The FlyerTalk thread on this deal also gives many examples of inexpensive, small purchases that can be made through Drugstore.com, another partner of Taca’s shopping portal. By ordering shampoos and beauty products for less than $1, you should be able to rack up transactions quickly. To access Drugstore.com from the shopping portal, search for the site on the Taca portal and click on its logo. You should be taken to this page below just like when you accessed PetSmart.

Again, make sure you see the “Welcome, <Your Name>” message at the top to ensure you are logged in properly. If you see the message, click on the button at the bottom that says “Take me to drugstore.com.”

You should be taken directly to the Drugstore.com site. From here, you can scan for small, inexpensive items that can be purchased multiple times. There is certainly no shortage on items around $1 on the site. For example, here is a cheap item I found after a few clicks.

Shipping, of course, tacks $5.99 to these orders and makes the deal far less lucrative (almost 3 cents/mile, not even worth it, in my opinion). However, many of the sites that can be accessed through Taca’s shopping portal (including Drugstore.com) also partner with ShopRunner, a frequent-online-shopper service.

Coincidentally, ShopRunner is currently offering a 30 day free trial which includes complimentary two day shipping at its partner sites. If you sign up for their free trial membership, you can order many separate small items and the shipping will be free. Just make sure to cancel your membership before your free trial ends; otherwise you will be billed the membership fee–$8.95 for the monthly plan or $75 for the annual plan.

I signed up for a ShopRunner account–making sure to note the cancellation phone number–and used it to purchase the Conair brushes above. According to Taca’s shopping portal site, these transactions should post in the next three days.

Is this a good deal?

It’s not a great deal for me. And it’s an uncertain deal because we don’t know how this will play out. Let me explain.

I’ll know in a few days whether my purchases post. They should only earn a few points, but if they post, that’s a good indication that I’ll get the 250 bonus points in the next few weeks.

There is no guarantee though. Taca might see the unusually high interest in this promotion and unilaterally change the bonus conditions. If they do that, I don’t think we’ll see our miles. I’ve found on many trips through Latin America that customer service is not a strong point. And American airlines are more than willing to change promotions with no notice–like United just did with the Mileage Plus Explorer card bonus–so I would think foreign airlines would be doubly likely.

There’s a lot that could go wrong. But even if everything goes right, how valuable is the promotion? Let’s use some simple assumptions to see how much this promo is worth for an average person.

  • Let’s value Taca miles at 1.5 cents each, which I think is appropriate but conservative.
  • Let’s value our time at $60 an hour. Ask yourself what someone would have to pay you to spend your time buying things online.
  • Let’s assume that it takes us three minutes per transaction. Make a purchase, sign out, sign back into the portal, click through to the site, make another purchase.
  • Let’s assume each item costs $1 and has no value to us.


That would mean in one hour, we could make 20 purchases costing $20. That would earn 5,000 miles worth $75. We would have spend $60 worth of time though. $75 in miles – $20 in cash -$60 in time equals -$5 (negative five dollars.) And that’s if everything goes right!

Now maybe you value your time less than I do, or you can make purchases more quickly. But it sure seems like a lot of work for not much upside to me. Plus I don’t expect everything to go smoothly. I think odds are good that Taca will limit the bonus miles earned, or maybe the donation to PetSmart won’t count as a purchase. Proceed with caution.


Taca is offering 250 bonus miles per purchase through its portal. Many people are attempting to earn a points windfall with many micro-purchases. I don’t advise it.

I don’t think it’s worth the time even if everything goes right, and I don’t expect everything to go right since this deal involves airlines, portals, and Latin American businesses–three things that have spotty customer service records.

Taca has run lucrative mile promotions before, such as when they sold LifeMiles with a 100% bonus. I wrote about that special promotion in detail in the post, Roundtrip Business Class to Europe for under $1,500 All In. With that 2-for-1 deal, you could conceivably book a roundtrip business class ticket between the USA and Europe for $1,500. I analyzed that deal to show what a great program Taca LifeMiles is and how valuable their miles could be.

This shopping portal bonus promotion could be very beneficial as well, but will require more work and diligent record keeping. Good luck if you try to get in on the deal, and I’ll be reporting whether I get the bonus miles.


It seemed too good to be true. But the terms and conditions that were included in the e-mail seemed to confirm the offer:

These terms and conditions state not once, but twice, that “bonus miles apply for each purchase you make during October 2012.”

Slow your roll
About 24 hours after the promotion was first offered, this tweet from The Wandering Aramean suggested that that everything was not as it seemed:

He was referring to the terms and conditions of Incentive Networks, the company that runs the LifeMiles e-store.  When you navigate to the e-store, at the bottom of the page is a link to the overall terms and conditions that govern the LifeMiles e-store. This is what pops up when you click that link:

It is likely that these particular terms and conditions–which limit the 250 bonus LifeMiles to the first e-store purchase of $50 or more—refer to the ongoing pg promotion, unrelated to the more lucrative deal that was emailed to LifeMiles members.  This line of thinking is supported by the lack of October-specific language and the fact that that the pg promotion is advertised elsewhere. In contrast, the terms and condition of the 250 LifeMiles per purchase promotion that was emailed specifically refers to purchases made in October.

Update Update:

The offer page still says 250 miles per order. I mistakenly said that was no longer on the website.


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1) Yesterday’s incredible JetBlue deal ends today at 11:59 PM ET. Anyone can get $100 off on a roundtrip fare and enjoy the best economy class in the US. I got a roundtrip from Burbank to Vegas for $25.

2) A reader passed along an email he got from TACA LifeMiles–and I got the same–saying that any activity in his LifeMiles account would result in a 500 mile bonus. As if we needed another reason to buy LifeMiles for 1.37 cents.

By the way, the more I’ve considered whether I should have shared–with screen shots–how to book any Star Alliance award for 1.37 cents times the number of TACA LifeMiles it costs, the more I realize I absolutely made the right decision.

The TACA deal is so great not because of the cash and miles option, but because of the 100% bonus on purchased miles and reasonable award chart. The cash and miles option–which is hardly a secret–merely lowers the cost of miles from 1.5 cents to 1.37 cents.

That’s a nice marginal improvement, but the majority of the good deal comes from the 100% bonus pricing miles at 1.5 cents. And TACA is doing everything they can to advertise that sale.

All this is to say that more publicity won’t kill the TACA deal, so take advantage with a clean conscience.

3) My brother passed along an interesting Economist article on Japan Airlines (JAL) coming out of bankruptcy. (But will they ever come out of ba.com award-search-engine disappearance? I know these are unrelated.)

Basically the government propped up JAL with a sweetheart deal unavailable to rivals:

The write-offs alone exceed the amount JAL has earmarked to buy 44 new Boeing 787 Dreamliners, he says, whereas ANA has to fork out the money to buy 55 of them…The long-haul Dreamliner is part of that strategy: JAL is opening potentially lucrative new routes such as Tokyo to Boston.

And this:

JAL gives investors coupons that they can use for cheap flights if they don’t dump their shares. This helps to explain why 70% of the IPO has been bought by individual investors.

I’d be interested in learning more about those coupons if anyone has any more info (or is a JAL shareholder.)

4) LAX now offers 45 minutes of free wifi. If you want more, you’ll have to duck into a lounge or pay $5 for an hour or $8 for 24 hours.

It’s possible airports make more from free wifi by more people choosing to route through an airport or people showing up earlier for a flight because they know they can work and buying things while at the airport. But I doubt it. Either way, it’s good news for me and you.

5) It’s Aloha Friday, so I’ll give away a gogo wireless pass. Comment below for a chance to win a single-flight pass that expires 12/31/12.

Gogo internet is available on select planes on Air Canada, AirTran, Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, United, US Airways, and Virgin America




I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Update 8/2/13: TACA still charges only 1.5 cents per mile during frequent 2 x 1 sales (like the current one in August 2013). But TACA now charges more than 1.5 cents for the miles purchased from the More Miles <-> More Money Slider. The roundtrip award price to Europe in business class has increased to 105k miles. That means the cheapest miles are 1.5 cents each and the price of a roundtrip to Europe is now $1,575 + taxes in business class.

Over the weekend, TACA announced that it was selling its LifeMiles at a 2 for 1 rate. (H/T View from the Wing and One Mile at a Time.)

This is huge news because it means you can fly roundtrip from the USA to Europe in flat beds for under $1,500 all in. Let me explain.

TACA is a new Latin American addition to the Star Alliance. TACA’s award chart is reasonable and in line with other Star Alliance carriers. For instance, like United and US Airways, TACA charges 100k LifeMiles for a roundtrip to Europe in business class. (TACA chart)

TACA charges 50k oneway between the USA and Europe in business class. Oneway awards are available for half the price of roundtrips.

TACA sells its miles for $30 per 1k–3 cents per mile. That’s outrageous, but they commonly run 100% bonuses, like the one happening right now through September 28 if your account was opened before September 3. (Register now for the next one.)

With the 100% bonus, TACA miles cost 1.5 cents each. (Plus an excise tax. This tax is not charged if your account is registered in the USA.)

One and a half cents is already pretty good, but there’s an even cheaper way to buy TACA miles.

TACA has a cash-and-miles price for award tickets. If you have at least 40% of the miles required for an award, you can make up the shortfall in miles for 1.28 cents per mile.

That means to get to Europe, you can buy 20,000 miles today with a 20,000 miles bonus. The 40,000 total miles will cost $600.

Now you can book a business class roundtrip with the 40,000 miles and $765.60 (60k * ~1.28 cpm). Since the 40k miles were just purchased for $600, the total cost of a roundtrip business class award is $1,365.60 plus tax!

Are you blown away yet? Here’s a step-by-step, screen-by-screen guide. First log in to LifeMiles at lifemiles.com.

Then hold your cursor over Earn and click Need More LifeMiles?

Then click the Purchase LifeMiles tab. Select that you would like to purchase 20,000 miles, since this amount will be doubled to 40,000 automatically after you click Continue.

The next screen confirms you are purchasing 40,000 miles for $600. Halfway there!

Then I would go to united.com to search for the flights I wanted. United.com is the best, easy way to search Star Alliance space. TACA will have access to all the Star Alliance space you find on united.com.

For this example, I’ll do a simple San Francisco to Frankfurt roundtrip, though you can go from anywhere in the USA or Canada to anywhere in Europe for this price.

On united.com, I found saver business class space on direct flights and noted their dates.

Then go back to lifemiles.com. After holding your cursor over Enjoy, click Air Tickets.

Then select Star Alliance Airlines as the Preferred carrier, round-trip, put in the dates and cities for which you found availability on united.com, select the number of passengers, and the class of service.

Then select the flights you found on united.com. On the bottom, where there are More Miles and More Money buttons, click More Money all the way to its maximum.

The minimum miles, maximum money combo is 40% miles, which in this case is 40k miles. “Buying” the other 60k miles will cost $765.60. That means the 100k miles needed for the award were bought for a paltry $1,365.60.

To that $1,365.60, we’ll have to add the taxes for the award, which in this case will be $118.40. And according to this FlyerTalk thread, there is now a $25 award booking fee, but no fuel surcharges.

The total cost of more than 22 hours on United’s flat bed BusinessFirst seats then would be $1,509. (My review of United BusinessFirst.)

And the taxes and fees can be lowered by flying somewhere other than Germany. Here is the tax breakdown of the return leg:

You must have a million questions, and I’ll try to answer the ones I foresee:

Is this against any rules; will this get shut down?

The methods in this post are possible because of concerted business decisions by TACA. You are not violating any rules by taking advantage. I do not expect this to be shut done. At some point, the price of miles will increase, but that has happened in every loyalty program.

Can I get open jaws, stopovers, and free oneways?

Not online. If you click multi-city search, each segment will price separately meaning no free stopovers or free oneways. And the destination city of each leg will be auto-populated as the origin city of the next leg, which means no open jaws. If you call in, you may get better routing rules, but online you’ll only get vanilla roundtrips.

Isn’t buying US Airways miles for 1.2 cents a better deal?

I don’t think so. I haven’t talked about that “deal” because I think it’s not the result of a conscious business decision by US Airways but the result of a glitch that allows Mileage Multiplier miles to stick in your account even after cancellation. Plus there are some reports of people using this trick and having their accounts closed. I haven’t blogged about it, and I’m not linking to more info here because I don’t recommend this “deal.”

Nor have I mentioned a few glitches some people are taking advantage of with the LifeMiles program because they are unintentional and unsustainable once discovered. Nor do I blog about something if someone sends me a tip and asks me not to share it. All this is to say, I have a filter. It’s something like: is this within the rules and spirit of a program, such that the deal won’t be killed by more publicity?

What are some other great deals besides Europe in business class for $1,500?

If you buy 40% of miles needed for an award during a 2 x 1 period, and you use the the cash and miles feature, here are some roundtrip award prices. None of these prices include taxes and fees, and all these awards originate in the continental USA.

Hawaii (economy)- $546

Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama (economy)- $410

Argentina, Chile, Brazil (economy)- $819

Argentina, Chile, Brazil (business)- $1,366

Europe (first)- $1,843

Thailand, Singapore, China, and most of Asia (economy)- $887

Is there a maximum number of miles I can buy?

75,000 per account with this promotion. With the 2 x 1 bonus, that 150,000 miles for $2,250. With the “40% down” requirement for cash and miles awards, that’s 375,000 miles worth of award potential.

Do the purchased miles appear instantly?

I haven’t purchased any, but the experience of others is yes.

Will I be charged a foreign transaction fee?

The fact that the purchase is denominated in dollars does not eliminate the possibility of a foreign transaction fee. Citi charged me a fee on a dollar-denominated transaction with British Airways!

To remove all possibility of a foreign transaction fee, use a card that doesn’t charge one like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or American Express Platinum Card.


LifeMiles can currently be purchased with a 100% bonus. This makes the purchase price 1.5 cpm.

You only need 40% of the LifeMiles that the LifeMiles award chart says you need to book a flight. You can pay the other 60% in cash at 1.28 cpm.

Combined, this means you can buy any award on the LifeMiles chart for 1.365 cents per mile plus taxes plus a $25 fee with no fuel surcharges!

Don’t forget: Qatar Airways disappears as a United miles option on September 14. Have dinner with me in Los Angeles on Friday. Sign up for the MileValue RSS feed, like the new MileValue facebook page, or follow me on Twitter @milevalue. Get your friends involved too, so you can have more companions for your Free First Class Next Month.

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Hey there, you’re reading an outdated post! The updated series from March 2013 can be found here.

This is the twenty-third post in a monthlong series. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

This is the first of several posts that will talk about the basics of award bookings. I want to stress that this will just be the basics of award bookings. For complicated itineraries, you will need to learn a lot more, perhaps from my Anatomy of an Award series or Flyertalk. Or you’ll have to hire an expert award booker like me.

Today’s post will focus on using United.com, which is the best basic way to find availability when you’re booking with United, US Airways, or TACA miles.

United, US Airways, and TACA are all members of the Star Alliance, so their miles can be used to book awards on any Star Alliance carriers. United.com lists award space for most Star Alliance carriers, so you should start your award searches there.

On the home screen, in the flight search area, type in your origin and destination airports, your preferred outbound date, and the number of passengers. Now select One Way or Round Trip at the top and Award Travel at the bottom. I’ll search a oneway from San Francisco to Frankfurt.

After clicking search, you’ll be brought to a screen with shaded calendars at the top and possible itineraries below. The calendar shows which dates have saver economy availability, premium availability, or both. It’s a handy way to see which dates are your best options.

The itineraries below are listed from shortest duration to longest. To the left of the itineraries, we can see whether there is saver space available on that itinerary in each of the three possible classes of service. Underneath the number of miles needed is the dollar amount of the taxes and fees for that itinerary.

Always scroll to the bottom of the itineraries because at some point, the list will start over with other, shorter itineraries that include partner flights.

One thing to be wary of is the icon just below the prices in miles and dollars that has an exclamation point and says Mixed Cabin. If you see that on a desirable itinerary, hold your cursor over the words Mixed Cabin. A small information bubble will pop up telling you the exact class on each flight.

You can then decide whether that itinerary merits its price or whether another is more desirable. If the classes are what you want except for a short regional flight, maybe the itinerary is OK. If the longest flight on the itinerary is in Economy, but United.com still wants to charge the first class price, the itinerary is a dud.

If you see an itinerary you like, and you’re using United miles, click on Select. If you are getting a oneway award, you’ll now pay for the reservation. If you were searching for a roundtrip, it will hold the outbound, and you’ll repeat the process to select a return.

If you see an itinerary you like, and you’re using another Star Alliance member’s miles, note the flight numbers and times (or leave the screen up) and call the other airline (US Airways) or proceed to its website (TACA) as appropriate.

As a reminder, this is a very basic but adequate way to search Star Alliance availability when using US Airway, TACA, or United miles. More complicated ways that include searching segment by segment and using advanced tools like ExpertFlyer are beyond the scope of this post, but are discussed here at milevalue.com and elsewhere.

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