AMEX Has Added LifeMiles as a Membership Rewards Transfer Partner, at the 1:1 ratio, helpful for certain Star Alliance award bookings. LifeMiles often offers buy miles sales, but until now it's only been a partner of Citi ThankYou points (1:1) and Marriott/SPG (3:1). LifeMiles can both be rewarding and frustrating, so I'll lay out some of the pros and cons below.
The LifeMiles Award Chart is a bit of an eye chart, and you'll want to look at what the various regions comprise. For example, the U.S. contiguous 48 states are divided into US 1, US 2 and US 3, while Hawaii is its own region and Alaska is lumped with Canada in the Rest of North America category (Mexico is its own region).
US 1 States: Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, Washington DC
US 2 States: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin
US 3 States: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming
Europe is also divided into 3 regions:
Europe 1: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, UK
Europe 2: Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland
Europe 3: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, Turkey
Pros of LifeMiles
Award Sweet Spots
One of the advantages of LifeMiles is that there are some sweet spots that require fewer LifeMiles, than, say, United MileagePlus miles or Aeroplan miles (another AMEX transfer partner). For example, if you have last minute travel between the U.S. and Europe and manage to find Lufthansa First Class award space (which is only available to partners 15 days before departure; otherwise you'd need Lufthansa Miles & More miles) it will be less using LifeMiles.
Example: JFK-MUC in Lufthansa First Class: 87K LifeMiles vs. 110K United miles or 95K Singapore Miles
United charges 110,000 MileagePlus miles + $80.60, while LifeMiles charges 87,000 miles + $30.60. If you were to use Singapore KrisFlyer miles, it would cost 95,000 miles + fees.
Ability to Use a Mixture of Miles + Cash
You can of course buy more United MileagePlus miles, but the LifeMiles slider allows you to use as few as 40% of the required miles (in the case of the above Lufthansa award, 35,000 miles) by paying more cash: $868. That means you're purchasing 52,000 miles for $838, or paying ~1.6 cents per mile. That's less expensive than it's possible to buy United miles for, so it makes LifeMiles a good bet for those who will need to buy miles to book an award, as it can be accomplished less expensively.
AMEX Transfers to LifeMiles Typically Instant
The good thing about AMEX transfers to LifeMiles is that they're typically instant. Just make sure that the name on the LifeMiles account exactly matches the name on your AMEX account.
Cons of LifeMiles
Before you convert AMEX Membership Rewards points to LifeMiles, keep in mind some of the downsides:
LifeMiles Expire After 12 Months of No Earning Activity
Whereas it's quite easy to keep United miles alive with some earning or redemption activity every 18 months, LifeMiles requires some earning activity, otherwise the miles expire 12 months after the last earning activity.
Forget Calling LifeMiles Customer Service
If you're used to calling, say, Lufthansa Miles & More and fairly promptly getting a helpful customer service representative, forget that when calling LifeMiles, which is more often than not an exercise in frustration.
Not All Award Availability Appears on Avianca's Site
Sometimes you'll find award space on United or Aeroplan that doesn't appear on Avianca. If you can't find it on the Avianca Web site, you're unlikely to be able to book it–see the point above.
If Booking an Open Jaw, You'll Need to Book as 2 One Ways
If you're booking JFK-MUC and FRA-JFK, you'll need to book it as two one ways. That results in paying the $25 partner booking fee twice, and, if you need to cancel, you'll need to pay the cancellation fee on both.
Do you plan to transfer AMEX points to LifeMiles, or earn or buy LifeMiles?
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