Avianca Vuela Visa Card review: Earn valuable miles for use on partner airlines

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Avianca Vuela Visa Card review: Earn valuable miles for use on partner airlines
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Review Summary: While you might not have ever heard of the Latin American airline Avianca, this card offers rewards in their LifeMiles program that can be especially valuable for travel on their partner airlines.

Pros

Cons

  • 40,000 bonus miles after your first use
  • Earn double miles on gas and groceries
  • 15% discount on mileage purchases
  • $149 annual fee
  • You need to understand their LifeMiles frequent flyer program to get the most from your rewards

How the Avianca Vuela Visa® Card works

How to earn rewards 

The Avianca Vuela Visa® Card offers new applicants 40,000 Avianca LifeMiles after their first purchase. You also earn three miles per dollar spent on Avianca purchases, double miles at gas stations and grocery stores, and one mile per dollar spent elsewhere. Benefits include a 15% discount on mileage purchases and discounts on award tickets.

How to redeem rewards 

To redeem your rewards, you have to go to LifeMiles.com. There you can redeem them for flights on Avianca as well for their 26 Star Alliance partners including:

  • United
  • Air Canada
  • Lufthansa
  • Singapore
  • Swiss
  • Turkish

But the key to this program is the relatively few number of miles needed for various awards. For example, the LifeMiles program divides the U.S. into the following three zones:

Zone 1: Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia and Washington DC.

Zone 2: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

Zone 3: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Flights within one zone are a mere 7,500 miles each way. If you cross one zone, it’s 10,000 miles and you pay 12,500 if you cross two zones.

In practice, this means that award flights operated by United from Atlanta to Montana; Denver to California; or from Washington Dulles to Maine are just 7,500 miles each way. This is far less than the 12,500 miles you would be charged by United for an award seat on the same flight.

If you have your sights set a bit higher, a business class ticket to Europe is just 63,000 miles each way. You can also fly in Lufthansa’s renowned international first class for 87,000 miles each way.

And, most importantly, LifeMiles is one of the few frequent flyer programs that never adds costly additional fuel surcharges when you redeem your miles.

You should also note that you can transfer your American Express Membership Rewards points to LifeMiles, so you can combine your existing rewards with the miles you earn from this card.

Additional cardholder benefits 

Beyond the great deals on its award chart, this card offer several other valuable benefits.

First, you get a 15% discount on purchases of miles. This might not sound important, but Avianca is well known for offering frequent and generous sales of its award miles.

As a result, you are often able to buy enough miles to travel between North America and Europe in business class for about the same price as economy, under $1,000 each way.  Subtract 15% from that and you have an even better deal.

You also receive 50% discount award tickets for travel on Avianca to Central America or Colombia from the United States after $12,000 of spending each year, and again when you reach $24,000 of spending in a calendar year.

Also, you get a free additional checked bag on Avianca flights between the U.S. and Central America.

Finally, there are no foreign transaction fees for this card.

Alternatives to the Avianca Vuela Visa® Card

  • Barclaycard Arrival Plus: This card offers you double miles for each dollar spent on all purchases and miles can be redeemed for statement credits toward nearly any travel expense. Barclays will also give you 5% of your miles back every time you redeem them. This means that you’re earning a 2.1% return on all of your purchases. New applicants earn 70,000 bonus miles after making $5,000 in purchases within 90 days of account opening. There’s an $89 annual fee for this card that’s waived the first year, and no foreign transaction fees.
  • American Express Gold CardThis card offers you 4x Membership Rewards points at grocery stores and restaurants, 3x points for airline tickets and one point per dollar spent elsewhere. Points can be redeemed for merchandise, gift cards and travel reservations or transferred to airline partners, including Avianca. This card also offers a $100 annual airline fee credit. There’s a $250 annual fee for this card and no foreign transaction fees.

RELATED: 8 of the best rewards credit cards right now 

Final thought

Avianca’s frequent flyer program isn’t very well known, but it has quite a following among award travel enthusiasts who try to stretch their frequent flyer miles as far as possible.

By offering 40,000 bonus miles to start, double miles on gas and groceries and a fantastic award chart, this unusual frequent flyer credit card may be your ticket to the discounted award trips you’ve been looking for.

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