Lifemiles and Dividend Miles Purchase Comparison

Generally, the two best promotions for purchasing miles that’s available to the general public without any conditions are the 100% Purchase Promotions from Lifemiles and US Airways. Purchasing miles are one of the easiest ways to fly in premium classes for just a bit more than economy tickets. You can purchase miles through these links:

US Airways Dividend Miles 100% Bonus Purchase Promotion


Avianca Lifemiles 100% Bonus Purchase Promotion


Lifemiles’ promotion runs until May 30th. US Airways’s promotion runs until May 25th. These are my original posts published when the promotion was first launched:

You’re permitted to purchase a maximum of 150,000 Lifemiles and 100,000 Dividend Miles during the promotion. This means you probably won’t be able to get enough miles for certain redemptions from outright purchasing through these promos, but hopefully you already have some miles in your account.

Lifemiles can also be topped up during ticketing, using cash and points. Using 50% of points for a redemption will allow you to pay 1.5 cents in cash for the remaining Lifemiles.

US Airways miles are much easier to obtain. They can be converted from Starwood points at a 1:1 ratio, or from Aeroplan points via at a 1:0.84 ratio. Americans can apply for the US Airways Premier World  Mastercard for a 40,000 miles signup bonus and the US Bank Lifemiles Visa Signature Card which also has a 20,000 miles signup bonus (although the highest historic offer has been 40,000 miles).

Cost to purchase miles

I’ve listed the cost to purchase miles if you could purchase an unlimited amount for redemptions on their award chart. The cost is solely the amount to purchase the miles, and excludes taxes and fees. Awards for Mexico, Hawaii, and the Caribbean are excluded as purchasing miles for those redemptions are generally not a great deal. I’ve also excluded the prices for economy class tickets as again the savings aren’t as great as outright purchasing revenue tickets.

You can access the award charts of Lifemiles and US Airways in the links below. I’ve multiplied the miles required by the cost to purchase, which is 1.5 cents for Lifemiles and 1.88 cents for Dividend Miles.

(USD)US BusinessLM BusinessUS FirstLM First
El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras112897511281200
Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama112882511281125
Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru1880105023501350
Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia1880150023502025

Since Lifemiles is based in Colombia there are a lot more divisions without the Central America/South America regions, as opposed to US Airways which just uses two zones. There isn’t much 3-cabin first class service to South American and nearly none to Central America, so the first class figures are pretty much irrelevant.

Even so, I’d hesitate about buying miles for these regions as sometimes there will be good premium cabin fares.  Star Alliance is much stronger in Central America, while Oneworld is much stronger in South America. Lifemiles also has a separate Avianca chart which is cheaper than their Star Alliance Chart.

(USD)US BusinessLM BusinessUS FirstLM First
China, Hong Kong, Japan,Macau, Mongolia, South Korea, Taiwan2068187522562250
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan2068195022562775
Afghanistan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka2256195030082775
Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam2256195030082475

US Airways has only two zones for Asia and divides it into North Asia and Central/South Asia. Avianca has North, South, and Central Asia, and as well there is overlap between the two programs. Lifemiles is cheaper than US Airways here for most regions, but keep in mind US Airways still has the Carribean/Mexico to South Asia sweet spot for 90,000 miles, which is just under $1700 USD.

(USD)US BusinessLM BusinessUS FirstLM First
Middle East2256195033842625

The cost for purchasing Lifemiles and Dividend Miles are pretty much the same for these other regions, with Lifemiles being slightly cheaper. However, US Airways allows routing to Africa via the Middle East, and Oceania via Asia. Oneworld is much stronger to those regions. Lifemiles is stronger to Europe, as BA, AY, and IB levy fuel surcharge on Dividend Miles Awards.

I think the decision to purchase miles however really depend on where you’re going to because there are routing rules, route network, and fees to think about.

Booking Process

US Airways partner awards cannot be booked online, for the most part. It’s easiest to piece together your own itinerary from searching oneworld award space from the BA, AA, JAL, and Qantas sites (as well as KVS Tool and Expertflyer), and feed each segment to the agents on the phone.

Lifemiles partner awards must be booked online. In 99.9% of cases, the call center will not be able to help you and what they can show as award space is the same as what’s available online. The online award engine is fairly clunky but usable.

US Airways agents have had trouble pricing award itineraries by themselves, resulting in the award being sent to the rates desk to price. This will take anywhere from 5-25 minutes. On the other hand, Lifemiles may be displaying phantom award space which creates an error screen if you try to book through. This happens occasionally.

Routing Rules

I’ve found with US Airways’ switch to oneworld the partner booking desk have tended to be better in weeding out illegal routings, but you can still have crazy routings that go through. US Airways cannot book one-way itineraries for half the cost. You can generally have many more segments and 23 hour stopovers with US Airways awards, and one stopover or open jaw. A good rule of thumb is you’re allowed 4 segments on either side of your travel to your destination.

You cannot piece together your own itineraries with Lifemiles. The issues with Lifemiles long/overnight layovers are generally not displayed. As well, stopovers or mixed class routings are not permitted, which defeats a lot of first/business class routings when a certain flight doesn’t operate that cabin or have award space available. However, Lifemiles does have several areas where the price of an award ticket can be lowered. See my post on advanced Lifemiles Strategy. I’m not discussing this publicly but you can find many online resources to help you (and shoot me an email if you need help with that).

Taxes and Fees

At the moment, US Airways levies fuel surcharges on British Airways, Finnair, and Iberia. Lifemiles does not levy any fuel surcharges on partners. Both programs have nonrefundable booking fees. The following table lists potential fees involved. I’ve found Lifemiles to be hugely inconvenient to cancel tickets.

(USD)Dividend MilesLifemiles
Cancellation Fee15050
Close-In Booking Fee750
Change Fee150150
Ticketing Fee5025

Risk Involved

Lifemiles have had a history of devaluing without notice, when they changed the award chart as well as the cash and points option last year. US Airways have also devalued their North Asia business class redemption without notice. I think it’s likely that the award chart could change at any time. If you are purchasing miles, I’d recommend you do so only with a redemption in mind.

I hope this clarifies things if you’re looking to purchase miles this month and I’d be happy to answer any questions via email/in the comments.

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  1. Nice post.

    Only thing that worries me about Lifemiles is the reports of service problems. You can’t put a price on good service.

  2. Are you going to do a post discussing your recent issues with an LM redemption? I am eagerly awaiting it as I was hoping to do a routing through TPE.

  3. Nice work Jeff. I like the tables with the price comparisons. There were a few surprises there as I had presumed that because Lifemiles are so much cheaper, that they would blow US DM out of the water. However on some awards, they are actually a better deal. For example North America to Hong Kong/Japan in First. You can do mixed cabin itineraries, and it is only a $6 price difference more for US miles.

    As a Canadian, and without all the great options our US friends have its sure nice to have a program like LifeMiles that allow us to purchase and redeem.

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