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American Express is at it again!  They’ve aggressively stepped up their Membership Rewards Program over the last few months.  AmEx has added new transfer partners and updated some of their cards’ earning structures.  I’ve always favored Membership Rewards, and I’m stoked to see AmEx building the program out.

American Express Partners with Avianca

The Avianca partnership was launched this week, bringing AmEx’s total partner count to 18 airlines and 3 hotel partners.  Membership Rewards has always been a competitive program, and they continue to make it better.  (I’m a little biased, since Chase won’t give me an Ultimate Rewards card…)  American Express currently has the most transfer partners of any of the major US credit card companies.

Avianca is headquartered in Colombia, with a large network through Central and South America.  It’s also a member of the robust Star Alliance.  You can frequently use LifeMiles to piece together great redemptions on United, Air Canada, and others.  Avianca currently operates flights to over 180 destinations throughout the Western Hemisphere, with a handful of destinations in Europe, giving us lots of options to choose from!

Are LifeMiles even good?

YES!  LifeMiles are great for a few reasons:

  1. Avianca does not charge fuel surcharges.  This is a huge bonus, as anyone that gets stuck paying hundreds in surcharges knows.  When you book a ticket with miles or points, the last thing you want to do is pony up the cash for fuel surcharges.
  2. The airline also doesn’t charge close in booking fees, making the program very flexible!  (Well, at least for those of you like me, that never remember to plan anything…)
  3. Check out their award chart!  You can get some really cheap one-way fares for intra-zone travel.  A one-way within the same US region (Avianca divides the continental United States into 3 zones) is only 7,500 LifeMiles, and a one-way within Hawaii or Brazil is only 6,000, and a one-way trip within Mexico is 7,000.  To put that in perspective, the 50,000 welcome bonus on the new Gold Card from American Express is worth at least 3 roundtrips within any of these zones!

I was recently looking at booking a trip to Curacao this winter with Avianca LifeMiles.  The routing gave me enough to time to stop for lunch and explore Bogota a bit, but I didn’t end up snagging it.  At the time, I was planning on transferring Citi ThankYou Points to LifeMiles, but now we can transfer Membership Rewards to Avianca LifeMiles!

Pretty cheap, and with enough time to check out Bogota for a few hours too!

AmEx is heating up!

American Express has been expanding its portfolio of transfer partners.  In August, American Express added Aer Lingus to its team of airline transfer partners (1 Membership Reward = 1 Avio).  Last month, they introduced a new Gold Card earning structure.  This month, they’ve revamped the Business Gold card.  This week, the company added Avianca as a partner!

Personally, I think AmEx has felt the pressure in the rewards competition scene.  Chase has taken on a lot of market share, Barclays tried (and failed) to snag more users with a premium card, and Bank of America released a new premium card this year too.  Citi has also remodeled some of their ThankYou cards, despite having announced that they’ll be focusing on other areas of their business.

I’m pretty excited to use LifeMiles on the direct route from Boston to Bogota that Avianca runs.  Have you flown Avianca recently?  Let us know what you think!

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