Avianca Airlines is one of Latin America’s most popular carriers, servicing over 75 destinations. Its loyalty program, Avianca LifeMiles, is a hidden gem. Since Avianca Airlines is part of the Star Alliance, LifeMiles are incredibly flexible and offer a ton of redemption possibilities worldwide. If you’re an Avianca frequent flyer or just want to earn a stash of LifeMiles for your next trip, consider applying for the Avianca Vuela Visa® Card.
Earlier in 2020, the Colombian airline filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy amid slashed flights and travel bans. Thankfully, the LifeMiles program is not part of the bankruptcy filing, and the airline assures that you can continue to earn and redeem miles normally.
With a $149 annual fee, the Avianca Vuela Visa® Card can get you closer to your next flight, thanks to its ability to earn and redeem LifeMiles.
Avianca Vuela Visa® Card review: Our thoughts
While most credit cards require you to spend a few thousand dollars to earn the introductory offer, the Avianca Vuela Visa® Card has an accessible sign-up bonus: You can earn 40,000 Bonus LifeMiles after first card use. These miles are worth about $560, according to our points valuation of 1.4 cents each.
This isn’t the best welcome bonus we’ve ever seen, but the ability to earn a large number of miles quickly is a huge plus. If you’re planning a trip soon, you could apply for the Avianca Vuela Visa® Card and rack up the bonus miles in record time. While there’s no spending minimum on the welcome bonus, you can earn a 50% discount on an award ticket redeemed for travel to Central America or Colombia after spending $12,000 on this card in one year. You’ll receive an additional 50% discount after spending another $12,000 (for a total of $24,000 in one year). To use these discounts, you’ll have to book your award flights through the LifeMiles Call Centers. These offers can be incredibly valuable as you’ll be able to expend 50% fewer miles for your next redemption, so it’s best to be strategic with how you spend to lock in these promotions.
If you’re in need of a few miles for that next trip, you also can buy LifeMiles at a 15% discount with Avianca’s Multiply Your Miles feature. However, purchasing miles typically won’t result in the best value, but can certainly be helpful when needed.
Card benefits and features
This card’s earnings rate is simple: Earn 3 LifeMiles per $1 spent on Avianca purchases, 2 LifeMiles per $1 spent at gas stations and grocery stores and 1 LifeMile per $1 spent on all other purchases. There’s no limit to how many LifeMiles you can earn with the Avianca Vuela Visa® Card. Due to COVID-19, miles that were set to expire between April 1 and Dec. 30, 2020 will automatically roll over to 2021.
Like most airline credit cards, you’ll enjoy a free checked bag on Avianca when flying between the United States and Central America. It costs $44.99 to check a bag on international Avianca flights, so you’ll make up for the $149 annual fee after just three flights.
To qualify for this card, you’ll need to be an Avianca LifeMiles member. Even if you’ve never flown with Avianca before, you can sign up for the loyalty program free online.
The only other restriction to be aware of is that you can only have one Avianca card at a time. If you already have Avianca's lower-tier offering, the Avianca Vida Visa® Card, you’re ineligible for the Avianca Vuela Visa® Card. However, you can request a product change, though you won’t receive the welcome bonus twice.
How does the Avianca Vuela Visa® Card stack up to other cards?
For those who aren’t convinced to apply for an airline card with a $149 annual fee, consider these other three options:
Avianca Vuela Visa® Card vs. Avianca Vida Visa® Card
Avianca’s lower-tier offering is the Avianca Vida Visa® Card, coming in with a $59 annual fee. Like the Avianca Vuela Visa® Card, you’ll easily lock in the welcome bonus: After making your first purchase within the first 90 days from account opening 20,000 Bonus LifeMiles after first card use worth about $280.
Besides the welcome bonus, however, the Avianca Vida Visa® Card leaves much to be desired. You only Earn 2 LifeMiles per $1 spent on Avianca purchases and 1 LifeMile per $1 spent on all other purchases. Like the Avianca Vuela Visa® Card, you can enjoy a 15% discount when purchasing LifeMiles and receive car rental and travel accident protections. With a mediocre earnings rate and lackluster benefits, the Avianca Vida Visa® Card does not offer important benefits, such as a free checked bag or even no foreign transaction fees.
Avianca Vuela Visa® Card vs. Citi Premier® Card
You can apply for about $50 less per year for the Citi Premier® Card instead ($95 annual fee). It’ll take more effort to earn the welcome bonus than the Avianca Vuela Visa® Card, but with the Citi Premier® Card , you can Earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Then, transfer these points to any of Citi’s 16 airline partners, including Avianca LifeMiles. Citi ThankYou points transfer at a 1:1 ratio, so the bonus points to LifeMiles prove to be a better value than the Avianca Vuela Visa® Card.
On Aug. 23, 2020, the Citi Premier® Card received a nice expansion in bonus categories: Earn 3X points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels and 1X on all other purchases In addition, you’ll also receive a $100 annual hotel credit of $500 or more, offering consistent, long-term value to the card.
However, you should apply for the Avianca Vuela Visa® Card card if you’re a frequent Avianca flyer and want the benefit of a free checked bag. But if you’re looking for flexibility and the ability to earn more than just LifeMiles, the Citi Premier® Card is a better choice.
Avianca Vuela Visa® Card vs. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Similarly to the Citi Premier® Card, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers flexibility and excellent travel benefits for just $95 per year. Its earnings rate is simple, with 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day. With Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card’s welcome bonus, you can Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
With more than 15 transfer partners (including Avianca LifeMiles), your Capital One miles will stretch quite far. However, these miles transfer at a lower, 2:1.5 ratio, meaning that 100,000 Capital One miles results in 75,000 LifeMiles and 50,000 Capital One Miles results in 37,500 LifeMiles.
If you’re in need of Global Entry or TSA Precheck, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card will even reimburse you with up to a $100 statement credit. For example, if you opt for Global Entry, you will enjoy this benefit for five years. Since this is a much more universal perk than what the Avianca Vuela Visa® Card offers, the Venture card may be a smarter option for most travelers.
The Avianca Vuela Visa® Card is not meant for everyone, as Avianca loyalists are the primary demographic for this card. However, at a reasonable annual fee of $149, this credit card offer can prove to be beneficial. Avianca LifeMiles can also be quite flexible, resulting in many valuable redemption possibilities for future flights. In most cases, you’d be better off applying for the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card or Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, as they will transfer to the Avianca LifeMiles program.