The Avianca Vida Visa® Card is an airline rewards credit card with a $59 annual fee and a rewards program that favors frequent Avianca fliers. Though it’s not a household name in the U.S., Avianca is a wildly popular airline that serves dozens of destinations throughout the Americas. If you regularly travel to Latin American countries such as Argentina and Costa Rica, it’s worth getting to know this credit card.
Like most branded travel rewards credit cards, including the JetBlue Plus Card and Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express, Avianca Vida Visa earns LifeMiles (loyalty currency) faster on airfare and other travel purchases. Though you can’t earn credit card bonus miles for purchases with partner vendors, you can still earn base LifeMiles on a wide range of purchases with roughly two dozen Star Alliance airline partners (a who’s who of the global air travel industry) and a slew of other travel and non-travel merchants. Base LifeMile earnings are a function of air miles traveled, dollars spent, or both, depending on the merchant with which they’re earned.
Avianca Vida Visa has some other useful benefits, including a generous sign-up bonus and a nice discount on purchased miles. Fair warning: the LifeMiles program is very complex, so if you have limited experience with it (or with airline rewards programs in general), do yourself a favor and read up on its terms and conditions to determine whether it’s the best it for your needs.
Let’s take a closer look at Avianca Vida Visa’s features, strengths, and weaknesses.
When you make a single purchase within 90 days of opening your account, you get 20,000 bonus LifeMiles. Though LifeMiles’ redemption values can vary widely, this is enough for a round-trip flight within Central America, and 5,000 short of the mileage needed for a round-trip flight within North America.
This card earns unlimited 2 LifeMiles per $1 spent on Avianca airfare, vacation packages, and other travel items. You must make your purchase through Avianca’s call center, Avianca.com, or at Avianca ticket counters.
Bonus LifeMiles accrue on top of base miles earned by all LifeMiles members (including non-cardholders) on Avianca airfare purchases. (LifeMiles members can also earn LifeMiles with Star Alliance airlines such as United Airlines, as well as hundreds of partner retailers, though these offers vary significantly by geography and may be time-limited.) Base miles are calculated as a function of flight distance and class: economy flights earn 25% to 150% of the total trip mileage, while business and first class flights can earn 200% or more. For instance, say you use your Avianca Vida Visa to purchase a 3,000-mile economy flight. Depending on your fare class, you’ll earn anywhere from 750 to 4,500 LifeMiles, regardless of ticket price, plus 2 LifeMiles for every $1 you spend on the ticket itself.
The most cost-effective way to redeem LifeMiles is usually to exchange them for Avianca or Star Alliance partner airfare.
Redemption requirements vary by region and rise in proportion to flight length. However, they’re not tied directly to the dollar cost of a ticket. For instance, a round-trip economy flight within North America requires 25,000 LifeMiles, regardless of the actual cost. A round-trip economy flight from North America to Brazil requires 60,000 miles, while a round-trip economy flight from North America to Central Asia requires 85,000 miles. These figures apply to all Star Alliance carriers.
You can’t redeem until you have at least as many miles as required, but you can purchase additional LifeMiles to make up any shortfall. When redeemed for airfare, LifeMiles can be worth anywhere from less than $0.01 apiece to more than $0.03 apiece. Longer flights offer better per-mile values.
Separately, you can redeem LifeMiles against baggage fees, fare class upgrades, car rentals, hotels, tours, merchandise purchases with partner retailers, and other items, but these non-airfare redemption methods often devalue LifeMiles – sometimes well below $0.01 per mile.
15% Discount on LifeMile Purchases
If you don’t have enough LifeMiles to redeem for your preferred flight, you can purchase as many as you need. The cost is usually $33 (plus taxes, if applicable) per 1,000 LifeMiles, but Avianca Vida Visa cardholders get a 15% discount on all purchases, dropping the before-tax cost per 1,000 miles to approximately $28. The corresponding per-mile purchase value drops from $0.033 apiece to $0.028 apiece.
The annual fee is $59. There’s a 1% foreign transaction fee. Cash advances and balance transfers cost the greater of 2% or $2. Both are capped at $10, regardless of transfer or advance size. Returned payments cost up to $10, while late payments cost up to $38.
This card comes with a nice lineup of Visa-backed benefits. Highlights include:
- Complimentary collision damage waiver for rental cars charged in full to the card
- Travel accident insurance (a bare-bones form of travel insurance that’s not a suitable replacement for a comprehensive policy)
- Emergency card replacement for cardholders who lose their cards on the road
This card requires good to excellent credit.
- Low Balance Transfer and Cash Advance Fees. For a travel rewards card, Avianca Vida Visa has surprisingly low balance transfer and cash advance fees: just 2% (minimum $2) of the transferred or advanced amount, with a $10 maximum. That $10 maximum is exceptionally low – most competing cards don’t even have maximum cash advance or balance transfer limits. Likewise, many competing cards (including Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Card, a popular choice for U.S.-based travelers), charge 3% to 5% for balance transfers and cash advances.
- Can Redeem Across the Entire Star Alliance. Avianca Vida Visa cardholders can redeem their accumulated LifeMiles with any Star Alliance airline, not just Avianca. This is a crucial benefit for people who rarely or never travel within Latin America, Avianca’s primary service region. Some airline-specific cards, including The JetBlue Card and JetBlue Plus Card, don’t have reciprocal arrangements with other airlines.
- Relatively Low Foreign Transaction Fees. This card has a relatively small foreign transaction fee – just 1% of the transaction amount. The standard fee charged by most other credit cards is 3%, which is usually more than sufficient to offset their rewards-earning potential.
- Decent Sign-up Bonus. Avianca Vida Visa has an easy-to-achieve sign-up bonus: 20,000 LifeMiles when you make a single purchase within 90 days. That’s good for a round-trip economy flight within Latin America, and almost enough for a round-trip economy flight within North America. Many competing travel rewards cards’ sign-up bonuses require substantial upfront investments – for instance, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card asks new cardholders to spend at least $4,000 within three months.
- Has an Annual Fee. Avianca Vida Visa has a $59 annual fee. While that’s not super steep compared with some other airline cards, it’s a drag for frugal cardholders who don’t spend heavily enough to offset recurring annual fees of any size.
- Relatively Slow Earning Rate. This card’s 2-LifeMile-per-$1 earning rate on Avianca airfare is welcome, but it’s not that impressive by the standards of the broader travel rewards credit card category. The best travel rewards cards earn at least 2 points or miles per $1 spent on everything, not just purchases with specific companies. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, whose annual fee is identical to Avianca Vida Visa, is a popular example.
- Bonus LifeMiles Require Direct Purchase from Avianca. To earn 2 LifeMiles per $1 spent on Avianca airfare, you need to purchase your tickets directly from Avianca. That requires buying directly from Avianca.com, calling Avianca’s call center, or visiting an Avianca ticket counter. If you’re one of the millions of travelers who prefers to search for the best deals on discount travel sites such as Kayak, this is a crucial disadvantage.
- No Way to Combine LifeMiles and Cash. Before you can redeem your LifeMiles for Avianca or Star Alliance airfare, you need to have enough miles for your preferred route or region. You can’t contribute cash to make up for any shortfall in LifeMiles, as is the case with most other travel rewards programs (including other Star Alliance members’, such as United Airlines). You can buy additional LifeMiles to close the gap, but at $28 per 1,000 LifeMiles, you’re likely to lose money on the deal: LifeMiles’ redemption values vary based on the routes for which they’re redeemed, but $0.028 per mile is an optimistic figure that’s likely out of reach on all but the most expensive long-haul flights.
- No Automatic Elite Status. Avianca Vida Visa cardholders don’t automatically earn elite status with Avianca or any other Star Alliance airline. If you’re a frequent Avianca flyer, this means you’ll have to spend thousands of dollars each year to earn the requisite elite qualifying miles.
- Charges Penalty Interest. This card charges penalty interest at 29.99% APR. That’s a problem for cardholders who occasionally miss payments due to unexpected cash crunches or other issues. Many popular airline cards, including Chase British Airways Visa Signature Credit Card, waive penalty interest.
The Avianca Vida Visa® Card is not the best airline rewards credit card. With a relatively low earning rate and some annoying restrictions on redemptions, most travelers can do better.
But, if you regularly fly overseas on Star Alliance partner airlines such as United Airlines and Lufthansa, your accumulated LifeMiles may come in handy. In fact, the ideal use case for this card involves using it specifically for Avianca flights within Latin America and storing up earned points until you’re ready to redeem for a trip on another Star Alliance airline.