Reviews U.S. Bank LifeMiles Visa Signature card review
U.S. Bank LifeMiles Visa Signature card review

U.S. Bank LifeMiles Visa Signature card review

Published: April 24, 2017
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Ratings Policy
Airline Rating:
2.7 rating
2.7 rating
2.7 / 5
Rewards Value 1.2
Annual Percentage Rate 3.2
Rewards Flexibility 4.2
Flight Options 5.0
Features 3.0

In a nutshell:

The LifeMiles Visa Signature card is a decent card for fans of Avianca Airlines; but, unless you travel frequently to Central America or Colombia, you won’t get much value out of this airline card.

Rewards Rate

  • 2:1 on Avianca ticket purchases
  • 1:1 on general purchases

Sign-up Bonus
20,000 bonus miles with first use

Annual Bonus
6,000 bonus miles each year

Annual Fee
$75, $0 the first year

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$300

APR
13.42-23.24%

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • No limit on the number of miles you can earn
  • Transfer miles to 26 partner airlines in the Star Alliance
  • Miles don’t expire as long as account is active for 24 consecutive months
  • Use miles for flights on Avianca or partner airlines, hotels, car rentals, experiences
  • One-way tickets are allowed
  • You can buy additional miles when purchasing ticket
  • No fuel surcharges

Cons

  • Rewards-funded flights may be subject to seat restrictions
  • Stopovers and open-jaw bookings are not allowed
  • A $25 booking fee is charged when you book by phone
  • You can’t mix cabin classes on the same itinerary

Flight Options

  • Airline partners: 26
  • Daily flights: 21,000
  • Destinations: 1,250
  • Countries served: 192

Other Notable Features: 50 percent excess baggage discount, concierge service, travel and emergency assistance, car rental insurance, roadside dispatch, lost luggage reimbursement, purchase security, warranty manager service, no preset spending limit, ticket pre-sale and preferred seating, travel and shopping discounts, dining perks

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If you frequently do business in Central America or Colombia or have family in the region, you may be able to squeeze some value out of this plain-vanilla airline card. But you’ll have to travel on the Colombian airline or its affiliates relatively frequently to earn enough points to purchase a free ticket.

The card’s North American audience is also relatively limited. Avianca only flies out of a handful of U.S. cities, so you won’t get much use out of the pricey airline card – which charges $75 a year – unless you live near a major metro area. The only U.S. cities served by Avianca Airlines are San Francisco; Los Angeles; New York; Dallas-Fort Worth; Houston; Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Orlando, Florida; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and Miami.

Meanwhile, the only Central and South American destinations the small airline flies to are Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia and Peru.

Uninspiring rewards rate
Like many airline cards, the LifeMiles Visa Signature card only offers bonus miles for airfare, so you’ll have a hard time building up points if you don’t fly often. The U.S. Bank-issued credit card offers two points per dollar spent on Avianca airfare, and one point per dollar spent on everything else. Valued at just over a penny each, LifeMiles are worth slightly more than the average airline mile. But they still won’t get you very far if you aren’t an especially heavy spender. We estimate that a typical cardholder who spends roughly $1,325 a month will only earn about $300 worth of miles in a year. That’s relatively low for a card that charges such a high annual fee.

Tepid bonuses
U.S. Bank tries to make up for the card’s mediocre rewards rate by offering some limited bonuses. But compared to other airline cards – many of which offer a big enough sign-up bonus to purchase at least one full flight in the card’s first year — the bonuses offered by the Avianca Airlines card are disappointing. New cardholders are awarded just 20,000 bonus miles — worth around $240 – after their first purchase.

Meanwhile, existing cardholders are offered an annual 6,000-mile bonus that’s only worth about $72. Considering that a typical Avianca Airlines flight from the United States to Central America costs around $500, those extra miles won’t get you very far.

More than two dozen partner airlines
The LifeMiles Visa Signature card allows you to transfer miles to a wide range of partner airlines. So if you do build up a large enough collection of miles to purchase a full flight, you aren’t limited to Central or South America.  Avianca Airlines is a member of the 26-member Star Alliance, so you can transfer your miles to any participating airline in the network. Star Alliance members include United Airlines, Air Canada, Austrian Airlines, Asiana Airlines, Lufthansa, South African Airways and Air India.

Flexible redemption
You aren’t limited to redeeming miles for airfare. U.S. Bank allows you to redeem miles for a variety of travel purchases, including hotel stays and entertainment events. That is a pretty good perk for cardholders who want more flexibility with their rewards purchases.

If you do redeem miles for airfare, though, you can have a hard time reserving your preferred flights. Some flights only award a limited number of seats to rewards-funded passengers. U.S. Bank also charges a $25 booking fee when you book a flight by phone, so be sure to take that extra fee into account when you consider the full cost of a ticket.

Few other perks
Compared to other airline cards, the LifeMiles Visa Signature doesn’t offer many benefits. The card helps heavy packers shave down their baggage fees by offering a 50 percent discount on excess baggage. It also offers a number of standard credit card perks that can be easily found on less expensive cards, including premium travel insurance, travel and emergency assistance, and free concierge service. However, it doesn’t offer any other cardholder benefits that might set it apart from other cards.

Reasons to get it:

  • You travel frequently to Central America or Colombia and prefer Avianca Airlines.
  • You’re planning a trip to Central or South America and only intend to keep the card for a year in order to help shave down the cost of a ticket.
  • You’re looking for a card that allows you to transfer miles to a number of partner airlines.

How to use it:

  • To get the most out of this airline card, fly Avianca Airlines as often as possible and use your card for all airline purchases.
  • Only use the card for purchases you can repay in full each month, since the card’s APR is relatively high.
  • Continue to use the card at least once a year. Miles automatically expire if you don’t use the card for 24 months.

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