new Avianca ‘buy miles’ promotion is paying out up to 125% more LifeMiles until September 30, which can be redeemed for travel on Thai Airways, Air Canada and across the Star Alliance. For this promotion only, the usual 150,000 miles-per-year cap is boosted to 337,500 miles (including any bonuses earned), with miles sold in increments of 1,000 miles.

The number of bonus miles you’ll pick up depends on how many you buy: purchases between 2,000 and 50,000 miles net double miles; buys between 51,000 and 100,000 net a 115% bonus, while buying 101,000 to 150,000 miles returns the full 125% boost.

All up, you could max out the offer by buying 150,000 miles with a 187,500-mile bonus for an all-out total of 337,500 miles – yours for US$4,950 (A$6,625).

That’s almost enough for three return trips from Sydney to Bangkok in first class with Thai Airways when booking your travel outright, but can unlock significantly more opportunities through Avianca’s ‘flexible payment’ option – more on that later.

But as flagged in our previous article, this special offer is only open to accounts that were created before the promotion began – so if you followed our advice and created a free LifeMiles account, now is the time to buy!

Remember: although you’ll need to buy your miles before September 30, they can of course be redeemed for flights after this date.

The article below, written ahead of this promotion, explains more about the process of buying and using Avianca LifeMiles to book flights with Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways and other Star Alliance airlines.

But this tactic isn’t limited to US airlines. One of the most prized tricks of the travelling cognoscenti involves the little-known LifeMiles frequent flyer scheme of Colombian airline Avianca.

Avianca doesn’t fly to Australia, yet that doesn’t stop you from buying miles through LifeMiles – and because Avianca is a member of the Star Alliance family you can use those miles to book flights on other Star Alliance airlines such as Thai Airways, United, Air Canada and Lufthansa at far below the normal ticket cost.

For example, you could fly from Australia to London in business class for around $3,700 return with Star Alliance members Air China and Air India.

Another appealing option: jet to Vancouver and back with Air Canada in business class for around $3,300, or to Bangkok and back for an unbelievable $2,600 in first class.

As always, buying miles may let you travel at the pointy end without the premium price tag but it’s not as straightforward as ‘buy your miles, then book your ticket’.

Avianca LifeMiles has a few wrinkles of its own when it comes to booking those redemption flights, and you should always check the availability of award flights on your preferred travel routes and dates before buying miles.

Let’s repeat that: always make sure there’s a way to redeem miles to a destination and at a time that suits you… (did we say ‘always’?)

Only when you’ve found something suitable should you pull the trigger and buy those miles, before then immediately redeeming them for your desired travel.

LifeMiles is one tricky beast, and the scheme is not for everyone, but it can be tamed. Here’s how.

Outside of any promotion periods, miles in the LifeMiles scheme can be purchased for US$0.033 each in multiples of 1,000 – or US$33 per block.

However, Avianca often runs two-for-one promotions on mileage purchases, reducing the cost per mile to just 1.65 US cents… but there’s a catch: these deals are normally available only to existing members of the LifeMiles program.

Each calendar year, LifeMiles members can buy up to 150,000 miles, which includes any extra miles earned during two-for-one promotions.

That’s enough for at least two return business class trips to Europe London using a ‘flexible payment’ option – more on that later.

One reason that Avianca is a fave among frequent flyers: fuel surcharges, which typically cost hundreds of dollars on international flights, are absent from all LifeMiles award tickets.

Whether you book a flight with Avianca or one of its Star Alliance partners, you won’t pay a cent towards the airline-induced ‘fuel tax’.

All LifeMiles flight redemption bookings attract a US$25 ‘redemption fee’, so if your circumstances allow you to book a return trip rather than two one-way fares, you’ll avoid paying that fee twice.

Also, if your journey requires a connection – such as from Sydney to London via Bangkok – the maximum time you can spend in transit is eight hours: any more time in between flights and you’ll have to book separate tickets.

That means you’d need to make one booking for Sydney to Bangkok and then another booking from Bangkok to London, forking out more miles than if you were to fly straight through, and also with two sets of ‘redemption fees’ to pay.