Using Lufthansa Miles: Part 2 – Introduction, Rules, Fees, Mile Expiration etc.

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I’ve been digging into the Lufthansa Miles & More program because of the Barclaycard 50,000 mile credit card. This offer ends on June 30, 2014.

I could not find much information on the program, so I’ve spent lots of time studying how to avoid the high fuel surcharges, discounted award flights, stopover rules, extra award seats to Lufthansa members and other quirks of the Lufthansa frequent flyer program.  This will be the most comprehensive guide to using Lufthansa miles in English.

If you’re new to miles and points, like my mother-in-law,  there are better cards for you to apply for like the Chase Sapphire PreferredAmerican Express Starwood card, Chase Ink Plus, or the other cards on the Hot Deals tab.  But if you’ve been doing this for a while, the Barclaycard Miles & More World Elite MasterCard card could make sense for you – especially if you can use their miles for travel within the US and save your more valuable miles.  But make sure you know the quirks of the program BEFORE you apply.

There is another offer for 50,000 miles, with a lower minimum spending requirement, but you may get fewer miles if you’re approved for a lower card with that offer.

“Using Lufthansa Miles” Series Index

Sign-Up For Miles & More

If you don’t have a Miles and More account, you can sign-up for one at this link on the Miles & More website.  Once you have your Miles and More membership number, you can add it to your Award Wallet account to track your miles and expiration date.

You need some miles in your account before you can search for award seats.  Currently, you get 500 miles for subscribing to the email newsletter, so don’t uncheck the newsletter subscription if you want to use your Lufthansa account to search for awards immediately.

Lufthansa Award

Sign-Up for a Miles and More Account

If you apply for the Barclaycard 50,000 mile Lufthansa card, you should enter your Lufthansa Miles & More number on the application form so that the 50,000 miles goes directly to your Lufthansa account.

Lufthansa Award

Enter Your Miles & More Number in the Barclaycard Credit Card Application Field

Barclaycard will automatically sign you up for a Lufthansa account if you don’t enter a membership number.  But it is additional hassle to call Barclaycard to get your Lufthansa Miles & More number and to then call Lufthansa to reset the password on your account so that you can access the account.

Tip:  You get your Miles and More number immediately online, but it takes 2 weeks to get your membership card AND PIN mailed to you from Germany.  You can’t make award bookings until you have the PIN number, but you can call the Lufthansa service center and have them email your PIN to you instead of waiting for the mail.

Lufthansa Award

Your Miles & More PIN is Under the Card Mailed From Germany

Where Can You Use Lufthansa Miles?

Miles & More Airlines:

Miles and More is the largest frequent flyer program in Europe.  Miles and More airlines include:

  • Adria Airways
  • Air Dolomiti
  • Austrian Airlines
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Croatia Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • LOT Polish Airlines
  • Luxair
  • Swiss International Air Lines

Lufthansa miles will get you much better award seats on these airlines than if you use other miles such as United or Air Canada miles.

Star Alliance Airlines:

Not only can you earn and use Lufthansa miles on any one of the above Miles & More airlines, but you can also earn and use miles on Star Alliance partners as well.

Star Alliance is a group of 26 airlines which together fly to ~1,300 airports globally.  United is a Star Alliance partner, along with Thai, ANA, Singapore Airlines etc.  You can see a list of all the Star Alliance airlines here.

However, you can’t book a suite class award on the Airbus A380 on Singapore Airlines with your Lufthansa miles.

Other Airline Partners:

Lufthansa also partners with a few airlines outside of Star Alliance:

And you can redeem your miles on these airlines as well.  However, award seats on these airlines was bad when I called to check.

Lufthansa Award

You Can Use Your Lufthansa Miles to Fly on Any of These Airlines Except US Air and TAM

Where Can Lufthansa Miles Take Me?

Pretty much anywhere in the world.  Not only is Miles and More the biggest frequent flyer program in Europe but Star Alliance is the largest airline alliance in the world.

You can go anywhere where:

  1. Lufthansa flies
  2. Star Alliance partners fly
  3. Miles and More partner airlines fly
  4. Other partner airlines fly

However, you can only book awards online for Lufthansa and select Miles & More airlines.

So you have to call the Lufthansa service center to book awards on other airlines.  But the Lufthansa service center is very competent and has low hold times.

What Does This Mean?

1.   Paris, France.  You can book flights to Paris from the US on Austrian Air, Swiss Airlines or Lufthansa etc.  These airlines are members of Miles and More and you could book the flight online on the Miles & More website.

However, if your flight involves using a United flight as well, you will have to call the Lufthansa call center to book the award.  See tomorrow’s post for more details on calling Lufthansa’s different service centers.

Lufthansa Award

You Can Book Select Awards Online (Chicago to Paris in Screenshot Above)

2.   Tokyo, Japan.   Lufthansa does not fly non-stop from the US to Tokyo.  But Star Alliance partner airlines like ANA (All Nippon Airways) does.  But you can’t book this award online and will have to call Lufthansa to book it.

Fuel Surcharges

One of the biggest drawbacks of Lufthansa miles is that you will pay high fuel surcharges for most travel.

For example, it costs ~$300 in fuel surcharges for a one-way coach award from Chicago to Paris.  This increases to ~$450 for awards in business class or first class.

But as we saw yesterday, flights back from the Europe to the US have lower fuel surcharges, and there are other ways to avoid fuel surcharges.  So you’ll pay only ~$250 in surcharges for a 1-way business class back to the US on Lufthansa, Swiss etc.

Lufthansa Award

25,000 Miles & ~$300 for a One-Way from Chicago to Paris on Lufthansa

On the other hand, a paid coach ticket to Europe costs ~$1,200 and you do get extra award seats on Lufthansa and other Miles & More airlines, so this could be worth it to some.  But in general using Lufthansa points on Miles & More airlines means that you’ll be paying (more) cash as well.

You can use 18,000 miles to pay for taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges, but this is ONLY for flights within Europe operated by Lufthansa and select Miles & More partners.  So this isn’t a great deal.  But it would be nice if you could do that for awards outside Europe.

But not all partner airlines such as Air China, Singapore Airlines etc. have high fuel surcharges.

Good Uses of Lufthansa Miles

Here are 17 great ways to use Lufthansa miles, but they are mostly in coach.  And you have to call the Lufthansa service center to book these flights.

Booking Window

1.   Book Up to 361 Days in Advance

Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian Air, Polish LOT & Brussels Air release award seats 361 days in advance.

Lufthansa Award

Lots of First Class Seats on May 6, 2014 from Chicago to Frankfurt on Lufthansa

You can also find seats on Austrian Airways and Adria Airways, but for international flights Lufthansa is your best bet when booking 361 days in advance.

In contrast, airlines in the US usually let you book only ~331 days (~11 months) out.  So you have a good shot at getting award seats on certain Miles & More flights.

However, you won’t be able to book 361 days in advance if your itinerary includes a connection with a partner airline, such as United, whose booking schedule opens 337 days in advance.

2.   CANNOT Book Awards Within 2 Days of Departure

The terms and conditions say (bolding mine):

“We regret that flight awards cannot be booked less than two working days in advance of the date of departure.”  

So there is no way to book flights within 48 hours of departure.  The online booking website won’t show the flights and the agents can’t do it either!

One-Way Awards

You can book one-way awards using Lufthansa miles for 50% (half) of the price of miles in the award chart.

For example, let’s say that the round-trip cost in the award chart is 50,000 from the US to Europe in coach.  You can also book a one-way award from the US to Europe for 25,000 miles.

Mixed Cabin Awards

The terms say that if you book an award flying in Business Class one-way, and return in coach, you will pay the round-trip price for Business Class.

This is silly because you can get around it by booking two one-way awards – one in business class and one in coach!

Reservation, Cancellation & Late-Ticketing Fees

1.   Telephone Booking Fee:

There is NO fee for booking flights over the phone with the Lufthansa Miles & More service center.  In contrast, most US airlines charge $25 for a phone booking.

This is great because you *have* to call the service center to book certain awards. Remember that only airlines which are part of the Miles and More program can be booked online.  Other airlines like United, Thai, Air New Zealand, etc. must be booked over the phone.

2.   Cancellation & Change Fees:

The good news is that there is NO charge if you cancel an award WITHIN 24 hours of making the reservation!

I verified that flights can be cancelled within 24 hours of booking.  I booked a flight to Alaska in the morning and called in the evening, after my miles were deducted and the confirmation email had arrived, to cancel the ticket for free. This makes booking risk free as long as you remember to call and cancel within 24 hours.

Lufthansa Award

No Fee for Cancelling Lufthansa Awards Within 24 Hours

However, Lufthansa charges a $60 fee to cancel or change an award ticket AFTER 24 hours of making the booking.  This includes changes to the date of travel, which are usually free with US airlines.  On the other hand, US airlines charge ~$150 to cancel or make substantial changes to an award ticket.

3.   No Refund for Reduced Flight Awards:

Lufthansa has reduced flight awards only on Miles & More airlines such as Lufthansa etc.  You pay fewer miles for certain awards such as Fly Smart awards, mileage bargains and 75% of the usual mileage for children under 12, and we’ll discuss them in future posts.

But you CANNOT cancel those awards and have the miles refunded to your account.  Moreover, you will NOT get the fuel surcharge portion of the award refunded to you as well.

Lufthansa Award

You Will Not Get Your Miles or Cash Back for a Reduced Flight Award

Fuel surcharges are ~$200 to $500 each way on Miles & More airlines so this could be very expensive if you can’t use your award!

4.   Late Ticketing Fee

There is NO late ticketing fee (i.e. an additional fee for booking an award ~2 weeks before departure) on Lufthansa.  In contrast, US airlines often charge late ticketing fees of about $75.

Putting Flights on Hold

Putting a flight on hold means that the award seats are held for you (and not available to anyone else) and you can complete the booking process (by paying the taxes and fees) up to when the hold expires.

The good news is that you can put flights on hold for 5 days.  The bad news is that you can only put flights on hold for these airlines with Lufthansa miles:

  • Lufthansa
  • Swiss
  • Asiana
  • Austrian
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Croatia Airlines
  • Ethiopian
  • Jet Airways

I wasn’t able to find an agent that would put any other partners on hold. They said that the partner airline won’t let them, but surely that isn’t the reason!

Also note that a German agent said that the hold time was 6 days, but ALL US agents said that the hold period was 5 days.  So I’d plan on a 5 day hold period since we’ll likely be calling in to the US service center.

Lufthansa Miles Expiration

The Lufthansa mileage policy says:

Any mileage not redeemed within 36 months of the date of accrual (date of flight, start of hotel stay, time of car rental) will expire at the end of that quarter (e.g. miles expiring in August of any given year would expire at the end of September of that same year), failing other arrangements published in the Miles & More communication media.

This means that your Lufthansa miles will expire in ~3 years from the date when you earned the miles.  So you better use the miles within 3 years (which you should do in any case).  Your online statement will tell you when your miles are due to expire.

Unless you have Lufthansa elite status, your miles will expire in 3 years.

Lufthansa Award

Your Miles Will Not Expire if you have the Barclaycard Miles & More World Elite MasterCard Credit Card or Lufthansa Elite Status

Your miles will also NOT expire if you:

  • Have the Barclaycard Miles & More World Elite MasterCard Credit Card AND
  • Make at least one purchase a month AND
  • Have had the Lufthansa card for at least 3 months

The easiest way to keep your miles active beyond 3 years is to set a small recurring purchase (Netflix etc.) on your Barclaycard Miles & More World Elite MasterCard.

The terms say:

“No mileage expiration: all unused miles, which have been awarded to your Miles & More account and those you will earn in the future remain valid for an unlimited period of time and will no longer expire provided that you make a purchase for which miles are awarded at least once a month and have held a Miles & More MasterCard for at least three months.”

I don’t see this as a big deal because you should use the miles in less than 3 years since they lose value over time.

Bottom Line

You get extra award seats using Lufthansa miles on their Miles & More airlines, but you also pay extra in fuel surcharges.

You also won’t get your miles and money back if you book a reduced price award.  And you have to call Lufthansa to book award flights on more partners.  But as we’ll see tomorrow, they have a very efficient service center.

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49 responses to “Using Lufthansa Miles: Part 2 – Introduction, Rules, Fees, Mile Expiration etc.

  1. if i have the credit card with out using it each month will the miles expire ?

    • @miles – Your miles will NOT expire for the 1st THREE years. After that, you have to have the card for at least 3 months, and have a charge on it EVERY month (after 3 years) to keep miles alive.

  2. Darius,
    Can you have two Barclays Miles and More cards at the same time? Also, how frequently is this card churnable? Finally, is their any way to transfer other points into Miles and More — for example, AmEx Gold Rewards points?

  3. Great series, I’m learning a lot! By extra award seats, do you mean they have more awards seats available to their own members than to partners?

  4. You have definitely done your homework on Lufthansa’s Miles & More program. Truly the most info I’ve seen on The LH frequent flyer program anywhere other than “Lufthansa Flyer’s” blog. I’m looking forward to reading tomorrow’s MMS post about reaching the LH reservation center.

  5. Marriott Marty

    D- I see you are doing an 18 part article on LH, that certainly will have taken 80 hours! I love your attention to detail. You get a best in class recommendation from me [and lots of referrals]. Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend!

    • @DWG – I don’t have personal experience, but you could get 1 for business expenses (if you have a business) and one for personal use. You can transfer Starwood & Hyatt points to Lufthansa.

      @Lisa
      – Sorry if I wasn’t clear. Lufthansa miles and more members get access to extra seats on Miles and more airlines (than other partner airlines) when using Lufthansa miles.

      @ASW – Thanks!

      @Marriott Marty – It is actually only 8 to 10 parts. Hope you have a nice Holiday weekend too!

  6. Pingback: Miles & More Contact | Million Mile Secrets

  7. So what is the best way to search for Partner availability, is it United or ANA search engines or is the only way to call in and ask? I am particularly curious about the availability on Star Alliance partners (not the M&M partners).

    • @Joseph – The best way to find availability on partners is to use United or ANA and then call for those flights. They don’t seem to have more availability than what you see on ANA or United (except perhaps for Singapore airline).

  8. Pingback: Redeem Lufthansa Miles | Million Mile Secrets

  9. Steve Edelman

    The information on expiration is not correct according to M&M. Once you obtain the card you must start charging immediately and then every month or the miles will expire three years after they were originally earned. This is not the same as stated above.

    So if you have miles, wait until 6 months before they are due to expire and get the credit card you have gotten almost 3 years where you didn’t have to charge every month whereas if you have the card when you earn the miles (including miles from all sources) then you need to charge every month from the moment you get the card. So having the card actually hurts you if don’t already have one and have miles that aren’t set to expire.

    That said there are numerous other quirks and bugs with the card such that LH has not been enforcing the every month rule rigorously, at least so far.

  10. Pingback: Lufthansa Stopover | Million Mile Secrets

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  17. I am new to credit cards and I received this card, amex starwood, boa alaska, and chase freedom. I plan to transfer any balances from those cards that I manage to have. My question is can I do a balance transfer to another person at the same address as me? And would that qualify for the point per dollar transfer bonus? What about someone at another address?

    Thanks

    • @Scott – You shouldn’t apply for miles and points cards if you carry balances because they usually have high interest rates. You may be able to transfer the balances to a different card at the same address, but I can’t say for sure.

  18. can i cancel a ticket till the last minute before the flight ?

  19. If we cannot do stopovers for the same region awards, does the 2 open jaws per round trip rules still apply to domestic awards? Thanks a ton!

  20. Hi Daraius,

    Wondering if I can use my Lufthansa miles on Hawaiian Airlines.

    I plan on doing the following, spending 40k Lufthansa miles.

    SFO>HNL (UA) stopover
    HNL>KOA (HA) destination
    KOA>HNL>LIH (HA) stopover
    LIH>SFO (UA) home

    Thanks!

  21. Daraius,

    I’m new to this game. I found R/T First Class tickets from DEN to FRA on the miles and more website on LH. If I want to get to DEN from LAX on UA, would I have to search United’s website for award availability, then call Lufthansa on the phone and have them plug in the UA flight. So I can go LAX-DEN-FRA, r/t.

    Thanks.

  22. First, thanks for the extremely prompt response. I thought of two related questions before I endeavor to call Lufthansa.

    1) Are you able to hold LH award seats without having the full amount of miles in your M&M account?

    2) In your experience, how long does it take SPG points to post to M&M?

    Thanks, again.

  23. just fyi your affiliate links are expired and you are probably missing out on some
    conversions

  24. I am a seaman,did lot of travelling with luftansa also had accumalated lots of miles before 2010 but when i signed the programme their was no expiration of miles also not a single mail came regarding the miles ,it was only recently when i checked after 3 years i came to know that all my 90000 miles are expired ,can some one help me please

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  30. Pingback: How to Earn and Use Lufthansa Miles: Part 2 - Introduction, Rules, Fees, Miles, Expiration, etc. | Million Mile Secrets

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  33. Pingback: How to Earn and Use Lufthansa Miles: Part 6 – How To Find and Book Awards | Million Mile Secrets

  34. Thanks so much for this information!

    Question:

    I see an award in December for LH DEN-FRA. Can I book that segment and then add a segment either on LH or other Star Alliance partner onward to BKK if something opens up?

    Thanks!

  35. If my miles expire at the end of march can I book now for a flight in July?

  36. Vedant Milind Athavale

    I got my miles and more card in India last month . Is there any charge that I have to pay for it?? I have never used it. So do I have to pay for it in any form? Is there any hidden charge for it that I’ve to pay in future??