Alaska Adds Annual Limit On Buying Miles

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Alaska Mileage Plan is a program that frequently sells miles at a discount, and buying miles with them can represent an excellent value. This is because of their unique airline partners, their attractive redemption rates, and the fact that they allow stopovers on one-way award tickets.

Earlier I wrote about how Alaska Mileage Plan is offering a 40% bonus on purchased miles through February 22, 2019, which is their first promotion of the year. This is an opportunity to buy miles for as little as 2.11 cents each.

There are lots of people who frequently take advantage of these promotions, and one thing that has long made Alaska Mileage Plan unique is that they’ve had no limit on how many miles you can purchase. So while there was a limit on how many miles you could buy per transaction, you could make as many transactions as you’d like.

Well, that has finally changed. Alaska Mileage Plan now limits non-elite members to buying 150,000 miles per calendar year. Meanwhile elite Mileage Plan members (MVP, MVP Gold, and MVP Gold 75K) continue to not have a limit on how many miles they can buy.

Here’s how Alaska has updated the terms of their promotion for buying miles:

Your Mileage Plan account may be credited up to a maximum total of 150,000 miles acquired through Points.com in a calendar year, whether purchased by you or gifted to you. MVP, MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K

So, why would Mileage Plan add a limit on how many miles you can buy? In reality they were probably making money on a vast majority of transactions, because even when you’re buying miles for the purposes of redeeming in first and business class on partner airlines, Alaska is only paying a fraction of the normal costs for these tickets.

My guess is that this limit was added due to the number of mileage brokers out there buying and selling miles. Airlines do everything they can to stop these people for a variety of reasons, and I’m guessing they found most people buying miles in big quantities were doing that. Of course this won’t be a foolproof solution, since those people can also get status.

I’d be curious to know to what extent this impacts the total number of miles they sell.

What do you make of Alaska’s new limit on purchased miles?

Comments

  1. Hi Ben,

    This is sad news. Just for clarity purposes, does the 150K annual limit include or exclude bonuses ?

  2. I have the same question as Hasan.

    Although I can’t see purchasing 150,000 miles, I’m curious as to if one can purchase 150,000 and then get the bonus, or is the number of miles procured capped at 150K.

  3. THIS IS FANTASTIC NEWS. Proof that Alaska is finally, finally listening to its B-I-S elites (like me, obvs) vs. people who just use Mileage Plan as a bank for high value international premium awards and scoop them up.

  4. I think the 150k is including the bonus. The wording of the T&Cs is “Your Mileage Plan account may be *credited* up to a maximum total of 150,000 miles” (emphasis mine).

  5. This is not good news Asdf unless you plan on being an elite for the rest of your life. I was a gold mvp for yewars before I quit flying for business. This is just the first step in lowering the quality of the program.

  6. I imagine the so-called brokers are purchasing long distance flights involving hundreds of thousands of miles per client, who would typically want to take a whole family in business or first class (good luck with that!). It should be an easy IT task to embed red flags to identify rogue accounts if that is the intention in restricting annual purchases. (It should not go unremarked that there is a self-limiting mechanism at play, in that many desirable partner premium awards are almost non-existent for most of the calendar).
    If this is the reason, then I would suggest the cap is too low, as, for example, a return award costing 70000 miles each way would pretty much exhaust an individuals entire annual buyup.
    Time for Alaska to explain itself I think!

  7. @glenn t

    That is the whole point, The cap is high enough. The maximum is a RT CX/JL F award award at the 140K level with 10k to spare for a short flight. Multiple family members each can set up their own accounts and buy 150K. Its more than enough points to go to almost anywhere AS partners fly in any cabin RT (except emirates) which is more than enough for your average customer.

    I remember back in the days when purchasing miles was a way to top off an account. You don’t need to buy half a million miles at a time especially when you barely set foot on an AS flight.

    The best decision AS has made in a long time.

  8. If this is the reason, then I would suggest the cap is too low, as, for example, a return award costing 70000 miles each way would pretty much exhaust an individuals entire annual buyup.

    The reason AS is doing this is that the business Lucky’s “buy miles and fly in F” readership represents isn’t important to them– who but a tiny number of travel hacker blog readers and mileage brokers is redeeming for multiple J/F flights in a year?

    You represent zero business to AS in their core business (flying planes) if all you do is buy miles for CX/JL/EK. Yeah, the money is nice, but if it devalues the program for elites because all the premium seats are snarfed up in nanoseconds, and the partners aren’t happy because of mileage brokers, you just have a bunch of people with miles they can’t use and angry partners Historically, all the hacker “I can fly EK F USA-DXB-CMB-SIN-AKL-SYD-BKK using an AS award” community has done is completely shit the bed for everyone else in the program; all the publicity on that infamous blogger is part of why AS did a no-notice jacking of EK award prices.

    Alaska is running an airline loyalty scheme for an airline based in North America, not a scheme to add income as an unofficial consolidator of premium class seats for their partners (*cough*Avianca Lifemiles*cough*)… so if you’re not stepping on their planes ever and helping them grow their core business, and you’re just in it as a mileage piggy bank… go over to Avianca and buy one of their subscriptions. Plus *A has some pretty good availability to Europe compared to AS (and has a region-based chart so you could actually fly JNB-FRA or BKK-DXB on one award).

  9. Eponymous coward. You are assuming that those of us using these awards don’t flys AS. I have been flying AS since 1966. I no longer have MVP status as I don’t fly any longer for work. I live in Anchorage and fly around 20 -30 segments domestically a year. I purchase 300-400k mikes per year to fly on their intl partners. I pay for upgrades to premium economy and they are making money on me for the expensive intra Alaska travel that I do. It costs my family of 3 $750-1000 just to get out of AK. Don’t feel sorry for AS. If they continue to downgrade their program I will switch to Delta who now flies to Anchorage and Juneau.

  10. @ eponymous coward. Agree on Lifemiles subscription. I like Alaska and snagged 2 CX business class tickets to SIN from JFK in Nov, but Lifemiles is better to South America and Europe and don’t have to originate or terminate from the US. Cap on AK just means I would use Marriott points to transfer to them if needed.

  11. Lucky – are you still in Lanka?. I flew CMB / MCT yesterday,

    Do you or your lieutenants know why CHASE will not allow their cards to be used in Oman?
    Seems a big deal.

  12. I live in Anchorage and fly around 20 -30 segments domestically a year.

    MVP is 30 segments. Just sayin’.

    I purchase 300-400k mikes per year to fly on their intl partners.

    OK. So you’re spending $6000-8000 a year just on THAT plus other travel. It’s still not important business to them.

    If they continue to downgrade their program I will switch to Delta who now flies to Anchorage and Juneau.

    Then do it. Enjoy their award chart. Oh wait, they don’t have one. Well, enjoy paying a few hundred thousand to fly KE J. Too bad DL’s program won’t let you fly KE F…

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