My Alaska Airlines MVP Gold 75K Status Conundrum

The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program is among my favorite frequent flyer programs out there:

  • They continue to award miles based on distance flown rather than dollars spent
  • They have a unique array of airline partners with exceptional mileage earning rates
  • Their award redemption rates are excellent, and they even allow stopovers on one-way awards

Alaska is also a useful airline up and down the West Coast, as well as to Mexico, and I’d say I probably fly them 10,000 miles per year on average. If I’m trying to upgrade I usually fly American, but sometimes Alaska works out better. That’s obviously not a lot of flying with them, though at the same time it is nice to have status for those times that I do fly with them given that I almost always get upgraded.

I always have status with Alaska, but it’s never consistent

I’ve had Alaska status for many years, though the status I qualify for is all over the place. A couple of years I had MVP Gold status, last year I had MVP Gold 75K status, and this year I have MVP status. It all depends on how many partner airline flights I credit to Mileage Plan, given what a great product it is.

For those of you not familiar with the program, here are the elite tiers (and I have to qualify based on the second metric, which includes earning on partner airlines).

So far this year I have 44,126 elite qualifying miles with Alaska Mileage Plan. This is thanks to:

Over the coming months I already have the following booked:

  • New York to Los Angeles on Alaska (2,475 elite qualifying miles)
  • Frankfurt to Whitehorse on Condor in paid business class (9,080 elite qualifying miles)

That means I’m already booked to be at 55,681 elite qualifying miles for the year, which means I’ll requalify for MVP Gold.

That’s more than enough for me, and certainly covers any needs I have for flying Alaska.

Is it worth mileage running for MVP Gold 75K?

It’s not like I’m super close to earning MVP Gold 75K status, as I’d need 90,000 elite qualifying miles, or just under 35,000 additional elite qualifying miles. The reason I’m seriously considering this is because you earn 50,000 bonus redeemable miles when you earn MVP Gold 75K status. I value Alaska miles at close to two cents each, so that’s almost $1,000 worth of miles right there. That’s on top of Alaska’s normally very high mileage earning rates.

To prorate the 50,000 bonus miles across 35,000 miles of flying, that’s basically the equivalent of a further 150% mileage bonus.

For example, for flying Condor business class you earn 200% elite qualifying miles, 300% redeemable miles, a 100% MVP Gold mileage bonus, plus this prorated 150% mileage bonus. So for my incremental flying in Condor business class I’d be earning the equivalent of 550% of flown miles. That’s crazy generous.

Mileage earning rates are similarly good on other airline partners.

Not even half of the year is over, so realistically I could shift some domestic flying to Alaska, and I imagine I’d then only need maybe 20,000 elite qualifying miles, which I could easily knock out with one international trip on a partner airline.

For those of you who are Alaska loyalists, I’m curious how you decide whether to go for MVP Gold or MVP Gold 75K, assuming you don’t actually need to fly 90,000 revenue miles per year with them and their partners? Given the 50,000 mile bonus for earning MVP Gold 75K status, do you go so far as to take a mileage run to earn the status?

I’m sure I’m not the only one in a situation like this…

Comments

  1. Sure it makes sense if you’re flying paid F/J to use Alaska like a mileage bank, but keep in mind their earn rates are very low for discount economy fliers (other than Qantas) which make up a big portion of fliers.

    Also the lack of alliance benefits means international fliers would never have Alaska as a primary program.

  2. I have little experience in the Alaska program but I’ve found the upgrades virtually unusable at the MVP Gold level, they seem slightly more usable at the MVP 75 level. And premium seats on Alaska with reasonable fare basis as MVP 75 I think. Probably worth it if you fly Alaska a few times a year.

    I’ve found MVP Gold close to worthless besides the mileage bonuses. The biz upgrades at MVP Gold are more like $50 off a full fare first ticket than an actual usable upgrade. Even premium class upgrades require a higher fare basis it seems that is just like buying up anyway.

  3. 75K Gold here, are will likely not fly with AS in 2019. I question the long-term viability of this distance-based award program in it’s current standing, and without a major alliance to belong to, existing partnerships can be altered or cancelled often with little or no notice.

    The loss of Delta was a big blow, as we’ve since seen AF/KLM and AeroMexico exit their partnerships with AS and I believe Korean Air will not be far behind. The addition of Singapore means very little for those who want to maximize their miles by flying premium long-distance routes and I’m still counting down the days when we see a massive devaluation with CX and JL like we did with Emirates. That would leave very few surcharge-free options for anyone wanting to travel to Asia and with European options basically limited to BA, I’m beginning to see less and less value in staying with this program.

  4. 75k gold and aa exec plat on my own dim.

    credit LA CX AY QF BA paid J on AS, earning 350% to 575% RDM on AS
    (I am already at 100k in AS and still have 50k to go)

    credit QR paid J on AA. easy. cost very little money.

  5. MVP Gold here. Won’t requalify but my have AS match my AA EXP next year.
    I’ve flown 4 paid international J flights on AA but have credited them all to AA, but if I have any more I will credit them to AS.
    Because my closest airport is DAL, it kind of makes sense, but Alaska has chopped the nicer A320 for DAL-LGA. The only routes accessible are LAX/SFO/LGA/DCA from DAL. For LA and NY, I can use Jetsmarter and fly out of DAL much more comfortably. So the only benefit for MVP 75 is better upgrades for SFO and DCA as the other benefits are the same with MVP Gold. If you’re not going to fly on AS elite heavy routes next year, just get the MVP Gold

  6. I used to live in Seattle and now live in the Bay Area, nearer to OAK, but close enough to SFO to use either. I’ve been an MVPG for more years than not, over the past 10-15, through BIS mostly domestic flights on AS + partners. (Earn domestic economy, burn intl premium.)

    Losing DL and AA as partners for earning hurt, but, adding the former VX route network helps, especially out of the Bay Area. I should be able to requalify for MVPG; might have to do one mileage run, which for free flight changes and usually getting upgraded, I think is worth it. I don’t know that I would MR for 75K, because it’s only incrementally more valuable than MVPG, vs the huge step up from MVP to MVPG.

    They’re also just a better carrier than the Big 3. The only other domestic carrier we fly regularly is WN, ex-OAK.

    Also, I support changes to Mileage Plan that make it harder to just use it as a bank and currency for people who never actually fly AS metal – which would anger a lot of people online in the miles/points space but help the people who actually keep AS in business, and tamp down the likelihood of any huge partner devaluations.

  7. Lol Mitch Cumstein

    Back on topic, isn’t paying to fly more just to get $1000 worth of miles kind of counterintuitive? Surly you’ll pay more than $1000 to get what you need for the bonus.

    Also as an ex SEA flyer and now in PBI, I find AS miles much harder to use to be part of an intl trip. Sure I can book EK F but AS can’t get me to my departure city and I’m forced to have separate bookings which is risky.

  8. No. Alaska miles are purchased at ~2 cpm. I vacillate between MVP and MVPG based on natural travel. Extra mileage running doesn’t pencil out until you’re in the 2-3 CPM range, plus there is a time cost for sitting in planes. It’s easy enough for you to blog, snap 4365226564 shots of an airplane cabin or work on a laptop at 35,000 feet, but there are things I can’t do in an airplane or traveling; traveling is a means to an end for me, not the end itself. I don’t find airplanes pleasant enough to plan my life around them.

  9. You’re not flying AS enough to care about the difference in benefits between MVPG and 75K, so you just need to do the math on the incremental cost of 75K vs incremental miles earned.

  10. I cannot say it is completely cost effective, but I did it for this year. I just wish there were more international partners given those that have left. Also, wish one could redeem on Finnair and Singapore. Emirates is still a great partner, even with the massive devaluation. Want to hear your report on Condor. Only problem with it is that it does not fly out of many airports and the schedule is weird.

  11. SFO/OAK based flyer here, MVP 75k for the last 2 years and unlikely to hit it again this year unless a paid J work trip pops up that I haven’t accounted for. It’s increasingly difficult to fly them for my work needs, as they have been reducing frequencies, trimming routes and adjusting timings. MSP was cut, ORD is down to 2x daily with terrible times, JFK is 3 day flights plus a redeye. RDU is redeye only, and MCI is awkwardly timed to maximize aircraft utilization. These are the routes out of SFO I’ve flown for work in the last 6-12 months. I don’t need 50x frequencies, but I need a few more options and better times.

    I think AS is great as a mileage bank but its harder and harder to use as a primary carrier given the limited options. Probably not worth pursuing status either when the premium fares are pretty reasonable, so for the occasions where they are the best option its not an unreasonable purchase.

  12. My family flies Alaska almost exclusively but, unfortunately, Voldoo’s analysis is spot on. I think it will be rare to get more than 1.5 cents value per Alaska mile a year from now.

  13. I now qualify without MR for 75K as does my spouse (100-110 K) a year – mostly SEA-WAS flying. The ability to change tickets and redeposit miles and tickets when our plans change at the last minute are the best reason to stay with AS. I’ll rethink this in April 2019 when I hit MM on AS.

  14. Given that I’m in Anchorage and I do most of my flying outside of the summer months, I do all my domestic flying with AK or occasionally DL. I have MVPG. While I’d like to get the 50K bonus miles and the extra 25% flight bonus miles, I seem to have good luck finding MVPG and MVPG guest fares, with advanced planning. Given the recent changes regarding award change fees, I’m guessing that avoiding those fees will be a very strong motivator for keeping MVPG. I’m usually just 1 transcontinental or extra Hawaii flight away from qualifying for 75K, but so far it just hasn’t seemed worth it. So far I’ve booked first class awards on JL, CX, BA and Emirates with some itinerary changes but not too much difficulty. No doubt AS will devalue in the not-too-distant future, but probably not more so than other US carriers, and if they continue to allow free stopovers, then AS miles will still be more valuable than those earned with AA or DL.

  15. I’d argue that Gold is good enough (I love those no-fee cancellations & changes). And maybe they’ll offer another easy challenge early next year so you can jump up to Gold75

  16. I would also argue that if you do the math, you probably won’t be getting the value out of Alaska MVP 75K miles bonus. I know that you value Alaska miles closer to 2cpm, but with the lack of partners I am not able to spend the miles the way I would like. Sure 360K miles for a return Emirates F is nice but I really don’t value the Emirates F trip at $7200, more like $5000 which is a more realistic 1.5cpm.

    There has been many ways this year I could manufacture or buy SPG points at 35%off to get 1 – 1.8cents for each Alaska miles ….and I did neither.

  17. Not worth it. You don’t travel enough on them anymore.

    Whitehorse is great. Our lake house in the winter is beautiful. I always winter in Whitehorse for the tennis in my parka.

  18. Was MVP Gold 75K last year, MVP Gold this year……I feel that the 100% mileage bonus is really all I need to shoot for each year, but that’s basically because I only fly the partners being based in HK. 75K is great, but I won’t go out of my way to get it. All of my economy flights on CX I credit to AS, plus anything else after I hit EXP on AA (which is this week).

  19. Even someone that flies AS metal regularly out of SFO/SEA, I don’t get the appeal of the mileage bank when I can’t even get to Europe on MP without paying some ridiculous fuel surcharges. The only thinking keeping this mileage plan going is the partnerships to Asia. If/when those exit or get devalued these miles are nearly worthless, the lone exception being transcon travel or hawaii. I’m actively trying to burn my miles asap.

  20. @Westy —

    It’s not completely wide-open availability, but I’ve flown a lot of AA TATL with my AS miles. BA has pretty high fees as you’ve noticed, although they can be ~$150ish when you do creative routing.

    And even if it’s $300, that’s still a hell of a discount when compared to the $8-14k ticket price if I was paying cash.

  21. YES DO IT. You are an OD mile junkie with a carte blanche. You didn’t stop at taking weird routes on weird airlines. What can be more simpler than this.

    More RTW EK F
    More RTW EK F
    More RTW EK F

    Now lets take review to the next level i.e. compare the L and R shower on the a380
    How good is EK crew in playing charades over video call.
    The best for last, (I guess Casey might be better person to do this), do the world’s first mile-high keg stand in the privacy of your own suite. Mile high club is so out, get ready for Mile High Keg.

  22. 75K gold here but leaving next year. Alaska is going downhill rapidly with a lack of international partners to redeem points with. BA has massive surcharges to redeem points with – minimal other partner options into Asia and Europe. Trying to burn my Alaska miles as quickly as possible.

    If you are based in Seattle Delta is better option moving forward.

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