Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is one of my favorite programs to buy miles from, both thanks to the frequency with which it sell miles, and what a good deal redemptions can be.
Keep in mind that Alaska is joining the oneworld alliance in early 2021 — while I can’t guarantee it will improve the value proposition of Mileage Plan, it does mean the airline will have lots more redemption partners.
A couple of weeks back Alaska Mileage Plan launched a promotion on purchased miles. This was supposed to expire on Sunday, but has now been extended by a couple of days. If you’re interested you can still take advantage of this promotion.
What Is The Best Price For Buying Alaska Miles?
Through Thursday, September 24, 2020, Alaska is offering a bonus on the purchase of miles. Generally Alaska’s bonuses on purchased miles are targeted, so different accounts may see different offers.
The accounts I manage all show a bonus of up to 50%, as follows:
- Buy 3,000-29,000 miles, get a 40% bonus
- Buy 30,000-100,000 miles, get a 50% bonus
Others may see a different bonus, so you’ll have to log into your Mileage Plan account to see what your account shows.
What’s The Cost To Purchase Miles Through This Promo?
With a 50% bonus you could buy 150,000 miles for $2,750, which is a cost of ~1.83 cents per mile.
The maximum number of miles you can purchase per transaction is 100,000 pre-bonus (this is new, because the maximum used to be 60,000), and you can purchase a total of up to 150,000 miles per calendar year. However, if you’re an Alaska elite member there’s no limit to how many miles you can buy.
Historically Alaska Mileage Plan seems to offer anywhere between 35% and 50% bonuses on purchased miles. When that deal is offered, the price per purchased mile ranges from ~1.97 with a 50% bonus, to ~2.19 cents with a 35% bonus.
However, in recent months we’ve seen a couple of 60% bonuses on purchased miles, presumably given the tough times.
Who Should Buy Alaska Miles With A Bonus?
In general, you always want to think about how you’ll use these miles, and the potential value for converting your cash to points before you make any purchases.
There are several unique elements to the Mileage Plan program, which means buying miles with Alaska can be a very good deal. I wouldn’t purchase miles for domestic economy flights in most cases, as the best values are typically for their international awards — make sure to check out my guide on the best uses of Alaska Airlines miles for more details and some examples of great values to be had.
Stopovers On One-Way Awards
This is something that makes Mileage Plan really unique, as Alaska allows stopovers even on most one-way award tickets.
Do note that the program recently added restrictions to this, though, and Alaska no longer allows stopovers on awards within Asia (though Mileage Plan does allow stopovers on awards between Asia and other regions).
Flying from New York to Singapore via Hong Kong? You can stop in Hong Kong for a few days (for no additional miles).
Flying from Dallas to Dubai to the Maldives? You can stop in Dubai (again, for no additional miles).
Flying from Los Angeles to Auckland via Fiji? You can stop in Fiji and have two vacations in one.
I can’t think of another lucrative frequent flyer program that offers complimentary stopovers on one-way awards booked on partner airlines.
Keep in mind this also means that if you’re flying roundtrip and booking as two one-ways, you can actually do two stopovers — one in each direction.
Generous Limits On How Many Miles You Can Buy
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 the program has had no limit on how many miles you can purchase. While there was a limit on how many miles you could buy per transaction, you could make as many transactions as you wanted.
Alaska Mileage Plan 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 describes the terms 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
Why would Mileage Plan add a limit on how many miles you can buy? In reality the program was 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 that Mileage Plan 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 Alaska sells, but it shouldn’t impact most “regular” buyers.
Unique Airline Partners
Alaska doesn’t belong to any of the “big three” alliances, though the airline does partner with some airlines that belong to oneworld, SkyTeam, and Star Alliance, as well as other unique, non-alliance carriers.
For example, Alaska partners with Emirates, Fiji Airways, Icelandair, and Hainan.
How Many Alaska Miles Do I Need For One Of These Fancy Flights?
To give a few examples of some of the great uses of Mileage Plan miles (all of which allow stopovers on one-way awards):
- Cathay Pacific first class from the US to Asia for 70,000 miles
- Cathay Pacific business class from the US to Australia for 60,000 miles
- LATAM business class from the US to South America for 45,000 miles
- Hainan business class from the US to Asia for 50,000 miles
- Fiji Airways business class from the US to Australia/New Zealand for 55,000 miles
- Icelandair business class from the US to Europe for 55,000 miles
- Korean Air business class from the US to Southeast Asia for 60,000 miles (roundtrip required)
Alaska miles are the best way to redeem for Cathay Pacific first class
In some cases, Alaska doesn’t have access to some partner award seats.
This is especially common on Cathay Pacific, Emirates, and Qantas. It is something to be aware of, so I’d recommend looking into this before buying any miles.
Who Can Buy Alaska Miles?
As long as you’ve been a member of Alaska Mileage Plan for at least 10 days, you can purchase miles during this promotion.
Redeem Alaska miles for Japan Airlines first class
Other Ways To Earn Alaska Mileage Plan Miles
Of course, you don’t have to buy miles to take advantage of these deals — Alaska also offers two credit cards that can help you rack up points quickly:
Both offer welcome bonuses after completing a moderate minimum spend, along with Alaska’s famous Companion Fare, which lets you “buy one, get one for cheap” for economy flights on Alaska. This is one of the easiest companion tickets to use, and the main reason I keep the cards year after year.
Which Credit Card Should You Use?
Alaska mileage purchases are processed by points.com, meaning they don’t count as an airfare purchase for the purposes of credit card spend.
Therefore I’d recommend using a card on which you’re trying to reach a minimum spend, or otherwise, a credit card that maximizes your return on everyday spending, like the Chase Freedom Unlimited® (review) or Citi® Double Cash Card (review).
See this post for more on the best credit cards for buying points.
Redeem Alaska miles for LATAM business class
Alaska Mileage Plan is offering up to a 50% bonus on purchased Mileage Plan miles. While we’ve seen a couple of 60% bonuses on purchased miles, this is otherwise in line with the best offers we’ve seen from Mileage Plan.
In general I wouldn’t recommend buying miles speculatively right now, but this is also a good price on Alaska miles, given that there are several great ways to redeem Alaska miles.
I really can’t overstate how valuable the stopovers on most one-way awards are, not to mention some of the unique airline partners that Alaska has, all of which you can learn more about in my guide to the best uses of Alaska Airlines miles.
While this promotion was supposed to expire on Sunday, it has been extended by a few days, so you can still take advantage of it through Thursday.
Do you plan on purchasing Alaska miles with this promotion?