Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is one of my favorite programs to buy miles from, both thanks to the frequency with which they sell miles, and what a good deal their redemptions can be.
The airline sure has been taking an interesting approach towards selling miles this month, though. Last week the airline had a three day flash sale on purchased miles, while this week they have a one week sale on miles. Compare that to them historically offering promotions for weeks at a time.
So let’s take a look at Alaska’s current promotion.
What is the best price for buying Alaska miles?
Through Sunday, September 22, 2019, Alaska is offering a bonus on the purchase of miles. Different accounts may be targeted for different offers, and my account shows a bonus of up to 40%. It’s possible that different accounts are eligible for different bonuses, so you’ll have to log into your Mileage Plan account to see what you’re eligible for.
The 40% bonus I was targeted for is tiered, as follows:
- Buy 10,000 – 19,000 miles, get a 20% bonus
- Buy 20,000 – 39,000 miles, get a 30% bonus
- Buy 40,000 – 60,000 miles, get a 40% bonus
What’s the cost to purchase miles through this promo?
Historically Alaska Mileage Plan seems to offer anywhere between 35% and 50% bonuses on purchased miles. When they offer that deal, the price per purchased mile ranges from ~1.97 cents per mile with a 50% bonus, to ~2.19 cents per mile with a 35% bonus.
So if you’re eligible for a 40% bonus on purchased miles then you could buy 84,000 miles at a cost of $1,773.75, which is ~2.11 cents per mile.
The maximum number of miles you can purchase per transaction is 60,000 pre-bonus, 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.
Ideally I’d buy miles with a 50% bonus, but if you have an immediate use in mind it could still make sense to buy them with a 40% bonus.
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 which makes Mileage Plan really unique, as Alaska allows stopovers even on one-way award tickets.
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 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.
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 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
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, but it shouldn’t impact most “regular” buyers.
Unique airline partners
Alaska doesn’t belong to any of the “big three” alliances, though they partner with some airlines which belong to both oneworld and SkyTeam, as some other unique, non-alliance carriers.
For example, Alaska partners with Emirates, Fiji Airways, IcelandAir, and Hainan (which has excellent award availability).
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
Through the end of the weekend, Alaska Mileage Plan is offering a bonus on purchased miles, though different accounts will be targeted for different offers. This can be a great value, especially for redemptions in first class on Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Qantas (if you can find availability), etc.
While I wouldn’t buy miles without a use in mind, there are so many great ways to redeem Alaska miles. I really can’t overstate how valuable the stopovers on 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.
Do you plan on purchasing Alaska miles with this promotion?