You Can Buy Alaska Mileage Plan Miles with a 50% Bonus, but Is It Worth It? Alaska Airlines regularly offers bonuses for buying miles, generally in the 35-40% range. As recently as September-October 2018, Alaska Mileage Plan offered a 50% bonus when buying miles, targeted to some Mileage Plan members.
The current 50% offer is for all Mileage Plan members who purchase at least 40,000 miles. It's tiered below that amount, so purchases of 10,000-19,000 miles earn a 20% bonus, while purchases of 20,000-39,000 miles earn a 35% bonus.
If you buy 40,000 Alaska miles, the cost, including the mandatory tax, is $1182.50, and you'll receive 60,000 miles (40K + 20K bonus), so the cost is 1.97 cents per mile. That's a good price and as good as it gets for buying Alaska miles, although keep in mind that AAdvantage miles, which I consider more valuable (for a reason I'll explain below) have been sold for as little as 1.77 cents per mile within the last couple years.
Areas this post covers:
The Offer: How to Buy Alaska Miles with the 50% Bonus
- To buy Mileage Plan miles with the 50% bonus, go to the Alaska Buy Miles page, where you'll be prompted to login with your Alaska Mileage Plan account.
- As noted above, you must buy at least 40,000 miles to qualify for the 50% bonus miles.
- You can buy a maximum of 60,000 miles per transaction, but you can buy miles using multiple transactions. Naturally, if you want a total of 120,000 miles, you'll want to buy miles in two transactions, each of 40,000 miles, so that you receive 60,000 miles each from two transactions.
- You may purchase/be gifted a maximum of 150,000 Alaska miles in a calendar year; note that this refers to the actual purchased miles, not the bonus miles. Elites (MVP, MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K Mileage Plan member accounts) are excluded from this limitation and may purchase/be gifted any number of miles.
- Deadline for the 50% bonus: 11:59 PM PST on Sunday, May 19, 2019
Pros of Alaska Mileage Plan Miles
There are several positive aspects of Alaska Mileage Plan miles:
- Attractive award chart for many partners: For example, Cathay Pacific First Class and Japan Airlines First Class between the U.S. and Asia is just 70,000 miles each way, and Cathay Pacific Business Class between the U.S. and Asia is just 50,000 miles each way. Or fly Cathay Pacific First Class/Business Class from the U.S. to South Africa (note that Hong Kong to South Africa is only in Business Class) with a free stopover in Hong Kong, for just 70,000 miles.
- Free stopover on one way awards: Typically, frequent flyer programs only permit free stopovers (if at all) on round trip awards; Alaska Mileage Plan is unique in permitting a free stopover on a one way award.
- Many partner airlines: Alaska Mileage Plan deserves credit for cultivating a variety of interesting international partner airlines, including Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Korean Air, Emirates, British Airways, Fiji Airways, Icelandair, Qantas, American Airlines and others.
Cons of Alaska Mileage Plan Miles
Unfortunately, there are also some significant issues with Alaska miles that you should consider before buying or expending resources to acquire Alaska miles:
- Alaska Mileage Plan Award Calendar Opens Late: If you're focused on booking a Cathay Pacific First Class or Cathay Pacific Business Class award, you should be aware that Alaska' award calendar opens up 330 days in advance, whereas American AAdvantage opens up 331 days in advance and British Airways Executive Club and Cathay Pacific opens up 354 and 360 days in advance, respectively. So when booking with Alaska miles, you're at a disadvantage vis-a-vis Cathay Asia Miles, British Airways Executive Club, and even AAdvantage frequent flyer members, who may book the space you want before Alaska even opens its award calendar. It's a similar story with Japan Airlines First Class and JAL Business Class, since JAL Mileage Bank Awards are Now Bookable 360 Days in Advance, placing Mileage Bank, British Airways Executive Club and AAdvantage members ahead of Alaska Mileage Bank members when booking those awards.
- Alaska Mileage Plan Doesn't Have Access to All the Award Space that Oneworld Frequent Flyer Programs Do: It's happened several times, both with Award Booking Clients and for my own family's Cathay Pacific and JAL awards: I'm able to book space using Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, JAL Mileage Bank, British Airways Executive Club, and even AAdvantage, that isn't available using Alaska Miles. Also see AAdvantage Trumps Alaska Mileage Plan Again.
- Emirates Awards Expensive and/or Unavailable: While Emirates is still a Mileage Plan partner, most will not want to pay the high award rates to book Emirates First Class: 150,000 miles one way between NYC and Dubai, and the nonstop LAX-DXB is virtually never available as an Emirates First Class award.
When is Buying Alaska Mileage Plan Miles a Good Deal?
It should go without saying, but the best value use of Alaska miles is not for domestic Alaska flights or for international economy flights, but for international first class or business class flights. As a rule of thumb, you should be getting at least 2 cents or more in value for your frequent flyer miles, and ideally much more, say 5 or more cents per mile redeemed.
Of course, as I've alluded to above, the Alaska Mileage Plan Award Chart looks great for several awards, but the relevant question is whether there's actually award space for your desired award. For example, if you're hoping to use Alaska miles for Qantas First Class nonstop between the U.S. and Australia, forget it.
If, however, you're flexible with your travel dates, have found award availability for several dates that work for you (or have been monitoring award space trends for the award type you're interested in, and can see that space is being released) and have done the math such that you're getting a good return on the miles, then buying Alaska miles with the 50% bonus could be a good deal.
Which Credit Card to Use to Buy Alaska Miles?
Since buying Alaska Mileage Plan miles is via Points.com, you won't earn any bonuses from credit cards that provide a category bonus for travel or airline purchases. Instead, either use a new credit card for which you're still working on minimum spend to earn the signup bonus, or a card such as the AMEX Blue Business Plus, which earns 2X Membership Rewards points on all spend.
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