Ultimate Guide to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

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Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan has long been one of my favorite airline loyalty programs. Between excellent elite status benefits, high earning rates for miles flown, and the high value received when you redeem miles; the program has a ton of potential. In this guide, we'll cover every aspect of the program: the best ways to earn miles, how to achieve elite status, and we will highlight all the best Alaska Mileage Plan redemption opportunities.

Page Contents

Overview of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Alaska Airlines is headquartered in Seattle, with additional hubs in Anchorage, Portland, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and San Diego. They are primarily a West Coast airline with extensive route coverage in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Alaska, and Hawaii. Their international network coverage includes western Canada, Mexico, and Costa Rica.

Compared to other major U.S. airlines, Alaska doesn't have the same nationwide coverage. American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines all have significantly more capacity and network coverage than Alaska's typical 115 destinations and approximately 1,200 daily flights—which have been sharply reduced recently due to COVID-19.

Alaska does not currently belong to a global alliance but will join Oneworld in the summer of 2021. That will deepen its relationship with American Airlines and giving it a more prominent national and global reach. In the meantime, they have a large number of exciting partners, providing them with a decent worldwide network and codeshare opportunities. European partners include British Airways, Aer Lingus, and Finnair, while Asia-Pacific partners include Hainan, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, and Qantas.

How to Earn Alaska Airlines Miles

The classic way to earn Mileage Plan miles is by flying an Alaska Airlines or partner revenue ticket. Flying Alaska Airlines or crediting partner flights to Mileage Plan is an excellent way to earn miles. However, there are several other ways to increase your Mileage Plan balance. These include the Alaska Airlines co-brand credit cards, transferring hotel points to Mileage Plan, earning through shopping portals, and straight-up purchasing miles.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Co-Brand Visa Cards

Alaska Airlines has both personal and business co-brand Visa cards issued by Bank of America. Both cards sport similar welcome offers, plus you also receive an Alaska Airlines' companion fare certificate, good for a companion on any Alaska Airlines flight where you pay just $99 plus taxes and fees (starting at $22) for a companion booked on the same reservation as the cardholder. The cards also offer perks such as a free checked bag when flying Alaska Airlines, no foreign transaction fees, and 3x miles per $1 spent on Alaska Airlines flights.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card
Annual Fee$75
Welcome Bonus Get a $100 statement credit + 40k bonus miles + Alaska's Famous Companion Fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) with this offer. To qualify, make purchases of $2,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account.

Alaska Airlines Business Credit Card
Alaska Airlines Business Credit Card
Annual Fee$50 per company, $25 per card
Welcome Bonus Get 40,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from just $22) with this offer. To qualify, make purchases of $2,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account.

Bank of America has a 2/3/4 rule for card applications, so keep this in mind if you have recently opened other Bank of America cards. Also, credit card application approvals with Bank of America have gotten more difficult, especially if you do not have a Bank of America deposit account.

Other Credit Cards That Earn Alaska Miles

Unlike many airline programs, Alaska does not partner with any transferable bank rewards program. Points currencies such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards do not convert to Alaska Airlines miles.

However, you can convert Marriott Bonvoy points to Alaska Airlines miles at a ratio of 3:1. It's best to transfer in batches of 60,000 Bonvoy points, as you receive a bonus of 5,000 airline miles, for a total of 25,000 Alaska miles. Several Marriott Bonvoy credit cards earn points you can convert to Alaska miles. These include the four Marriott Bonvoy cards currently issued by Chase and American Express.

Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card
Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card
Annual Fee$0
Welcome Bonus Limited Time Offer! Earn 50,000 Bonus Points after spending $1,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Limited Time Offer! Earn 50,000 Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card from CHASE® with no annual fee!
  • Earn 3X Bonvoy points per $1 spent at over 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy™.
  • 2X Bonvoy points for every $1 spent on other travel purchases (from airfare to taxis and trains).
  • 1X point for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Receive 15 Elite Night Credits annually, qualifying you for Silver Elite Status. Restrictions apply.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Earn unlimited Marriott Bonvoy points and get Free Night Stays faster.
  • 3X points for every $1 spent at over 7,000 participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels
  • 2X points on other travel purchases (from airfare to taxis and trains)
  • 1X point on all other purchases

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card
Annual Fee$95
Welcome Bonus Limited Time Offer! Earn 100,000 Bonus Points after spending $3,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening with the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card!
  • Limited Time Offer! Earn 100,000 Bonus Points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • 1 Free Night Award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after account anniversary.
  • Earn 6X Bonvoy points per $1 spent at over 7,000 hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy™.
  • 2X Bonvoy points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Automatic Silver Elite Status each account anniversary year. Path to Gold Status when you spend $35,000 on purchases each account year.
  • 15 Elite Night Credits each calendar year.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Earn unlimited Marriott Bonvoy points and get Free Night Stays faster.
  • 6X Bonvoy points per $1 spent at over 7,000 participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels
  • 2X Bonvoy points for every $1 spent on all other purchases

Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
Annual Fee$450
Welcome Bonus Earn 75,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • You'll receive complimentary Marriott Gold Elite status, plus you receive Marriott Platinum Elite status after spending $75,000 on the card in a calendar year
  • A Free Night Award every year after your account anniversary, up to the value of 50,000 Marriott points
  • Complimentary Priority Pass™ Select membership
  • $300 in statement credits each year for eligible purchases at participating Marriott hotels.
  • TSA Pre✓® or Global Entry fee credit
  • 6x Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels
  • 3x points at U.S. restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases

Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card
Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card
Annual Fee$125
Welcome Bonus Earn 75,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
  • 6x points at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels
  • 4x points at U.S. restaurants, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping
  • 2x points on all other purchases

The Marriott co-brand cards all earn Marriott Bonvoy points, plus offer an array of perks and benefits with Marriott hotels. The earning rate on Marriott cards is less than ideal if your goal is to accrue Alaska Airlines miles. However, the welcome offers can provide a significant boost to your Mileage Plan account.

At the time of publishing, the average time to transfer Marriott points to Alaska Airlines miles was one day and 11 hours. You can see the most up to date transfer times by checking the AwardWallet Mile Transfer Times web app. Again, ensure you transfer in batches of 60,000 Bonvoy points to receive 25,000 Alaska miles after the 5,000-mile bonus.

Earning Miles By Flying Alaska and Partners

Alaska Airlines is one of the few remaining programs that still awards redeemable miles based on the number of miles flown. Flying from Los Angeles to Seattle, for example, will earn you 954 miles—the flight distance between LAX and SEA. Alaska awards a minimum of 500 miles per segment, so even short flights still receive at least 500 miles. All fare classes with Alaska Airlines, including their Saver fares, earn at least 100% flown miles.

Flying one of Alaska's partners is another excellent way to earn miles. Typically, partner flights receive anywhere from 25% to 200% or more of flown miles as redeemable award miles. The accrual rate depends on the partner airline, the fare class, and the flight number.

In some cases, codeshare flights purchased through another airline will not earn Alaska miles, even when flown on an Alaska partner. Pay careful attention to these details, as I've mistakenly credited a codeshare flight to Alaska and earned nothing.

In general, premium cabin tickets enjoy a significant boost to the number of miles earned, with fares such as British Airways first class earning at least 450% flown miles as redeemable miles.

Alaska Airlines elites enjoy a bonus of between 50% and 125% on the number of redeemable miles earned, depending on the status tier. For some flights, this bonus can really add up. For example, a $200 round-trip between the West Coast and New York or Boston could earn an MVP Gold 75K elite over 12,000 miles.

Hotel and Car Rental Partners

You can also earn Alaska miles by renting a car with one of several Alaska Airlines rental car partners. The typical earning rate is 50 miles per day or 500 miles for a rental of 5 days or more. Not the best earning-rate, but if you have no desire to accrue car rental points or credit, it is an option. You can search and book rental cars directly through the Alaska Airlines site.

There is also the option to credit hotel stays with Alaska Airlines hotel partners and earn miles per night or per stay. This is a great option when staying with a chain with whom you don't plan to accrue points. However, I would not credit stays from chains I frequent—such as IHG—as the return for earning hotel points is typically much higher.

alaska-airlines-mileage-plan-hotel-partners

Alaska Mileage Plan Shopping Portal

The Alaska Airlines shopping portal (direct link) allows you to earn bonus miles for online shopping with a large number of retailers. The Alaska shopping portal includes major brands like Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Kohl's, and Best Buy. There are plenty of smaller retailers included as well. The earning rate varies by retailer but is typically in the range of 0.5 to 5 miles per $1.

You can sometimes enjoy earning bonuses offered by the shopping portal. These may include both temporarily elevated earning (e.g., 4 miles/$ instead of 2 miles/$) and spending threshold bonuses (e.g., spend $150 to earn 500 bonus miles). Not all products offered at all retailers are eligible to receive miles, so read the terms and conditions for each retailer carefully.

alaska-airlines-mileage-plan-shopping-portal
Earn Alaska Airlines miles when you purchase from retailers via the Mileage Plan shopping portal.

Earn Miles Through Alaska Airlines Dining

You can also earn Alaska miles through the Mileage Plan Dining Program. You'll typically get 3 Alaska miles per $1 spent on dining. If you link a co-brand Alaska card, you'll earn an additional mile per $1 spent at participating restaurants. If you dine 11 times within a calendar year, you'll earn VIP status, which increases your earning rate to 5X Alaska miles per dollar through the end of the year.

In my experience, dining programs can be somewhat hit or miss depending on the area in which you live. However, most larger cities and urban areas have a good number of participating restaurants.

Buying Alaska Airlines Miles

For many people interested in flying premium cabins with Alaska Airlines partners, buying Mileage Plan miles is a great strategy. You can purchase up to 60,000 Alaska miles per transaction, with an annual cap of 150,000 purchased miles. Alaska Airlines elites are not subject to the cap and can buy as many as they like.

The typical cost to purchase Alaska miles is $27.50 per 1,000 miles. You'll also pay a tax recovery fee of 7.5% on top of the total price. We don't typically recommend buying miles unless you're looking to fly premium business- or first-class with Alaska partners. You can often do so more cheaply by purchasing miles versus paying for a revenue ticket.

buy-alaska-mileage-plan-miles

Alaska regularly runs promotions for purchasing miles. We've seen bonuses of up to 50% for buying Alaska miles, but 40% is more common. We recommend waiting until there is a promotional bonus before purchasing miles unless you only need a couple of thousand miles to top off your account for an award.

Can you Transfer Mileage Plan Miles to Other People?

Alaska Airlines allows you to transfer miles between members. The cost of transferring miles is $10 per 1,000 miles. However, you're not gaining any value by transferring miles as Alaska allows you to book an award for anyone with your miles. The only time it makes sense to transfer miles to another person is if you're combining miles for a particular award.

Even then, buying miles is usually a better strategy. For example, imagine you're 7,000 miles short for an award. To transfer those miles from another Alaska account, you would pay $95 ($70 transfer plus a $25 Points.com handling fee). If you can take advantage of a buy-miles bonus, you might be able to purchase the miles you need for a similar cost—without the need to debit them from another Alaska account.

Alaska Mileage Plan Rules

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan loyalty program is free for anyone to join. You need to sign up at AlaskaAir.com. The entire process for adults can be completed quickly online.

If you're trying to sign up a child, you will need to call 1-800-ALASKAAIR (1-800-252-7522). The process for kids must be done through a reservations agent. I set up Mileage Plan accounts for each of my three kids, and it was a reasonably straightforward process to have the accounts created over the phone. The agent will provide the Mileage Plan numbers for minors, and you can then use those to set up online access at AlaskaAir.com.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles expire after 24 months of inactivity. You can keep your account active by either earning or redeeming at least 1 mile before the end of the 24 months.

For flights credited to Mileage Plan, the traveler can only credit miles to their account. You cannot take a flight as a family and credit all family members' miles to a single Mileage Plan account. Each person needs to create a Mileage Plan account and attach their Mileage Plan number to their ticket.

To be able to use your miles for an award, you must have enough in your account. Alaska Airlines does not offer the option to lock in an award and earn the necessary miles later.

Redeeming Alaska Airlines Miles

Alaska Airlines miles are arguably the most valuable of any U.S. airline program. With a unique array of partners and several excellent sweet spots, Alaska miles hold a ton of potential. We'll walk through the approximate value of Alaska miles, their global partners, how to search and book awards, and the best Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan redemption award chart sweet spots.

Value of Alaska Miles

While points and miles valuations can be subjective, several criteria go into determining their value. These include the cost of different types of awards, from economy to premium cabins, the abundance of award space, and the price that Alaska itself is willing to sell miles. Alaska's typical price is 2.75 cents per mile. However, you can occasionally purchase miles for around 2 cents.

I try to redeem Alaska miles for at least 2 cents each, and this is the baseline value I assign them. I've been able to get far more value booking premium cabin awards, but for domestic economy awards, I try to include a stopover to ensure I'm getting the best value out of my miles.

In general, Alaska domestic economy awards and partner economy awards offer some of the worst value. The best Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan redemption choices are typically premium cabin partner awards. We'll highlight a few sweet spots at the end of the post that offer incredible value!

Alaska Airlines Partners and Award Charts

Alaska Airlines does not currently belong to an alliance but is scheduled to join Oneworld sometime in summer 2021. Most of Alaska's current list of partners are members of Oneworld, and joining Oneworld will open up more international opportunities for members to earn and redeem miles.

However, there is plenty of concern that joining Oneworld will dilute Alaska's unique list of cross-alliance partnerships and redemption opportunities. Members of the AwardWallet community also expressed concern that Alaska will devalue elite benefits, and slowly bring the Mileage Plan program into line with Oneworld's only other North American partner, American Airlines AAdvantage. We'll see how the partnership roles out over the coming months, and update the post with new information as it's released.

Alaska Airlines' 18 current partner airlines are:

  • Aer Lingus
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Condor
  • El Al Israel Airlines
  • Emirates
  • Fiji Airways
  • Finnair
  • Hainan Airlines
  • Icelandair
  • Japan Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • LATAM Airlines
  • PenAir
  • Qantas
  • Ravn Alaska
  • Singapore Airlines

These 18 partners offer Alaska an extensive global network, including airlines on four out of five continents. The only hole in their network is Africa. But partnering with Emirates and British Airways gives Alaska select coverage on that continent. You can both earn and redeem miles on all of Alaska's partners. Check out the Mileage Plan Airline Partners page for more details on crediting partner flights to Alaska

alaska-airlines-mileage-plan-airline-partners

To determine how many miles you need for an award, you'll need to use the Alaska Airlines award chart search. Alaska Airlines has a unique set of rules for pricing awards. For Alaska flights, they have a chart that considers both distance and region for award tickets. Award flights on Alaska Airlines start at just 5,000 miles one-way, which can be an excellent deal for short-haul tickets. Awards price out at various levels depending on the route length with a minimum and an upper limit. Here is the chart for Alaska award tickets within the U.S.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan award chart

For partner airlines, most awards have fixed prices based on the origin and destination region. However, some also take into account peak and off-peak season. As an example, awards to Europe on American Airlines on off-peak dates (October 15 – May 15) are just 22,500 miles one-way, versus 30,000 miles during the summer.

You will need to search each region individually using the award chart search, as Alaska has different rates for each partner. Not all partners offer awards between particular regions. For example, you cannot fly from Asia to Europe with British Airways or Emirates.

How to Search for Alaska Mileage Plan Awards

The easiest and best way to search for awards with Alaska Airlines and their partners is at AlaskaAir.com. The vast majority of partner awards show up in the online search tool. You can search, one-way, round-trip, or multi-city awards. Even better, you don't need to be logged in to perform an award search.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Award Search Tool

The Alaska award search engine is relatively good at constructing reasonable awards, but we do need to caveat that statement. First, Alaska tends to offer unique routing options on their own flights at times, trying to build an award from available Alaska award space. If you search Orange County, California (SNA – John Wayne Airport) to Sydney, for example, you might be presented with an option via Seattle and Los Angeles. They are sending you nearly 1,000 miles the wrong way, just to send you back again, before you embark on your overseas flight.

The second issue—which is my biggest gripe about Alaska award searches—is the results include mixed-cabin awards. There is no way to filter the mixed-cabin options Alaska provides. You have no idea whether the business class award from Seattle to Melbourne includes an economy segment between Seattle and Los Angeles, or if your long-haul segment is in economy with the domestic one in first. There is a big difference between these options. I would be willing to suffer through the former at Alaska's price for Qantas business, but absolutely not for the latter.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan mixed-cabin partner awards

Mixed-cabin awards are those that are displaying the light-and-dark-blue recliner icon. Unfortunately, you have to check every single award to see which segments are in which cabin. I would love if Alaska launched a feature that would let you filter out all mixed-cabin awards, as most are “false positives” with a short segment in first class and the long-haul segment in economy.

Two partners do not show up in the Alaska website award search: Cathay Pacific and LATAM. You must call Alaska on 1-800-ALASKAAIR (1-800-252-7522) to have a representative search for space and book over the phone. You can use other tools to search for award space with both LATAM and Cathay Pacific (I suggest ba.com), but you will ultimately need to call to book. Note that award space that Alaska agents see may be different than the award space you find through another search engine.

Alaska shows award space up to 330 days beyond the current date. All program members have the same award availability. There is no increase in inventory for elite members or co-brand cardholders, as you might experience with a program such as United MileagePlus.

Booking Fees and Other Rules

Alaska charges both change and cancellation fees on award tickets. Alaska used to offer free cancellation if you canceled 61+ days before your flight date, but now you have the 24-hour window to cancel for free after booking. After this point, you'll have to pay to change or cancel your ticket and redeposit the miles. Alaska's award fees are as follows:

  • Change/cancellation fee: $125
  • Partner award fee: $25 ($12.50 per direction)
  • Call center booking fee: $15

The partner award fee applies to all award tickets booked on one of Alaska's global partners. There is no way around this, and the fee is nonrefundable. The call center booking fee only applies if you book over the phone. For partners that you must book over the phone, you can sometimes have the agent waive the phone booking fee since this is not possible online. Alaska MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K elites have call center booking fees and change/cancellation fees waived.

You must cancel your ticket before travel. If you miss your flight, the ticket will be canceled, and your miles will be forfeited.

Alaska is one of the few programs to offer fully refundable award tickets. These tickets do not require a change or cancellation fee like a standard award, but you pay a massive premium in miles for this privilege. If you don't know your exact travel plans, this is still a way for you to lock in an award. To switch to refundable awards, there is a toggle button just below the date view. There are few times when this premium will make sense, though, as you typically pay anywhere from 2-4x the miles.

How to book refundable Alaska Mileage Plan Awards

Alaska Airlines does not charge any additional fees for awards on its own metal besides the TSA fee and any other departure fees for their international destinations. However, some partner awards may come with surcharges and fees.

Awards on both Hainan Airlines and British Airways have notoriously high taxes and fees ($150+). Some are more reasonable, such as Cathay Pacific (~$70), with others having no fees aside from airport and government taxes. In some cases, Alaska is an ideal option for booking awards where fees are higher in other programs, such as awards in Emirates business- and first-class.

Routing Rules for Award Tickets

Alaska's routing rules are one of my favorite features of their award program. Why? In one word: stopovers. Alaska has one of the best, if not the very best, stopover policies for award tickets. All my best Alaska Mileage Plan redemption awards that I've made through the years have included a stopover.

Alaska allows one stopover on a one-way award. This means you can have two stopovers on a round-trip award. Stopovers must be in airline hubs or “focus cities” depending on the partner and routing. There are some exceptions to this rule that require investigation, but in general, Alaska holds to this requirement. This means that you can stopover in Seattle on your way from Los Angeles to Anchorage. The search engine disallows things like Los Angeles to New York – JFK for a stopover before continuing to Anchorage.

For all practical purposes, stopovers for airline partners must be in their hub city. Most of Alaska's partners have a single hub, although there may be exceptions to this rule. To book an award with a stopover, you need to use the multi-city search. You need to key in each section of the itinerary, making sure your connection point is in the same city.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan multi-city award search

In some cases, searching for two one-way awards with a stopover individually will return better results (or simply work) than searching a round-trip award with two stopovers.

Another rule to keep in mind is that Alaska only allows one partner airline per award ticket. You cannot fly an award that includes segments on multiple partners. For example, you may not fly Los Angeles to London on American Airlines with a connecting segment on British Airways, although this would be ideal to avoid high fees on BA.

Best Alaska Mileage Plan Redemption Sweet Spots

I'm not going to list every Alaska Mileage Plan redemption that provides top value, but I would like to highlight what I think are the best. In general, Alaska has specific partners with great premium cabin award rates. The top one—in my opinion—is Cathay Pacific, which has a high number of regions you can route to or through at incredible prices. You can also find massive value in Qantas and Japan Airlines.

Here are some of the best Alaska Mileage Plan redemption options for international travel. Prices listed are one-way:

  • Cathay Pacific first class from the U.S. to Asia for 60,000 Alaska miles
  • Cathay Pacific business class from the U.S. to Asia for 50,000 Alaska miles
  • Qantas first class from the U.S. to Australia for 70,000 Alaska miles
  • Qantas business class from the U.S. to Australia for 55,000 Alaska miles
  • Cathay Pacific first class from the U.S. to the Middle East or Africa for 70,000 Alaska miles (include a stopover in Hong Kong!)
  • Cathay Pacific business class from the U.S. to Australia for 60,000 Alaska miles
  • Emirates business class from the U.S. to India for 82,500 Alaska miles
  • British Airways first class from the U.S. to India for 80,000 Alaska miles
  • Japan Airlines first class from the U.S. to East Asia for 70,000 Alaska miles
  • Fiji Airways business class from the U.S. to Australia (with a stopover in Fiji!) for 55,000 Alaska miles
  • Cathay Pacific business class between Asia and Australia/N.Z. for 30,000 Alaska miles

These are just a few of the best uses of Alaska miles. Most of these are very competitive with the pricing you can find with other programs. In some cases, Alaska offers the best deal of all, such as the rate for Cathay Pacific first class awards to both Asia and Africa.

One Interesting Development to Note

I'd always had the understanding that Singapore Airlines does not release award space on its long-haul flights in premium cabins. While I have not found first-class space through Alaska Airlines, I have seen some long haul business class space. This ticket from Los Angeles to Singapore jumped out at me.

Book Singapore Airlines premium cabin awards with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

The price is not the best, as you can fly Cathay Pacific business class for half that many miles, but it is interesting to know that Alaska is even an option for booking these awards.

Other Ways to Redeem Alaska Miles

While I will always say that using miles for award flights is 100% the best Alaska Mileage Plan redemption choice, Alaska does provide other options to redeem miles. You can use your miles to book hotels and to redeem for magazines.

You can also redeem miles for first-class upgrades on paid fares. These cost 15,000 miles per one-way ticket, and they must be applied to a paid fare. This is typically not a good deal, but it may be a decent option on longer routes. Alaska offers paid upgrades on the day of departure at set rates, subject to availability. Some of these are reasonable, considering the flight lengths.

How to Earn Alaska Mileage Plan Elite Status

Alaska Airlines offers a rich elite program with top perks and benefits. Earning Alaska elite status is also easier than earning status in other programs, as there is no spend requirement like you have with Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and United Airlines. Plus, qualification typically requires fewer miles. The status perks and ease of qualification make Alaska an ideal program for those based on the U.S. West Coast.

Alaska Airlines Elite Status Qualification

Alaska has three elite status tiers with the following qualification requirements:

MVP

  • 20,000 – Eligible miles earned on Alaska Airlines
  • 25,000 – Eligible miles earned on Alaska Airlines and elite-qualifying partners
  • 30 – Segments flown on Alaska Airlines and elite-qualifying partners

MVP Gold

  • 40,000 – Eligible miles earned on Alaska Airlines
  • 50,000 – Eligible miles earned on Alaska Airlines and elite-qualifying partners
  • 60 – Segments flown on Alaska Airlines and elite-qualifying partners

MVP Gold 75K

  • 75,000 – Eligible miles earned on Alaska Airlines
  • 90,000 – Eligible miles earned on Alaska Airlines and elite-qualifying partners
  • 90 – Segments flown on Alaska Airlines and elite-qualifying partners
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan elite status
Qualification requirements courtesy of AlaskaAir.com

You can qualify for Alaska Airlines elite status by miles flown on Alaska Airlines, miles flown on Alaska and partners, or by total segments across both. Alaska credits 100% flown miles (or more) as elite qualifying miles for all fare classes except for award tickets. For partner airline elite mileage accrual, you'll need to check out the page for each partner, as the rate varies by fare class and carrier. You can expect as low as 25% flown miles for the lowest economy classes and 100%+ for premium cabins.

Both base miles and class of service bonus miles count toward elite qualification on Alaska Airlines and partner airlines. The “additional bonus” miles for premium cabin flights with some partners are only redeemable miles.

Benefits of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Elite Status

Alaska Airlines' elite status provides its frequent fliers with a vast array of perks. From free checked bags to complimentary upgrades and bonus redeemable miles, earning Alaska Airlines elite status can be well worth it.

Here is what you can expect to enjoy as an Alaska Airlines MVP:

  • Priority check-in and boarding
  • Two free checked bags for you and companions on the same reservation
  • Discounted Alaska Lounge membership
  • 50% bonus redeemable miles
  • Access to preferred seating
  • First Class upgrades, when available
  • Premium Class upgrades, when available
  • Dedicated phone lines for reservations and customer service.
  • Elite leave for new parents

As an Alaska Airlines MVP Gold, you'll enjoy all the above benefits, plus the following:

  • The express security line at select airports
  • Complimentary same-day standby when a confirmed flight change isn't available
  • Complimentary same-day flight changes
  • 100% bonus redeemable miles
  • Partner lounge access available in London, Reykjavik, Shanghai, and more.
  • Unlimited First Class upgrades upon availability for yourself and a companion on the same reservation
  • Unlimited Premium Class upgrades upon availability for yourself and a companion on the same reservation
  • A complimentary premium beverage in the Main Cabin
  • Four First Class guest upgrades per year (not applicable to award tickets)
  • Waivers for Mileage Plan service charges and ticket change fees

As an Alaska Airlines MVP Gold 75K, you'll enjoy all the above benefits, plus the following:

  • 125% bonus redeemable miles
  • 50,000 bonus miles when you attain MVP Gold 75K (not awarded if status is matched)
  • Four complimentary Alaska Lounge day passes
  • Complimentary in-flight entertainment player – available on coast-to-coast and Hawaii flights
  • Opportunity to nominate someone for MVP status

The best perks of Alaska Airlines elite status are the ability to receive complimentary upgrades, additional redeemable miles (especially if you often fly coast-to-coast), free checked bags, and waiver of service fees. These are pretty standard compared with other programs, but Alaska offers richer bonus mileage earning at their upper two status tiers.

The Alaska Boardroom membership discount varies depending on your status level. For 2020, standard boardroom membership costs $450. Prices for MVP, MVP Gold, and MVP Gold 75K are $400, $350, and $300, respectively. If you're MVP Gold 75K and flying Alaska routinely, $300 isn't bad for a lounge membership. Day passes to Alaska Boardrooms cost $50, although this is cut in half to $25 for Alaska Airlines co-brand cardholders.

Alaska Airlines Lifetime Status

Alaska does offer a lifetime status program. Qualification is simple: fly 1,000,000 miles with Alaska Airlines, and you'll be awarded Alaska MVP Gold status for life. Partner Airline flights do not count toward this total.

Compared to other Million Miler programs, Alaska's is pretty lucrative. But obviously, it takes a lot of flying, as you're restricted to their route network, which doesn't include any long-haul flights. A frequent flyer who achieves Alaska Airlines MVP Gold 75K each year will take 12-14 years to attain Million Miler. Alaska does not offer additional lifetime status tiers besides 1,000,000 miles for MVP Gold.

Alaska Airlines Status Match

If you're interested in making the switch to Alaska Airlines, you can ease the pain of qualification by requesting a status match. Alaska Airlines has a dedicated elite status match page where you can provide info on your current status level with another program. You must be a resident of either the U.S. or Canada, and you can status match from the following airline programs:

  • Aeromexico
  • Air Canada
  • American Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Frontier
  • Hawaiian
  • JetBlue
  • Southwest
  • United Airlines

If your request is approved, you will receive the corresponding status for three months. Within those three months, you can retain status for the rest of the period (either end of the year, or end of the following year). The requirements depend on the status to which you are matched:

  • MVP – 5,000 qualifying miles within 3 months
  • MVP Gold – 10,000 qualifying miles within 3 months
  • MVP Gold 75K – 20,000 qualifying miles within 3 months

Flights toward this challenge portion of the Alaska status match must be solely on Alaska Airlines, either operated directly by Alaska or by regional partners/subsidiaries Horizon and SkyWest. Partner flights will not count toward the challenge portion of the status match.

If you receive a status match between October 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020, and meet the challenge requirements, you will keep your status through the end of 2020. If you receive a status match on July 1, 2020, or later, and meet the challenge requirements, you will keep your status through the end of 2021. Status matches can take up to 4 weeks for approval.

Alaska Elite Status Requirements Compared to Other Programs

Earning Alaska Airlines elite status is substantially easier than earning status with other U.S. airlines. The big difference is that every other elite program has a spend requirement. Alaska Airlines does not.

As an example, consider someone based in Los Angeles who flies across the country routinely. If they visit New York City just 9 times during the year, they will earn ~44,000 Alaska Airlines elite miles. This is enough to land you at MVP Gold status.

Someone flying Delta or United, on the other hand, won't even land Gold. Assuming each fare is $400 or less per round-trip, the traveler might not even earn Silver in either of these programs. Considering the bonus miles and other elite perks, I would choose Alaska Airlines over other options if this was the bulk of my travel.

Author's madcap idea: you can technically achieve Alaska MVP Gold 75K status for just under $3,000. Assuming you're based on either San Francisco or Boston, Alaska often sells Saver round-trips between these cities for only $197. Flying 14 of these will earn you MVP Gold 75K, plus you'll earn enough redeemable miles (~168,000 miles) for a round-trip to Australia in either Cathay Pacific First or Qantas First Class! It looks like the mileage run isn't dead yet! 

Pros/Cons of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

The best features of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan are the high value of their miles when redeemed for many partner awards, easier elite status qualification, and the unique network of global partners. The award sweet spots for partner premium cabins and attractive short-haul pricing for domestic U.S. awards are other upsides to using the program. Not to mention my favorite feature: the ability to add in a stopover on one-way award tickets.

Most other programs do not offer stopovers on one-way award tickets. This is a unique feature of Mileage Plan, and one worth using to maximize the value of your Alaska miles. The best Alaska Mileage Plan redemption I've ever made included a multi-day stopover in Hong Kong.

If you live in an Alaska hub, you can even turn a single award into two by planning a stopover in your home city at the end of your first trip, with the following segment the beginning of your second trip following later. Stopovers are fantastic, as they let you visit two destinations for the same price. Of the other primary U.S. loyalty programs, only United offers the potential for booking a stopover using the Excursionist perk.

While Alaska's elite program is competitive, they are not an ideal airline choice if you are not based on the West Coast and/or if you frequently travel to destinations not served by Alaska. For much of the eastern United States, it is a less than ideal choice as a primary airline, as they don't currently have any real reciprocal benefits with other U.S. airline programs. That will change soon as Alaska's partnership with American Airlines grows. Still, the limited route network is the biggest hurdle.

Another downside I will mention is the lack of ability to transfer bank points to Alaska Airlines miles. This is both a blessing and a curse. Without bank transfer partners, the “market” can't be flooded with miles. You must earn miles primarily through flying and credit card spend/bonuses with Alaska's co-brand credit cards. The only viable transfer partner is Marriott Bonvoy. But, without a bank transfer partner, it can be hard to accrue enough points for the most valuable redemptions.

Conclusion

Until we see what changes come about as a consequence of Alaska joining Oneworld, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is and will remain, one of my favorite frequent flyer programs. The high value of Alaska miles, the ability to book a unique set of partners, and the potential they offer with stopovers on one-way award bookings keep me focused on earning as many Alaska miles as I can.

My favorite redemption is when I used 50,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles to fly Cathay Pacific business class home from Hong Kong with two of my kids. This remains one of the best Alaska Mileage Plan redemption options across the board.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan FAQs

Is Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan free to join?

Yes, anyone can join. You can sign up at AlaskaAir.com.

How do you find your Alaska Mileage Plan number?

Log in to AlaskaAir.com or the mobile app and click the account button to view your Mileage Plan number. You can also find it in the welcome email from Alaska Airlines after you enroll in Mileage Plan. We always suggest you store your frequent flyer numbers with AwardWallet as well, as you'll have easy access to your account details, plus the ability to log in with a single click.

Can I buy Alaska Airlines miles?

Yes! Alaska miles are among the most popular to purchase, and they sometimes run sales and/or offer bonuses on purchased miles. The typical price is $27.50 per 1,000 miles, which is 2.75 cents per mile. Points.com processes purchases, so we recommend using a card that earns bonus points on everyday purchases rather than your Alaska co-brand credit card.

Do Alaska Airlines miles expire?

Yes. Alaska Airlines miles expire after 24 months of account inactivity. Activity is defined as earning or redeeming at least 1 mile.

Can I transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards to Alaska?

No. You cannot transfer any bank program points to Alaska Airlines miles. The only program from which you can transfer points is Marriott Bonvoy. Transferring points to Marriott Bonvoy from bank programs is an option to then transfer to Alaska miles, but the transfer rate is poor.

How long does it take to transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Alaska Airlines?

Marriott Bonvoy point transfers typically take between 1-2 days. Officially, Marriott states that all transfers to airline programs may take longer.

How long does it take Alaska Airlines miles to post after a flight?

Miles from flights can credit the same day, but sometimes they take 1-2 days.

How long does it take for Alaska shopping portal miles to post?

Shopping portal miles typically post within 3-5 business days but can take up to 15 business days.

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Comments

  • I’ve been MVPG for 3+ years and looking to see if joining oneworld will dilute the current list of benefits I enjoy.

  • Very well done recap of the Alaska plan. I didn’t know that you could book refundable tickets with award miles. ( Though they are more expensive) I’ll have to check it out once travel is safe to do again.

  • do you guys think there will be devaluation when AS joins oneworld?

    • No, I don’t see that a trigger personally. There might be a bit more competition for Alaska award space though, I’d say. Although many of the Oneworld Airlines (Qantas, American) already have the ability to access Alaska award space.

  • Though it cannot please everybody, the Alaska sure can please its West Coast customers well.

    • As an east coast person, I’m a little jealous, particularly seeing tons of Hawaii sales from the west coast. 🙁

  • The Alaska program seems to be the best source for the premium Cathay awards.

  • I am really sad Alaska Airlines is joining One World.
    I hope they don’t change their award charts when they join.

  • I’m worried about redemption rates and unique partnerships once the OneWorld assimilation is complete.

  • my next Emirates flights will be crediting to Alaska

  • Great guide. Always been a good program, but can’t really fly them much on the east coast and hard to manufacture miles in their program more than others.

  • This is really useful. I signed up me and my family and a few friends when there was a bonus for it, and then likewise for Virgin America which later was absorbed by Alaska. I don’t recall, but I think there was a bonus for combining your own AK and VA accounts, so each of us has about 12,000 miles now. As they get ready to expire, I transfer the miles to a single account so there is enough to book flights. Even though you suggest not paying to transfer miles, it is cheaper than buying miles, and soon I’ll have enough for a flight (assuming airlines are still solvent after the pandemic).

  • I have used Alaska miles for business class flights on JAL with great value. This article will help me make even better use of this program. I agree that it will be interesting to see what changes happen when they join Oneworld.

  • Great detailed overview, so much thanks. Alaska is a good airline, but expiration of miles is a big problem now that most of us are not flying or traveling. A family member has miles expiring soon and all other options cost money.

    • Yes, at this point at least, the majority of airlines are just extending status, while just a few, like Hawaiian, have extended miles expiration. Hope that changes soon.

  • It might be a better deal for leisure travel Aussies in Australia to use cash back credit cards and then credit their QF flight mileage to their own Alaska program accounts.

  • What I like more on the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is the stopover policy.
    The stopover is possible also for a one way award redemption.

  • Alaska Airlines has one of the best loyalty programs of all the airlines. The only problem is that it is hard to earn the miles. Hopefully they will not devalue to the same as American Airlines when they join oneworld.

  • I am very excited that Alaska is joining in Oneworld next year since I live on the East Coast and there are very few Alaska flight. Oneworld alliance would open up a lot more opportunities for me to fly Alaska.

  • Juan Ignacio says:

    Hope Alaska joins OW alliance as soon as possible, maybe we can found interisting award fares on partners.

  • At first, I thought it would be better if Alaska stood on their own, but now I think that it is a better idea that they are joining Oneworld.

  • Alex Ruben says:

    Excellent information and very specific. Now my family and I are part of Alaska airlines mileage plan and I hope to use it as primordial mileage plan when we flight. Thanks for this brilliant data!

  • I wonder whether there will be any implications of COVID on AS joining OW …

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