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Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is our favorite frequent flyer program, and for good reasons. Not only does it partner with several amazing airlines—such as Cathay Pacific, Qantas, and Emirates—but it also offers some of the most lucrative points redemptions to their destinations.
Alaska ended its last mileage sale on May 31, 2020. Targeted members who maximized this sale were able to purchase Alaska Miles for 1.72¢ a piece—the cheapest Alaska has ever sold them. Although there is currently no promotion, Mileage Plan members can still buy Alaska miles at the standard rate, which can provide value in certain situations.
A Note on Buying Miles
Generally speaking, buying miles without a discount is not a good idea for most people. The reason for this is that with a lot of loyalty programs, you typically won't be able to redeem miles for a higher value than you purchased them. This is particularly true now, while the world sits in anticipation of when we'll be able to travel again, and financial uncertainty affects many of us—Alaska Airlines included.
With that said, there are some cases where it can make sense to buy miles. First, buying miles can still make sense if you need to top off your balance to complete a specific redemption. Second, you should consider buying miles if the cost is considerably cheaper than paying for the product you want outright.
Other Methods of Earning Alaska Miles
Thanks to several sweet spots in Alaska's award chart, there are plenty of scenarios where buying miles can save you money compared to paying a cash rate. This is especially apparent when considering one-way premium cabin bookings, which are often more expensive per way than round-trips. Be that as it may, there are a few other ways to acquire Alaska miles, so buying them still might not be a good deal for your situation
A cheaper way to rack up Mileage Plan miles would be through a sign-up bonus on an Alaskan co-branded credit card. The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card is currently offering a 40,000-mile bonus plus 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.
Additionally, you could always convert Marriott Bonvoy points to Alaska Mileage Plan miles. Marriott Bonvoy points transfer to dozen of airlines at a rate of 3 points to 1 mile. This means that Marriott Bonvoy credit cards also have the ability to earn Alaska miles. If you transfer Bonvoy points in batches of 60,000 points—triggering the 5,000 Alaska mile bonus—your Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card effectively earns 0.83 Alaska miles per dollar on non-Marriott purchases.
- Earn 75,000 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
Alaska Buy Miles History
Alaska usually hosts at least one buy miles promotion every year. Selling miles is a great way for loyalty programs to generate funds quickly; with airline profits suffering as much as they have been, we're likely to see another buy miles promotion fairly soon. Unless you need miles immediately, it would probably make more sense to wait for the next one before buying.
Here's a table of some of the previous Alaska buy miles promotions we've seen.
|Promotion Ended||Max Bonus||Min Cents Per Mile||Targeted|
Even without a promotion going on, it could still make sense to buy Alaska miles instead of paying a cash rate, especially when you're planning to fly in a premium cabin.
One of our favorite ways to redeem Alaska miles is by flying on Cathay Pacific. Let's look at a one-way itinerary between Los Angeles (LAX) and Hong Kong (HKG) to see if buying miles can save you money compared to paying cash.
- 30,000 miles in economy
- 35,000 miles in premium economy
- 50,000 miles in business class
- 70,000 miles in first class
Without a promotion, here are the costs to buy enough miles for these redemptions:
- $825 in economy
- $962.50 in premium economy
- $1,375 in business class
- $1,925 in first class
Cathay sells economy tickets to LA to Hong Kong for $587 per person most days, so buying miles wouldn't make sense. However, premium economy typically costs $1,218 (from $1,384 round-trip), business class usually costs $3,953 (from $4,800 round-trip), and first class regularly sells for over $9,700 one-way (from $16,400 round-trip).
So if you were thinking of paying cash for a ticket like this and can find award availability, you could save a lot of money by buying the Alaska miles necessary instead.
Maximize Your Purchase
Unfortunately, Alaska miles purchases are processed by Points.com, meaning that the purchase won't code as travel for any credit cards that bonus travel spending. With that in mind, your best options are to use the purchase to qualify for a minimum-spend requirement or use a credit card optimized for everyday spending.
For the majority of people, buying miles without a bonus should be a last resort. But if you happen to need just a few more miles to book that perfect redemption, it's nice to have the option.
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