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Today, Alaska launched its latest mileage sale, offering targeted Mileage Plan members up to 60% bonus miles. This comes close to the best bonus that Alaska Airlines has ever offered—although there's a catch. The airline recently had to reinstate the 7.5% ‘Tax Recovery Fee' on all Alaska mile purchases. With the fee included, this promotion provides the ability to buy Alaska miles for 1.85¢ a piece—which is a great deal.
A Note on Buying Alaska Miles
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. This was recently made even better with Alaska joining the Oneworld alliance on March 31, 2021.
Still, generally speaking, buying miles is not a good idea for most people. The reason for this being that 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 freely again.
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. Both of these exceptions are magnified when there's a mileage sale—like there is right now.
Alaska mileage sales have been known to be targeted, so different members may see different bonuses. You'll have to log-in to your account to confirm which bonus you'll receive. But, the general terms for everyone include the following:
- Must purchase by May 22, 2021, 11:59 p.m. PST to receive bonus miles
- Miles are non-refundable and do not count towards MVP and MVP/Gold Status
- Maximum of 100,000 miles per transaction (before the mileage bonus)
- Mileage Plan members without elite status may be credited up to a maximum of 150,000 miles acquired through Points.com in a calendar year, whether purchased by you or gifted to you
- Members with Alaska elite status (MVP, MVP Gold, and MVP Gold 75K) have no limit on the number of miles that can be acquired through Points.com
60% Bonus Miles
Members targeted for the 60% bonus can buy Alaska Airlines miles using the following structure:
- Buy 1,000-2,000 miles with no bonus
- Buy 3,000-39,000 miles, get a 40% bonus
- Buy 40,000-100,000 miles, get a 60% bonus
If you were to maximize this offer, you'd receive 160,000 Alaska miles (100,000 miles + 60,000 bonus miles) for $2,956.25, or 1.85¢ per mile. This purchase rate is less than the value that some people assign to Alaska miles, meaning it might be a good deal for some people, depending on their situation.
Get a Refund for the ‘Tax Recovery Fee'
The start of 2021 marked the return of the 7.5% Federal Excise Tax on domestic air travel (Congress paused it temporarily as part of the CARES Act in 2020). Alaska Airlines is responsible for levying this as part of ticket prices, as well as for mileage purchases. Since the airline partners with Points.com to process mileage purchases, Points.com passes it on to loyalty members—calling it a ‘Tax Recovery Fee'.
Interestingly, you may not have to pay it.
When a domestic airline levies a Federal Excise Tax on mileage purchases, it's with the assumption that the purchased miles will be used for domestic air travel. However, as many award travelers are probably aware, this often isn't the case. If you use those purchased miles for international travel, hotel stays, gift cards, or any other redemption, you should be able to get it refunded.
To learn more, check out Gary Leff's post about it at View From The Wing.
On a final note—if you get the fee refunded, this promotion's best rate drops to just 1.83¢ per mile.
Buying Miles for Alaska Partner Redemptions
In our previous post detailing Mileage Plan sweet spots, we listed several of the top-value redemptions possible with Alaska miles. Let's pick three of these sweet spots and compare the typical cash price with the cost to purchase the necessary miles under the terms of the best offer.
Washington DC – Singapore in Cathay Business Class (with a stopover in Hong Kong)
- Mileage Rate: 50,000 miles
- Typical Cash Price: $4,665
- Redemption Rate: 9.3 cents per mile
- Cost to Purchase Necessary Miles (at 1.85¢ per mile): $924
Hong Kong – Dubai in Cathay Pacific Business Class
- Mileage Rate: 30,000 miles
- Typical Cash Price: $4,800
- Redemption Rate: 16 cents per mile
- Cost to Purchase Necessary Miles (at 1.85¢): $554
Los Angeles – Fiji (stopover) – Auckland in Fiji Airways Business Class
- Mileage Rate: 55,000 miles
- Typical Cash Price: $3,100
- Redemption Rate: 5.6 cents per mile
- Cost to Purchase Necessary Miles (at 1.85¢ per mile): $1,016
Alaska Buy Miles History
We have compiled a list of former Alaska Airlines buy miles promotions. As you can see, there have been a few previous promotions that offered 60% bonus miles. The promotions held in October, June, and May 2020 offered a 60% bonus and lacked the Federal Excise Tax, resulting in the best rate we've seen at 1.72¢ per mile.
|Promotion Ended||Max Bonus||Min Cents Per Mile||Targeted|
Keep in mind that purchasing Alaska Mileage Plan miles won't code as travel, so it's best to use an everyday spending card.
Alaska Airlines has steadily increased the frequency and bonuses that it's offering through mileage sales. Before 2020, 50% was the best bonus Alaska would typically offer. However, we've now seen five instances where the airline has beaten it with a 60% bonus.
We aren't sure when traveling is going to get back to normal. So, it's probably not a good idea to purchase miles speculatively, even at such a great price. With that said, as long as you've got a plan and you recognize all of the risks involved, this can still be a great deal. But act fast—you only have a week to jump on this one.
Would you buy Alaska Mileage Plan Miles for 1.85¢ each?
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