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Alaska’s Mileage Plan miles can be used to great effect if you’re booking premium cabin awards on airlines like Korean, Cathay Pacific or even LAN and that’s why they’re now the only currency that I still find myself tempted to buy each time a reasonable bonus offer comes along….and right now we have such an offer.
Alaska Mileage Plan has launched its first points sale of the year and it’s offering Mileage Plan members the opportunity to earn a 40% bonus on purchased miles when they buy 30,000 miles (or more) by 22 February 2019.
That’s very much in line with sales we’ve seen in the past but there is one big difference this time around – the terms and conditions of the sale first seem to indicate that an annual cap has been introduced before immediately contradicting that notion.
Buying Alaska Miles – Headline T&Cs’s
Here are some of the usual terms we’re used to seeing:
- Mileage Plan accounts need to have been active for at least 10 days to participate in this promotion (if you don’t currently have an account there’s still time to sign up and hope your account is targeted).
- Transactions must be completed by 11:59 PM PST February 22, 2019 to be eligible for bonus miles.
- Miles are purchased from Points.com
- Miles are non-refundable and do not count toward MVP and MVP/Gold status.
- You may purchase and gift Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles in increments of 1,000 miles to a maximum of 60,000 miles per transaction.
- Offer is subject to change and all terms and conditions of the Mileage Plan Program apply.
- *Points.com Inc. is collecting Federal Excise Tax on behalf of Alaska Airlines Inc.
- Alaska Airlines Inc. has the obligation to collect Federal Excise Tax and remit the tax to the appropriate government agency.
And here are two terms that appear to contradict one another:
- 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.
- Mileage Plan member accounts have no annual limit on the number of miles which may be purchased or gifted through Points.com.
Here’s a screenshot of the actual terms and conditions (click the image to enlarge):
I’m struggling to understand how a Mileage Plan account can be credited with a “a maximum total of 150,000 miles acquired through Points.com in a calendar year” but, at the same time, “have no annual limit on the number of miles which may be purchased or gifted through Points.com”
It’s possible that the first term is saying that the annual cap of 150,000 only apples to Alaska elites (MVP, MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K)….but why would Alaska discriminate against its own elites?
That makes no sense.
If anyone can enlighten me then please do so as I have no idea what’s going on here.
Full terms and conditions can be found on the offer page
The Offer & The Math
- Buy 10,000 – 19,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles and earn a 20% bonus
- Buy 20,000 – 29,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles and earn a 30% bonus
- Buy 30,000 – 60,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles and earn a 40% bonus
Buying 60,000 miles would net you 84,000 miles (after you account for the bonus) at a total cost of $1,773.75:
84,000 miles at a cost of $1,773.75 comes to ~ 2.11 cents per mile.
Here’s how the cost per point looks for each tier of the promotion:
- Buy 10,000 – 19,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles at ~2.46 cents each
- Buy 20,000 – 29,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles at ~2.27 cents each
- Buy 30,000 – 60,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles at ~2.11 cents each
We occasionally see Alaska sell its miles with a 50% bonus (~1.97 cents each) but this is the next best offer we see….and its worth remembering that a lot of the 50% bonus promotions are targeted.
What Makes Mileage Plan An Attractive Option?
1. Alaska Airlines doesn’t belong to a major worldwide alliance but it has built up an impressive range of airline partners with whom you can use Alaska Miles.
2. Mileage Plan has some very flyer-friendly rules which offer good mileage redemption opportunities.
Here are two of the main flyer-friendly rules:
- Mileage Plan allows one free stopover on award tickets – even when booking one-way awards.
- There are no charges for cancelling an award and re-depositing the miles, regardless of your status, as long as you’re more than 60 days away from departure.
The third flyer-friendly rule was the one that says that you can buy as many Alaska Miles as you like in a calendar year but that rule may or may not be around any more – the conflicting terms and conditions male this very unclear.
Having said that, the awards are still great value…this is how they cost up based on a purchase price of 2.11 cents/point.
Roundtrip Business Class Awards
- Cathay Pacific: USA – Asia costs 100,000 miles ($2,110)
- Cathay Pacific: Europe – Hong Kong costs 85,000 miles ($1,794)
- JAL: USA – Asia costs from 120,000 miles ($2,532)
- Korean Air: USA – Asia costs from 105,000 miles ($2,216)
- LAN: USA – South American costs 90,000 miles ($1,899)
- Qantas: USA – Australia costs 110,000 miles ($2,321)
Note: Taxes and surcharges will need to be factored in.
Qantas 787 Dreamliner Business Class
Roundtrip First Class Awards
- Cathay Pacific: USA – Asia costs 140,000 miles ($2,954)
- Cathay Pacific: Europe – Hong Kong costs 140,000 miles ($2,954)
- JAL: USA – Asia costs from 140,000 miles ($2,954)
- Qantas: USA – Australia costs 140,000 miles ($2,954)
Note: Taxes and surcharges will need to be factored in.
JAL 777-300ER First Class
American Airlines is also an Alaska Mileage Plan partner and, technically, a very good option if you have a stash of Alaska Miles to use – you can fly from Europe to Hawaii in roundtrip Business Class for just 115,000 miles.
Unfortunately American Airlines Business Class saver awards are so scarce nowadays that they can’t justifiably be called a reasonable option – if you can find them then that’s great but no one should be buying Alaska Miles with the idea that they’ll definitely be booking an award on American Airlines.
Should You Buy Alaska Miles?
If you think that the award costs (noted above) are reasonable and you can see that awards are available there’s no reason not to buy miles in this sale.
It will be inconvenient if Alaska really is introducing an annual cap on the number of miles you can purchase….but that’s why you should have accounts open for each member of your family.
Alaska Mileage Plan has been known offer bonuses of up to 50% so, if you’re not convinced you should be buying miles now (i.e there aren’t any awards available right now), you may want to hold out to see what Alaska offers later in the year….but don’t forget that there are no guarantees.
Having said that, you can still get some great value with the sale as it stands and, as long as you check that the awards you’re looking to book are actually available (never stockpile miles), you can’t go too far wrong.