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Eight days ago, Alaska’s Mileage Plan program launched a flash sale that was scheduled to end three days ago…but it didn’t. The sale was extended to 24 September (tomorrow) so there’s still time to to buy miles with a bonus of up to 50% thrown in. Although this isn’t the biggest bonus we’ve seen Alaska Airlines offer this year, the relatively low cost of miles in this sale means that there are still some fantastic deals to be had if you know where to look.
Headline Terms & Conditions
- Transactions must be completed by 11:59 PM PST September 24, 2020 to be eligible for bonus miles.
- 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 up to 60,000 miles, and in increments of 5,000 miles up to a maximum of 100,000 miles per transaction.
- MVP, MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K Mileage Plan member (Elite Member) accounts have no annual limit on the number of miles which may be purchased or gifted through Points.com.
- If you are not an Elite Member, your account may only 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.
Full terms and conditions can be found on the promotion page
There are just two tiers in this latest sale:
- Buy 3,000 – 29,000 Mileage Plan miles and get a 40% bonus
- Buy 30,000 – 100,000 Mileage Plan miles and get a 50% bonus
Because Mileage Plan doesn’t vary the price of miles within each bonus band, the cost per mile remains the same whether you buy 30,000 miles…
…or 100,000 miles:
In both instances, miles cost ~1.83 cents.
Let’s Get This Out Of The Way
To repeat what I always say: If you have no immediate use for Alaska Miles you shouldn’t be taking part in this sale. It’s a bad idea to stockpile miles at the best of times so a full-blown travel crisis definitely isn’t a great time to be stocking up on miles you don’t plan to use in the short-term.
Also, following the news that Alaska is joining oneworld (something we now expect to happen by the end Q1 next year), it’s widely believed that the Mileage Plan program and its award charts are ripe for a devaluation. That devaluation may not be imminent but it’s probably not all that far off either so caution is required.
However, at ~1.83 cents per mile, there’s still a lot of value to be had if you can find awards that you can book right now (for travel well into the future), so this can be a fantastic opportunity to book a truly amazing trip.
Where Can You Go With Alaska Miles?
One of the biggest positives of the Alaska Mileage Plan program is that the airline doesn’t impose a limit on how many miles you can purchase in a single promotion or in a calendar year if you hold status. Technically status holders can keep buying miles until they run out of money. If you don’t have Alaska Mileage Plan status you’ll have to make do with buying a maximum of 150,000 miles…which isn’t too bad.
Alaska’s membership on the oneworld alliance may have been pushed back by a few months but it still has a portfolio of useful partners on which award flights can be booked.
Here are a few examples:
- American Airlines
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- Emirates (only for flights to/from the US)
- Fiji Airways
- Korean Air
You can access the Mileage Plan award charts via this link if you want to check the prices of the awards you’re interested in but, to save you some time, here are a few examples of premium cabin roundtrip awards that you can book with Alaska miles:
Business Class Awards
- Cathay Pacific: USA to Asia = 100,000 miles
- Cathay Pacific: Europe to Asia = 85,000 miles
- Emirates: USA to the Middle East = 165,000 miles
- Korean Air: USA to Asia = 105,000 – 120,000 miles (depends on the country in Asia)
- LATAM: USA to South America = 90,000 miles
- Qantas: USA to Australia = 110,000 miles
First Class Awards
- Cathay Pacific/JAL: USA to Asia = 140,000 miles
- Cathay Pacific: Europe to Asia = 120,000 miles
- Qantas: USA to Australia = 140,000 miles
While all of the redemptions I’ve listed above are pretty good some of them are nothing short of fantastic.
Note: I haven’t bothered quoting the number of miles needed for travel on American Airlines because American Airlines is terrible at opening up saver award space its routes and I don’t want to give the impression that you can by Alaska Miles and book American Airlines awards with ease.
Is It Worth Buying Alaska Miles In This Promotion?
As I always say, it comes down to the math.
Here’s how much some of the awards I mentioned above would cost (excluding taxes & fees) if you were to buy all the miles you need in this promotion:
Business Class Award Costs
- Cathay Pacific/JAL: USA – Asia = $1,833
- Cathay Pacific: Europe – Asia = $1,558
- Emirates: USA – Middle East = $3,024
- Korean Air: USA – Asia = $1,925 – $2,200
- LATAM: USA – South America = $1,650
- Qantas: USA – Australia = $2,016
The Cathay Pacific fares are very good indeed (especially the Europe – Asia award), but be aware that Alaska doesn’t always have access to all the award seats that you may see when searching on sites like BA.com so it’s always worth calling up to check availability before buying miles for an award you’ve found online.
First Class Awards
Once again the pick of the crop are the Cathay Pacific awards which, excluding taxes and fees, would cost:
Cathay Pacific/JAL: USA – Asia = $2,566
Cathay Pacific: Europe – Asia = $2,200
Those are amazing fares for a truly excellent First Class product.
Although Qantas First Class to Australia for $2,566 (+ taxes and fees) looks good, there’s a definite lack of award availability (and Australia is closed right now) so I wouldn’t buy miles unless I knew there was an award available for next year and that I could book right away.
Use The Right Credit Card
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan mileage sales are processed by Points.com so that eliminates the scope to earn a travel/flight/airline bonus by using a credit card that offers bonus points for shopping in one of those categories (e.g. the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card). With that option closed off, this makes this sale a good opportunity to use a credit card on which you’re working towards a welcome bonus (e.g. buying just 37,000 miles points in this sale would see you meet the welcome offer requirements for two of the three excellent no-annual-fee hotel cards discussed in this post).
If you’re not working towards a card’s welcome bonus, the Citi Double Cash credit card which offers 2% cash back on all purchases would be one of the better options to use.
The key to doing well out of this sale is this: Do your research, find awards that work for you, and only then buy the points you need – it’s hard to get burned when you buy miles and use them within days of the purchase.