All airlines offer the option to purchase points in their mileage programs, but they’re typically sold way above market value. So we typically don’t recommend buying them. However, when Alaska Airlines runs one of its mileage purchase promos with bonuses in excess of 40%, we jump on it! And right now, until midnight October 4, 2018, you’ll get up to a 50% bonus when buying Alaska Mileage Plan miles.
With this discount, Alaska Air is putting its miles on sale for as low as 1.97 cents per mile. For some travelers, this translates to one of those rare times that it is actually a good idea to buy miles.
Here’s the scoop on this offer and why you should—or shouldn’t—take advantage of it.
What’s the deal with Alaska Mileage Plan best-ever mileage sale?
From now until October 4, 2018, Alaska Airlines is granting a deep discount on Alaska miles, reducing the price for buying miles from 2.96 cents per mile to as low as 1.97 cents per mile. In many—not all—cases, this translates to a time that it is actually a good idea to buy miles.
Through this promotion, Alaska Mileage Plan members can buy Alaska miles for a fraction of the regular price directly from its “Buy Miles” tab, navigable from the Alaska Air homepage. If purchasing 10,000 miles or more, you’ll earn bonus miles with every purchase. The bigger the purchase of Alaska miles, the bigger the bonus, lowering the overall cost of purchased miles.
Unfortunately, it seems the bonus for this promotion is targeted. While our mystery bonus was revealed to be 50%, this may not always be the case for everyone.
Can you walk us through the math of this promotion?
Typically, the airline sells Alaska miles for $27.50 per 1,000 miles plus a 7.5% federal excise tax, which amounts to 2.96 cents per mile. Note: Unlike other airlines, which sell miles, Alaska Air does not add a processing fee.
Alaska Mileage Plan members seeking to maximize this promotion will get 30,000 bonus miles when purchasing 60,000 Alaska miles. The total for these 90,000 Alaska miles is $1773.75, which breaks down to $1650.00 for the mileage purchase and a $123.75 federal excise tax. In total, this amounts to 1.97 cents per mile. (Pro Tip: This promotion can be maximized multiple times as separate transactions, which is helpful to those looking to stockpile large quantities of miles.)
Purchases of Alaska miles in lower quantities also receive bonuses, but the price per mile comes out higher. To maximize the bonus, you’ll want to purchase between 40,000 and 60,000 miles.
Miles Purchased Bonus Miles Total Cost per Mile
10,000–19,000 20% 2.46 cents
20,000–39,000 35% 2.19 cents
40,000–60,000 50% 1.97 cents
So how can I use this mileage sale to its maximum advantage?
If you’re looking to fly long haul in first- or business-class on one of Alaska’s many premium partners like Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Fiji Airways, Hainan Airlines, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, or LATAM Airlines, purchasing points and redeeming a points ticket can get you that business- or first-class seat for far less than retail price.
As an example, let’s look at flying Hainan Airways Boston to Beijing round-trip in business-class this fall. The cheapest ticket we found for a round-trip between September and December 2018 prices out on Hainan’s website at $4,073. With Alaska Mileage Plan miles, this ticket prices out at 100,000 miles round-trip plus $406 in taxes. Buying 100,000 Alaska Air points with the 50% promo would cost $1,970. Add $1,970 and $406 to get $2,376. Compare $2,376 to $4,073. That’s a savings of $1,697 or about 42% off. Not bad!
As another example, let’s look at doing a trip to Dubai flying Emirates from Los Angeles in first-class (yes, this is the Jennifer Aniston–promoted flying service with showers). The cheapest flight this fall in first—not business—prices out at $31,700. On Alaska Air, this ticket prices out at 300,000 points round-trip plus $82 in taxes. Buying 300,000 Alaska Air miles with the 50% promo would cost $5,910. Add $5,910 and $82 to get $5,992. Compare $5,992 to $31,700. That’s a savings of $25,708 or 82%. That is beyond incredible!!! Who knew you could bargain hunt the world’s premier first-class seat (oh wait, we did!).
You can maximize this deal even further with Alaska Air’s generous free stopover policy. So if you decide to do a mileage ticket to somewhere that requires a layover or flies through a hub, you can stop in that hub as long as you’d like. Most recently, we maxed out this deal by flying to Johannesburg, South Africa, on Emirates with a free, multi-day stopover in Dubai.
Note that we recommend searching for award space via Alaska Air’s website, or simply calling directly to make sure there is award space on your desired dates.
Can this promotion turn out to be a bad deal?
If you tend to travel domestically or in economy class, sometimes it is cheaper to just buy a regular ticket than to first purchase Alaska miles to then book an award ticket.
It’s also important to note that you do not earn miles when redeeming Alaska miles. However, you do earn miles on a paid ticket. Since many long-haul flights can accrue thousands of miles (valued in excess of 2.00 cents per mile), this is also worth taking into consideration.
Finally, as previously mentioned, it seems the bonus for this promotion is targeted. While our mystery bonus was revealed to be 50%, this may not always be the case for everyone. We tend to shy away from bonuses under 40%.
Is there any way to avoid having to pay for the Alaska Mileage Plan miles?
Consider doubling-down on your points and credit card skills by cashing out credit card points as a statement credit for the purchase of Alaska miles. Using a card with a good cash back rate, you’ll feel like a points master. For example, with Mastercard® Gold Card™, points are redeemed at a value of 2% for cash back, so a 100,000-point redemption equates to $2,000 in hand. You’d need to cash out 89,000 of your Mastercard points for the $1,773.75 purchase of 90,000 Alaska Air miles (with the 50% bonus promo).