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Alaska Mileage Plan Launches New Sale of Alaska Miles and Adds New Restrictions for 2019

Fly business- or first-class internationally for a fraction of the price with this Alaska miles promotion, but be wary of a new mileage cap.

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Alaska Mileage Plan Launches New Sale of Alaska Miles and Adds New Restrictions for 2019
Alaska Mileage Plan Launches New Sale of Alaska Miles and Adds New Restrictions for 2019
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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 February 22, 2019, you’ll get a 40% bonus when buying Alaska Mileage Plan miles.

With this discount, Alaska Air is putting its miles on sale for as low as 2.11 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’s new mileage sale?

From now until February 22, 2019, Alaska Airlines is granting a deep discount on Alaska miles, reducing the price from 2.96 cents per mile to as low as 2.11 cents per mile. In many—not all—cases, this translates to the ideal time 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 anywhere between 20,000 and 60,000 miles, you’ll earn bonus miles with every purchase. Unlike previous promotions where the size of the mileage bonus depends on the number of miles purchased, this sale provides a flat 40% bonus on all purchases between 20,000 and 60,000 miles.

And unlike most of the recent Alaska Mileage Plan sales, this one is not targeted. Meaning everyone can get the 40% bonus.

What’s the new restriction with buying Alaska Mileage Plan miles?

The Alaska Mileage Plan has never had a cap on the number of miles that can be purchased. However, most likely because today’s consumers are more informed from travel blogs like ours alerting them to the great deals that come from some of these mileage sales, we’re seeing this cap. So with this new promotion Alaska has introduced a mileage cap of 150,000 purchased miles per calendar year for Alaska Mileage Plan members without elite status. Those with elite status on Alaska are still privy to an unlimited number of miles per year that can be purchased.

Is this Alaska Mileage Plan promotion a good one?

While this discount is good, it’s not nearly as good as the 50% bonus we saw in 2018. We’re confident more mileage sales are to come in 2019, but we’re not sure if we’ll see that 50% again (and note that the 50% was targeted to Alaska Air credit card members). So it may not be a good idea to hold out for a better deal.

Should I buy Alaska Mileage Plan miles with this promotion?

In short, if it makes financial sense for an upcoming flight, then yes. But that will require a bit of homework on your part.

In general, mileage purchases are most valuable if seeking 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. Often in these cases, purchasing points and redeeming a points ticket can get you that business- or first-class seat for far less than retail price. If the math works out for one of these tickets, then YES.

However, if looking to score a business- or first-class seat on Alaska Airlines, don’t bother purchasing miles. Alaska’s redemption rates for its own premium seats are insane and far higher than its premium partners (ironic, right?). Also, if you tend to travel domestically or in economy class, it is almost always cheaper to just buy a regular ticket than to purchase Alaska miles for an award ticket. So here, it’s a firm NO.

Can you give us an example of when purchasing miles would be a good idea?

Alaska Mileage Plan members can purchase 60,000 Alaska miles at one time with this promotion and get 24,000 bonus miles. The total for these 84,000 Alaska miles is $1,773.75, which breaks down to $1,650 for the mileage purchase and $123.75 for federal excise tax. In total, this amounts to 2.11 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.)

As an example, let’s look at taking a business-class round-trip between Fort Lauderdale and Dubai flying Emirates (one of Alaska’s premium partners that can be booked directly from the Alaska Air website). The cheapest biz-class flight for the next six months is $5,104. On Alaska Air, this ticket prices out at 165,000 points round-trip. Buying 120,000 Alaska Air miles with the 40% promo (the 60,000 mileage purchase twice + the bonus, for a total of 168,000 miles) would cost $3,547. Compare $5,104 to $3,547. That’s a savings of $1,558, or 30%.

You can maximize this deal even further with Alaska Air’s generous free stopover policy. It costs 165,000 Alaska Mileage Plan points from anywhere in the contiguous United States not just to Dubai but to anywhere in India, Middle East, and South Asia. So if you decide to do a mileage ticket to, say, the Maldives, you can do a free stopover in Dubai both ways. But—and it’s a big but—you need to make sure there is award availability on the dates you want to stopover and actually fly. Airlines can be stingy with award space these days, so 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.

It sounds like a lot of homework—and it is—but the savings may be worth it!

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Award-winning travel writer and economist Paul Rubio is a credit card enthusiast, whose sophisticated use of points and rewards has helped him travel to 125 countries for free. Paul is a Harvard graduate with a master’s degree in public administration and a master’s degree in economics. He also holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston University with a double major in economics and environmental policy and a minor in conservation biology. He attended both undergraduate and graduate schools on full scholarships. Paul worked in the field of wildlife conservation before embracing his writing talents full-time in 2008. Since then, he has won more than two dozen national awards for his exemplary work in travel journalism. The prolific writer contributes to a number of top-tier international, national, and regional publications including Condé Nast Traveler, Fodors.com, Palm Beach Illustrated, Private Clubs, and Robb Report.