Alaska Mileage Plan is sweetening the deal for a different kind of holiday gift. By putting its miles on sale for as low as 1.97 cents per mile, Alaska Air is presenting a rare opportunity to buy miles at a reasonable price.
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 on Monday, December 23, 2019, you’ll get up to a 50% bonus—yes, 50%—when buying Alaska Mileage Plan miles. While the actual percentage discount appears to be targeted, most readers have reported the full 50% discount.
Here’s the scoop on this offer.
What’s the deal with Alaska Mileage Plan’s new mileage sale?
From now until December 23, 2019, Alaska Airlines is granting a deep discount on Alaska miles, reducing the price from 2.96 cents per mile to as low as 1.97 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 10,000 and 60,000 miles, you’ll earn bonus miles with every purchase. However, to get the maximum value of this promotion of a 50% bonus, you’ll need to buy between 30,000 and 60,000 miles. Lower mileage purchases lend to lower bonuses. For example, buy 10,000-19,000 miles, you’ll get a 20% bonus; buy 20,000-29,000 miles, get a 35% bonus.
Is this Alaska Mileage Plan promotion a good one?
Yes! A 50% bonus is the largest we saw in 2018 and earlier in 2019. We’re confident more mileage sales are to come in 2020, but we’re not sure if we’ll see this 50% again.
Should I buy Alaska Mileage Plan miles with this promotion?
In short, if you are maximizing the promo with a 50% bonus and 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, LATAM Airlines and Singapore 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.
It’s also important to note that Alaska Mileage Plan previously did not have a cap on the number of miles that can be purchased annually. 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. In late February 2019, Alaska 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. Considering this bonus is 50%, if you are looking to stockpile some points, now would be the time to do so.
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 30,000 bonus miles. The total for these 90,000 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 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.)
As an example, let’s look at taking a one-way, first class flight (not business, but first) between JFK and Hong Kong flying Cathay Pacific. The airline, in fact, just rolled out its latest first-class soft product and enhanced suite of amenities in mid-November 2019.
The cheapest first-class flight over the next six months will cost you $11,800. On Alaska Air, this ticket prices out at 70,000 points one-way. Buying 60,000 Alaska Air miles with the 50% promo yields 90,000 miles and would cost $1,773.75. Compare $11,800 to $1,774. That’s a savings of over $10,000. Plus, you’ll have 20,000 miles left over toward your next trip!
You can maximize this deal even further with Alaska Air’s generous free stopover policy. It costs 70,000 Alaska Mileage Plan points from anywhere in the contiguous United States not just to Hong Kong but to anywhere in Asia that Cathay Pacific flies. So if you decide to do a mileage ticket to, say, Thailand, you can do a free stopover in Hong Kong. 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 on partner airline American Airline’s website, which has direct access to Cathay Pacific availability), or simply calling Alaska Mileage plan 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!