Does It Make Sense To Buy Alaska Miles With a 40% Bonus?

Aug 27, 2015

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.

Now through October 6, 2015, Alaska MileagePlan is offering up to a 40% bonus on purchased miles. Like the last time we saw this promo back in April, this bonus is tiered. The more miles you buy, the bigger your bonus. Here is how it breaks down:

Buy or Gift Bonus
Buy 10,000 – 19,000 miles 20% bonus miles
Buy 20,000 – 39,000 miles 30% bonus miles
Buy 40,000 miles 40% bonus miles

So in order to score the full 40% bonus, you must purchase 40,000 miles. Miles normally cost 2.75 cents apiece plus a 7.5% excise tax. With this promo, you can buy 40,000 miles for a total of $1,182.50 and end up with 56,000 miles (the 40% bonus). So your per-mile cost ends up being just 2.1 cents.

The bonus is available through October 6.
The bonus is available through October 6.

There is no limit to the amount of miles you can buy, but note that mileage purchases are are processed by, so they won’t show up as airfare or travel purchases or earn you category bonuses if you use a card like the Amex Premier Rewards Gold or Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Also note that Alaska is a transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest. You’ll receive a 5,000-mile bonus for every 20,000 points you transfer. Right now, you can earn 30,000 Starpoints after spending $3,000 within the first three months with the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card, and 30,000 Starpoints after spending $5,000 within the first three months with the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card. If you meet the spending requirement with both cards, you’ll have 60,000 Starpoints (plus points for your spend), which you can convert into 80,000 Alaska miles.

Should You Buy?

You can fly Emirates A380 first class for less than $2,000 each way.
You can fly Emirates A380 first class for less than $2,000 each way.

As always with these promos, the question is: is it worth it? Before you buy a bunch of miles speculatively, think about how you are going to redeem them and whether you will get more value from the redemption than paying for a ticket outright.

While you could use these miles for awards on Alaska, the airline partners with several fantastic domestic and international carriers on which you can also redeem your miles. However, the redemption rates vary by partner. Here are Alaska’s airline partners:

  • American Airlines
  • Aeromexico
  • Air France
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific (Must call to book)
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Emirates
  • Fiji Airways
  • KLM
  • Korean Air
  • LAN (Must call to book)
  • PenAir
  • Qantas
  • Ravn Alaska

Let’s take two quick examples. First, for a redemption on Alaska itself from Seattle to Honolulu in October:

AS SEA HNL award

As you can see, it’ll cost you either $501, or 40,000 miles + $11.20 round-trip. That equates to 1.2 cents per mile, well below the price you’re paying with this promo.

However, let’s take an example at the other end of the spectrum. Alaska is one of the few airlines to partner with Emirates, meaning its miles are a great way to score some first-class awards on one of the world’s premier airlines.

Here is a round-trip award itinerary from New York-JFK to Dubai in October where you’d be flying the airline’s flagship A380 first-class suites. The total comes to 180,000 miles and $71.30.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 9.41.28 AM

At the promo purchase price, that would be equivalent to paying about $3,850. Not cheap. However, if you purchased these flights outright, you’d be paying a jaw-dropping $25,969!

EX price

So you’re much better off purchasing the miles in this case.

Those were extreme examples. However, as with all buy miles promotions, whether it’s worth it depends completely on how you intend to put those miles to use eventually. It’s best to have a concrete, imminent award in mind where you know you’ll get at least the mileage purchase price back in value for your ticket.

If you’re just looking for a few extra miles, this promo probably won’t make a difference, but if you plan to redeem purchased miles for premium awards on some of Alaska’s partners like Emirates or Cathay Pacific and don’t mind shelling out a little cash to do so, then there is definitely value to be had here.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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