This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Now through March 15, 2014, Alaska Airlines is offering bonuses of up to 40% on purchased miles. As usual with Alaska, this is a tiered bonus that works as follows:
Buy 5,000 – 19,000 miles: get a 20% Bonus
Buy 20,000 – 35,000 miles: get a 30% Bonus
Buy 35,000 – 40,000 miles: get a 40% Bonus
Miles normally cost 2.75 cents each plus a 7.5% tax. They are non-refundable and don’t count toward MVP or MVP Gold status. With the bonuses, when you purchase 5,000-19,000 miles they cost about 2.3 cents each, when you purchase 20,000-34,000 miles they cost 2.27 cents each, and when you purchase between 30,000-40,000 miles, they cost 2.11 cents each. For the biggest bonus, that basically equates to a discount of about 29% on your miles. There is no limit to the number of miles you can buy. However, you are limited to 40,000 miles per transaction.
While I don’t normally take advantage of buy miles promotions unless the bonus is bigger – at around 100% – Alaska is the exception that I might consider thanks to some very valuable aspects to its MileagePlan program.
First, you can now earn elite-qualifying miles on all Alaska’s partners including American, Delta, British Airways, Air France, Cathay Pacific and Emirates. Second, Alaska recently added Emirates as an award redemption partner, so you can now put your Alaska miles to use on one of the world’s top airlines, as I recently did in November to fly Emirates’ A380 First Class Suite.
I flew from Mumbai to New York via Dubai for 90,000 miles one way in first class. If I were to purchase those miles through this promo, it would cost me about $1,900. That’s still a fair outlay of cash, but when you think about how much the first class ticket would have cost me (about $5,000), you’re still saving some money if you’re interested in super premium redemptions.
Another example is Cathay Pacific, where you’d only need 100,000 miles round trip in business or 140,000 in first class from North America to Europe. Buying those miles would cost you about $2,110 and $2,950 respectively, a significant discount on tickets that would otherwise go for $5,000-$6,000 in business class, and around $10,000 in first class.
But remember, there are also other ways to top up your Alaska account in a hurry if you need to. There’s an offer out there for Alaska elites of 40,000 miles on the Alaska Visa when you spend $10,000 in 6 months. You can also transfer Starwood Preferred Guest points to Alaska at a 1:1 ratio, and when you transfer 20,000 points at a time, you get a 5,000-mile bonus.
Finally, you can also pretty much buy Alaska miles for about 2.04 cents apiece anytime you want by using the airline’s Fly & Buy feature, which I discuss in this post. In short, with “Fly & Buy Miles”, when booking a flight at alaskaair.com, you can purchase up to 10,000 additional Mileage Plan miles at a special discounted price that works out to 1.9 cents per mile plus a 7.5% tax (so about 2.04 cents per mile).
To take advantage of it, you can purchase refundable tickets and add on the Fly & Buy Miles feature then cancel your ticket once the transaction is processed. Though I’ve had success doing so, as have a lot of other people, you might still want to consider the outright buy miles bonus if you feel like it’s too much of a risk to take.
I’m actually considering switching my elite status allegiance to Alaska instead of Delta in 2014 because of significant changes to Delta’s program including two major mileage devaluations and the implementation of new elite revenue requirements, which make Alaska look like a much better option – especially considering it is partners with both Delta and Alaska, and its elite flyers earn benefits on both.
For more on Alaska redemptions, check out this post. Also note that Points.com processes these transactions, so you don’t earn 3X points per $1 with the Amex Premier Rewards Gold card’s airfare bonus or 2.14X points per $1 on the Sapphire Preferred since this isn’t categorized as a travel purchase.