Should We Bank Miles To Alaska Even If We Never Fly Them? What Credit Cards Would Work With This Strategy?

by on March 9, 2014 · 15 comments

in Alaska, Points Guy Pointers, Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

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TPG reader Nate e-mailed me this week with the following question:

“Should my wife and I bank miles at Alaska for dual elite status - even if we never fly Alaska?

We value:

(1) free upgrades to first and premium economy
(2) miles for hotel/air to US, Europe, Mexico, Hawaii
(3) priority boarding and seats

What cards would you recommend for our strategy?”

This is a really topical question because Delta – who is partnered with Alaska – is really changing their frequent flyer program. It could make sense for a lot of people to now bank their miles to Alaska instead of Delta, even if they never step foot on an Alaska plane.

By banking to Alaska, your miles have the potential to become far more valuable than Delta Skymiles. Once you become an Alaska MVP Gold or Gold 75k member, you’ll earn access to seat upgrades, priority boarding and exit row seating on Delta. Plus, Alaska’s got a great lineup of award partners like American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Air France, Korean Air, and Emirates, on which I recently flew in First Class.

Consider how much you value redeemable miles. While this strategy won’t be as valuable as top-tier elite status in either Delta’s or American’s frequent flyer program, it would still give you a lot of flexibility and benefits.

Banking your miles to Alaska could be a good idea, even if you never step foot on an Alaska plane

Banking your miles to Alaska could be a good idea, even if you never step foot on an Alaska plane

The credit card I’d recommend for this strategy is the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature, which presently offers a potential 40,000 sign-up bonus - 25,000 upon approval and 15,000 more when you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months. Though seemingly targeted to Alaska elites, this offer is worth investigating because this card’s bonus usually hovers around the 25,000 mark (there’s also another offer of 30,000 miles upon approval with no spending). Other perks of the card include a Coach Companion Fare every year from $118 ($99, plus taxes and fees from $19); earnings of 3 miles for every qualifying dollar in purchases of Alaska Airlines tickets, Vacation packages and Cargo purchases; and no limit to the number of miles you can earn with the card, which has a $75 annual fee.


Because you mentioned hotel points and are considering Alaska, you could also get the Starwood Preferred Guest Amex, which not only earns Starwood points for awards at the chain’s 1,100+ properties, but which you can also transfer to Alaska airlines at a 1:1 ratio and get a 5,000-mile bonus on transfers of 20,000 miles, so it’s like earning 1.25 miles per $1 on your purchases with this card. The Starwood Amex currently has a sign-up bonus of 25,000 points when you spend $5,000 in 6 months. For more information, see this post.

Let me know if you have any other questions by messaging me on FacebookTweeting me or emailing me at [email protected]

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Ben Price

    The problem I’m having w/ banking DL trips to AS:

    1) My trips get removed from and never end up showing up on Alaska’s website. Which sucks, because I rely on Delta’s “My Trips” to change seats, check details, etc.

    2) Also, not sure this is a long term strategy, in light on what DL is doing to AS in Seattle right now. Wouldn’t be surprised if this partnership came to an end sometime in the near future.

  • Mike G.

    Where do Alaska elite members fall in the upgrade priority with Delta? I’m a PM right now and still only find myself getting upgraded on about half my flights…can’t imagine how infrequently it would be if AS elites fall below GM, as I’ve read in a few forums.

  • Allan Klein

    Alaska elites would be upgraded after all DL elites. That may even includes DL medallion companion upgrade requests. Basically, you’d just about never get upgraded.

  • Joe-SC1

    Ben – When I credited my Jan 2014 DL flight to AS, the flight did disappear from, but only from the automatic tie-in via FF number. The flight is still there, but you have to search for it via confirmation number.

    Once you find it that way, you can choose and change seats, check status, etc. I changed seats on the return leg after I flew the departure leg … on the Delta android app. You have to search by confirmation on it too.

  • Ben Price

    It’s weird…I can look up my flight, as you’ve mentioned, but I can’t “save” it…so, if I go search for a flight, click back, whatever…it’s gone from My Trips.

    So yeah, I can do all those things you mentioned…but I don’t have access to up-to-date flight info, whether it’s on time, etc.

  • UAPhil

    Amen!! I recently flew SFO-ATL on Delta, crediting to my Alaska MVP Gold Account. I was 57th on the upgrade list out of 57 travelers :-(.

  • SJC Gold

    That’s why I’ve made it a practice to buy my Delta tickets on Orbitz or a travel agent that uses an online itinerary service like TripCase. I can log in, and my Delta itinerary with Alaska mileage number is always there without the need to reference the confirmation number.

  • cotoneloc

    TPG & TPG Readers:
    I took advantage of a status match and am now Gold on Alaska but living in NYC, I have yet to fly the carrier and have not banked any miles to date. I have 19k miles on Delta but no status. My plan is to continue earning SkyMiles until I hit the 25k Saver Domestic economy and then start using my Alaska FF for all future travel. Do you agree with that strategy?

  • Lantean

    you don’t have 6k Amex points you could transfer?

  • cotoneloc

    Big thanks to TPG reader Lantean who suggested I top Delta off with Amex which means I’m free to start taking advantage of Alaska Gold status when flying Delta! Thanks Lantean!!!

  • thepointsguy

    After all Delta elites.. so don’t expect upgrades often!

  • thepointsguy

    Either transfer in Amex points or get to that 25k level and then switch. Note- it can be hard finding 25k saver awards!

  • sue

    Curious to know why you picked the route of earning Delta SkyMiles until you hit 25K first then switch to Alaska?

  • cotoneloc

    Based on the comments I’m going to transfer Amex MR to SkyMiles when and if i need to book a delta reward flight. I booked a delta flight last night using my Alaska Gold status and already reaping the benefits as I was able to book preferred seats and should have baggage fees waived and priority security & boarding at the airport. Not to mention increased mileage accruing and lower redemption rates. I think it was the right move but I’ll follow up after my flight in May.

  • Matt

    Another consideration when banking Delta flight miles to Alaska is that your current status is ignored by Delta. Example: I booked a Delta flight yesterday and used my Alaska number. I am a Delta Silver, so normally that means I get access to exit row seating. But with the Alaska number in there, all I could see was very limited (terrible) seating options. I booked the ticket, and then plugged in my Delta FF number to see if that would change, and PRESTO suddenly I could see exit row seats available.

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