How to Earn Miles With the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Program
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Despite being based on the East Coast, I’m a huge fan of Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan program. The airline has a huge selection of international partners, so you can redeem points on some of the most sought-after award seats on airlines like Emirates, Korean Air and many more. But even better, there are a ton of different ways to earn Mileage Plan miles — including some that don’t require stepping foot on an Alaska Airlines plane.
Unfamiliar with earning Mileage Plan miles? No worries, because in this article, I’ll give you a look at all the different ways you can earn Alaska miles to put your next award trip within reach.
Earn by Flying
When you fly Alaska Airlines or one of it partner airlines, you’ll earn Mileage Plan miles that you can use towards future flights. Alaska is one of the few airlines that still gives travelers miles based on how long your flight is — not how much money you spent on the ticket. However, there are a few factors that determine how many miles you’ll earn on a given ticket, so let’s take a look.
Flying on Alaska Airlines
As discussed earlier, you’ll earn miles based on how long your flight is when flying on an Alaska-operated flight. The good news is that all flights earn a minimum of 100% of the miles flown, including Saver fares, Alaska’s basic economy product. However, tickets booked into higher fare classes earn bonus miles. See Alaska Airlines’ earning chart below to determine how many miles you’ll earn on your next flight.
To give an example, a one-way ticket from Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to Los Angeles (LAX) in the first class cabin would earn 3,052 miles. This is because these fares earn 100% base miles and a 75% class of service bonus. The math looks like this:
1,744 miles flown + 1,308 bonus miles (75% miles flown) = 3,052 miles
Additionally, those with Alaska Airlines elite status will earn additional bonuses on their Alaska-operated tickets. Here’s how many bonus Mileage Plan miles each MVP status tier earns on these flights:
- MVP: 50% bonus
- MVP Gold: 100% bonus
- MVP Gold 75K: 125% bonus
Note that these bonuses only apply to the 100% base miles flown, not any class of service bonuses for higher fare classes. To continue our example from above from ORD-LAX, an MVP member would take home an extra 872 miles (1,744 x 0.5), an MVP Gold member would earn an extra 1,744 miles and an MVP Gold 75K member would earn an extra 2,180 miles.
As you can see, frequent Alaska Airlines flyers can rack up huge amounts of miles as they move up the elite status chain.
Flying with partners
Flights on Alaska Airlines’ partners earn mileage the same way as Alaska Airlines flights: based on miles flown. When flying a partner airline booked on Alaska Airlines ticket stock (a.k.a. a codeshare flight operated by a partner but booked with an Alaska flight number), you’ll earn 100% of the base miles flown. However, the way you earn miles varies slightly when you book a partner flight on the partner’s ticket stock and add your Mileage Plan number.
When you do this, you’ll still earn miles based on miles flown, but the exact number of miles will vary based on the airline, status tier and booking class. Generally speaking, you won’t earn 100% of the miles flown for every fare class, though flights booked in higher fare classes will still earn more miles. To check how many miles you’ll earn on your partner ticket, head to Alaska Airlines’ partner page, find the partner you’re flying and check the chart for your booking class.
Here’s an example of one such earning chart (for Emirates):
As an example, if you’re flying on an Emirates business class round-trip fare from New York-JFK to Milan-Malpensa (MXP), you’ll earn 100% miles flown, a 25% class of service bonus, and a 100% “additional miles” bonus. Assuming you have no Alaska Airlines status, you’ll earn 17,978 miles for this itinerary — more than enough for a free domestic one-way ticket on Alaska Airlines.
However, if you’re booking into the lowest economy fare class (G), that exact same round-trip flight will only earn you 1,998 miles. Quite a difference!
Despite not operating any flights outside of North America, Alaska Airlines has a ton of international partners. Here’s a list of all of them:
- Aer Lingus
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- El Al
- Fiji Airways
- Hainan Airlines
- Japan Airlines
- Korean Air
- LATAM Airlines
- Ravn Alaska
- Singapore Airlines
Again though, keep in mind that each one has its own earning chart and applicable flights, so be sure you review the page of the individual partner on which you’re flying to avoid any nasty surprises after you take your flight.
Earn Through Credit Cards
One of the easiest ways to earn a large chunk of Mileage Plan miles without flying is by signing up for an Alaska Airlines cobranded credit card. When you sign up for one of these cards, you’ll earn a welcome bonus after spending a set amount of money on the card shortly after opening it. Additionally, you will earn miles every time you swipe the card for everyday purchases.
Alaska Airlines’ cobranded credit cards are issued by Bank of America. Currently, there are just two cards in the Alaska Airlines portfolio — a personal and business card. Here’s a look at both:
- Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card: Earn 40,000 bonus miles plus Alaska’s famous Companion Fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from just $22) after you make purchases of $2,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account. Earn 3x Mileage Plan miles per $1 spent on Alaska Airlines purchases and 1 mile per $1 spent elsewhere.
- Alaska Airlines Visa Business credit card: Earn 40,000 bonus miles plus Alaska’s famous Companion Fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from just $22) after you make purchases of $2,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account. Earn 3x Mileage Plan miles per $1 spent on Alaska Airlines purchases and 1 mile per $1 spent elsewhere.
Note that these cards also waive the first checked bag fee for you and up to six other guests on the same reservation, and the personal version just added discounts on in-flight purchases and lounge passes and rebates on in-flight purchases.
Earn Through Partners
Additionally, you can earn Alaska Mileage Plan miles through a number of Alaska’s mileage partners. These partners make it possible to earn Mileage Plan miles on everyday purchases like dining out, online shopping and even hotel stays. Here’s a quick overview of Alaska’s different everyday partners:
Transfer Miles from Marriott
Alaska Airlines isn’t a transfer partner of any major credit card programs, but the carrier does allow transfers from various hotel programs. However, in my research, I’ve found that the only worthwhile hotel transfer is from Marriott. These points transfer to Alaska Mileage Plan at a ratio of three Marriott points to one Mileage Plan mile. Further, when you transfer 60,000 Marriott points to an airline partner, you’ll get a 5,000-mile bonus, dropping the ratio to 2.4:1 (when transferring in increments of 60,000 points). This can easily put some of Alaska’s top redemptions within reach.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Shopping
As you’d expect, Alaska Airlines also has its own shopping portal. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Shopping lets you earn bonus miles on your everyday online purchases in addition to the miles you already earn with your credit card. Just sign up for a Mileage Plan Shopping account and find your merchant on the mall before making a purchase — you’ll then earn a set number of miles per dollar spent. Do note that each participating merchant offers a different amount of miles per dollar spent, and their rates fluctuate frequently, so be sure to use a shopping portal aggregator like Cashback Monitor to compare earning potential across various sites.
Mileage Plan Shopping periodically offers promotions too. Oftentimes, the portal will run specials for spending a set amount of money or buying products from a specific merchant. For example, back in December, Mileage Plan Shopping was offering 1,400 Mileage Plan miles for a 12-week subscription to The Economist.
Mileage Plan Dining
Dine out a lot? Make sure you’re a Mileage Plan Dining member. Just sign up for an account and link your favorite credit card. Then, you’ll earn extra Mileage Plan miles when dining at participating restaurants (listed on Mileage Plan Dining’s website). These miles are earned in addition to the miles you already earn with your credit card, so make sure to use a card that gives extra points on dining purchases.
The exact number of points you earn on purchases depends on your Mileage Plan Dining elite status. There are three status tiers: member, online member and VIP. Earning Mileage Plan Dining status is easy. You become an online member by signing up for email alerts (though you’ll need to actually read them), and you’ll be upgraded to VIP status when you dine 11 times in 12 months. Online members earn 3 miles per dollar, while VIP members earn 5 miles per dollar. On the other hand, if you don’t give Mileage Plan Dining a valid email address and sign up for email alerts, you’re considered a standard member and will only earn 1 mile per $2 spent.
Booking Hotels and Rental Cars
Finally, you can earn bonus Mileage Plan miles by booking with Alaska Hotels powered by Rocketmiles and rental cars with eligible Mileage Plan partners. Just know that if you go this route, you may not earn hotel or car rental points on your booking, so you’ll need to decide which points currency you value most.
Earn Through Buying Miles
The final way we’ll discuss for earning Alaska miles is by purchasing them outright. In almost every frequent flyer program out there, it’s typically a terrible value proposition to buy miles without a promotion. However, Alaska is often an exception to this rule, as the carrier frequently runs bonuses of up to 50% on these purchases. With a 50% bonus, your effective purchase price is 1.97 cents apiece, and while that is slightly above TPG’s most recent valuations (which pegged Mileage Plan miles at 1.8 cents each), it can still unlock some great value.
Check out our permanent page for buying Alaska miles to see if any offers are currently available and to get an idea of how far these bonuses can take you.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles are some of the most sought-after in the miles and points game. Even though they’re generally harder to earn than other airline miles, using the methods above can beef up your account balance and put you in close range of your next award ticket.
Featured image by Angel Di Billo / Getty Images.
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