How to earn miles with the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program

Jul 23, 2020

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TPG readers and staff alike are huge fans of the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program – even those based on the East Coast who never actually fly with the carrier. While you can use Alaska miles for flights on Alaska Airlines, the real sweet spots lie in the program’s wide selection of partners. Miles can be redeemed on some of the most sought-after premium award seats on airlines like Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and many more.

Although Alaska Airlines miles aren’t as easy to earn as other programs, there are still plenty of ways to stock up on Mileage Plan miles without stepping foot on a plane.

Unfamiliar with earning Mileage Plan miles? We’ll show you all the different ways you can earn Alaska miles to put your next award trip within reach.

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In This Post

Earn miles by flying Alaska

The most straightforward way to earn Alaska miles is by flying Alaska Airlines or one of its partners. Alaska is one of the few airlines that still issue miles based on flight distance, not how much money you spent on the ticket. That being said, there are several factors that determine how many miles you’ll earn on a given ticket.

When traveling on an Alaska-operated flight, you’ll earn Alaska miles based on the distance you fly. The good news is that all flights, including Alaska’s basic economy product, earn a minimum of 100% of the miles flown. Meanwhile, tickets booked into higher fare classes earn bonus miles. Here’s the earning chart for Alaska-operated and marketed flights to determine how many miles you’ll earn on your next trip:

To figure out your flight distance, we recommend using Great Circle Mapper. Here’s 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 (1,744 miles flown) and a 75% class of service bonus (1,308 miles).

Elite status bonus

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:

  • Alaska 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. That’s a nice boost for frequent Alaska Airlines flyers.

Related: What is Alaska Airlines elite status worth?

Earn by flying with partners

When flying a partner airline booked on Alaska Airlines ticket stock (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 Alaska miles varies slightly when you book a partner flight on the partner’s ticket stock and add your Mileage Plan number.

Emirates-777-300ER-1
(Photo by Ryan Patterson/The Points Guy.)

When you do this, the exact number 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 the Emirates earning chart:

Partner promotions

Crediting partner flights to Alaska Mileage Plan is a smart move right now. Until Dec. 31, 2020, you’ll earn at least 10,000 Alaska miles on any global partner flight, regardless of the fare class. This is a terrific deal for those who book the cheapest economy awards, which normally earn just 25% or 50% of the miles flown.

Here’s the current list of Alaska’s global partners:

  • Aer Lingus
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Condor
  • EL AL Israel Airlines
  • Emirates
  • Fiji Airways
  • Finnair
  • Hainan Airlines
  • Icelandair
  • Japan Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • LATAM Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Singapore Airlines

Each partner has its own earning chart and applicable flights. So be sure to check the individual partner page to avoid any nasty surprises after you take your flight.

Related: How to redeem miles with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Earn Alaska miles with credit cards

One of the easiest ways to earn a large chunk of Mileage Plan miles without flying is through the Alaska Airlines cobranded credit cards, issued by Bank of America. It’s a perfect time to consider the personal version of the card, because it’s currently offering a limited-time welcome bonus:

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

Annua fee: $75

Limited-time offer: Earn a $100 statement credit, 40,000 bonus miles and Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after you make $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account. Earn 3x Mileage Plan miles per dollar spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar spent elsewhere.

Alaska Airlines Visa® Business credit card

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

Annual fee: $50

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 in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account. Earn 3x Mileage Plan miles per dollar spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar 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 include discounts on in-flight purchases and lounge passes.

Transfer Marriott Bonvoy points

Even if you don’t have Alaska Airlines credit cards in your wallet, it’s still possible to generate miles by transferring points from Marriott Bonvoy at a 3:1 ratio. You’ll also earn a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred. So you could open cards like the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card or Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card and move those points to Alaska to book award flights.

Related: Why Alaska Airlines miles are the most valuable

Earn Alaska miles through partners

Additionally, you can earn Alaska miles through a number of Alaska Mileage Plan’s partners, including for everyday purchases like dining out, online shopping and even hotel stays.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Shopping

Alaska Mileage Plan Shopping is a great way to earn bonus Alaska miles on your 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. Just for clicking through the link on the Mileage Plan portal, you will 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 for spending a set amount of money or buying products from a specific merchant. For example, in July. 2020, Mileage Plan Shopping is offering up to 1,500 Mileage Plan miles for spending $500 through the portal.

Related: The beginner’s guide to airline shopping portals

Mileage Plan Dining

(Photo by Matheus Frade/Unsplash.)
(Photo by Matheus Frade/Unsplash.)

Dine out a lot? Make sure you’re a Mileage Plan Dining member. The program is free to join. Just sign up, link a credit card and you’ll earn extra Alaska miles when dining at participating restaurants. These miles are in addition to the rewards you already earn with your card, so make sure to use one of the best credit cards for dining out.

The exact number of points you earn on purchases depends on your Mileage Plan Dining elite status. There are currently three status tiers: member, online member and VIP.  You become an online member by signing up for email alerts (though you’ll need to actually read them). Once you dine 11 times in 12 months, you’ll be upgraded to VIP status.

Online members earn 3 miles per dollar, while VIP members earn 5 miles per dollar. On the other hand, if you don’t sign up for email alerts, you will remain a standard member and earn 1 mile per $2 spent.

Related: Maximizing restaurant spending with dining rewards programs

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. In other words, you’ll need to decide which points currency you value most.

Buy Alaska miles

One other way to earn Alaska miles is by purchasing them outright. With almost every rewards program, 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.

Related: Alaska’s best buy-miles promotion: Should you even consider it now?

Bottom line

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles are some of the most sought-after in the miles and points game. Even though earning Alaska miles is generally harder to earn than other airline miles, the methods above can beef up your account balance and put you in close range of your next award ticket.

Additional reporting by Jasmin Baron.

Featured photo by Vacclav / Shutterstock.com

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