How to earn miles with the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program

Mar 4, 2020

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with current information and card offers. It was most recently published on June 2, 2019.

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. You can use Alaska miles for flights on Alaska Airlines, but the real sweet spots lie in program’s wide selection of partners — you can redeem miles 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 several options for earning Mileage Plan miles — including some that don’t require stepping foot on an Alaska Airlines plane.

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

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In This Post

Earn Alaska miles by flying

When you fly Alaska Airlines or one of its partners, you can earn Mileage Plan miles that you can use toward future flights. Alaska is one of the few airlines that still gives travelers miles based on your flight distance, 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 flights operated or marketed by Alaska Airlines

You’ll earn miles based on the distance you fly when traveling 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. 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).

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

Related: What is Alaska Airlines elite status worth?

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 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.

Related: When you will (and won’t) earn miles for your flight

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(Photo by Ryan Patterson/The Points Guy.)

 

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 the Emirates earning chart:

 

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 only 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 you review the page of the individual partner on which you’re flying 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: 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: 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.

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 each increment of 60,000 points you transfer. 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.

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

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Shopping

Alaska Airlines also has its own shopping portal. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Shopping offers 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.

Related: The beginner’s guide to airline shopping portals

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, in February 2020, Mileage Plan Shopping offered 400 Mileage Plan miles for spending $200 through the portal.

Mileage Plan Dining

Dine out a lot? Make sure you’re a Mileage Plan Dining member. When you sign up for an account and link a credit card, you’ll earn extra Mileage Plan 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 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), 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.

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, so 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.

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.

Related: Maximizing redemptions with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Bottom line

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 photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy.

Jasmin Baron contributed to this post.

Updated on 2/27/20

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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