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Everything you need to know about booking a trip to Alaska on points

March 20, 2021
21 min read
Tent camping at the wonder lake campground in Denali National Park. Denali is seen at back. Taken under the "midnight sun."
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Whether you're looking to experience the northern lights or explore the rugged beauty of the final frontier, Alaska is a wild and wonderful place to visit. Though it's not as easy to access as other spots in the U.S., several domestic airlines still service our northernmost state. Winter or summer, the best time to visit Alaska depends on the activities you're planning — and there's something there for everyone.

From Alaska Airlines to United, let's take a look at the best ways to use points and miles to get to Alaska.

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Redeeming miles to Alaska

The three largest airports in Alaska are located in Anchorage (ANC), Fairbanks (FAI) and Juneau (JNU), with the former two serving the most cities. These include destinations like Los Angeles (LAX), Denver (DEN), Seattle (SEA) and even Honolulu (HNL). Keep in mind that Alaska is a highly seasonal destination, so you may find additional routes during the summer.

Related: 4 tips for visiting Alaska, The Last Frontier, in 2021

Unsurprisingly, Alaska Airlines is the dominant airline servicing these airports, though you can also find nonstop flights from United, Delta and American. Several regional carriers offer domestic flights and Condor even has a single nonstop flight from Frankfurt, Germany. While you can find moderately priced options via all four carriers, you'll likely find the best available due to Alaska Airlines' overwhelming majority of flights.

Ultimately the best mileage options for flying to Alaska will depend on where your trip originates and what airline you choose to fly. However, given Alaska Airlines' massive presence in its home state, we'll start by looking at your top Alaska Airlines redemption options.

Related: These are the best times to visit Alaska

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines offers nonstop routes to several cities in Alaska. You can fly nonstop to Anchorage from the following cities:

  • Honolulu (HNL)
  • Kona, Hawaii (KOA)
  • Las Vegas (LAS) - starts May 20, 2021
  • Los Angeles
  • Kahului, Hawaii (OGG)
  • Phoenix (PHX)
  • Portland, Oregon (PDX)
  • Seattle (SEA)

There are also seasonal flights out of Chicago O'Hare (ORD), Maui (OGG) and Kona (KOA). Alaska will begin seasonal flights out of Denver (DEN) and San Francisco (SFO) on June 17, 2021.

Alaska offers nonstop flights to Fairbanks and Juneau from Seattle. You can then connect onward to more far-flung Alaskan destinations like Nome (OME), Kodiak (ADQ) and Ketchikan (KTN). It's easy to get around within Alaska using Alaska Airlines miles if you decide to travel within the state.

Unlike the big three domestic carriers, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan still has a distance-based award chart. This means you'll be able to check how many miles you'll need for your flight ahead of time.

Related: How to redeem miles with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

(Screenshot courtesy of Alaska Airlines)

For example, one-way economy awards from SFO to Anchorage in October start at just 10,000 Alaska miles each way. A flight from New York-JFK goes for 12,500 miles. You can opt for first class on either of those flights for as low as 25,000 miles each way.

One unique aspect of the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program is that you can book a free stopover on award tickets (even one-way). So you could fly from New York-JFK to Seattle, spend a few days there and continue to Anchorage at no extra cost.

Unfortunately, Alaska is not a transfer partner of any flexible bank currencies, though you can transfer from Marriott at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points you transfer.

Related: The best airline credit cards of 2021

How to earn miles for an Alaska Airlines flight

If you need to bulk up on your Alaska Airlines miles stash, you can take advantage of the offer on the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card to earn 50,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) with this offer. To qualify, make $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.

Small-business owners can consider the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card, which is offering 70,000 bonus miles after you make at least $4,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.

Related: How to earn miles with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

American Airlines

American Airlines doesn't have as many nonstop flights to Alaska, but with its vast North American route network, you can usually get there in one stop. American flies to Anchorage from Dallas (DFW), Chicago O'Hare (ORD) and Los Angeles, and to Fairbanks from Chicago O'Hare and Dallas, all on a seasonal basis. Saver awards on these routes price out at 15,000 miles each way in economy, 30,000 in business.

With American's introduction of dynamic Web Special pricing, you may be able to save even more. Last year, we saw rates between Dallas (DFW) and Fairbanks (FAI) for as low as 8,000 miles for a one-way ticket, but if you're traveling during peak dates you can expect to pay more.

(Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines)

Lastly, you might be able to save miles by redeeming Avios. British Airways prices out awards by distance and segment, so direct flights could work out cheaper. For example, a one-way flight between Phoenix and Anchorage prices out at just 13,000 Avios each way.

(Screenshot courtesy of ba.com)

This not only works out cheaper than an AAdvantage award, but Avios are easier to earn since you can transfer them from Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy.

Related: Maximizing redemptions with American Airlines AAdvantage

How to earn miles for an American flight to Alaska

As with Alaska Airlines, Marriott Bonvoy is the only transferable points program that partners with American Airlines. You can move points at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for each increment of 60,000 points you transfer. Be sure to check out our guide to earning Marriott Bonvoy points.

If you're looking to earn more American Airlines miles, several cobranded cards can boost your account balance quickly, including:

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

As mentioned before, British Airways is a transfer partner of Amex, Chase and Marriott. You can earn Avios with the following credit cards:

Related: Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers

Delta Air Lines

Delta was the first legacy carrier to move to dynamic award pricing, which means you can find various prices for any given flight on any given day. Delta also operates few nonstop flights to Alaska. Like the other airlines above, you can find connecting flights available throughout the country.

Delta offers year-round nonstop service to Anchorage from Seattle, with service from Salt Lake City (SLC) resuming in May 2021. Starting May 28, 2021, the airline will operate seasonal service from Atlanta (ATL), Detroit (DTW), Los Angeles (LAX) and New York-JFK.

You can also fly Delta from Seattle to Fairbanks (year-round) and Minneapolis (seasonal), and on a seasonal basis from Seattle to Juneau. Depending on your travel dates and cabin class, you may find significantly cheaper awards through SkyMiles than other programs. For example, June flights between Seattle and Anchorage start at 2,500 SkyMiles each way in economy class.

Related: How to redeem miles with the Delta SkyMiles program

(Screenshot courtesy of Delta.com)

Even first-class awards are cheaper than American, at 16,500 SkyMiles each way. Of course, we're talking about a 3 1/2-hour flight, but you're still saving almost half over an AAdvantage award.

(Screenshot courtesy of Delta.com)

Related: A beginner’s guide to visiting Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

How to earn miles for a Delta flight to Alaska

Delta SkyMiles are easy to accumulate, with American Express Membership Rewards offering transfers to the airline at a 1:1 ratio. Delta also has an impressive lineup of cobranded credit cards:

Personal cards

Business cards

Related: Choosing the best credit card for Delta flyers

United Airlines

You can redeem United Airlines miles for nonstop flights to Alaska year-round between Denver and Anchorage and seasonally between Anchorage and Chicago O'Hare, Los Angeles, Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO) and Houston (IAH). The carrier also offers seasonal service between Fairbanks and Chicago O'Hare and Denver.

Because United has eliminated its award chart for its own flights, the price you'll pay in miles varies depending on the date. In June, we found economy fares on the SEA-ANC route for 25,900 miles each way.

(Screenshots by United.com)

You might be able to save even more by booking your United flight to Alaska using Avianca LifeMiles. An economy award on the same route (with a much longer connection) priced out at just 12,500 LifeMiles.

(Screenshot courtesy of Lifemiles.com)

Avianca is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One miles, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy, so it's easy to earn their miles if you have access to those transferable points currencies. They also frequently run mileage sales that can be worthwhile if you need them quickly.

Related: How to redeem miles with United Airlines MileagePlus

How to earn miles for a United flight to Alaska

Earning United miles is easy with cobranded credit cards from Chase.

  • United Explorer Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open.
  • United Business Card: Earn up to 150,000 bonus miles. Earn 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open. Plus, earn an additional 75,000 miles after you spend $20,000 total on purchases in the first six months your account is open.

You can also transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United at a 1:1 ratio when you have any of the following cards:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: Earn 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points once you spend $15,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

Related: The best ways to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points

Alaska hotels you can book with points

Alaska offers lots of different accommodation options to suit any travel style. If you're looking to stay at a boutique hotel or wilderness lodge during your visit to Alaska, you can simply book directly using a card like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and cover the cost with your Venture miles.

If you prefer the consistency of a chain hotel, here are your best options using points and miles:

Hilton Honors

Hilton has seven hotels in Alaska. Except for the Hampton Inn & Suites Fairbanks, all of the properties are located in Anchorage. Hilton no longer publishes an award chart and redemption rates vary depending on demand. Searching for award space in May, we found the following rates for Hilton hotels in Alaska:

  • Hilton Anchorage – 50,000 points per night
  • Embassy Suites by Hilton Anchorage – 61,000 points per night
  • Hampton Inn Anchorage – 49,000 points per night
  • Hilton Garden Inn Anchorage – 53,000 points per night
  • Home2 Suites by Hilton Anchorage/Midtown – 38,000 points per night
  • Homewood Suites by Hilton Anchorage – 55,000 points per night

The Hilton Anchorage has a great location downtown, ideal if you want to be close to the shopping and dining district. Considering TPG values Hilton points at 0.6 cents each, maximizing your points isn't as challenging as you may think. For example, I found rates at the Hilton Anchorage in May for $377 per night. Redeeming 50,000 Hilton points would get you well over 0.7 cents in value per point. At this rate, it may even be worthwhile to redeem your free night award from the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express at this property.

Related: The award traveler’s guide to Hilton Honors

IHG Rewards Club

IHG has one hotel in Fairbank and three in Anchorage, ranging from 17,500-32,500 points per night. There is the Staybridge Suites, Holiday Inn Express and Crowne Plaza Anchorage-Midtown.

IHG no longer publishes an award chart and redemption rates are subject to change based on demand. For example, in March, you can expect to redeem between 17,500 and 22,500 points per night.

(Screenshot courtesy of IHG.com)

In June, those same properties increase to 25,000-32,500 points per night.

(Screenshot courtesy of IHG.com)

Keep in mind that the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card gets you the fourth night reward on award bookings, so these rates could be even lower. TPG values IHG points at 0.5 cents each, so be sure to compare these against the paid rates to makes sure you're getting the most value out of your IHG points.

Related: The award traveler’s guide to IHG Rewards Club

Marriott Bonvoy

With 11 hotels, Marriott has by far the most properties in Alaska. These properties range from Category 4-6, meaning you could put your 35,000-point certificate to good use. In Fairbanks, there's the Category 4 SpringHill Suites located downtown, close to the city's shopping and dining scene. In Juneau, Marriott has the Category 6 Four Points, where paid rates are often too low to justify an award redemption.

In Anchorage, there are nine Marriott properties with something to offer everyone. If you want to save points, the Four Points by Sheraton is a great option, with rates as low as 20,000 points per night. All of these properties except for the Sheraton and Courtyard offer complimentary breakfast, which is especially great if you're traveling with a group. Location-wise, you're probably best off staying at the Marriott Anchorage Downtown.

  • Four Points by Sheraton Anchorage Downtown (Category 4)
  • Courtyard Anchorage Airport (Category 5)
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites Anchorage Midtown (Category 5)
  • Marriott Anchorage Downtown (Category 5)
  • Residence Inn Anchorage Midtown (Category 5)
  • Sheraton Anchorage Hotel & Spa (Category 5)
  • SpringHill Suites Anchorage Midtown (Category 5)
  • SpringHill Suites Anchorage University Lake (Category 5)
  • TownPlace Suites Anchorage Midtown (Category 5)

You can earn Marriott points for a stay in Alaska by applying for cards like the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card and Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card.

If you're getting less than 0.8 cents per point, you may be better off charging your Marriott stay to the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and then covering the rate with your Venture miles.

World of Hyatt

Hyatt Place has three properties in Alaska: The Hyatt Place Fairbanks (8,000 points per night), Hyatt House Anchorage (12,000 points) and Hyatt Place Anchorage-Midtown (12,000 points). Considering room rates in June go just over $200 per night at all three properties, redeeming points is a solid option, along with the annual free night award from the World of Hyatt Credit Card.

Hyatt Place properties are limited-service hotels that are great for families and value travelers. Standard rooms at these hotels typically have pullout couches and all guests get complimentary breakfast. Redemption rates also tend to be low, with many being in the 5,000-12,000 points per night range.

Related: 8 activities to try on your next visit to Alaska

Bottom line

So what's the best way to use miles to fly to Alaska? It depends. But you certainly have options with major North American airlines offering service to Alaska's three main airports, and in the case of Alaska Airlines, within the state itself.

Alaska Airlines has the largest footprint of the four main carriers, but you can also use your points to fly Delta, United or American Airlines, depending on your departure airport. If you're planning on redeeming transferable points, make sure you compare cash fares against award redemption rates, so you're getting the best deal possible.

Additional reporting by Jasmin Baron and Carissa Rawson.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold Business Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business Card, please click here.

Updated on 9/7/22.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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  • Annual Fee

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  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases