What to Do With 5,000 or Fewer Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Miles

Feb 12, 2019

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Like most airline loyalty programs, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles don’t last forever. If you’ve currently have Alaska miles in your account, they’ll expire after 24 months of inactivity, so if you find yourself with a small amount of Mileage Plan miles and no plans to redeem them or earn more, you could be in a tough spot.

Thankfully though, there are a couple of ways to redeem small amounts of Alaska miles. While these redemption options won’t give you huge value for your miles, they’ll give you some sort of return on miles otherwise set to expire.

With that in mind, let’s dive into a few ways you can redeem 5,000 or fewer Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles.

In This Post

Book a Short-Haul Award Ticket

Book a short-haul economy ticket for just 5,000 miles.

One of the best ways to use a 5,000-mile Mileage Plan balance is booking a short-haul flight. Alaska’s award prices vary based on demand and other factors since it instituted a new award chart for its own flights, but you can often find shorter hops like Seattle (SEA) to Portland (PDX) at the 5,000-mile price point.

In the example above, we found one of these SEA to PDX flights for 5,000 miles. The same flight is $79 cash, giving you a redemption value of 1.58 cents per mile. This is lower than TPG’s most recent valuations, which peg Alaska miles at 1.8 cents apiece, but it’s still not a bad option.

Book a Discounted Hotel Stay

Using Mileage Plan miles for a discounted hotel stay.

Like most types of airline miles, you can use Mileage Plan miles to book hotel stays. You’ll generally sacrifice some value by pursuing this redemption option, but it’s better than nothing! With less than 5,000 miles in your account, you likely won’t have enough miles to cover an entire hotel stay. However, you can use your Alaska miles to get a discount on hotel stays around the world.

In the example above, I found a one-night stay at the Best Western City Hotel Moran in Prague for 17,600 Mileage Plan miles. Alternatively, you can use just 3,900 Mileage Plan miles and $80 to book the hotel stay. The same hotel room costs $138 if you paid out-of-pocket, so you’ll get a $58 discount in exchange for 3,900 miles, giving you a value of 1.4 cents per mile. Again, not a fantastic return but certainly better than letting the miles expire. Note that your point value will vary based on the individual hotel you select and the number of miles you redeem, so if you’re flexible, try to book one with the greatest value.

However, keep in mind that you likely won’t earn points or credit towards elite status qualification by booking chain hotels through a third-party platform like this, and you may not even be able to use existing elite status perks for the stay. As a result, I’d recommend going for independent or boutique hotels if you’re going to use your Alaska miles in this way.

Redeem for Magazine and Newspaper Subscriptions

As you’d expect, you can also use your Mileage Plan miles to purchase magazine and newspaper subscriptions. This works in a similar fashion to the other airline programs. As an example, a 12-issue subscription to Better Homes and Gardens costs a mere 500 Mileage Plan miles. The same subscription can be purchased for $9.98, giving you a surprisingly high value of 1.9 cents per point. Just be aware that some magazines might require you to use a credit card that will then be automatically charged after your first year is up.

Donate Your Miles To Charity

Alaska Airlines partners with a wide range of charities like the Make-A-Wish and the National Forest foundations. You can donate a minimum of 1,000 miles to the charity of your choice and make a real difference.

Earn More Miles

Of course, instead of “wasting” your small balance of Alaska miles on one of the above awards, you can always put together a plan to earn additional miles. Even if you don’t have any definitive plans to travel with Alaska in the future, the program offers some terrific value and fantastic award sweet spots. Earning just a few miles every year will keep your entire balance active, and there are some simple ways to do this. Here are my three favorite:

  • Open a credit card: Alaska offers a cobranded credit card through Bank of America, and it offers some exceptional value. The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card is currently offering 30,000 bonus miles, plus a companion fare from $121 after you make purchases of $1,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account. This perk then renews each year and is an easy way to more than cover the card’s $75 annual fee. For full details, check out our review of the Alaska Visa.
  • Shop online: If you make purchases online, you should always try to start at an online shopping portal rather than going directly to the merchant. Sites like Ebates offer cash-back on these purchases, but you could choose to earn extra Alaska miles instead by going through the carrier’s shopping portal. Tip: To quickly compare rates across all available sites, use a shopping portal aggregator.
  • Dine out: A third simple way to earn bonus Mileage Plan miles is through the Dining Rewards Network. This is a collection of thousands of restaurants that partner with major airline programs to give members bonus points or miles. All you need to do is sign up and link your preferred credit card(s) to Alaska Airlines Dining. Any time you swipe one of those cards at a participating restaurant, you’ll automatically take home bonus Alaska miles on top of the regular earnings you’d enjoy on your card.

For more information on these and other options, check out our article on earning Mileage Plan miles.

Bottom line

The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program has some terrific redemptions, but once you’ve locked in your dream award trip, you might be left with a small and seemingly useless balance of miles. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to put 5,000 or fewer miles to use. That being said, be sure to think hard about taking steps to earn more rather than redeeming the ones you have for less value. You never know when you’ll next wish you had some.

Featured photo by Darren Murph / TPG.

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