Last day to buy Alaska miles with a 50% bonus — and unlock a 70% offer in October

Aug 26, 2020

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Editor’s note: The team at The Points Guy loves to travel, but now is not the time for unnecessary trips. Health officials note that the fastest way to return to normalcy is to stop coming in contact with others. That includes ceasing travel. We are publishing travel deals because we should all use this time to think about and plan our next adventures. TPG doesn’t advise booking trips for travel until the late spring or early summer — and even then be mindful of cancellation policies.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan periodically puts its miles on sale, allowing you to top up or stock up for amazing redemptions, including Japan Airlines first class or Cathay Pacific first. And the current offer (which expired today) may be the most lucrative yet — at least, in the future.

If you buy Alaska miles today (Aug. 26, 2020), you’ll not only take home a 40-50% bonus — you can also unlock the carrier’s best-ever offer in the fall. By purchasing at least 30,000 miles by 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time, you’ll enjoy a 50% bonus and become eligible for a 70% bonus from Oct. 5-31.

Here at TPG, we only recommend buying miles for a specific redemption. As a result, it’s only a good idea to purchase miles with this promotion if you’re planning a trip for 2021 and have already found bookable award space. Just remember that there’s no guarantee it will actually be safe to travel by that time.

Let’s take a closer look at this offer.

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Important considerations

Before you jump at the chance to buy Alaska miles, it’s important to keep a couple of things in mind. The first is that now may not be the best time to travel — the world is in the middle of the global coronavirus outbreak, and while things have been slowly getting better, there’s no guarantee that we’ll be able to travel again soon.

Further, Alaska Airlines has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak. The airline recently announced massive route cuts and that its CEO is forgoing pay for the foreseeable future. It’s even offering targeted bonuses to holders of existing travel funds — if they lock away their vouchers for a year. This shows us that the airline’s finances aren’t looking so great, and while I’m optimistic that the airline will survive this crisis, there’s no way to guarantee a positive outcome.

It’s also worth noting that Alaska is planning to join the Oneworld alliance — potentially by the end of this year. While the carrier hasn’t announced any changes to the Mileage Plan program at this point, that may change in the months to come. While it’ll be nice to gain access to additional airlines on which to redeem your Alaska miles — like Qatar and Iberia — it’s impossible to know what future award charts might look like.

Long story short: You should only take advantage of deals like this if you understand the risks. You may have to cancel flights you booked using miles from a promotion if the coronavirus outbreak isn’t contained by the time you’re set to fly, and those miles could be less valuable when you go to rebook. At the extreme, if an airline goes bankrupt, there’s a chance that the miles could be rendered worthless.

Buying Alaska Miles with up to a 50% bonus

Screen shot courtesy of Alaska Airlines
Screenshot courtesy of Alaska Airlines

With the heavy stuff out of the way, let’s take a closer look at the promotion. This time around, Alaska is offering all members the same 40% to 50% bonus on miles purchased through the end of the promotion. To be eligible for the higher bonus later this year, you’ll need to buy at least 30,000 miles during the promotion — which would lock in the 50% bonus now and make you eligible to purchase miles with a 70% bonus in October.

Miles purchased Mileage bonus
3,000 — 29,000 miles 40%
30,000 — 100,000 miles 50%

Purchasing miles with the 50% bonus brings the cost down to 1.83 cents per mile. If you’re interested in purchasing miles in bulk, it’s in your best interest to buy 30,000 miles (equal to 45,000 miles after the bonus) for $825 and buy the rest during October’s 70% bonus — though we don’t know exactly what purchase thresholds will be required to lock in the 70% bonus.

Barring any changes in mileage pricing, the October offer would drop the price of miles down to just 1.62 cents a piece — which is the best price we’ve ever seen for buying Alaska miles.

Buy Alaska miles to unlock a 70% bonus in October

TPG values Alaska miles at 1.8 cents apiece, so this bonus can be a good deal, especially if you have plans to use them for premium-class flights. You can do this by redeeming Alaska miles for first- and business-class travel on one of Alaska’s many international airline partners like Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, and Fiji Airways — in some cases, you’ll get more than 5 cents per mile in value with these redemptions.

Related: Maximizing redemptions with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

How many Alaska miles can I purchase?

Alaska Mileage Plan hasn’t historically had a cap on the number of Alaska miles you can buy per year. However, there’s now a cap of 150,000 purchased or gifted miles per calendar year for Alaska non-elites. Travelers who hold MVP, MVP Gold or MVP Gold 75K status in the Mileage Plan program will continue to have no annual limit on the number of miles purchased or gifted.

Note that this limit only applies to the base miles purchased, not any bonuses. As a result, if you buy 30,000 miles today (plus the 50% bonus), you’ll be able to purchase another 120,000 in October — which could (depending on the structure of the bonus) give you as many as 204,000 additional miles.

Bear in mind that you must purchase at least 3,000 miles to unlock the 40% bonus and a minimum of 30,000 miles for the 50% bonus — and you must buy 30,000 or more today to become eligible for the 70% bonus in October.

How should I redeem my Alaska miles?

As discussed, Alaska Airlines partners with an array of great airlines. You can earn and redeem miles with each of these carriers, and you can even add a free stopover on most one-way and round-trip itineraries. Here are a few of my favorite ways to redeem Alaska miles for future travel — with all prices based on the current 50% bonus.

Remember, though: buying at least 30,000 miles now will make you eligible better for a best-ever 70% bonus later down the line.

Just bear in mind that the below options are based on travel far into the future. Most airline route networks have been adjusted significantly due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Related: Best sweet spots with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Fly to Fiji for an incredible $1,008 in business class

Fiji Airways Business Class
(Photo by Miquel Ros/TPG)

With its pristine beaches, Fiji is a bucket-list destination for many travelers. You can use just 55,000 Alaska miles to fly to Fiji in Fiji Airways business class, making it one of the best redemption values for Alaska miles. Plus, you can use Alaska’s free stopover to continue to New Zealand or another South Pacific destination for no additional miles.

Cost: $1,008 at the maximized, 1.83-cents-per-mile rate

U.S. to South America in LATAM business class for $825

(Photo courtesy of LATAM.)

LATAM is the largest airline in South America, with hubs in Buenos Aires (EZE), Lima (LIM) and other major cities. Many of the airline’s long-haul routes are operated by new planes like the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 and feature sleek new business-class products like what’s pictured above. You can book a one-way trip to South America in LATAM business class for just 45,000 Alaska miles — though these awards must be booked over the phone.

Cost: $825 at the maximized, 1.83-cents-per-mile rate

Head to Asia in Cathay Pacific first class for $1,283

Cathay Pacific First Class Seat 777-300ER
(Photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy)

Cathay Pacific flies from several different U.S. gateways to its hub in Hong Kong (HKG). You can use your Alaska miles to fly in Cathay Pacific’s swanky first-class product to HKG and beyond for just 70,000 Alaska miles one-way with minimal taxes and fees attached. Considering these tickets often cost more than $5,000 one-way, purchasing miles is an excellent deal for this award. However, like LATAM, you’ll need to call to book Cathay Pacific-operated award tickets.

Cost: $1,283 at the maximized, 1.83-cents-per-mile rate

Use one of these credit cards to pay for Alaska miles

If you decide to take advantage of this promotion, your purchase will be processed by — not Alaska. This means that you won’t earn bonus rewards for using a card with airline spending as a bonus category.

To earn the most points for your purchase, pay with a credit card that offers a solid return on non-bonus spending, such as:

The information for the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card and Chase Freedom Unlimited has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Bottom line

With the current state of the travel industry, there’s no doubt that now is an uncertain time to buy Alaska miles. The airline has been hit hard by the coronavirus-fueled travel downturn, and there’s no guaranteeing that the virus will be contained by the end of the year. So while this 50% bonus may seem like a great deal on paper, there’s no guaranteeing when (or if) you’ll be able to use these miles and actually take the award flight you book.

Regardless, though, I’m optimistic that the travel industry will recover from this setback soon and that Alaska Airlines will rebound with it. If you’re in the same boat (plane?) as me and are comfortable with the risks, this mileage promotion can be a great way to fuel your future travels — especially if you’re willing to buy at least 30,000 miles now to unlock the higher, 70% bonus in October.

Nick Ewen, Victoria Walker and JT Genter contributed to this post.

Featured photo by Samantha Rosen/The Points Guy.

Updated on 8/26/20

This is The Points Guy’s permanent page about Alaska Airlines’ “buy miles” promotions, so you can bookmark it and check back regularly for the latest offer.

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