Earn Alaska Elite Status and 20,000 Miles for Just $430

Apr 4, 2019

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Ever since Alaska took over Virgin America, it’s been trying to leverage Virgin’s route network to better compete against the big carriers like American, Delta and United, which typically dominate transcontinental flights. To entice flyers to choose Alaska, the airline consistently offers competitive fares, and it recently launched two lucrative promotions for those flying between the East and West Coast. Even better, you can stack these two deals to earn valuable miles and Alaska elite status.

On Monday, Alaska launched a great promotion that lets any Mileage Plan member earn double miles when flying on select transcontinental routes through the end of the year. What makes the promotion so enticing is that Alaska miles are the most valuable airline loyalty currency according to TPG’s valuations — and the airline still awards miles based on the distance of the flight, not based on how much the ticket costs. So a cheap transcon fare can still net you a solid haul of miles, about 5,000 miles on most round-trip itineraries.

Alaska economy class on a Boeing 737-900. Image by Nick Ellis / The Points Guy.

To further encourage loyalty, Alaska also has a deal that can fast-track you to airline elite status. The airline awards elite status based on actual miles flown and doesn’t have a spending requirement like most other carriers. With Alaska’s “Coast to Elite” challenge, flyers can earn Alaska MVP status or MVP Gold status by flying just half the normal amount of miles usually required. Elite status on Alaska gets you perks such as complimentary upgrades, mileage bonuses and free preferred seating.

Many of the routes from the Double Miles Deal and Coast to Elite promos overlap, and it’s confirmed that you can take advantage of both promotions at the same time. If you’re somewhat flexible with your dates, you can do it for quite cheap.

Here’s one example of how you can do it for less than $450. Flights between San Jose (SJC) and New York / Newark (EWR) are part of both promotions. The Coast to Elite challenge requires you to complete just two round-trip flights between the cities before May 31 to earn MVP status, or four round-trips to earn MVP Gold status.

After doing a quick search on Google Flights, I was able to find two separate round-trip flights between Newark and San Jose for just $217 each. After applying the double miles promo and taking just two round-trips, you’ll walk away with 20,328 redeemable miles and Alaska MVP status.

However, there’s an easy way to up your mileage balance even more. The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 40,000 miles after you spend $2,000 in the first 90 days of account opening. The card has a modest annual fee of $75 and can be a good companion if you capitalize on these promos, since it earns 3x miles on Alaska purchases and gets you a free checked bag on Alaska flights.

Already have the personal Alaska card? The Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card is also offering an increased bonus of 60,000 bonus miles plus Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from just $22) with this offer. To qualify, make purchases of $3,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account.

So between a 60,000-mile card sign-up bonus and 20,328 redeemable miles through the promos, you’re looking at 80,328 miles, which TPG values at $1,080. TPG values MVP elite status at $765 — so putting those two numbers together you’re looking at $1,851 total. This means you’re coming out $1,342 ahead when compared to the cost of the $509 for the Alaska card’s annual fee ($75) and the round-trip tickets ($434).

If you already have an Alaska card or maybe don’t want to sign-up for another, you can still earn 20,328 miles and elite status for $434 — which is still a fantastic return.

While the cheapest itinerary I just laid out may not work for everyone, Alaska still has plenty of round-trip transcon fares that can be had for less than $250.

One thing to note is that if you do earn Alaska elite status through the promotion, it will only last until the end of 2019. If you want to keep it through 2020, you’ll have to meet the normal elite flying requirements — fortunately, you’ll have the rest of the year to do that.

Only Mileage Plan members in New York, California, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, District of Columbia, North Carolina and Florida, as indicated by the address attached to their Mileage Plan account are eligible for the Coast to Elite challenge.

Step-By-Step Overview

Here’s a quick rundown on how to take advantage of all of the deals:

  1. If you don’t have a Mileage Plan account, you can register here.
  2. Register your Mileage Plan number for the Coast to Elite challenge.
  3. Register your Mileage Plan number for the Double Miles challenge.
  4. Sign up for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card or the Alaska Airlines Visa Business card
  5. Make sure to choose routes that are part of both promotions
  6. Book your preferred flights on Alaska — with your last flight departing no later than May 31
  7. Enjoy elite perks and lots of redeemable miles!

Mileage Plan miles aren’t just great for flights on Alaska’s own metal; you’ll also find tons of value redeeming them with one if its many partners.

Cathay Pacific’s first-class seat. Image by JT Genter / The Points Guy.

Sweet spots in Alaska’s award chart include flights from the US to Asia in Cathay Pacific’s business or first class for 50,000 or 70,000 miles, respectively. Fly nonstop to Japan or beyond in Japan Airlines First Class for just 70,000 miles one-way. Both Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines are known for having some of the better premium cabin experiences in the sky — first-class flyers enjoy premium Champagne, caviar and large lie-flat seats.

Featured image by Katherine Fan / The Points Guy. 

Updated on 11/3/21.

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