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You can redeem Alaska miles for a lounge membership, but here's why you shouldn't

Dec. 13, 2019
7 min read
You can redeem Alaska miles for a lounge membership, but here's why you shouldn't
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Now through Dec. 25, Alaska Mileage Plan is offering members the opportunity to redeem miles for an Alaska Lounge membership -- whether as a gift for someone else or as a gift to yourself. While the idea of getting a lounge membership "for free" may sound appealing, this is a terrible use of your valuable Alaska miles.

Alaska Mileage Plan has some incredible redemptions, just a few of which we'll share below. That's why TPG values Alaska miles at 1.8 cents each. However, the best redemption value that you'd get from this offer is just one-third of TPG's valuation: 0.6 cents.

Elite levelMileage costCash priceValue per mileValue of miles
at TPG valuations
MVP Gold60,000$3500.58$1,080
MVP Gold 75K50,000$3000.60$900

And you might not even need a separate Alaska Lounge membership, since some Alaska Lounges are part of the Priority Pass lounge network. So, if you have one of the many credit cards that offer Priority Pass membership, you can access these lounges without needing a membership.

How you should use your Alaska miles instead

There's a reason that Alaska miles are the highest-valued airline miles in TPG's valuations. There are numerous sweet spots in the Alaska partner award chart that are a much better use of your Alaska miles than redeeming them for a lounge membership. Let's review some of your best options:

Mileage Plan MVP Gold 75K lounge cost: 50,000 miles
Alternate use: Fly Cathay Pacific business class to visit two Asia destinations

Top-tier MVP Gold 75K elites can redeem "just" 50,000 miles for a year-long Alaska Lounge membership. But, those same 50,000 miles can take you a lot further in Cathay Pacific business class.

One of my most-used sweet spots is flying Cathay Pacific's solid business class product between the U.S. and anywhere in Asia for just 50,000 miles each way. Considering flights between the U.S. and Hong Kong -- Cathay Pacific's hub -- are as long as 16 hours one-way, that's an incredible amount of time to enjoy one of the better business class products available right now.

Business class on Cathay Pacific's A350-1000. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy.)

Even better, Alaska Mileage Plan allows you to add a free stopover -- even on one-way awards. That means that you can visit Hong Kong for as long as you want before continuing on to Tokyo or another Asian destination.

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For my most-recent Alaska redemption on Cathay Pacific, I stopped in Hong Kong for two weeks before flying to Singapore -- also in business class -- to catch the world’s longest flight home. Altogether, I spent 20 hours in Cathay Pacific business class for just 50,000 Alaska miles, and I got to visit two of my favorite cities.

Mileage Plan MVP Gold lounge cost: 60,000 miles
Alternate use: Fly American Airlines business class to Japan or South Korea

If you're an MVP Gold, consider flying to Japan, South Korea or Europe in American Airlines business class instead of spending 60,000 miles on a lounge membership.

While American Airlines' service isn't winning any awards, AA has some excellent business class seats on long-haul flights to Asia and Europe. And you can book these award flights through Alaska for just 60,000 miles to Japan or South Korea or 57,500 miles to Europe.

Business class on American Airlines 787-9. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy.)

Just make sure to watch out for AA's frustrating way of releasing award availability. While you might not find award availability on the nonstop flight overseas, you might be able to find saver award availability on a connecting itinerary.

Mileage Plan MVP lounge cost: 70,000 miles
Alternate use: Fly Cathay Pacific (or Japan Airlines) first class to visit two Asian destinations

Rather than spending 70,000 miles on a lounge membership, how about flying one of the world's best first class products to Asia instead? Just like the 50,000-mile sweet spot in Cathay Pacific business class discussed above, you can redeem 70,000 miles to fly in Cathay Pacific first class and visit two different destinations in Asia.

First class on Cathay Pacific's 777-300ER. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

Keep in mind that Cathay Pacific first class award availability is in very high demand. But, searching these awards recently got a lot easier, and the search is worth it once you're able to experience Cathay Pacific first class for yourself.

RELATED: The ultimate guide to Cathay Pacific first class

Mileage Plan Member lounge cost: 80,000 miles
Alternate use: Any of the above (and more)

If you're just an Alaska Mileage Plan member without elite status, I implore you not to spend your Alaska miles on an Alaska Lounge membership. If you don't fly Alaska enough to earn elite status, it's doubtful that you're going to get much value out of an Alaska Lounge membership. And surely you're going to get more value out of any of the awards detailed above than from a lounge membership.

Earning more Alaska miles

If you're inspired by these sweet spots but need more Alaska miles to get you to your redemption goal, consider signing up for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card. This card currently offers 40,000 bonus miles for spending $2,000 or more in the first 90 days after account opening. As an additional perk, you'll also earn Alaska's “Famous Companion Fare”, allowing a companion to pay from $121 ($99 fare, plus $22+ in taxes) to join you on a trip.

Business owners can also sign up for the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card to earn 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.

Another way of getting Alaska miles is by transferring Marriott points at a 3:1 ratio. Marriott offers a standing bonus of 5,000 bonus miles for transferring 60,000 Marriott points. That means you can get 25,000 Alaska miles for transferring increments of 60,000 Marriott points.

Updated on 11/3/21.

Featured image by (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)
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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