You’d be forgiven for thinking certain loyalty schemes seem to sell their miles and points at discounted rates more often than the standard purchase rates apply! That’s certainly been the case lately for both Alaska Mileage Plan and SPG Starpoints, with a new deal for both schemes running again until mid-July.
Still, we’re not going to complain about being able to quickly accumulate a large number of miles in these very useful schemes especially when the JAL stopover ‘trick’ can be booked for just 25,000 Alaska miles. Read on for the details if that sounds new to you.
The Alaska Mileage Plan offer runs until 13th July 2018 giving you over 3 weeks to take advantage of this deal if you wish. We wrote an article in March this year outlining some of the major benefits of the Alaska Mileage Plan program for Singapore-based flyers.
If 25,000 Alaska miles for a ’round-trip’ from Singapore to Japan in a flat-bed business class product sounds appealing, you can click here to go straight to our ‘JAL stopover trick’ analysis.
As usual Alaska miles purchases under the offer attract increasing discount levels in progressive tiers depending how many you buy.
- 0 – 9,000 Miles: No Bonus (2.96 US cents/mile)
- 10,000 – 19,000 Miles: 20% Bonus (2.46 US cents/mile)
- 20,000 – 29,000 Miles: 30% Bonus (2.27 US cents/mile)
- 30,000+ Miles: 40% Bonus (2.11 US cents/mile)
You can purchase up to 60,000 miles in a single transaction (which would get you 84,000 miles including the 40% bonus) but there is no limit to the number of transactions you can make so if you need more you can continue to make subsequent purchases.
Do note that we don’t endorse buying a large volume of miles speculatively – partners can change rates, withdraw from the scheme altogether, and the program could be devalued. Always have a specific redemption in mind, ideally with availability checked for your preferred dates, before buying.
To simply achieve the JAL stopover ‘trick’ from a zero miles balance starting point you’d have to purchase 20,000 Alaska miles which is in the 30% bonus range meaning you’ll be awarded 26,000 under the current offer (so you’d have 1,000 left over). The cost is US$591.25 (around S$804), significantly higher by about 30% than the SPG method (see later in this article).
Of course you could purchase a larger amount to achieve the 40% bonus category, meaning that 25,000 miles ‘block’ used for the JAL redemption had been purchased at an effective cost of US$528 (S$717), but that’s still about S$100 more than you can achieve through the SPG route (again, see below).
Remember that your Alaska Mileage Plan account must be at least 10 days old before you can purchase miles, so sign up for a free account now if you don’t have one as you’ll still be able to take advantage of this purchase offer 10 days from now if you choose to.
It’s not just the JAL stopover ‘trick’
We talk a lot about the JAL stopover ‘trick’ as a great use of a very low number of Alaska miles but it’s not for everyone and there are several other great uses of these miles to and from the Asia-Pacific region. Good deals include:
- 65,000 miles from Singapore to New York in Business Class on Japan Airlines (or 75,000 miles in First Class).
- 50,000 miles from Singapore to Los Angeles in Business Class on Cathay Pacific (or 70,000 miles in First Class).
- 55,000 miles from Sydney to Dallas in Business Class on Qantas (or 70,000 miles in First Class).
- 120,000 miles round-trip from Singapore to the USA (i.e. 60,000 miles each way, but you must book a return) in Business Class with Korean Air.
Note that Cathay Pacific redemptions, which are popular through Alaska miles due to their good value, aren’t searchable and bookable online. You’ll have to check award availability (such as via the BA Avios or Qantas Frequent Flyer sites) then call Alaska to secure the award ticket.
Recent T&Cs update
Remember we recently reported on a slightly more restrictive aspect for Alaska Mileage Plan award tickets issued after 5th June 2018 – the US$125 fee for change or cancellation which previously applied only if travel was within 2 months now applies to all award tickets booked through the scheme.
This limits your opportunity to book no-risk backup tickets or lock in a redemption before you are certain of the exact travel date as the change / cancellation fee will always apply, so you’ll want to be quite certain of your travel plans.
Do Alaska miles expire?
There is no expiration date attached to Alaska mileage plan miles themselves but if your account sees no activity for 2 years it may be closed and the mileage deleted. You can contact customer care and ask for it to be re-activated for a fee up to 1 year after that, but clearly it’s best not to let this situation occur especially if you have a significant balance.
The Starpoints bonus is running until 20th July 2018, a week longer than the Alaska sale. Here the structure is a bit simpler as you’ll receive a 35% discount on purchases of at least 5,000 points.
The total purchase is capped however at 30,000 points per member per calendar year so if you’ve already maxed out your annual cap in one of the earlier sales in 2018 you won’t be able to participate this time.
Also note that your SPG Rewards account must also be at least 14 days old to participate (so open one now if you don’t have one and wish to take part in the promotion, as it will still be running two weeks from now).
SPG Starpoints normally sell for 3.5 US cents each, under this offer they cost 2.275 US cents each (provided you purchase 5,000 – 30,000). That’s around 3.1 Singapore cents each.
Remember for every block of 20,000 SPG points transferred to airline miles you get a 5,000 miles bonus, meaning you can take advantage of the JAL stopover ‘trick’ we mentioned above with a 20,000 miles purchase which will cost US$455 (S$620). That’s better than buying miles directly from Alaska.
You then simply transfer your 20,000 SPG points into 25,000 Alaska miles, last time we did this it just took a couple of days.
SPG points can be transferred to a host of airline frequent flyer schemes at the 1:1 ratio with that same 5,000 bonus applicable to every block of 20,000 transferred. Potentially useful for transfers into loyalty schemes for which it’s otherwise difficult to earn miles in Singapore.
If you’ve linked your SPG and Marriott Rewards accounts you can use this sale to indirectly purchase Marriott Rewards points, simply transfer them across to Marriott at a 1:3 ratio. This means with a 30,000 Starpoints purchase you can top up your Marriott account by 90,000 Rewards points.
We find we easily get much better value from Marriott redemptions than from SPG.
Assuming you’re already relatively rich in SPG points or Marriott Rewards, an extra 90,000 Marriott points could also help you get towards one of their ‘travel package’ redemptions, which represent excellent value as you can combine a 7-night resort or hotel stay with a chunk of frequent flyer miles thrown in.
It’s not totally clear what will become of these packages after the full merger between SPG and Marriott in August 2018 but Rob at Head for Points has done a great rundown recently on their value. You can also credit to KrisFlyer with one of these packages, though a different conversion table applies to the one Rob is showing (which is for British Airways Avios).
Here are the full details from Marriott on how their travel package works.
A Marriott stay
As always hotel points realise their best value when booking in expensive cities like London and New York. Suppose you want to stay for 2 nights at the recently refurbished JW Marriott Essex House on Central Park in Manhattan between Friday 20th July and Sunday 22nd July.
- 1 King Bed Essex Room at the Marriott Rewards member rate, refundable up to 3 days before: US$1,141.87
The same room with the same cancellation policy booked using Marriott Rewards costs 90,000 points for the stay, which you can achieve by transferring 30,000 SPG points into Marriott.
That gives you a value of 3.8 US cents per SPG Starpoint (around 5.2 Singapore cents per Starpoint). Remember under this 35% off purchase offer you’re buying Starpoints at 3.1 Singapore cents each, so in this example you’re realising a value over 60% better than the purchase price.
I’m sure there are equivalent values achievable in expensive cities with SPG hotel redemptions too, this example is just to show that it works just as well (if not better) under Marriott.
Do Starpoints expire?
Not as such, but your account can be suspended if there is no activity after one year. Usually you can call up to have it re-activated, but it’s safer not to let it lapse at all.
If you’re planning to take advantage of either (or both) of these purchase offers your payment will be processed in US Dollars by points.com in both cases.
Since the transaction will be in foreign currency you’ll want to earn the best miles rate you can for the payment itself with a credit card that gives you a generous rate for overseas spend.
Here are the Singapore-issued credit cards that will earn you the most miles per dollar for the transaction itself, either for overseas spending or specific category spending:
|Card||Miles per S$1||Notes|
|UOB Visa Signature||4.0||4mpd on all overseas spend of at least S$1,000 in a statement period, capped at S$2,000.|
|Standard Chartered Visa Infinite
(see our review)
|3.0||For non-SGD spend, provided total card spend (any currency) is S$2,000 or greater in the same statement cycle.|
|UOB PRVI Miles(see our review)||2.4||All non-SGD spend.|
|OCBC Voyage Visa
(see our review)
|2.3||All non-SGD spend.|
We also understand the Citi Rewards Visa or Mastercard earns at the 10x bonus rewards rates (4 miles per dollar) on points.com transactions, though as we haven’t tried this do be cautious and don’t scold us if the bonus is not credited!
|Card||Miles per S$1||Notes|
|Citi Rewards Visa / MasterCard
(see our review)
|4.0||points.com transactions paid via PayPal qualify for 10x Rewards Points (4mpd).|
If the JAL stopover ‘trick’ is your plan for this purchase and you haven’t hit your annual SPG Starpoints purchase cap it’s best to go down that route first as it works out slightly cheaper than buying through Alaska’s promotion.
As we’ve said before you shouldn’t hoard miles in these schemes for the sake of it, especially Alaska miles – have a specific redemption in mind before committing.
For SPG remember the new award pricing structure and details will be revealed in August along with the new combined loyalty scheme itself. We also don’t know what rates they will sell their points under future discounts (if at all) so this may be your last chance to buy at these rates.
(Cover Photo: Valentin Hintikka)