Deals Oneworld Other FFPs Singapore Airlines

Alaska Miles up to 40% bonus until 24 December, but should you buy?

Alaska Miles seem like a tarnished brand after the intra-Asia stopover was abruptly pulled last month. Is there any value in buying them with a 40% bonus?

Alaska Air 737 Overhead (Alaska Air)

Mention Alaska Mileage Plan to frequent flyer addicts in Singapore around a month ago and you’d probably get quite a curt reaction!

That of course stemmed from the airline abruptly closing down the intra-Asia stopover option, one of the most valuable uses for their miles in this region, allowing a pseudo-return flight to Japan and back totalling 14 hours on Japan Airlines in Business Class for just 25,000 miles.

Add in the fact that most Singapore-based members had parted with hard cash to buy these miles in the first place, and the pain was real.

“You can never promote buying Alaska Miles again!”, one reader angrily exclaimed to us last month.

That’s understandable, and it’s true – the landscape has changed, but let’s break down whether there is still value in an Alaska miles purchase despite the recent bad news, given that yet another ‘buy miles’ promotion has launched today.

The November 2019 offer

AStrans

Simply log on to your Mileage Plan account to check how your individual bonus is structured. Alaska often tailors these promotions slightly depending on your customer profile, so not everyone gets exactly the same deal.

Alaska Nov19 Offer.jpg

Both Eddie and I have an identical offer this time, which suggests most of you will probably see the same.

  • 1,000 – 9,000 miles – no bonus (2.96 US ¢ / mile)
  • 10,000 – 19,000 miles – 20% bonus (2.46 US ¢ / mile)
  • 20,000 – 29,000 miles – 30% bonus (2.27 US ¢ / mile)
  • 30,000 – 60,000 miles – 40% bonus (2.11 US ¢ / mile)

Alaska Nov19 Breakdown.jpg

You’ll likely have to buy at least 30,000 miles to get the top bonus rate of 40%. You can credit up to 150,000 Alaska miles into your account per year, including the bonus level, unless you’re an MVP, MVP Gold or MVP Gold 75K member, in which case there is no annual cap.

Is it worth it?

At the 40% bonus rate, the JAL stopover in Business Class came in at an exceptional US$527.50 (approximately S$718). That was incredible value for close to 14 hours in a flat-bed Business Class seat, but alas it’s no longer possible.

You can still redeem JAL flights using Alaska miles, however these will price at the 25,000 miles intra-Asia rate in Business Class for both sectors of your journey. While that doubles the cost, effectively to S$1,400+ if you’re buying the miles at the 40% bonus rate, it’s actually still not a bad deal compared with cash fares on the route.

JL Sky Suite III (JAL).jpg
An exceptional Business Class deal is now probably more of a ‘good deal’. (Photo: JAL)

It also means there’s no need to ‘position’ yourself at the start or end of the journey, as was required under the stopover system where your origin and ultimate destination could not be the same.

Most of our readers achieved this by flying through Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur for one of the two flights, but now you can fly for 50,000 miles return to and from Singapore (like you always could).

JAL new.jpg
The new way. Twice as many miles, but at least no positioning is required.

It’s certainly a good way to use up any miles you have left, but probably isn’t enough of an incentive for you to buy a fresh batch given that you’ll be subject to award availability on the route.

What about Singapore Airlines?

Another benefit of the intra-Asia stopover allowance using Alaska miles was the ability to do so with their newest partner, Singapore Airlines.

This introduced some good-value options (some far too good, as it turned out), but now they too are dead there is really little value in using your Alaska miles for Singapore Airlines redemptions, especially if you’ve bought the miles from the outset.

Thankfully there remain a number of good alternatives, though for the most part they are only likely of much interest if you plan to fly in Business or First Class cabins to or from the USA.

Alternative uses of Alaska miles

Here are some alternative examples, with a comparison against miles rates with other frequent flyer programmes on the same routes.

Japan Airlines

JLtrans.png

AVIOStrans JALMBtrans AStrans
Singapore to New York
First Class*
200,000 85,000 75,000
Singapore to New York
Business Class
165,000 70,000 65,000
Singapore to Tokyo
Business Class
62,000 40,000 25,000

* Business Class Singapore to Tokyo, First Class Tokyo to New York

If you managed to buy Alaska miles in one of the 50% bonus sales, the top level usually offered, you’re looking at US$1,478 to New York in First Class, US$1,281 in Business Class or US$493 to Tokyo in Business Class.

Yes, you’ll have to find the award availability (easier on Singapore to Tokyo than Singapore to New York!), but these are competitive ‘fares’.

Cathay Pacific

CXtrans2.png

AVIOStrans Asia AStrans
Singapore to Los Angeles
First Class*
160,000 130,000 70,000
Singapore to Los Angeles
Business Class
135,000 85,000 50,000
Sydney to New York
First Class*
200,000 130,000 80,000
Sydney to New York
Business Class
165,000 85,000 60,000
Hong Kong to London
Business Class
90,000 65,000 42,500
Vancouver to New York
First Class
50,000 40,000 35,000
Singapore to Tokyo
Business Class
44,000 45,000 22,500

* Business Class to Hong Kong, then First Class to the USA

There are a number of good value Cathay Pacific options, including Singapore to the USA for 50,000 miles in Business Class (US$985 if you buy Alaska miles with a 50% bonus, or US$1,055 at 40% bonus). Singapore to Tokyo via Hong Kong in Business Class, with some excellent lounges on the way, is 22,500 miles (US$443 assuming a 50% bonus when you bought, US$475 with a 40% bonus).

Champagne 3 Windows.jpg
Cathay Pacific First Class to the USA is 70,000 Alaska miles. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Just today in fact the Hong Kong-based airline announced a service, amenities and dining enhancement in its First and Business Class cabins.

I have personally used my Alaska miles for a last-minute (day before) Cathay Pacific Hong Kong to London flight in Business Class for 42,500 miles, a 13-hour flight typically costing at least S$6,000.

Qantas

QFtrans.png

If you’re a regular traveller to or from Australia, or can include the country in your travel plans, Alaska miles provide both a domestic and USA option using Qantas.

AVIOStrans QFF AStrans
Sydney to Dallas
First Class
206,000 189,900 70,000
Sydney to Dallas
Business Class
154,500 126,500 55,000
Perth to Sydney
Business Class
38,750 41,500 20,000

If you pick the right aircraft type, Perth to Sydney in a flat-bed Business Class seat (choose an A330) is coming in at US$422 when the miles are bought with a 40% bonus, significantly less than cash fares.

QF A330 J (Points from the Pacific).jpg
Stick to the newer Qantas Business Class products and a coast-to-coast domestic redemption with Alaska miles makes a lot of sense. (Photo: Points from the Pacific)

Partner availability on Qantas international routes is restrictive, however for domestic flights it’s mostly wide open.

All options

For those not familiar, here’s a recap of the airline and route options using Alaska Miles applicable to the majority of our readers in Asia-Pacific.

Airline Routes
AAtrans.png Asia – Canada/USA, Caribbean & Mexico
Australia/NZ – Canada/USA
BAtrans.png India/South Asia – Canada/USA & Mexico
CXtrans.png Asia – Canada/USA
Australia/NZ – Canada/USA
India/South Asia – Canada/USA
Intra-Asia
Hong Kong – Africa, Australia/NZ, Europe, India/South Asia & Middle East
EKtrans2.png Asia – Canada/USA
Australia/NZ – Canada/USA
India/South Asia – Canada/USA
FJtrans.png Australia/NZ – USA
AYtrans.png Asia – Canada/USA, Europe & Mexico
India/South Asia – Canada/USA, Europe & Mexico
HUtrans.png Asia – Canada/USA & Mexico
Intra-China
JLtrans2 Asia – Canada/USA
Intra-Asia
KAtrans.png Asia – Canada/USA
Australia/NZ – Canada/USA
India/South Asia – Canada/USA
Korea – SE Asia
QFtrans.png Australia/NZ – Canada/USA
Intra-Australia
SQtrans small.png Asia – USA
Asia – South Pacific
Asia – India
Asia – Middle East
Asia – Europe
Asia – Africa
Intra-Asia

You can search and redeem online for all partners, except Cathay Pacific and LATAM, where it’s done over the phone.

You can view the full Alaska miles award charts here.

Cancellation fees

Do note that Alaska Airlines charges a US$125 fee (around S$170) for award ticket changes or cancellations, which is pretty steep. You’ll no doubt want to have relatively firm travel plans and dates before booking, in order to avoid this penalty.

Deadline: 24th December 2019

The offer closes at 11.59pm PST on Monday 23rd December 2019, which is 3.59pm on Tuesday 24th December 2019 Singapore time.

Alaska is strict about the offer deadline, so it will completely disappear at the end time – we’ve tested it to the minute in the past. We would therefore recommend making your purchase before approximately 2pm on 24th December in Singapore if you’re interested, just in case you have any issues or the payment doesn’t go through first time.

Click here to buy Alaska miles

Which card to use

If you are going to buy in this promotion, and assuming like most of our readers you are based in Singapore, you’ll want to achieve the maximum number of credit card miles for the purchase itself when buying Alaska Miles.

The transaction itself happens in US dollars (i.e. non-SGD) and is processed by points.com.

Pointsdotcom

You can earn the most extra miles for the purchase transaction by using one of the following Singapore issued credit cards if you can:

Card Miles per S$1 Notes
Citi Rewards Card.jpg
Citi Rewards Visa / MasterCard
(see our review)
4.0 4mpd on all online spend in a statement period, capped at S$1,000 per card.
Card.png
DBS Women’s World Mastercard*
(see our review)
4.0 4mpd on all online spend in a calendar month, capped at S$2,000.
Card.png
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.
Card.png
BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard
(see our review)
3.0 3mpd on all non-SGD spend, with no cap.
image_standard-chartered-visa-infinite@2x02.png
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-MC.png
UOB PRVI Miles (see our review)
2.4 All non-SGD spend.
Card.jpg
OCBC Voyage Visa
(see our review)
2.3 All non-SGD spend.
Card2019.png
Citi PremierMiles (see our review)
2.0 All non-SGD spend.
Card2019.png
Citi Prestige (see our review)
2.0 All non-SGD spend.

* Note: One of our readers reported that using the WWMC card via points.com does not automatically award the higher 4mpd earn rate. You must usually appeal and claim the miles later.

Summary

We’ve always said it, but perhaps now it’s true more than ever: Don’t buy Alaska miles speculatively!

Have a solid redemption plan in mind in the near future, or know exactly what you want to redeem now (having checked it’s available), as changes in both partner redemption relationships and valuations can occur.

If like us you’re based in Singapore and you didn’t buy Alaska miles before, when the JAL stopover option was still available, you almost certainly won’t want to do so now.

If you were a regular buyer though, you’ll have to be comfortable with the value proposition when used on other partner airlines, which to be fair you may have been taking advantage of in the past anyway, as we have done.

Usage: All media worldwideExpiry date: 10 July 24
Consider using Alaska miles on partners like Cathay Pacific to the USA for value. (Photo: Cathay Pacific)

It’s also worth noting that Alaska miles are occasionally offered at a 50% bonus level, typically more than once a year these days, so if you don’t need the miles now we would definitely recommend waiting for one of those more generous promotions to come up.

Click here to buy Alaska miles

(Cover Photo: Alaska Airlines)

One comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: