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Alaska miles on offer from 1.7 US cents each, but should you buy?

Alaska Mileage Plan is repeating its top 60% bonus miles bonus. Should you be buying in the current climate?

EXPIRED This article relates to an offer or promotion which has now expired.

Alaska Air 737 (Alaska Air)

Most of our readers won’t be in the market for buying miles in these uncertain times during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s not stopped Alaska Airlines repeating its best ever mileage sale, offering up to 60% bonus for those purchasing or topping up their balance between now and 29th June 2020.

While a large amount of uncertainty remains over the travel recovery, including which airlines (and frequent flyer programmes) will survive this crisis and which won’t, this sale does offer you the opportunity to buy Alaska miles from 1.7 US cents each.

The June 2020 offer

This is the third Alaska miles bonus offer since the coronavirus situation took hold, with a previous week-long bonus 40% sale and an up to 60% bonus sale already offered.

Remember even in the ‘good times’ – these miles are regularly on offer at 40-50% bonus levels.

Pro Tip: Never buy Alaska miles at full price, unless you need a small top-up quickly to achieve a specific redemption, or to urgently keep your existing balance alive if it is about to expire. These miles are almost always available on offer (there were seven purchase bonus offers in 2019 alone).

AStrans

Alaska Airlines typically tailors these promotions slightly depending on your customer profile, so you’ll need to log on to your Mileage Plan account to check how your individual bonus is structured – since not everyone always gets exactly the same deal.

60 Bonus 2

At the top end you’ll have a record 60% bonus (until recently, Alaska miles have only ever been sold at a maximum 50% bonus). There are also reports of 50% and 40% bonus levels being offered this time round.

Here’s a typical 60% deal:

  • 1,000 – 4,000 miles: No bonus (2.75 US ¢ / mile)
  • 5,000 – 39,000 miles: 40% bonus (1.96 US ¢ / mile)
  • 40,000 – 100,000 miles: 60% bonus (1.72 US ¢ / mile)

A 50% deal seems to be structured as follows:

  • 1,000 – 2,000 miles: No bonus (2.75 US ¢ / mile)
  • 3,000 – 29,000 miles: 40% bonus (1.96 US ¢ / mile)
  • 30,000 – 100,000 miles: 50% bonus (1.83 US ¢ / mile)

Why buy Alaska miles?

In normal circumstances we’d recommend buying Alaska miles at 50% (or now 60%) bonus rates for excellent value First and Business Class award tickets with airlines like Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines.

That’s because even if you don’t earn Alaska miles through other means (e.g. Kaligo hotel bookings, or crediting miles from paid Emirates / SIA bookings to the programme), the effective ‘fares’ you are paying for these redemptions are highly competitive even having only acquired your miles in one of these sales.

In many cases, taxes are low with no fuel surcharges levied and Alaska allows free stopovers for no additional miles on most itineraries.

Let’s look at some examples, with the effective cost shown based on buying all the miles you need for the booking.

JLtrans.png

AStrans Effective cost buying at bonus levels (US$):
40% 50% 60%
Singapore to New York
First Class*
75,000
miles
$1,473 $1,375 $1,289
Singapore to New York
Business Class
65,000
miles
$1,276 $1,191 $1,117
Singapore to Tokyo
Business Class
25,000
miles
$491 $458 $430

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

Singapore to the USA in JAL First Class for 75,000 Alaska miles is one of the standout redemptions in the programme, and just in case you thought it wasn’t possible:

JAL F SINJFK

This itinerary would cost you just US$1,289 if you bought Alaska miles at a 60% bonus rate, though to be fair no one will be complaining much about spending US$1,375 or US$1,473 for the experience at the lower 50% and 40% bonuses respectively.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
JAL Boeing 777 Business Class from Singapore to Tokyo. (Photo: Melv_L – MACASR via Flickr)

While the first flight up to Tokyo is in JAL’s Business Class seat, you’ll be in First Class for the longer overnight flight to New York.

JL First Class (JAL)
JAL Boeing 777 First Class from Tokyo to New York. (Photo: JAL)

Better still, you can search and book JAL award tickets using Alaska miles wholly online, including availability view by month, no fuel surcharges are added so the taxes are low, and you can have a free stopover in Tokyo on this itinerary for no additional miles (just US$22 in additional taxes).

SQtrans small

AStrans Effective cost buying at bonus levels (US$):
40% 50% 60%
Tokyo to Los Angeles
Business Class
80,000
miles
$1,571 $1,467 $1,375

There aren’t really any great value ways to use Alaska miles on Singapore Airlines, since the intra-Asia stopover ‘tricks’ were shut down in October 2019.

Perhaps the only decent value option is a Business Class ticket on one of the airline’s fifth freedom routes between Tokyo and Los Angeles, usually 92,000 KrisFlyer miles but available for 80,000 Alaska miles or the equivalent of US$1,375 with a 60% purchase bonus.

It’s not an incredible deal but personally we would probably rather buy the Alaska miles for this one and save the 92,000 KrisFlyer miles for a better value redemption, assuming we needed to fly this city pair in isolation.

CXtrans2.png

AStrans Effective cost buying at bonus levels (US$):
40% 50% 60%
Singapore to Los Angeles
First Class*
70,000
miles
$1,375 $1,283 $1,203
Singapore to Los Angeles
Business Class
50,000
miles
$982 $917 $859
Sydney to New York
First Class*
80,000
miles
$1,571 $1,467 $1,375
Sydney to New York
Business Class
60,000
miles
$1,179 $1,100 $1,031
Hong Kong to London
Business Class
42,500
miles
$835 $779 $730
Singapore to Tokyo
Business Class
22,500
miles
$442 $413 $387

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

There are some great value ways to use Alaska miles on Cathay Pacific, including Singapore to the USA in Business Class for US$859 (if you buy at the 60% bonus rate).

Even Singapore to Tokyo or Seoul for example drops to US$387 in Business Class at a 60% bonus.

1A Boarding
Singapore to Los Angeles, including the Hong Kong to Los Angeles sector in Cathay Pacific’s excellent First Class, is only 70,000 Alaska miles. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Bear in mind though that Cathay Pacific awards using Alaska miles are not searchable or bookable online, so you’ll have to call to secure them. Using the British Airways Avios or American Airlines AAdvantage search engines to check award availability beforehand is usually accurate.

QFtrans.png

AStrans Effective cost buying at bonus levels (US$):
40% 50% 60%
Sydney to Dallas
First Class
70,000
miles
$1,375 $1,283 $1,203
Sydney to Dallas
Business Class
55,000
miles
$1,080 $1,008 $945
Perth to Sydney
Business Class
20,000
miles
$393 $367 $344

If you’re based in Australia, using Alaska miles for coast-to-coast domestic flights in Business Class on Qantas, like Perth to Sydney or Perth to Melbourne at 20,000 miles each way, is great value. That’s equivalent to just US$344 when buying with a 60% bonus. Pick an Airbus A330 or Boeing 787 for the newest flat-bed seats.

It’s also worth checking out Australia to USA award pricing.

QF SYDDFW F

QF A380 J Bed (Qantas)
Qantas A380 Business Class. (Photo: Qantas)

Business Class on one of the world’s longest flights (the 16-hour mammoth from Sydney to Dallas) comes in at less than US$1,000 when buying miles at a 60% bonus.

KAtrans

AStrans Effective cost buying at bonus levels (US$):
40% 50% 60%
Singapore to Chicago
Business Class
120,000
miles return
$2,357 $2,200 $2,063

Korean Air awards must be booked as a round-trip, however for 120,000 miles you can fly from Singapore to the USA and back in Business Class for US$2,063 at the 60% bonus rate.

Deadline: 29th June 2020

The offer closes at 11.59pm PST on Sunday 28th June 2020, which is 2.59pm on Monday 29th June 2020 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 29th June 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

Cancellation fees

Do note that Alaska Airlines charges a US$125 fee (around S$178 at the time of writing) 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.

Note: Alaska is currently offering change and cancellation fee waiver for award tickets booked between now and 30th June 2020, for travel booked through the end of May 2021, due to the coronavirus situation. Tickets must be changed or canceled prior to the departure of your original flight.

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 has to be done over the phone.

You can view the full Alaska miles award charts here.

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 MC 2019Citi Rewards Visa / MasterCard
(see our review)
4.0 4 mpd on all online spend in a statement period, capped at S$1,000 per card.
Card.pngDBS Women’s World Mastercard*
(see our review)
4.0* 4 mpd on all online spend in a calendar month, capped at S$2,000.
Card.pngUOB Visa Signature
(see our review)
4.0 4 mpd on all overseas spend of at least S$1,000 in a statement period, capped at S$2,000.
image_standard-chartered-visa-infinite@2x02.pngStandard 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.pngUOB PRVI Miles (see our review) 2.4 All non-SGD spend.
Card.jpgOCBC Voyage Visa
(see our review)
2.3 All non-SGD spend.
Card2019.pngCiti PremierMiles (see our review) 2.0 All non-SGD spend.
Card2019.pngCiti Prestige (see our review) 2.0 All non-SGD spend.

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

Should you buy?

Our own opinion? “Great rate, but we’ll pass thanks”.

Even at the lowest purchase level to trigger the 60% bonus, you’re parting with US$825 (S$1,150), and right now we think that’s just not sensible.

Business Bedding
Some of the redemptions you can achieve using Alaska miles at a 60% purchase bonus, including US$387 from Singapore to Tokyo in Cathay Pacific Business Class, are seriously tempting – but be careful. (Photo: Cathay Pacific)

Alaska Airlines should survive COVID-19, but no airline is 100% immune. Crucially, Alaska Mileage Plan is not ring-fenced from the airline. If Alaska Airlines goes down, so do your miles.

If you used Alaska miles in this example to make a partner redemption, like a JAL flight sometime in 2021, chances are it will not be honoured as the financial compensation between Alaska and the partner airline for an award flight happens after the flight has taken place.

Given that JAL won’t be compensated in this case, they likely won’t honour the booking.

There’s also the risk of devaluation. Alaska miles have been devalued before, sometimes without notice, and the airline’s upcoming entry into the oneworld alliance spells bad news for future changes to the award charts in our opinion.

Final thought – it’s not much better than a 50% bonus

Lots of these great value deals we’ve outlined look very tempting, especially if you’re looking to book well into next year for example.

However it’s also worth noting that Alaska miles are regularly offered at a 50% bonus level, typically several times a year. As you can see from the tables above, the actual ‘cost’ difference for most of these valuable Alaska miles redemptions isn’t that great between the 50% bonus and the 60% bonus levels.

For example, a First Class award on Cathay from Singapore to Los Angeles comes out at US$1,283 if you buy the miles at a 50% bonus and US$1,203 if you buy at a 60% bonus. That’s not a huge difference – it’s a still great value redemption either way.

Another good reason to pass on this one, in our opinion. A 60% bonus just isn’t high enough in the current circumstances.

If you still want to though:

Click here to buy Alaska miles

Links on Mainly Miles may pay us an affiliate commission.

(Cover Photo: Alaska Airlines)

4 comments

  1. Alaska has been my best refund experience after the virus broke out. Cancelled an award ticket, miles back within minutes and taxes within two days. Better than Krisflyer. Will not hesitate to book with it.

  2. Not sure if you noticed, but you can no longer search and book for SQ award tickets online unlike before.

    I hope this doesn’t mean that the opportunity for flying SQ First on the cheap is forever gone. 🙁

    1. SQ has removed availability from some *A programs(A3 at least), too. My speculation is that SQ has discovered its mistake that made premium availability to some *A programs(A3 at least, you can book EWR-SIN-AKL for 75K in SQ J) in April/May/June and pulled availability.

    2. Not only are SQ award tickets gone, but also are star alliance seats. Not sure why SQ flight management team comes with this solution.

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