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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.

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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)
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.