Airlines

Alaska increases Mileage Plan bonus sale to 50%

Mileage Plan has increased its bonus on miles purchases from 40% to 50%; buy miles at 1.97 US cents each.

Earlier this month, Alaska launched their first bonus sale since “the snap“, where 50% of the value on Japan Airlines awards disappeared. 

This sale offered up to a 40% bonus on purchased miles, and was due to end December 24 3.59 pm SGT. Alaska has now increased the bonus to a maximum of 50%. 

Here’s the breakdown of how my bonus tiers (yours may be different): 

  • Buy 1,000-9,000 miles= no bonus (2.96 US cents per mile)
  • Buy 10,000-19,000 miles= 20% bonus (2.46 US cents per mile)
  • Buy 20,000-29,000 miles= 35% bonus (2.19 US cents per mile)
  • Buy 30,000-60,000 miles= 50% bonus (1.97 US cents per mile)

Check your Mileage Plan bonus offer here

Buying miles with a 50% bonus is equivalent to paying 1.97 US cents per mile, the lowest price we see Mileage Plan miles go on sale. 

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Alaska now caps the maximum miles you can purchase in a year to 150,000. However, since you can redeem Mileage Plan tickets for anyone, there’s nothing stopping you from opening another account to buy more miles. MVP, MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K Mileage Plan members have no such cap. 

That’s the main change; all other aspects of the sale (e.g. end date) remain the same. If you missed the previous article, I’m copying and pasting my analysis of whether it’s still worth buying Alaska Mileage Plan miles (with slight edits to reflect the recent Aegean nerf), and what card you should use if you decide to do so. 

Is it still worth buying Alaska Mileage Plan miles?

For trips to Japan

Japan Airlines Business Class

Most Mileage Plan members in Singapore were probably buying miles for JAL awards to Japan, and why not? Before “The Snap”, a pseudo round-trip Business Class flight from Singapore->Tokyo->Kuala Lumpur would have cost ~S$718 (assuming miles were purchased at a 40% bonus). Sure, you’d have to factor in the price of a positioning flight, but it was still phenomenal value. 

Now that the loophole has been closed, the effective cost has doubled to ~S$1.4K. That’s still good (compared to paying full-price for Business Class), but obviously nowhere as good as before. 

In that sense, I see some parallels between this and the SCB X Card sign up bonus. The SCB X Card initially launched with a 100,000 miles sign up bonus– far and away the best offer we’ve ever had in Singapore. It turned out being a little too popular, however, and was yanked after just six days. The revised sign up bonus? 60,000 miles

In the cold light of day, 60,000 miles is still a very good sign up bonus, much more than the competition in Singapore anyway. But would you be willing to accept such an offer, knowing you just missed out on a much better one?

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The logical answer is yes. A good deal is a good deal, even if it comes just after a fantastic one. But psychologically speaking, it’s understandable why some may be averse to it, and in the same way, I understand why people might balk at paying 50,000 miles for routing that cost half as much a month ago. 

For what it’s worth, I’m personally not in the market to buy Mileage Plan miles right now. The way I see it, would-be Japan travelers have three alternative options:

  1. Transfer Citibank, SCB or AMEX points to EVA Infinity MileageLands and redeem a round-trip Business Class ticket for 50,000 miles. You’ll have to make a stop in Taipei, and pay about S$386 in taxes and fuel surcharges. The connections also aren’t ideal- you’ll need to stay overnight in Taipei
  2. Buy Aegean Miles+Bonus miles at a 100% bonus, paying 1.88 SG cents each, redeem a round-trip Business Class ticket for 65,000 miles. There will be fuel surcharges applicable too
  3. Bite the bullet and pay 94,000 KrisFlyer miles for a round-trip Singapore Airlines ticket (hope that it’s offered on Spontaneous Escapes). On the plus side, there are no fuel surcharges

It’s simply a decision that each individual will have to make for him/herself. 

For trips elsewhere

With the JAL one-way trick gone, here’s what I see as the remaining sweet spots in Mileage Plan: 

  • 50,000/70,000 miles for a one-way Business/First Class award between Singapore and the USA on Cathay Pacific 
  • 22,500 miles for a one-way Business Class award between Singapore and Tokyo on Cathay Pacific 
  • 50,000 miles for a one-way Business Class award between Bangkok and the USA on Hainan Airlines
  • 65,000/75,000 miles for a one-way Business/First Class award between Singapore and the USA on JAL
  • 120,000 miles for a round-trip Business Class award between Singapore and Hawaii on Korean Air (one-way redemptions not allowed)

It’s also worth keeping in mind that Alaska Mileage Plan miles can be redeemed on numerous other carriers, some of which may be useful for flying point to point outside of Singapore: 

  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Condor
  • Emirates
  • Fiji Airways
  • Finnair
  • Hainan Airlines
  • Icelandair
  • Japan Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • LATAM
  • Qantas
  • Singapore Airlines
Cathay Pacific and LATAM awards do not appear on the Mileage Plan website. You’ll need to call up customer service to book them

Remember that Mileage Plan does not pass on fuel surcharges, so that’s another plus point.

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Singapore Airlines was recently added as a Mileage Plan redemption partner, but as we showed in our analysis, it really doesn’t make sense to buy Mileage Plan miles for Singapore Airlines travel. You’d be much better acquiring KrisFlyer miles for cheap, then redeeming them for flights. 

What card should I use?

If you anyways decide to purchase Alaska Mileage Plan miles, these purchases are processed by Points.com in USD. Here’s the best cards to maximize the miles earned on your purchase:

 Earn RateCapRemarks
OCBC 90N Card
Apply here
4 mpdNoneUntil 29 Feb 2020
Citi Rewards Visa
Apply here
4 mpdS$1,000 per statement period 
UOB Visa Signature
Apply here
4 mpdS$2,000Min FCY spend of S$1,000 per statement period
DBS Woman’s World Card
Apply here
4 mpdS$2,000Use caution- some people report not getting the bonus 2.8 mpd, only the base 1.2 mpd
SCB Visa Infinite
Apply here
3 mpdNoneMin spend S$2,000 per statement period
BOC Elite Miles 
Apply here
3 mpdNone 

When it comes to Points.com purchases, some people may run into issues using a Singapore-issued card. I can’t quite explain why this happens, because some don’t encounter any issues, and others never seem to be able to get their transactions through. Your best bet is to use an Alaska Mileage Plan account that is at least 10 days old, and try a different card if your transaction doesn’t go through the first time.

Other important things to note

Alaska charges a US$125 fee for changes or cancellations, regardless of how far away you are from departure. Alaska Mileage Plan miles do not expire so long as you credit or redeem at least one mile every 24 months.

You should not be buying Mileage Plan miles (or any other miles and points currency for that matter) speculatively- always have a confirmed use for them in mind before purchasing. 

Conclusion

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If you’ve been primarily earning Mileage Plan miles by crediting Singapore Airlines Business Class fares to Mileage Plan, then this could be a good way to top off your account for an award redemption. Otherwise, you’ll have to examine your alternatives carefully and decide if buying Mileage Plan miles still makes sense for you in this new landscape. 


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CyberMewAaron WongKWPascalRichard Recent comment authors
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Richard
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Richard

Hi Aaron,
Thanks again for the analysis. In view of the recent devaluations, perhaps you can consider doing a comparison of Alaska Mileage Plan, Aegean Miles+Bonus and Avianca LifeMiles? Or is this for your Alternate FFP course?
Thanks!

Pascal
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Pascal

Can not book CX redemptions online right? Need to call?

CyberMew
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CyberMew

Yes

KW
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KW

Aaron, just a heads up for those planning to redeem Japan awards. Availability for JAL is quite a bit poorer now due JMB members (rightfully) being able to book 360 days out since this 1st April, ahead of the 330/325 days (roundtrip/one-way) for AS Mileage Plan. One would also be competing with those on the BA/AA etc programmes. By that time you’re left with mostly the mid-week NRT flights. The HND flights will be almost totally gone. Not sure if they will release more seats closer in though. When the intra-Asia stopover ended, I thought to soften the blow by… Read more »