I can’t imagine that too many people are thinking of buying miles right now, but that hasn’t stopped Alaska from launching another Mileage Plan sale (perhaps these sales run on auto-pilot, so the day after Judgement Day you can expect an exclusive offer in your inbox).
From now till March 26, 2.59 p.m SGT, Mileage Plan members can get up to a 40% bonus on miles purchases.
Here’s the breakdown of how my bonus tiers (yours may be different):
- Buy 1,000-9,000 miles= no bonus
- Buy 10,000+ miles= 40% bonus
What’s odd is that Alaska supposedly increased the price of miles the last time round such that a 40% bonus meant 2.15 US cents per mile. However, with the current sale I’m seeing the old pricing return, and a 40% bonus now means 2.11 US cents per mile.
You can buy a maximum of 100,000 miles (pre-bonus) per transaction, and a maximum of 150,000 miles (also pre-bonus) per year. 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.
It’s cheaper to buy Marriott points and convert them
If you were considering buying Alaska Mileage Plan miles, do note that there’s currently a cheaper way to do. Marriott Bonvoy is offering a 50% bonus on points sales which runs until 26 March 2020, 12.59 p.m SGT.
This represents a cost of 0.83 US cents per point. Now, Marriott Bonvoy points transfer to more than 40 airlines at a 3:1 ratio, and you get a bonus 5,000 miles for every 60,000 points transferred.
If you were to buy 60,000 points and transfer them to 20,000 (+5,000 bonus) Alaska Mileage Plan miles, your equivalent cost per mile would be 2 US cents.
The catch is that Marriott caps the number of points you can buy in a year to 100,000 (pre-bonus), so you’ll be able to buy at most 60,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles this way. Also, you need to have been a Marriott Bonvoy member for at least 90 days to purchase points (30 days if your account has stay activity).
Is it worth buying Alaska Mileage Plan miles?
For trips to Japan
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.
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:
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:
|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.
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?
Purchases of Alaska Mileage Plan miles are processed by Points.com in USD. Here’s the best cards to maximize the miles earned on your purchase:
|Citi Rewards Visa|
|4 mpd||S$1K per statement period|
|UOB Visa Signature|
|4 mpd||S$2K per statement period||Min FCY spend of S$1,000 per statement period|
|DBS Woman’s World Card|
|4 mpd||S$2K per calendar month||Use caution- may require an appeal for 4 mpd|
|SCB X Card|
|3 mpd||None||Until 30 Jun 20. Min spend S$2K per calendar month|
|SCB Visa Infinite||3 mpd||None||Min spend S$2K per statement period|
|BOC Elite Miles ||3 mpd||None|
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.
A 40% bonus isn’t the highest that Alaska offers, and if you’re prepared to wait a few months, we’ll almost certainly see a 50% bonus offered down the road.
Given the uncertainty in the market, I’m not in the mood to buy any sort of mileage currency right now. Unless you plan to travel in the imminent future (hard to see that happening), you may want to sit this out too.