Most people are familiar with online shopping portals. Sign up, register your card, and shop through a retailer’s e-store in order to get bonus airline miles — in addition to whatever you would normally earn through your credit card’s rewards program. You don’t even need to be using the airline’s co-branded credit card.
But what if you want to shop in a physical store? There have been some improvements. United’s MileagePlus X lets you purchase gift cards through your phone that you can redeem instantly at the register. Amex Offers has been increasing the number of retailers that offer double or triple points (but only if you pay with your Amex card). Now Alaska Airlines is joining in with its own program.
Similar to Amex Offers, the Alaska In-Store Hub lets you register a credit or debit card and then enroll in offers from different retailers. When you use your registered card at those physical stores you can earn bonus Alaska miles. But unlike Amex Offers you don’t need to use a preferred card, such as your Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card. Almost any Visa or Amex card can be registered. In some ways, it’s actually very similar to the new Uber rewards program that issues account credits of 10-20% when you shop at local restaurants.
This new in-store shopping feature is great because Alaska miles are some of the most valuable out there, worth about 2 cents each by my own estimate. You can use them on Alaska Airlines and Virgin America, and also on many of Alaska’s partners like American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and Air France. Some awards booked through Alaska have the same award availability but much lower costs than if you were to use miles in a competing program, like American AAdvantage.
Unfortunately the list of participating retailers isn’t that great right now. Several are companies I’ve never heard of. A few of the big names are Macy’s (2 miles/$), Bed Bath & Beyond (1.5 miles/$), and Johnston & Murphy (2.5 miles/$). Remember you will still earn any miles that are part of your credit card’s normal rewards program; this is all just gravy on top. Hopefully the list grows quickly as I’d love to be able to earn bonus Alaska miles at some retailers like Nordstrom and Starbucks, where I currently use MileagePlus X instead.