Alaska Airlines is running a promotion on the sale of frequent flyer miles, and it’s the most generous one I recall in recent history. You can earn up to a 50% bonus when you buy between 50,000 and 60,000 miles. That brings the average cost per mile, including taxes, down to 1.97 cents.
This offer appears to be targeted to members who have a Visa Signature credit card. Purchases must be made by June 13, 2016. (Because the purchase is processed by Points.com, you will not earn bonus points for using your Alaska Airlines credit card.)
10,000 – 19,000 miles = 20% bonus
20,000 – 49,000 miles = 35% bonus
50,000 – 60,000 miles = 50% bonus
I generally value Alaska Airlines miles at about 2 cents each, so this is not huge savings. But, even buying miles at cost can be a good value if it enables you to book award tickets that would be prohibitive with cash.
Most international business and first class awards can cost between $5,000-$10,000 or even more. But first class to Asia requires just 140,000 miles. Business class to Europe costs just 100,000 miles. These are just a couple examples. Award tickets also include greater flexibility to make changes or cancellations. Finally, Alaska Airlines allows you to include a free stopover in each direction, so you can visit multiple cities for the price of one.
The risk is that you can do lots of things with cash in your pocket, but frequent flyer miles are the airline’s currency — they can change the rules at any time (even if they say that they won’t). That risk was made very clear when Alaska Airlines raised the cost of first and business class awards on Emirates overnight without notice. Even without doing anything nefarious, award space could disappear between when you buy and when the miles are finally deposited into your account.
Personally, I don’t think the value of my Alaska miles were affected very much because there are lots of other awards I want to use them for, including travel on Cathay Pacific, Fiji Airways, Air France, and of course Alaska Airlines. So, I strongly recommend you come up with a couple of good ideas for using miles before you begin to accumulate them or buy them from any airline — whether Alaska Airlines or any other. Buying miles for one specific award is generally a risky bet.