It’s no secret that I think Alaska Airlines has some of the most valuable frequent flyer miles. Their award chart is competitively priced, and they have pretty flexible changes fees. As a result, buying miles can often be a cheaper way to fly in business or first class than purchasing a normal ticket.
Now through April 6 you can get up to a 40% bonus when you purchase extra miles for your account. You can purchase up to 60,000 miles in each transaction — getting a bonus of 24,000 miles — but you can make as many individual purchases as you want if you need more. The cost works out to
For example, a first class award on Cathay Pacific (my favorite Asian carrier) is just 70,000 miles one-way and includes a free stopover in Hong Kong. You can purchase 50,000 miles and get 20,000 bonus miles for $1,478.13 including taxes. A round-trip award ends up just shy of $3,000 — but I bet you can’t even get a business class award to Southeast Asia for close to that price.
Of course, you don’t have to go to Asia. Alaska Airlines now offers domestic awards starting as low as 5,000 miles one way, and its recent acquisition of Virgin America has opened a host of other possibilities. Mileage Plan is also one of the easiest ways to book travel on carriers such as Hainan Airlines (50,000 miles to China) and Icelandair (55,000 miles to Europe)
There is a cheaper path to buying Alaska Airlines miles, but it comes with a few conditions. Any time you purchase a ticket on AlaskaAir.com you’re given the offer to buy 5,000 or 10,000 miles at a rate of 2 cents per mile. I think this is a good price and roughly equal to the value I place on Alaska miles. However, it means you need to fly Alaska Airlines a lot. If you need tens of thousands of miles right away for an upcoming award, the current sale is a better strategy — even though you’re paying a higher price.