Over the weekend I attended Frequent Traveler University, and along with Gary hosted two “Advanced Q&A” sessions. We took questions both “live” and from a list of questions people had submitted beforehand. We didn’t get through all of them, so I figured I’d answer a few of the ones submitted beforehand here.
We did get some ridiculous question (ie “what is the most complex sexual position you’ve used on a plane?” and “On a 747, which lav is best if I want to bring a friend??), though for the most part the questions were great. By the way, if anyone has insight and wants to write a guest post answering either of the above, please email me.
So lets get started with the first question:
I want to book an Alaska award, but I’m short 3,000 miles. What options do I have?
Presumably if you’re short a few thousand miles for booking an award you’ll want to top off your account soon, so what are your options?
Purchase or share miles
Through Alaska Mileage Plan you can outright purchase miles for 2.75 cents each plus a 7.5% federal excise tax. That’s not a great deal, but then again if 3,000 miles is what stands between you and and an Emirates first class award, what’s $100, really?
Sometimes Alaska offers bonuses on the purchase of miles, though they’re often tiered and wouldn’t represent huge savings for purchasing only a few thousand miles.
Alternatively if you have some spare miles in another account, you can transfer miles at a cost of $10 per 1,000 miles plus a $25 processing fee.
Transfer points from Starwood Preferred Guest
Alaska is 1:1 transfer partners with Starwood Preferred Guest, and for every 20,000 points you transfer you get a 5,000 point bonus. The transfers aren’t the fastest, but usually take less than two weeks.
Use Fly & Buy Miles program
Alaska has a Fly & Buy Miles program, whereby you can choose to purchase 2,500, 5,000, or 10,000 miles when you purchase a revenue ticket. The miles post instantly, which is awesome.
In the past you could easily purchase a ticket and take advantage of the Fly & Buy Miles program, and then cancel the ticket within 24 hours to get a refund while still keeping the mileage purchased.
However, a few weeks ago Alaska updated the terms of the Fly & Buy Miles program, to add the following:
Fly & Buy Miles purchased with a ticket that is later refunded will be subject to additional fees at the standard rate of 2.75 cents per mile plus applicable taxes.
So if you’re in a bind and really need the miles I’d certainly consider buying an Alaska ticket that you actually will end up flying ASAP, though booking and refunding a ticket now comes with some real risks.
Apply for an Alaska Airlines Signature Visa Card
Alaska doesn’t generally offer huge sign-up bonuses on their credit cards. For example, currently they’re offering a 30,000 mile sign-up bonus upon approval.
There are two things that make the card awesome, though:
- It’s heavily churnable, meaning you can earn the bonus on the card multiple times (for example, I currently have five of the same card open at once)
- Since you earn the sign-up bonus upon account approval, the miles post really fast — in my experience they post before you even receive the card, usually within a few days of being approved
My first choice would of course be applying for an Alaska Visa Card, if you don’t have one already. Those are easy and quick miles. Alternatively, if you’d prefer not to or if you’re in a rush, I would try to book a revenue ticket you actually think you’ll be able to take, and use the “Fly & Buy Miles” option. As a last resort I would outright purchase the miles.
Did I miss any creative ways to quickly top off an Alaska Mileage Plan account?