Should You Buy Alaska Miles With A 50% Bonus?

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Alaska Mileage Plan is one of my all around favorite frequent flyer programs, and I especially love that they seem to offer discounts on the purchase of miles roughly a handful of times per year.

As I first wrote about a couple of weeks ago, Alaska Mileage Plan is offering a “mystery bonus” on the purchase of miles through December 23, 2015.

Based on the data points I’ve received, people have been offered bonuses of 35%, 40%, or 50%.

Alaska-Bonus-3

If you max out the bonus, the cost per purchased mile is as follows:

  • 35% bonus: ~2.19 cents per mile
  • 40% bonus: ~2.11 cents per mile
  • 50% bonus: ~1.97 cents per mile

Historically when Alaska offers a bonus on purchased miles it has been 30% to 40%, so the 50% bonus is quite rare.

I’ve been asked a lot of questions the past couple of weeks about whether it makes sense to buy Alaska Mileage Plan miles through this promotion, most of which have revolved around the following:

With that in mind, let’s talk about a few major considerations when deciding on buying Alaska miles:

Does American’s devaluation increase the value of Alaska miles?

American’s devaluation only kicks in for bookings as of March 22, 2016, so we have nearly four months until American’s miles devalue.

2016-AAdvantage-Program

Assuming Alaska doesn’t devalue their award chart, will that increase the value of their miles both relatively and absolutely? I’d argue it does, since American’s rate increases for international first class are huge in some cases.

Long term I think American’s devaluation will increase the value of Alaska miles, while short term I wouldn’t be acting based on that, since you have almost four months to redeem American miles at the old rates.

I’m generally opposed to buying miles speculatively, so there’s no reason to buy miles now based on a devaluation which will occur with American in about four months. If you were to have just one priority, I’d say it should be redeeming American miles as quickly as possible.

Cathay-Pacific-First-Class-777-39
Both American & Alaska miles can be redeemed for Cathay Pacific first class!

Alaska miles are extremely unique

There are plenty of reasons to buy Alaska miles, which make them one of my favorite currencies out there. A while back I wrote a post entitled “6 Reasons Buying Alaska Miles Is A Good Deal.”

As I explained:

The above really make Alaska Mileage Plan miles unique, and in particular make the proposition of buying them worthwhile. While it all depends on the type of award you’re wanting to book, between the free stopovers, cheap change fees, unique partners, and ability to buy as many miles as you’d like, they’re a fantastic option for anyone looking to travel in premium cabins at a discount.

Emirates-First-Class - 3
Emirates first class is my favorite use of Alaska miles

Will Alaska devalue/does it make sense to buy their miles speculatively?

So we’ve now seen American, Delta, and United significantly devalue their programs recently. What are the odds of Alaska doing the same?

A couple of days ago I posted about how I think there’s a chance Alaska won’t go revenue based when it comes to earning miles.

When it comes to award redemptions I don’t think they’re especially eager to devalue. When you listen to their earnings calls they consistently seem pleased with how Mileage Plan is performing and are proud of their partnerships, rather than being eager to “enhance” the program.

I almost wouldn’t be surprised if a devaluation were prompted by one of their partners, which doesn’t want them having disproportionately low redemption rates.

All of which is to say that I have some faith in the long term value of Mileage Plan miles. In my case, my dad’s account was targeted with a 50% mileage bonus, so I am sort of tempted to speculatively buy Alaska miles for under two cents each, as I really don’t feel I can go wrong with it.

But if you do speculatively buy Alaska miles:

  • Don’t necessarily expect redemption values to be the same a year or two from now
  • Be able to redeem them within 3-4 months if necessary, should a devaluation be announced

As someone who checks both of the above boxes, I personally plan on buying some miles with the 50% bonus, even without an immediate use in mind.

Emirates-A380-First-Class-079
If there’s a devaluation, at least I’ll be able to shower my sorrows away on Emirates

Bottom line

Everyone will have a different perspective on whether or not it makes sense to buy miles speculatively. To sum up my thoughts:

  • With a 50% bonus I’m more tempted to speculatively pick up miles than I usually am
  • However, I do that knowing that I’ll be able to redeem all those miles over the course of a few months if needed, should a devaluation happen

Between the redemption values on Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Fiji Airways, LAN, Qantas, etc., there are so many great uses of Alaska miles. And that’s especially true for those who don’t otherwise have a lot of miles, as you can literally buy hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of miles during a single promotion.

Where do you stand on speculatively buying miles, and do you plan on buying Alaska miles under the current promotion?

Comments

  1. A devaluation will definitely happen – probably sometime in 2016. 70K on Cathay F is simply unsustainable. Don’t get bought into what you hear on an earnings call.

  2. I just purchased 300k miles using points from my Cap One Venture and Barclay Arrival + card. I got the 50% bonus. I will use these miles to buy 3 RT business class tickets on Cathay Pacific for a trip to the Philippines next year.

  3. I’d purchase at the 50% bonus, but I only got offered a 40% bonus. I called Alaska to see if they could get me the 50% and they said call Points.com. I contacted points.com and they said contact Alaska, so that didn’t work :-/

  4. I think it’s a terrible idea to buy Alaska miles. Especially until I get mine and cash them in for several long haul international FC tickets. I will let everyone know when I finish the process so that it can become a good idea once again.

  5. You know you can buy Alaska miles for .02 each at ANY time simply when buying one of their tickets. It is offered ALL the time.

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