My Mileage Conundrum: Credit To Alaska Or American?

I’m headed to Italy soon thanks to a cheap ~$1,100 roundtrip business class fare on British Airways. I’ll be flying from San Francisco to London to Rome, covering a roundtrip distance of 12,532 “butt in seat” miles.

map

With this flight coming up soon, I’m trying to decide where to credit my miles, and I’m sort of conflicted.

My first thought was to credit to American AAdvantage, where I’m an Executive Platinum member. However, Alaska Mileage Plan is also a British Airways partner, and I’m tempted to credit to them. However, while I used to be MVP Gold 75K with Alaska, I didn’t have any status with them last year, though am slowly working my way up the ranks again.

I get a lot of questions from readers asking what frequent flyer programs they’re best off crediting miles to. Therefore I figured I’d share my general thought process when deciding which program to credit to, using my upcoming trip as an example. As a starting point, I should note that my ticket is booked in the “I” fare class, which is a discounted business class ticket.

Crediting British Airways flights to American AAdvantage

American awards the following number of miles for travel on British Airways:

American-British-Airways

My “year to date” summary on American looks as follows:

American-Mileage-Credit

With American AAdvantage I’d earn:

  • 150% elite qualifying miles
  • 125% “base” redeemable miles (100% plus the 25% bonus for being in business class)
  • 120% bonus elite redeemable miles (that’s what Executive Platinum members earn)

So altogether I’d earn 150% elite qualifying miles and 245% redeemable miles, for a total of 18,798 elite qualifying miles, and a total of 30,703 redeemable miles.

Other considerations are that I already requalified for Executive Platinum status, so the only upside other than the miles would be that it might get me closer to 150,000 elite qualifying miles, which would earn me an extra two systemwide upgrades.

Crediting British Airways flights to Alaska Mileage Plan

Alaska awards the following number of miles for travel on British Airways:

Alaska-British-Airways

My “year to date” summary on Alaska looks as follows:

Alaska-Mileage-Credit

I’ve basically only earned miles with them so far for my recent Delta first class ticket, as well as my Hainan business class ticket earlier in the year.

With Alaska Mileage Plan I’d earn:

  • 150% elite qualifying miles
  • 150% “base” redeemable miles (100% plus the 50% bonus for being in business class)
  • 50% bonus elite redeemable miles (since I’m only an MVP member)

So altogether I’d earn 150% elite qualifying miles and 200% redeemable miles, for a total of 18,798 elite qualifying miles, and a total of 25,064 redeemable miles. However, this trip alone would also earn me MVP Gold status, and going forward I’d receive a 100% bonus on flown miles.

Bottom line

Sometimes there’s just not a right or wrong answer in terms of which program to credit to, especially given the speed at which programs change. In the past I might have said “well, I should credit to Alaska since their program is better all around,” but with frequent flyer programs changing so fast, I’ve stopped planning long term.

I value 25,000 Alaska miles roughly as much as 30,000 American miles, so the difference comes down to whether I’d rather have:

  • Two more systemwide upgrades, since crediting these flights to American would get me much closer to that requirement
  • MVP Gold status with Alaska, which will earn me free award ticket redeposits, a 100% mileage bonus going forward, and a good shot at upgrades on Alaska (though I don’t fly them much nowadays)

I’m leaning towards Alaska here, but see merit to either option.

Would you credit to Alaska Mileage Plan or American AAdvantage in the above situation?

Comments

  1. I don’t understand the reasoning when you say “should credit to Alaska since their program is better all around, but with frequent flyer programs changing so fast, I’ve stopped planning long term”?

    If you’ve indeed stopped planning long-term, then you can only make your decision based on the current values, in which case you should of course credit to Alaska.

  2. C’mon Lucky. Make a decision.
    We’re also going on BA to Rome thanks to the heads up we got from you. Now you need to finish the job and tell us where to put those points. 😉

  3. I’m sometimes ExecPlat but also Platinum-for-Life with American so I credit Alaska to keep MVP Gold as well – unless I’m traveling on American hoping to get an upgrade. The best feature of Alaska is that elites can get refunds if they have to cancel a flight – unheard of elsewhere. That’s worth its weight in Gold.

  4. On a (seemingly) unrelated note Lucky, WHY ARE YOU FLYING KOREAN AIR OUT OF YVR WHEN THEY ALSO FLY TO OTHER DESTINATIONS IN NORTH AMERICA ON THE 747-8 WHICH CAN EARN YOU MORE MILES WHICH YOU CAN CREDIT TO ALASKA.

  5. @Lucky: where was that great business class fare on BA published? I have signed up for deals etc on BA’s website, but I never receive any communications about deals like that. Where do you learn about these low business class fares? Thanks.

  6. Check your flight number. A lot of those really cheap BA flights are not eligible for redemption on Alaska. I was burned by this on their last fare sale.

  7. Alaska for sure.

    That’s what I’m doing as I’ve already requalified for EXP.

    Don’t put too many eggs in one basket.

  8. Given that Alaska screwed the daylights out of us with the unannounced changes to Emirates rewards which left us with a one-way flight in the wrong direction (we were planning to add a second one-way for the return via a DXB stopover) and the necessary purchased points for the second J award I would suggest that you cannot trust Alaska as far as you can throw them. At least AAdvantage will give you a heads up so you can plan in advance.

    Go with AAdvantage. Perhaps Alaska will learn the error of their ways when enough people punish them for their totally unethical handling of the Emirates situation.

  9. I would say Alaska, though I am really pissed at them ever since they stopped allowing for redemptions on Aeromexico with no announcement or even acknowledgement of this change. When it first happened almost a year ago they kept telling me it would be back up in a few days and a few months ago they just completely removed the reward charts. That’s sucks and so does how they handled the Emirates devaluation.

  10. I’d say Alaska for the MVP Gold status – with their impending economy plus seating one would expect to have elite access to those…..

  11. Lucky, keep in mind that if you call AAdvantage customer service and tell them that you wanted your XXX american flight to be credited to Alaska, but for whatever reason it still went to american, you may be able to have that/those flights removed if you get a decent agent.

    I had some miscalculations earlier in the year and I went way over the EXP requirement while being really far under the Alaska MVPG requirement. So I called to ask to have the flight(s) removed. The (second) agent was very nice and understanding. She removed the extra flights and sent them over to Alaska to be credited. Sure enough, the miles were removed from my AA account immediately, and showed up in Alaska within 2 days

  12. I am not understanding the math here…. What 120% are you talking about? It is 11rdm/dollar in airfare when crediting to AA. Why the hell would they give 125% and then 120% on top? By that logic, they are crediting you miles twice!

    To my understanding there is only 125% RDM; Not 245%.

  13. For me I would credit to AS, but then I don’t have status with AA, and I can credit future DL flights to AS as well.

  14. My wife is doing exact same trip end of October. Its a no brainer – Alaska. Getting her closer to the 75K elite with the extra bonus 50K which Lucky doesn’t mention.

    And to the comment about Alaska screwing us on EMirates. Yup I was hacked off a lot as that why I accrued Alaska miles along with the BA shuttle, Seattle to London. However, we are making the assumption that it was Alaska doing it instead of Emirates. Maybe it was Emirates suddenly redoing their partnership which maybe had become too much uneven in terms of mileage reciprocity.

  15. @rick now with the 11m per $, that’s a 120% bonus over the 5m per $. AA gives the same bonus for certain partners when marketed and sold by them.

    On most flights marketed by partner airlines, you’ll earn award miles based on a percentage of the flight distance and the fare class of your ticket. Elite status members will receive additional bonus miles applied to the base award miles earned on eligible partner airlines – 40% bonus for Gold members, 60% bonus for Platinum members and 120% bonus for Executive Platinum members.

  16. American sucks. Alaska for sure . Systemwides are losing so much value anyway. American could go to shit even more next year. I’d want some backup status for sure if I were you

  17. I would go Alaska, as American is still diving in the direction of Delta.

    Also if you credit to Alaska I believe you would earn 4 Alaska upgrade certificates as a MVP Gold. This will also give you many more options for the next year of earning 100% Gold bonus miles on Alaska and its wide variety of partners.

  18. If you’re not currently elite on Alaska, are you able to select your business class seat in advance on British Airways without paying for it? I thought only elites get to pick their seats for free.

  19. If it is a matter of getting those extra 2 SWUs or not, then those are going to offer more value – credit to A*. I’d it werent for that, and your situation were the same for the rest (exp, etc.), then I’d say AK.

  20. I’m betting that Alaska will devalue before AA (because AA has been on a devalue binge). Unfortunately, because of the Emirates fiasco I have a bucketful of Alaska miles and just used up all my AA miles to book Qatar back home rather than the EK flight I had saved for.

    So – huge Alaska devaluation within a year is my prediction. Especially now that they are merging Virgin into the fold.

  21. I will fly to Sydnia Aus from IAD. First Class, Feb 2018. I have 380,000 miles on UAL. I’ve earned most of the miles through CC purchases. What do you suggest/

  22. Before the end of the respective earning cycles, do you have pending or planned flites that you can or must credit to either of those airlines? Once this information has been accounted for, should become clear(er) what airline to credit.

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