Alaska Limiting Mileage Plan Sale For Foreigners?

Through March 15, Alaska is offering up to a 40% bonus on the purchase of Mileage Plan miles. Through this promotion you can purchase up to 40,000 miles in one transaction, though there’s no limit to the number of transactions you can make per Mileage Plan account. If you purchase miles in the correct increments you end up being able to purchase miles for ~2.11 cents each.

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While that might not sound amazing, Mileage Plan miles are one of the most valuable mileage currencies out there, given that they allow stopovers on one-way awards, and have very lucrative partnerships with Cathay Pacific and Emirates.

Now, not surprisingly a lot of foreigners take advantage of this promotion as a cheap way of generating miles. After all, they don’t have the massive credit card sign-up bonuses that we do here in the US.

My friends at Australian Frequent Flyer even have a forum dedicated to cheap international airfare, much of which revolves around purchasing miles during promotions.

They’ve been reporting that as of March 1, the purchase of Mileage Plan miles seems to be rejected for those using non-US/Canadian/Mexican credit cards.

Now, I think a loyalty program has a right to limit promotions to whomever they’d like, but what’s unfortunate about this is that it isn’t stated anywhere in the terms & conditions. Instead those with foreign credit cards are able to complete the purchase, and then the following day receive emails informing them that their purchase was rejected.

In that thread, davetonio reports having the following conversation with an Alaska agent:

Spoke to a ‘senior analyst’ after getting transferred from customer support – he advised that due to ‘fraud’ only US, Canada & Mexico cc holders same as wonky1’s convo. However after further discussion he also said that many people ‘internationally’ were using the program not how it was intended (as a loyalty program for frequent AS flyers) and AS wanted to stop this. He also mentioned that many ‘points brokers’ were abusing the system getting cheap partner travel instead of purchasing tickets.

Like, I said, Alaska has every right to restrict the promotion however they’d like, though I’d hardly call a mileage sale a reward for loyalty.

Perhaps on average non-US members were making faster and more costly redemptions than US-based members, given that they’re probably usually purchasing miles with a specific use in mind and aren’t looking to hoard them.

I really don’t like the restriction, but if they’re going to have it I hope they’ll at least be proactive instead of reactive about enforcing it.


  1. Lucky – do you think there is a way around this, maybe, using an award booking service or something?

  2. @ Silver — Aside from finding someone with a US credit card, not really a way around it. Since limits the number of transactions you can do per card, I wouldn’t count on an award booking service being able to help necessarily.

  3. Lucky – what if I use more than one award booking service, do you think that would help?

  4. Set your billing address to an American one and use a VPN service to hide your IP address.

  5. Sometimes there are ways around these unannounced limitations-by-country. For instance, Miles and More doesn’t show their “Mileage Bargains” or the Economist offer with some foreign IPs (e.g. Mexico), but you can still see them if you access the site through a VPN.

    Perhaps getting a Prepaid Travel Card? There are services to get Chip and Pin cards as an American going to Europe – is the inverse true?

  6. I just flew JFK-DXB-BKK on Emirates in First using 100,000 Alaska Miles and a $100 booking fee. Basically you can purchase those miles for $2110 and add the $100 fee for $2210. Way cheaper than buying it directly from Emirates.

    The Alaska program is too good to be true at the moment and, I suspect, restrictions are going to get worse over time.

  7. Bummer. Seems like a devaluation is inevitable. Between having a good search engine, a nice array of partners, and allowing one-way awards, AA redemptions sound like they are no longer desirable for the company.

  8. Is this available to new accounts? Or do accounts have to be opened before a certain date in order to be eligible?

  9. Am I the only one who thinks they are doing this exactly because they don’t want to devalue? Kudos to Alaska.

  10. Finally some restrictions. I want AS to instill an annual cap on purchasing miles. 100K per year or something like that.

  11. Due to “fraud” US cards should not be easily accepted everywhere and online, instead of the more secure Internatioanl cards, with PIN and other security systems. Stupidity is always on top!

    P.S. Just ask Delta why the will give il 2015 more miles to the customers with Delta credit cards but outside US there are few or zero Delta credit cards available!

  12. My conversation with both AS and, had nothing to do with fraud, it was a policy change.

    As said, very poor business practice of not showing this restriction on their web site and still don’t.

    Possibly it was brought about due to many award seats being taken by non residents from low inventory would be my guess.

  13. Ben it does work for foreigners again, it just worked for me 🙂 I payed with Paypal, switched my address to an American one (not sure if that made a difference, I heard on a German Forum that it works again for everyone)

    Will enjoy 22hrs (Fra-DXB-DFW) of first class madness now 🙂

    Beyond excited, cant wait 🙂

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