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Reader Robert emailed me to ask when Alaska will likely next offer a bonus on the purchase of miles. As y’all know, I’m a big fan of Alaska’s Mileage Plan program, given that they have unique airline partners and allow stopovers on one-way awards. They’re especially useful for award travel on Emirates, as Alaska is the only US airline which has a reciprocal frequent flyer agreement with Emirates. And I do love Emirates first class…
As I’ve explained before, Alaska Mileage Plan typically offers bonuses on purchased miles four times per year, and they vary from 35-40%. With these bonuses, the cost per purchased mile varies from ~2.11 to ~2.19 cents per mile.
Most recently, Alaska offered a 40% bonus on purchased miles through early April, bringing the cost per purchased mile down to ~2.11 cents each.
Chances are it will be another month or two before Alaska offers another bonus on purchased miles. And when they do, chances are it will be a 35% bonus next time (based on them alternating between 35% and 40% bonuses), meaning the cost per purchased mile will be ~2.19 cents each.
Buy Alaska miles even cheaper right now
As I’ve explained before, there’s a way to purchase Alaska miles right now at a price that’s even lower than what you’d pay through either of Alaska’s promotion.
Through May 31, 2015, Starwood is offering up to a 25% discount on the purchase of Starpoints.
Starwood ordinarily charges 3.5 cents per purchased Starpoint. So if you max out this promotion you can purchase 20,000 Starpoints for $525, which is 2.625 cents per Starpoint.
Keep in mind that one of the best uses of Starpoints is for airline transfers, and you receive a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points you transfer.
If you buy 20,000 Starpoints for $525, you could convert those into 25,000 airline miles. That’s a rate of 2.1 cents per mile. That’s a (marginally) lower rate than what Alaska sells them for directly during a promotion.
Getting around the 20,000 point annual limit
The catch is that you can only purchase 20,000 Starpoints per account per calendar year. But there’s an easy way to get around that by making a household points transfer. Starwood allows members registered at the same address to transfer Starpoints between accounts. This means if you have four people at your address with Starwood accounts, you can all purchase Starpoints through this promotion and you could then transfer the points to one account.
How long does the process take?
Household points transfers can technically take up to five business days, though usually happen more quickly than that. Then the Starpoints can convert into Alaska miles in as quickly as a few days.
While it’s not an instant process, you can potentially purchase Starpoints, consolidate them, and then transfer them to Alaska within a week or so. That’s almost certainly faster (and marginally cheaper) than waiting for the next Alaska promotion on purchased miles.
While not the most straightforward process in the world, this is the most immediate — and also most economical — way to purchase Alaska Mileage Plan miles. So if you need to get your hands on some Mileage Plan in the near future, I’d recommend purchasing Starpoints before the promotion expires on May 31, 2015.