Complete Guide to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan airline loyalty program has long been a favorite among points and miles enthusiasts. It still reigns as my favorite U.S. airline program. Mileage Plan is unique in several ways. The program offers an earning structure that still rewards travelers based on the number of miles flown, an attractive award chart, and a solid elite program. There is much to love about Mileage Plan and little to dislike.
We cover Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan soup to nuts in this complete guide, detailing how to earn miles, how to best redeem miles, and how to get the most out of their MVP elite program.
- Earn redeemable miles based on miles flown
- Attractive award chart with many “sweet spot” redemption options
- Redeemable miles are generally provide high value
- Member of the Oneworld alliance, plus additional unique partners
- Lower elite status requirements than other U.S. airline programs
- No spend requirement for elite status
- Co-branded credit card issued by Bank of America
- Ability to add stopovers on one-way award tickets
- Routes limited to from/to the U.S. West Coast, predominantly the Pacific Northwest
- Not a transfer partner of any major bank rewards currency
- Frustrating award search when searching for premium cabin awards
How to Join Mileage Plan
It’s free to join Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, so even if you don’t plan on flying with Alaska much, or anytime soon, it doesn’t hurt to open a frequent flyer account. To join Mileage Plan, head to alaskaair.com and click ‘Sign up’ in the upper right corner of the screen. From here, you’ll need to enter your personal information, including your full name, birthday, phone number, email, and mailing address.
You can sign your kids up online as well, as long as they are at least 13 years of age. Otherwise, you’ll need to call Alaska customer care at (800-654-5669) to enroll your kids. I enrolled all three of my kids in Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan during the same call. It was straightforward and painless. Alaska phone agents tend to be some of the most competent I’ve dealt with.
How to Earn Alaska Airlines Miles
You can earn Alaska Airlines miles in several ways. The most straightforward way is to fly with Alaska Airlines or one of its partners. Other ways to earn Alaska miles include using their co-branded credit cards, via hotel stays, dining out, and online shopping. You can even buy miles if you need a few more to top off your account for a particular award.
Fly with Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines is unique among U.S. airline loyalty programs in that they still award miles based on the number of miles flown. Most other carriers now award miles based on how much you spend. This is why I previously said Alaska airlines elite status is the easiest to earn. Here are some sample miles accrual rates for Alaska routes:
|Seattle (SEA)||Orlando (MCO)||2,549|
|San Francisco (SFO)||Boston (BOS)||2,697|
|Portland (PDX)||San Diego (SAN)||933|
|Anchorage (ANC)||Seattle (SEA)||1,444|
|Los Angeles (LAX)||Austin (AUS)||1,238|
|Boise (BOI)||Sacramento (SMF)||500*|
*Note that the Boise-Sacramento route is only 437 flown miles. However, Alaska awards a minimum of 500 redeemable miles per segment. That means that any flight of less than 500 miles, including super short SEA-PDX, will yield 500 miles.
Mileage Plan elite members will enjoy a bonus on the number of miles awarded (covered later in the elite status section). Even Alaska basic economy tickets earn 100% flown miles as redeemable miles. This fact alone makes Alaska an excellent choice for cheap transcontinental trips. If you purchase a $199 round-trip between San Francisco and New York, you’ll earn approximately 5,000 redeemable miles as a general member. This is enough for a non-stop one-way ticket between San Francisco and San Diego!
I flew a couple SFO-BOS round-trips as an MVP Gold 75K elite. With the 125% elite bonus, each ticket earned over 12,000 Alaska miles and cost less than $200. No other program comes close to this earning rate.
Fly with Alaska’s Oneworld and Non-Alliance partners
As with Alaska’s own flights, you’ll be awarded miles based on the distance flown when you fly with Alaska Airlines’ partner airlines and credit your miles to Mileage Plan. The number of miles earned depends on the fare class and flight number. Here is an example earning table for British Airways, a Oneworld partner.
It’s pretty typical for Alaska to award lots of bonus miles (and bonus elite miles) for business or first class fares while slashing the number of miles earned for discount economy. Note that you’ll only earn 25% of flown miles with British Airways when flying discounted economy tickets. This is important to keep in mind, as Alaska awards 100% flown miles on their own flights — even for Saver fares.
I always recommend checking out Where to Credit if you are trying to find the best program for crediting flight miles. There are also some pitfalls to avoid when crediting Alaska partner flights to Mileage Plan. The main one is to check the fine print of each partner. Not all flight numbers are eligible for mileage accrual.
Spend on an Alaska Co-branded Credit Card
Alaska Airlines has two co-branded credit cards, both issued by Bank of America: the personal Alaska Airlines Visa and the Alaska Airlines Business Card.
The benefits of the two cards are generally the same, and these include:
- First checked bag free for you and up to 6 companions
- Annual companion certificate
- Earn 3x Alaska miles on Alaska Airlines purchases
- Earn 1x Alaska miles on all other purchases
- 20% off Alaska inflight purchases
- No foreign transaction fees
The current welcome offer for the Alaska Airlines Visa is for 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the 90 days of card membership. These miles are worth approximately $1,200, based on our value of Alaska miles. You’ll also earn a companion certificate, which you can use to book a companion on any Alaska Airlines-operated round-trip ticket for $99 plus taxes and fees. The card provides an additional companion certificate every account anniversary. The card’s annual fee is $75.
We’ve seen the personal card offer as high as 65,000 bonus miles in the past (and even up to 67,000 onboard Alaska flights). No guarantees that this comes back. An offer for 40,000 bonus miles has been the standard public offer from Bank of America.
The current limited-time welcome offer on the Alaska Airlines Business Card is for 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 within the first 90 days of card membership. You’ll also earn a companion certificate exactly like that offered by the personal card. The business card’s annual fee is only $50.
If you fly even a handful of times per year, the checked bag benefit alone can make the Alaska Airlines Visa a compelling choice — not to mention the annual companion certificate.
Transfer from Other Loyalty Programs
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, depending on how you look at it), Alaska Airlines does not partner with any of the major bank programs. You cannot transfer any of the major currencies (e.g. Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, etc.) to Alaska Airlines miles.
However, you can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Alaska Airlines miles, which is a roundabout way of transferring bank points (although the ratio is poor). Bonvoy points convert to Alaska miles at a 3:1 ratio. However, if you transfer in batches of 60,000 Bonvoy points, you’ll be awarded an extra 5,000 miles, turning the overall transfer of 60,000 Bonvoy points into 25,000 Alaska miles. Given that we value Bonvoy points at around 0.8 cents each and Alaska miles at over 2 cents each, this is a reasonable transfer rate.
However, I do not suggest redeeming 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards (transferred to Marriott Bonvoy) for 25,000 Alaska miles. If Amex ever runs a 100% bonus on transfer to Marriott, I’d jump and transfer to Alaska Airlines.
Other ways to earn miles
There are a number of other ways to earn Alaska Airlines miles, but we’re not going to cover them in as much detail. You can earn miles in the following ways:
- Mileage Plan Shopping – Earn miles at over 850 merchants by shopping through the Alaska Mileage Plan shopping portal (link). There are often holiday bonuses if you meet certain spend thresholds.
- Mileage Plan Dining Program – Earn miles by dining out at participating restaurants (link).
- Car Rental – Book through Alaska Airlines Car Rental or with one of their partner rental car companies and earn at least 50 miles per day (link).
- Hotel Stays – Book through Alaska Airlines Hotels, or with other chain hotels and provide your Mileage Plan number to earn Alaska miles on your stays (link).
Buying and Transferring Miles
We typically do not recommend buying airline miles. That’s because the price typically is higher than the value you get. However, Alaska can be an exception at times. Given the difficulty in accruing miles (i.e., you can’t transfer common bank currencies to Alaska miles), it sometimes might be necessary to top off your account for an award. For some of the excellent premium cabin awards, this can be entirely worth it.
Alaska typically sells miles for 2.75 cents each ($27.50 per 1,000 miles), plus a tax recovery fee. You’ll need to head here, log into your Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan account, and then select the miles you want to buy. The best time to buy is when Alaska is running a promotion where they give you a 40-50% bonus on your purchase.
Alaska also lets you transfer miles to others for $10 per 1,000. I’d only do this if I need a couple thousand and there is no promotion running to buy miles at a good price.
How to Redeem Alaska Miles
Now that we’ve covered all the ways to earn Alaska miles, it’s time to turn our attention to how to get the most out of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. Here at Miles to Memories, we certainly believe that redeeming your miles for flights is the absolute best way to use them. I’ll cover redeeming Alaska miles in other ways, as this is a complete guide. But I’ll make the case for why redeeming for things other than travel is foolish.
Value of Alaska Airlines Miles
We value Alaska Airlines miles at around 2¢ each. This takes into account their range of value for both domestic economy awards and partner premium cabin awards. Due to Alaska’s unique award charts (which are specific to each partner), you’ll find that you can receive a wide range of values for your miles. We’ve tried to boil things down to an average, but it cannot be overstated that you’ll get far better value out of a Cathay Pacific first class redemption than a domestic coast-to-coast hop on Alaska Airlines.
Flight Award Redemption with Alaska
One of the best ways to redeem Alaska miles is for flights on Alaska Airlines. Alaska uses a distance-based award chart for their own flights. Awards start at just 5,000 Mileage Plan miles for the cheapest awards. Here is the Alaska award chart.
|Flight Options (distance)||Economy (miles, one way)||First class (miles, one way)|
|Hop - Less than 700 miles||5,000-30,000||15,000-40,000|
|Skip - Between 701 and 1,400||7,500-30,000||25,000-60,000|
|Jump - Between 1,401 and 2,100||10,000-40,000||25,000-60,000|
|Leap - Over 2,100 miles||12,500-50,000||30,000-70,000|
|Flights to Mexico - Less than 1,400||10,000-35,500||30,000-50,000|
|Flights to Mexico - Between 1,401 and 2,100||15,000-40,000||30,000-60,000|
|Flights to Mexico - Over 2,100||17,500-50,000||30,000-70,000|
|Flights to Hawaii||15,000-50,000||40,000-80,000|
|Flights to Central America||17,500-50,000||30,000-70,000|
The lowest price is the “saver” award rate. Prices can go up substantially, even for short hops, so the system is a pseudo-dynamic model mixed with the distance-based chart. You can end up paying through the nose for really short flights if you’re flying on peak days. Consider this example.
Cash tickets are available for $249/$399 one-way flights in economy/first. In either case, you’re not getting that great of a redemption and spending a ton of miles. But this is typical of holiday travel. If you change the dates to the first week of January 2022, award prices drop to just 5,000 miles one way. This is the lowest pricing level for a flight of less than 700 miles.
Don’t use the Miles & Money option for redeeming Alaska miles. You’ll get 1 cent per mile or less. Booking an award ticket is nearly always better.
Partner Award Redemption
Redeeming miles on Alaska partners can provide some of the best value I’ve seen in the miles and points world. Alaska has unique award charts for each of their partner airlines. You’ll have to consult their website for the full charts, since it would be rather complicated to cover them all here. We highlight some sweet spots further down. Here are the Alaska Mileage Plan partner airlines.
Alaska Oneworld Partners
- American Airlines
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- Fiji Airways
- Japan Airlines
- Malaysian Airlines
- Royal Air Maroc
- Royal Jordanian
- S7 Airlines
- SriLankan Airlines
Other Alaska Partners
- Aer Lingus
- El Al
- Hainan Airlines
- Korean Airlines
- Ravn Alaska
- Singapore Airlines
Miles can be redeemed for tickets in any cabin on most of their partners (with a few exceptions, such as Singapore first class).
Most airline partners can be booked online on alaskaair.com. The two airlines that must be booked over the phone are Cathay Pacific and LATAM. I’ve been successful in getting the phone booking fee waived when booking these awards over the phone, since the agents understand that you must call.
Alaska is still in the process of integrating all their Oneworld partners into the system, so not all are bookable yet. The plan is for all Alaska partners to be integrated during 2022.
Alaska Mileage Plan “Sweet Spot” Redemption Options
There are a good number of Alaska Mileage Plan “sweet spot” redemption options. Here is a good selection pulled from their award charts:
|Carrier||Cabin||Origin Zone||Destination Zone||Cost (miles)|
|Cathay Pacific||Business||U.S. / Canada||Asia||50,000|
|First||U.S. / Canada||Asia||60,000|
|Business||U.S. / Canada||Australia / New Zealand||60,000|
|First||U.S. / Canada||Australia / New Zealand||80,000|
|Business||U.S. / Canada||Africa / Middle East / India||62,500|
|First||U.S. / Canada||Africa / Middle East / India||70,000|
|Japan Airlines (JAL)||Business||U.S. / Canada||Japan||60,000+|
|First||U.S. / Canada||Japan||70,000+|
|Hainan Airlines||Busienss||U.S. / Canada||Asia||50,000|
|American Airlines||Business||U.S. / Canada||Europe||57,500|
|First||U.S. / Canada||Asia Zone 1||80,000|
|Qantas||Business||U.S. / Canada||Australia / New Zealand||55,000|
|First||U.S. / Canada||Australia / New Zealand||70,000|
|Fiji Airways||Business||U.S. / Canada||Australia / New Zealand / South Pacific||55,000|
|British Airways||First||U.S. / Canada||Europe||70,000|
Booking Alaska Mileage Plan Awards
The easiest way to book a Mileage Plan award flight on Alaska or one of their partners is through the alaskaair.com website. You can easily search and book flights on nearly all their partners online. Key in your origin, destination, and travel date(s), plus whether you are booking an award or cash flight. You’ll be presented with options in all available cabins on all available partners for your travel dates.
This is where I’ll lodge my biggest complaint with Alaska Airlines. Their award search shows numerous “false positives” for their premium cabin flights. For example, you might see an award from San Francisco to London via Los Angeles in American Airlines first class. However, a closer look shows that only the SFO-LAX segment is in first class. You’d be paying business class rates for this trip, even though you’re not getting it on the long-haul leg!
For this reason, I always start my search for Alaska partner premium cabin awards by looking for space on the nonstop (aka longer) flight I’m interested in. If that shows as available, I try to add in the rest of the itinerary.
Once you’ve found desirable flights, it’s very easy to complete your booking online.
One unique feature of Alaska Mileage Plan is the fact that you can build stopovers into one-way award flights. I love this option. You are limited to Alaska Airlines hub cities and hub cities of their partner airlines, but this does still give you many stopover options. However, sometimes things that make sense don’t show up. And sometimes you can get the search engine to price out “lesser” cities, such as a flight from Los Angeles to Anchorage with a stopover in Juneau.
To book a stopover on a one-way award, you need to use the “All search options” feature and enable multi-city search.
Here is an example itinerary for a one-way ticket for the first part of the search above. Note the dates are shown just below “Choose departing flights” at the top. If you change the departure date of the first flight using the calendar, the departure date of the second changes accordingly.
You can book this one-way ticket with a free stopover in Seattle for just 12,500 Alaska miles. This ticket is currently available for $378 one-way (segments booked separately) in Google Flights. That’s a value of 2.9 cents per Alaska mile for an economy itinerary.
Currently, Alaska only lets you use one partner airline when you book an award. You can add on segments on Alaska Airlines, but you cannot mix partner airlines. For example, you cannot book a ticket that includes a flight to London on American Airlines and then add a British Airways segment to some other city.
The final routing rule is that Alaska does not have published award fares between all regions on all airlines. Some itineraries are impossible on certain partners, such as Europe to Asia on British Airways. Other region pairs are impossible, too, such as Europe to Australia on any airline. You have to use the award chart tool to find out what your options are if you’re looking for tickets that don’t have an origin or destination in the U.S. My hope is that the Oneworld integration changes some of this.
Award Booking Fees and Surcharges
Alaska Mileage Plan levies several fees for award travel. These include:
- Partner award booking fee – $12.50 each way, per award ($25 for a round-trip award)
- Call center service charge – $15 (free for MVP Gold 75K and MVP Gold 100K members)
You should also expect to pay taxes and surcharges when flying with some partners. Most notably, British Airways adds exorbitant surcharges when you book awards that include their long-haul flights. Other offenders are Hainan and Icelandair, which are still high, but a bit more reasonable. Fees with Cathay and JAL, two of the best partners, are very reasonable (less than $100).
Other Ways to Redeem Alaska Miles
Although we recommend redeeming miles for flights, you can redeem in other ways as well. Just realize that you won’t be getting the best value. Here are non-award flight options for redeeming Alaska miles:
- Book hotels – Use your Alaska miles for hotel stays (link).
- Book flights using Money & Miles – Get a 50% discount, up to $100 off, using 10,000 miles. Or get a 50% discount, up to $200 off, using 20,000 miles. But please don’t. Book normal award travel.
- First class upgrades – You can use your miles for an upgrade to Alaska First Class. Select “Mileage upgrade” when searching for flights. The value here is generally poor.
- Redeem for magazines – See (link).
- Share, gift or donate miles – See (link).
Alaska Airlines Elite Status
Alaska offers four levels of elite status in their loyalty program: MVP, MVP Gold, MVP Gold 75K, and MVP Gold 100K (starting in 2022). We’ll walk through how to qualify for Alaska elite status and the benefits that elite status provides.
How to Qualify for Elite Status
To qualify for Alaska Airlines elite status, you must fly either enough segments or enough miles plus a minimum number of Alaska Airlines segments. The following table lays out the 2022 requirements for all Alaska elite status tiers.
|Elite Tier||Option A - |
|Option B -
Miles + Minimum Alaska Segments
|MVP||30||20,000 + 2|
|MVP Gold||60||4,000 + 6|
|MVP Gold 75K||90||75,000 + 12|
|MVP Gold 100K||140||100,000 + 24|
Unlike most other U.S. carriers, Alaska does not have a spend requirement for elite status. This means that you can often earn Alaska status much more cheaply than with other carriers if you generally fly inexpensive, medium-haul flights. For example, you can qualify for Alaska MVP status on just 4 coast-to-coast round-trip tickets. This can often be done for less than $1,200.
Benefits of Elite Status
Alaska provides an excellent set of benefits for their elite members.
|Benefit||MVP||MVP Gold||MVP Gold 75K||MVP Gold 100K|
|Premium class upgrades at time of booking||For Y, B, or H fare classes||For Y, B, H, K, M, L, V, S, or N fare classes||All tickets besides Saver||All tickets besides Saver|
|Complimentary upgrades (first and premium)||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Complimentary companion upgrades (first and premium)||✓||✓||✓|
|Complimentary premium beverage in Main Cabin||✓||✓||✓ (plus snack)|
|Four first class upgrade certificates||✓ (upon qualifying)|
|Four Alaska lounge day passes||✓ (upon qualifying)|
|International upgrade certificate on American Airlines||✓||✓ (plus 1 more)|
|Free checked bags||2||2||3||3|
All Alaska MVP elites enjoy other perks not listed in the table above, such as a discount on Alaska lounge membership, priority check-in and boarding, preferred seating, and express seating at select airports. They also enjoy priority call center routing and elite leave for new parents. MVP Gold and higher elites enjoy being able to standby and waitlist for full flights and complimentary same-day flight changes.
Like many other U.S. airlines, Alaska offers a Million Miler status program. When you reach 1 million flight miles, you’ll be granted MVP Gold status for life. Only flight miles on Alaska Airlines count, unfortunately. There is also no way to earn MVP Gold 75K for life (which would be fantastic), as Alaska only offers the single Million Miler status level.
Status Matching Opportunities
Alaska Airlines is usually pretty generous when it comes to status match opportunities. This is how I first “earned” Alaska MVP Gold 75K status. After flying Delta for work consistently for a year and earning Platinum Medallion, I leveraged this to match to MVP Gold 75K.
Alaska makes it easy to know which status you can match to from another program, as they have a dedicated page for status matching. You can match from any U.S. airline program, plus Aeromexico and Air Canada. Other foreign airline programs are not eligible.
My Personal Take on the Alaska Mileage Plan Elite Program
If you’re based on the West Coast and often fly to destinations served by Alaska Airlines, it will be difficult to beat their elite program. As mentioned previously, it’s usually easier to qualify for elite status with them than with other carriers. If you fly longer distance tickets, you’ll also be awarded with plenty of redeemable miles.
Alaska MVP Gold is an excellent mid-tier status to have, unlike what is offered with the other major U.S. airlines. For one, you need 10,000 fewer miles to qualify. You also enjoy a significant boost to your award miles (100%), complimentary upgrades, four first class guest upgrades, and Oneworld Sapphire status. I’d take this over Delta Gold or American Platinum any day of the week.
General Airline and Program Information
Here is some additional general program information for Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan:
- Alaska Airlines phone number: 1 (800) 252-7522.
- Headquarters: Seattle, Washington
- Hub airports: Anchorage, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles
- Destinations served: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, western Canada, and select destinations in Mexico and Central America
- Fleet: Airbus A320 family and Boeing 737 jets. No widebody aircraft. Regional partners are Horizon Air and SkyWest, which operate regional jets and turboprops.
Here are some of Alaska Airlines’ most common fees and charges:
- Checked bag fees: $30 for first, $40 for second, $100 for additional (elites and credit card holders get a free checked bag allowance)
- Unaccompanied minor service fee: $50-75
- Same day confirmed change fee: $50 ($25 if wholly within California or in shuttle flight markets)
- Left on board item return fee: $20 (free for MVP Gold and higher elite)
Final Thoughts on Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
As it currently stands, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is an excellent frequent flyer program and my favorite U.S. airline program. Their miles are extremely valuable, and there are still a good number of sweet spot redemption options with their partners. I’m also not against burning 5,000 miles for a short domestic flight — especially if it can include a stopover on the one-way award! Their elite program is strong, as well. I don’t know of another U.S. airline program that so thoroughly covers the bases. Alaska is strong all around. The only major complaint might be that you cannot transfer bank points to Alaska miles.
I have been worried that the integration into the Oneworld alliance will eventually spell negative changes, however. It could be that Alaska moves to a single Oneworld award chart, which will likely devalue some of their best awards. While it would be nice to be able to mix partners on award itineraries, but I prefer the program in its current form. It isn’t broken, so don’t fix it. Mileage Plan is amazing just the way it is.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Is Alaska Mileage Plan free to join?
Yes, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is free to join. Head to alaskaair.com to sign up and save your Mileage Plan number where you can access it later.
Does Alaska Airlines have a credit card?
Yes, Alaska offers two co-branded credit cards: one personal card and one business card. Both are Visa cards, and both are issued by Bank of America.
How do I earn Alaska Airlines elite status?
You can earn Alaska elite status by flying with Alaska Airlines or any of their partner airlines and crediting your flights to Mileage Plan. Alaska Airlines elite status requirements are discussed above.
Is Alaska Airlines part of Oneworld?
Yes, Alaska Airlines joined the Oneworld alliance on March 31, 2021. They became the 14th member airline.
Is Alaska Mileage Plan worth it?
The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan loyalty program is well worth participating in for many travelers. The program’s miles are valuable and their elite status program is strong.