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How much are your points really worth? It’s an important question to answer to help you gauge which airline credit cards can get you the most bang for your buck. We’ll continue our miles & points value series with a post about Alaska Airlines miles value, my very favorite airline mileage currency.
It goes without saying that all of us want to get the most bang for our bucks (or miles). That’s why it’s important to strategize how to redeem Alaska Airlines miles—and what they might be worth—before setting out to earn them.
In my experience, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles are worth somewhere between one cent and eight cents per mile on average—depending on how you choose to redeem them.
You can earn Alaska Airlines miles relatively quickly with cards like the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card or the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business credit card. Or, you can top up your Alaska Airlines miles account balance by transferring Marriott Bonvoy points. (For more information on transferring Marriott Bonvoy points to Alaska Airlines miles and other partners, check out our post on transferring Marriott Bonvoy points).
Alaska Airlines miles value for award flights on Alaska Airlines
Simply put, you can get between one cent per mile and three cents per mile when redeeming your miles for domestic award flights on Alaska Airlines (or its partner American Airlines). Alaska Airlines has great award flight options along the west coast of the United States, with several flights priced as low as 5,000 miles plus $5.60 one-way in coach. But these flights often sell for just $50-75, so the value might appear more enticing than it actually is.
On the other hand, you can also redeem just 25,000 Alaska Airlines miles for nonstop first-class flights from coast to coast–which often retail for more than $500-800. This gives you an average value of two or three cents per mile. An impressive way to use Alaska Airlines miles.
The reality is that domestic award flights provide the most consistent value for your Alaska Airlines miles, somewhere in the range of 1.25 cents per mile to 2.5 cents per mile. That’s a respectable and solid value for your miles–and an award option I utilize frequently for flights where Alaska Airlines or American Airlines have the best schedule.
Redeeming Alaska Airlines miles for award flights on partner airlines
Alaska Airlines publishes a different award chart for each partner airline. This means if you want to fly to Asia with Alaska airlines miles, you’ll pay a different number of miles if you plan to fly with American Airlines, Japan Airlines, or Cathay Pacific.
Because of these “variable” award charts, it’s even more important to compare different options when choosing how to redeem your Alaska Airlines miles. It also means you might get significantly more value out of your miles when redeeming on one airline than another—even if traveling to the same exact destination.
For example, a one-way award flight to Asia costs you just 50,000 Alaska Airlines miles in business class on Cathay Pacific. That same flight could sell for ~$4,136, meaning you’d get ~8.2 cents per mile.
But on the other hand, redeeming miles for an American Airlines flight to the same destination (Hong Kong) would cost you 70,000 miles, giving you a lower value of 5.9 cents per mile, because the flights cost the same amount. Thus, the value of your miles can vary—but you will consistently get phenomenal “cents per mile” values when redeeming for international first and business-class flights.
Alaska Airlines is also working on expanding the number of airlines it partners with and you can now use Alaska miles to book flights on Aer Lingus. You can book economy awards starting at 30,000 miles, but these partner awards are subject to a bit of dynamic pricing and can go all the way up to 80,000 miles one-way!
Redeeming Alaska Airlines miles for free hotels, airfare discounts, or first-class upgrades
To arrive at our estimate of the value of Alaska Airlines miles, I thought it was important to consider both the stellar and underwhelming rewards available for using up your miles. So, I present three of the lesser values for redeeming your hard-earned miles. My advice—avoid these redemption options.
Redeem your Alaska Airlines miles for hotel bookings
Ouch—try to avoid using your valuable miles for overpriced hotel bookings. In a few searches, I found that using your miles for hotels will equate to about half a cent per mile in value. For example, I found a night when the W hotel in New York City costs either ~$560 per night, or over 100,000 Alaska Airlines miles (booked through the Alaska Airlines hotels page).
That’s a really poor value, and one that I recommend you avoid unless absolutely necessary.
Redeem your Alaska Airlines miles for airfare discounts on Alaska Airlines flights
Airfare discounts are fairly simple, and you can redeem Alaska Airlines miles for one cent per point off flight bookings. For example, you can redeem 10,000 miles or 20,000 miles for $100 or $200 off your flight booking, respectively.
This yields a value of one cent per mile—a respectable but not impressive redemption. But if you’re struggling to use your miles, this isn’t a terrible option.
Redeem your Alaska Airlines miles for first-class upgrades
If you find yourself wanting to upgrade an upcoming Alaska Airlines flight, you can redeem 15,000 Alaska Airlines miles to upgrade any Alaska airlines flight from coach to first class. Depending on the length of the flight and the fare (to upgrade), 15,000 miles can be a decent value.
For example, a $500 first-class flight that costs $250 with an upgradeable fare can be ‘bumped’ to first class with just 15,000 Alaska Airlines miles. If you would have otherwise paid the $250 fare difference, your Alaska Airlines miles are worth a value of ~1.67 cents per mile.
On the other hand, a short 400-mile flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco might only cost $100 more to book in first class. In this case, redeeming 15,000 miles would yield a value of only 0.67 cents per mile—a significantly less impressive redemption value.
How much does Alaska Airlines think its miles are worth?
Not directly related, but I figured it was worth mentioning that Alaska Airlines regularly sells Mileage Plan miles. The standard price to buy miles is $27.50 for 1,000 miles, at a cost of 2.75 cents per mile. I appreciate their brand confidence, but that’s a silly price to buy miles–unless you simply need a couple thousand more to reach a specific award threshold.
Additionally, Alaska Airlines offers frequent mileage sales that include bonus miles when purchasing large amounts of miles (we don’t normally mention these sales, since they’re not always a great deal. But they come around fairly frequently–often 3-6 times per year). In their latest mileage sale, you could buy points for as little as 1.97 cents per mile (if you were willing to max out the promotion and spend over $1,700!).
Based on this valuation from Alaska Airlines, I think we can safely conclude that Alaska Airlines miles are worth less than two cents per mile.
How should you use your miles?
It really comes down to how you want to spend your Alaska Airlines miles. Maybe you have been saving for a big family vacation to Hawaii, and you would rather get one cent per point for flight discounts on the date and nonstop flights of your choice. Awesome.
Or maybe you have the flexibility (and endless desire to maximize value) like some miles & points enthusiasts and want to save your miles for the creme de la creme Cathay Pacific first-class award flight to Asia (with a stopover in Hong Kong included, of course). Bravo!
Alaska Airlines miles are very valuable, and overall very flexible due to their many award travel partners. There’s no right way to make the most of your points. Nearly any travel you book using Alaska Airlines miles is going to save you money.
Based on the above findings (and literally hundreds more hours of personal travel planning), I find that Alaska Airlines miles are consistently worth ~1.5 cents per mile or more. For my own accounting, I value Alaska Airlines miles higher than any other airline mile due to their consistent award options and variety of travel partners. That makes the bonuses you can earn with the personal Alaska Airlines credit card and the Alaska Airlines business credit card especially valuable.
You might be able to get more or less value from your miles, but I find this is a good starting point. Do you have other ‘sweet-spot’ award travel redemptions where you’ve received significant value from your Alaska Airlines miles? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
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