Is the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Worth It?

Is this the right frequent flyer program for you?

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For a “budget” airline, Alaska has an impressive and robust selection of perks and benefits for members of the Mileage Plan. It’s free to join, and you don’t need to reach a spending minimum to gain access to your benefits. You can cash in your rewards starting at 5,000 miles, and you reach Elite status at 20,000 miles.

Most comparable plans, such as Southwest and JetBlue, count the total number of flights or dollars spent on a rewards card. But Alaska rewards you for flying long and far. Just think — one or two international round trip journeys automatically catapult you to the highest reward level.

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Mileage Plan Benefits

  • Fly a mile, earn a mile. This works for any level of fare. You also earn when you shop, eat, rent a car, stay in a hotel or fly with Alaska partners during your travels. 
  • Combine with an Alaska Airlines credit card to use fewer miles. While all Mileage Plan members can use their miles to book hotels, you save even more if you are a member of the Alaska Airlines card program.
  • Upgrade your seat. You have the option to use your miles or pay for an upgrade at check-in. The upgrade costs 15,000 miles or between $29 and $199, depending on the distance of your flight. You can upgrade within 24 hours of your flight’s departure.
  • Share and gift miles, or donate them to charity. Share your miles with your friends and family for $10 per 1,000 miles. Or donate them to a number of nonprofits, including the Make-A-Wish foundation and disaster relief organizations.
  • Enhance your airport experience. Some international award tickets let you include a free stopover. You can also use your miles to get a free magazine to pass the time.
  • Get a discounted pet sitter from Rover. First-time users get a $30 credit and three miles per dollar on your initial qualifying booking, with each additional reservation earning one mile per dollar.
Credit: Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines Business Partners

Looking to pick up some more points but not planning on flying any time soon? Here’s a list of businesses where you can get points when you provide your Mileage Plan number at the time of purchase.

Hotels

  • Best Western
  • Choice Hotels
  • Coast Hotels
  • InterContinental Hotels Group
  • Marriott Bonvoy
  • Rocketmiles
  • Westmark Hotels

Car Rentals

  • Alamo
  • Avis
  • Budget Dollar
  • Hertz
  • National
  • Thrifty

Everyday Partners

  • 1-800-Flowers.com
  • Carrs-Safeway
  • Diners Club International
  • GCI
  • The Opinion Terminal
  • Rover
  • SoFi
  • Teleflora
  • Vinesse Wine Clubs
Credit: Alaska Airlines

Benefits of Alaska Airlines Elite Tiers

Alaska offers a tiered Elite system, ranging from MVP to Million Miler.

1. MVP 

MVP starts at 20,000 miles/30 segments, or 25,000 miles if combined with elite-qualifying partners. You earn a 50% bonus on base miles and both First and Premium Class upgrades on specific fare types. You’ll also receive priority check-in and boarding, two free checked bags, preferred seating and $50 off a membership to the Alaska Lounge. Additional benefits include dedicated phone lines for reservations and Elite Leave for new parents.

2. MVP Gold 

MVP Gold starts at 40,000 miles/60 segments, or 50,000 miles if combined with elite-qualifying partners.  You earn a 100% bonus on base miles and both First and Premium Class upgrades for yourself and a companion on specific fare types. You receive priority check-in and boarding, two free checked bags, preferred seating and $100 off a membership to the Alaska Lounge. You’ll also receive four one-way First Class guest upgrades.

Additional benefits include dedicated phone lines for reservations and Elite Leave for new parents, complimentary same-day flight changes and waived ticket change fees, standby and waitlist for full flights and an express security line at select airports.

3. MVP Gold 75K 

MVP Gold starts at 75,000 miles/90 segments, or 90,000 miles if combined with elite-qualifying partners.  You earn a 125% bonus on base miles with an additional 50,000 miles. There’s also First and Premium Class upgrades for yourself and a companion on all fares except for Saver. Additionally, you’ll receive priority check-in and boarding, two free checked bags, preferred seating and 50% off a membership to the Alaska Lounge. You can also receive four one-way First Class guest upgrades, a complimentary premium beverage and a free inflight entertainment player.

Additional benefits include dedicated phone lines for reservations and Elite Leave for new parents, complimentary same-day flight changes and waived ticket change fees, the ability to nominate someone for MVP status, standby and waitlist for full flights, an express security line at select airports and four Alaska Lounge day passes.

4. Million Miler

Once you hit your millionth mile, you become an MVP Gold member for life.

Is the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Right for You?

Some potential drawbacks to consider: Rewards members are still affected by blackout dates, no matter your level. Your account and miles expire if you don’t use them for two years. Alaska favors the west coast and major transit hubs on the East Coast, so your own location might factor in here. If there is no Alaska carrier (or partner airlines like American and British Airways) at your home airport, it’s probably not worth it.

Ultimately, it depends on your priorities and needs. This is not the fanciest airline, so those looking for particularly upscale benefits like fine dining and massive cash bonuses should probably look elsewhere.

That said, at about 1.8 cents a point, the miles are competitive in value, so you will definitely save by joining the program. It is easier and cheaper to gain elite status using Alaska than most other airlines, so those who find the high minimums of other airlines daunting would do well to try this one out.


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Oliver Pretl-Drummond

Oliver Pretl-Drummond is a writer and Scorpio living in Baltimore, Maryland. They are weak for hot deals on niche kitchen appliances and they're forever on the hunt for cheap travel and lodging. When they're not surfing for bargains, you can find them writing about little-known historical narratives and the occult for Ranker. They are always down to talk about Baltimore history, printmaking and bass music.

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