How to maximize Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Man in winter gear and backpack on a small Alaskan cliff, looking out at the sun setting over the mountainsImage: Man in winter gear and backpack on a small Alaskan cliff, looking out at the sun setting over the mountains

In a Nutshell

If you fly with Alaska Airlines regularly, get the most out of your Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan™ Miles by using the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card and being smart about your spending and flight choices.
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Becoming a member of the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program is essential for frequent flyers with the airline.

While Alaska Airlines only flies to 115 destinations — including in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica — the airline has more than 20 domestic and international partners, expanding your list of options to more than 1,000 destinations around the world.

The program’s rewards miles are among the most valuable airline miles available, based on our point valuations, and award travel starts at just 5,000 miles on one-way flights. 



How to earn Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles

There are many ways you can earn Alaska Airlines miles with the airline’s free loyalty program, Mileage Plan. The easiest way to earn miles quickly is to use one of the airline’s co-branded credit cards for your everyday spending.

Here’s a summary of what you can get with both of Alaska Airlines’ credit cards, along with some other ways you can rack up miles.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card offers 50,000 bonus miles —plus Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare™, which allows you to book companion ticket for a round-trip or one-way coach fare from $121 ($99 base fare plus taxes and fees from $22) — when you open an account and spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.

You’ll also get a companion fare certificate (allowing you to book a companion flight from just $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) every year on your credit card account anniversary.

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card lets you earn three miles per $1 spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases and one mile per $1 spent on everything else. Plus, as long as your account is active, your miles won’t expire.

Card benefits also include a free checked bag for you and up to six others on your reservation and 20% back on in-flight purchases.

This card charges a $75 annual fee. Learn more about it in our full review of the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card.

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Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card

3.9 out of 5

From cardholders in the last year

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Alaska Airlines Visa® Business credit card

For the most part, the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business credit card’s features match the consumer version of the card. Small-business owners can earn bonus miles with the card’s welcome offer: You’ll get 40,000 bonus miles plus Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare™ after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 90 days after account opening.

The Alaska Airlines Visa® Business credit card charges a $50 annual fee per company, plus an additional $25 annual fee per card. If it’s just you on the account, you’ll pay $75, but if you add cards for partners or employees, you’ll pay more.

Beyond that, the rewards rates and card benefits are the same. Read our review of the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business credit card to find out if it’s right for your business.

Other ways to earn Alaska Airlines miles

In addition to the airline’s co-branded credit cards, you can also earn miles in other ways. These can supplement your credit card spending or provide you with multiple options to earn if you prefer not to get a new credit card.

  • Travel with Alaska Airlines or its partners: You’ll earn at least one mile for every mile you fly with Alaska or one of its partners when you book through Alaska Airlines. And some fare classes earn up to two miles for each mile flown.
  • Book hotel stays with partners: Alaska Airlines partners with Best Western, Choice Hotels, IHG, Marriott and other hotel brands to offer bonus miles when you book stays with them. You can also earn up to 10,000 miles per night when you book through the Alaska Airlines Hotels platform.
  • Book rental cars with partners: As with the hotel option, Alaska Airlines also allows you to earn bonus miles when you book through the Alaska Airlines car rental program or through one of its partners. Options include Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz, National and Thrifty.
  • Shop online and in store: The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan shopping portal allows you to earn bonus miles when you shop at more than 850 retailers, both online and in store. You can even add a button browser extension that notifies you when you’re visiting a participating website.
  • Dine out: The Mileage Plan dining program offers up to five miles per $1 spent when you dine at participating restaurants, bars and clubs. Simply join and link any debit or credit card, then use that card when you pay the check. You’ll earn 1 point per $2 spent if you elect not to receive emails from the dining program, 3 points per $1 spent when you elect to receive emails, and 5 points per $1 spent when you receive emails and have already completed 11 qualifying purchases with dining partners.

How to redeem Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles

On average, Alaska Airlines miles are worth 1.79 cents apiece, according to Credit Karma’s valuation. That said, the value of your Alaska Airlines miles will vary depending on how you redeem them. 

One thing to note is that the rewards program has no blackout dates. But if you account is inactive for two years, Alaska may close your account and delete your mileage balance. However, Alaska also says you can reinstate your account and balance for a fee for up to one year after it closes.

Here are some different ways you can redeem your miles.

Use the airline’s award chart

Alaska Airlines award flights start at just 5,000 miles one way, depending on your fare class and how far you’re flying. If you know where you want to travel, you can use the airline’s award chart to get an idea of how many miles you’ll need to book.

Keep in mind that flights with partner airlines typically require more miles than if you were to book Alaska Airlines flights.

Also, note that you can use a mix of money and miles if you don’t have enough rewards to cover a full award travel ticket. You can get a discount of up to $100 for 10,000 miles or up to $200 for 20,000 miles. One good thing about this option is that you’ll still earn miles on your flight. But you can’t use it on Saver fares.

Upgrade to first class

You only need 15,000 miles to upgrade your ticket to first class, though only if you booked the original ticket with cash or a mix of money and miles. Full award tickets and Saver fares are ineligible.

Other redemption options

It’s best to use your Alaska Airlines miles for flights, but if you don’t have enough miles to book an award ticket and don’t anticipate earning enough before your rewards expire, there are other potential options to explore.

  • Buy subscriptions to top magazines
  • Share your miles with another Mileage Plan member
  • Donate your miles to an eligible charitable organization
  • Gift miles to friends and family

Next steps

The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program offers valuable rewards — and if you qualify for the Alaska MVP, the elite status program, you could get even more perks. But consider getting a credit card only if you live in an area that the airline serves. While you can use your miles with partner airlines, they won’t be as valuable.

Before signing up, it’s a good idea to check the airline’s route map to determine if your home airport is an Alaska Airlines destination and how you might best take advantage of the airline’s rewards program.


About the author: Ben Luthi is a personal finance freelance writer and credit cards expert. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business management and finance from Brigham Young University. In addition to Credit Karma, you can find his wo… Read more.