How To Earn Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Miles, Lots Of Them!

To earn lots of Alaska Airline miles, forget flying, instead repeatedly sign up for the Alaska Airlines credit card.  Over the years, I have earned over one million frequent flyer miles and points and I did it mostly without flying.  I did it by signing up for credit cards with large mile or point sign up bonuses.  I sign up for about 7 – 9 credit cards a year.  Without these miles it would be impossible for my family of 4, on a single income, to travel.  With these miles we can travel to Hawaii for next to nothing and my wife and I can fly to Paris in international business class for less than $600.  

Most people believe that signing up for a large number of credit cards is bad for your credit, and it can be if you are not organized and responsible.  The truth is that credit inquiries will ding your credit score in the short term.  However, in the long run if you pay off all your bills on time and do not miss any payments your credit score will be just fine.  In fact my credit score is higher today than when I started.  You should not be doing this if unless you have excellent credit and have no plans to be applying for any major loans like a mortgage.

Alaska airlines has a credit card that generally offers 25,000 miles upon approval.  Unlike most travel rewards credit cards, you can apply for this card multiple times and still receive the mileage bonus.   I have applied for Alaska Airlines cards with applications being as close as 90 days apart.  In fact, how I stumbled is what lead me down the road of churning credit cards for frequent flyer miles.

A couple of years ago my wife and I were planning a trip to Hawaii and I was looking to save money.  A friend of mine told me about the Alaska Airlines credit card because in addition to 25,000 miles it also came with a companion pass.  The companion pass allowed me a ticket for $99 after purchasing a full fare ticket.  For airfare to Hawaii that basically felt like I was getting two tickets for the price of one.  The first time we used the companion pass I think we only paid about $700 for the two of us to fly to Maui.  Pretty awesome.

I was pretty excited about how a simple credit card was saving me hundreds of dollars on airfare.  So that got me dinking around the internet and I stumbled upon websites like www.flyertalk.com and www.milepoint.com.  Through these sights I learned that there was also an Alaska Airlines card that came with 40,000 miles.  I thought to myself, hey I just got this card like three months ago maybe alaska will give me 40,000 miles instead of 25,000 miles if I call and ask.  So I did.  Unfortunately, I was told by the Alaska rep that they could not do that because the miles came from Bank of America.  However, she did tell me I should just apply for another card.  My response was,  “I can do that?” Her answer was sure that she was aware of lots of people of multiple Alaska cards.  So I called up Bank of America and applied for the 40,000 mile card.  To my astonishment I was approved and the lady confirmed the 40,000 mile bonus, and like that I had earned 65,000 miles without breaking a sweat.  After that I was hooked and collecting miles has become an obsession of mine.

So, if this is new to you, be warned…this will change your travel life.

Last week, I mentioned that you can earn about 200,000 Alaska miles over a 12 month period.  That calculation was based on a 50,000 mile offer that was available last week. Unfortunately, that offer is no longer available.  So instead of 200,000 we should lower our expectation to 175,000 miles, drats!

There are two credit cards that you can get which earn Alaska Airline miles.  The first is the cobranded Alaska Airlines credit card.  The second is the Starwood Preferred American Express card.  Starwood points can be transferred to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan and for every 20,000 points you transfer Starwood will kick in a bonus 5,000 points.

Currently there are three different offers that I am aware of for the Alaska Airlines personal credit card, plus two offers for the business card.  Here they are:

  1. First, the standard offer of 25,000 miles upon approval.  The annual fee of $75 is not waived the first year.
  2. Second, is what I call the big spender card.  You get 40,000 miles after spending $2,000 a month for 12 months.  You get 25,000 miles upon approval and the the extra 15,000 after meeting the spending requirements.  The $75 annual fee is not waived the first year.
  3. Third, what I think is the best current offer is 25,000 miles plus a $100 statement credit. The annual fee of $75 is not waived.
  4. There is also a business card which comes with a 25,000 mile bonus.  The annual fee of $75 is not waived the first year.  And there is a big spender version as well.

Update:
Here is a link to a 30,000 mile offer that I came across.  I will try and update this as I come across new offers.

If you want to earn a bunch of miles in a year here is the schedule I would follow:

January
First week of January apply for one of the personal cards.  I would pick the one with the statement credit.  

April
After 90 days, I would apply for my second card.  Again, I would probably choose the one with the statement credit.

August
In August apply for the Alaska Business card and the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) American Express card.  In August, the SPG card increases its normal bonus from 25,000 points to 30,000 points.  If you do not have a business then apply for another Alaska personal card.  But keep in mind, banks are not that strict about what a business is.  Sell stuff on ebay or craigslist?  Sounds like a business to me.  You can learn more here.

December
When December rolls around I would then apply for a third Alaska personal card.

One word of warning with Bank of America, if you do not qualify for the 25,000 miles offer, instead of denying you BofA may approve you for a lesser card which comes with fewer miles.  If you have a good credit score it should not be a problem.

If this feels like an overly ambitious plan for you, consider spreading it out over 18 months. The miles I earned that I used for my upcoming trip to Paris was earned over a 12 – 18 month period. I would do all the applications online.  If you are denied at any point call the reconsideration number at 1-866-458-8805.

At the end of the year you will have 130,000 miles just from sign up bonuses.  Once you include your transfer bonus for transferring Starwood points to Alaska this will be 140,000 miles.  Not too shabby.

Now, let’s discuss other ways to earn miles over the course of the year.

Spending

To earn additional miles, put your everyday spending on one of the cards.  You have the cards, you may as well use them.  Also once you have the SPG card you may as well switch to putting your everyday spending on that card until you get have 40,000 points in your SPG account.   When you transfer your 40,000 SPG points to Alaska that will result in an additional 10,000 miles (5,000 miles bonus for every 20,000 points transferredEveryday spending should get you at least an additional 18,000 miles a year assuming you put $1,500 a month on your card.  Just don’t forget to pay your bill on time.

Flying:

With these cards come companion passes.  You have companion passes so you may as well use them.  My favorite use is flying to Hawaii, it is basically buy one get one free. Every flight is worth about 5,000 butt in seat miles.  Plus when you use your Alaska card to make the booking you get 3 miles for every dollar you spend on the airfare.  Additionally, make sure you sign up everyone one in your family who is flying, they each will earn 5,000 miles.  You can transfer points to your account, although there is a fee involved.  Additionally, anytime you fly on a partner such as American or Delta you can have those flights credited to Alaska.

Another thing I will do when I have friends or family flying but I can’t use the companion pass, I will offer them my companion pass plus the cost of the annual fee.  I then book the tickets for them and make back my annual fee.  It is a great deal for both of us, they get two tickets for dirt cheap and I get back my annual fee plus miles.  This is possible because to redeem the companion pass you do not have to be flying.  You can redeem the pass so long as you are paying for the booking.  So let’s say I do that with the 3 other companion tickets.

Total miles after 12 months

Credit card bonus = 130,000
Spending = 18,000
Flying = 5,000
Purchasing airfare = 2,100 miles
Selling companion passes = 6,300 miles
SPG transfer bonus = 10,000 miles
Grand Total = 171,400 miles

These are but a few ways to earn miles with Alaska.  Alaska partners with a lot of businesses.  You can earn miles with car rentals, hotel stays, and buying flowers, just to name a few.  Here is the complete list of partners.  Alaska’s website also has a shopping portal which will let you  earn miles by doing your online shopping through their portal.

If reading this stirs your interest and this is something new to you, let me give you a piece of advice.  Don’t go overboard.  There are some people who read about this stuff for the first time and get super excited and go out and apply for 6-8 credit cards all at once.  I worry about those people.  A lot of times credit cards that come with large sign up bonuses will have a minimum amount of money you have to spend within a short period of time.  It takes a lot of organization to stay on top of a half dozen credit cards all at once.  So know your limits.  There are some people who can do this and apply for 6 credit cards every 90-120 days.  I am not one of those people.  I know my limit is about 3 at anyone time, so that is what I do.  Better to be responsible and stay in this for the long haul then flame out in a short time.

In my next post I will discuss where these miles will take us, starting with domestic awards.

More from Portland Travel Tips
Do you need help redeeming frequent flier miles? Are you interested in earning lots of miles for free travel?  I’m offering an award redemption and miles consulting service read more here.

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15 thoughts on “How To Earn Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Miles, Lots Of Them!

  1. Great information. I’m curious if the annual fee comes due every time you get a new card (especially if you cancel before reapplying) or if it is literally only assessed once per year. It’s my understanding that you don’t receive more than one companion pass per year if you cancel and reapply for the same card, but I wasn’t sure if the annual fee followed the same pattern.

    • With regard to the companion pass you get one every year for every card you have. At least that has been my experience. The companion pass is awarded initially on approval and then on the anniversary date of your card.

      The annual fee is assessed when you are approved for the card and when your anniversary rolls around.

          • Thanks so much Scott! So it sounds like I one would always have 4 or 5 Alaska cards at one time, and cancel most of them before the annual fee? Is it important to use each card every month?

          • It is fine to not use them once you have your bonus. But keep in mind the above scenario is a very aggressive approach. 2 to 3 AS cards per year is more conservative and most people should be able to do that. YMMV.

  2. Hi Scott, Quick question. About the credit part. I know the inquiries ding your credit score a bit, but they’ll eventually fall of (or of course there is a method to expedite this process, so that’s not the concern here). I’m assuming since some of these cards have annual fees, you cancel them within 1 or 2 years. Won’t the cancellation or very short duration of having these accounts open ding your score? So if you have 20 cards for example average age of 1.5 years doesn’t that lower your “age of credit” which is a factor in calculating credit score??

    The flip side example would be to have 20 cards with 20 years worth of history.

    Essentially the goal here is to maintain a 760 since essentially 760 FICO gets you anything na 850 would.

    • That is a really good question. The nuances of what affects your credit score and to what degree is easily another blog post. So let me answer that question generally and from my personal point of view regarding my own credit. Lenders break scores into ranges. For example, bank X thinks that the safest borrows are people with a credit score between 740 and 850. So a person with a credit score of 740 gets the same rate as a person with 850. So there is room for my score to move up down in that range as I have inquiries or as I cancel cards. You raise a good point about average age of accounts impacting scores which is why I will never close my oldest credit card.

  3. Pingback: Redeeming Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Miles: Domestic Awards, Stopovers, and Free One Ways | Portland Travel Tips

  4. Great post and thanks for showing me some other Alaskan Airlines bonuses…would you recommend waiting potentially for another 50k offer or not? What would a TU 725 and a EX 745 credit score do on this card application?

    • About once a year a 40k bonus will come out. I had never seen a 50k offer before so who knows if that will come back around. Your credit score should be good enough to get you approved for the signature card offer.

  5. Pingback: Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan: Awards To Asia | Portland Travel Tips

    • How many miles you earn selling your companion pass will ultimately depend on the price of airfare. The companion pass can be redeemed one of two ways. (1) You fly and a companion flies with you for $99 plus taxes. (2) You purchase airfare for a pair of family/friends. So long as you are paying for the airfare you don’t have to fly to use the companion pass. For example, I had an extra companion pass last year that I sold to a couple of friends. I bought the airfare with my companion pass, entered them as the passengers, and they reimbursed me. Because I am doing this through my alaska account and using my Alaska card I earn 3x miles on the purchase. Right now if you were to purchase airfare for friends/family to Hawaii this summer you may earn 3,000 points just from that one transaction thanks to the high cost of airfare to Hawaii. When I do this I also typically charge them the cost of my annual fee so I get that back as well. Sounds stingy but they still get airfare at nearly half price so everyone is happy.

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