Buying Alaska Airlines miles for low-cost Qantas, Cathay Pacific flights

By Peter Loh, September 13 2013

Purchasing frequent flyer points or miles is a foreign concept to most Australian travellers.

Virgin Australia doesn’t allow its Velocity members to purchase points at all, while Qantas only lets you buy points to top-up an account before you book an award flight.

But its a very different scene in the USA, where most airlines not only let you buy frequent flyer miles in bulk but often run special promotions offering extra ‘bonus’ miles for your money.

Why should Australian frequent flyers care? Because these miles can often be used to book fights with partner airlines such as Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Emirates and Korean Air – at prices which are far less than you’d pay those airlines for a cash ticket in business class or even first class.

Alaska Airlines' Mileage Plan promo

Qantas partner Alaska Airlines is running one such promotion this month for their Mileage Plan frequent flyer scheme with bonus miles of 20-40% on top of your purchase through to September 30, 2013.

The amount of bonus miles depends on how many Mileage Plan mikes you buy. Between 30,000 and 40,000 miles lands you the top bonus of an extra 40% more miles.

From 20,000 to 29,000 miles earns a lower bonus of 30%, while a purchase of 1,000 to 19,000 miles comes with a 20% bonus. 

Using Mileage Plan miles for Qantas flights

Alaska pegs a one-way Qantas business suites award flight between Australia and the USA at 55,000 miles in business class.

Under Alaska’s current promotion, US$1,182.50 will buy you 40,000 miles which qualifies you for a 40% bonus of 16,000 miles.

That adds to 56,000 miles, so for just under US$1,300 (including taxes and surcharges of around US$116) you’re getting a business class ride to the US.

A one-way business class award on Cathay Pacific between Australia and Hong Kong requires only 30,000 miles – which you can get by purchasing 24,000 miles with a 30% bonus of 7,200 miles for only US$709.50.

Other Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan partners include American Airlines, Aeromexico, Air France, British Airways (although there's usually a fuel surcharge on BA award redemptions), Delta, Emirates, Fiji Airways, KLM, Korean Air and LAN.

How to buy Mileage Plan miles

In order to buy Mileage Plan miles you’ll first need to join the Alaskan Airlines frequent flyer scheme (it’s free).

When you log onto your Mileage Plan account you’ll see a Buy Miles option, so it’s pretty straightforward.

(Alaskan Airlines is actually one of many airlines which uses a third-party company called Points.com to sell points.)

Under the current promotion, a maximum of 40,000 points can be bought at a time – which means you’ll actually end up with 56,000 miles thanks to the 30% bonus.

Fortunately there doesn't seem to be a limit on the number of transactions made, so you should be good to make several purchases.

It’s worth noting that some hotel loyalty programs such as Hilton HHonors and Starwood Preferred Guest will also let you transfer your spare points into your Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan account, which could be an alternative to making several purchases.

However, because airlines can and do devalue frequent flyer points or miles over time, it might not be wise to plough too much money into buying Mileage Plan miles just to have them in the bank, so to speak.

When purchasing miles it’s usually best to do so only if you have a specific trip in mind, and buy just enough miles for that redemption ticket.

Booking an award flight

Once you've bought the required number of miles, the process of booking an award flight  is fairly straight-forward.

With the exception of Cathay Pacific and LAN, award bookings for all of the other Mileage Plan airline partners can be booked on the Alaska Airlines website by selecting the 'Use Miles' option when searching for flights.

Unfortunately, to book award travel on Cathay Pacific or LAN you'll need to telephone Alaska Airlines a call. This is a pain for Australians as the airline’s reservations call centre is based in the US, so fire up Skype to keep your international call costs under control.

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PeterLoh

Peter juggles a full-time career in IT with an insatiable appetite for travel.

pungpui

pungpui

22 May 2011

Total posts 51

sneaky!  i love it!!

Ozkid

Ozkid

02 Dec 2011

Total posts 47

What I'd like to know is availability of redemption flights. For instance J award flights from east coast Oz to LAX via QF is like hens teeth. Not much help to amass the points but can't burn them. 

Any experiences with whether Alaska can open up more flights than thru the QF website? I'd open up an Alaska account just for that alone...

gredgy69

gredgy69

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 May 2013

Total posts 42

Ozkid, I agree with you. I am looking at a trip to Canada next year with the family and this would be a great way to do it if only the QF redemption can be gained. Being able to potentially purchase a business class fare for the price of economy - happy days!!

gredgy69

gredgy69

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 May 2013

Total posts 42

Let me rephrase that. Being able to potentially purchase a business class fare for not much more than a economy seat and substantially cheaper than a normal business class fare - happy days!!

TheRealBabushka

TheRealBabushka

21 Apr 2012

Total posts 3034

Agreed. U and P inventory for international flights on QF is hard to come by. It is so not worth the bother.

I suspect they're holding them back for QFF point upgrades. I suppose it pays for them to look after their own.

vansantjordan

vansantjordan

24 May 2013

Total posts 5

This sounds like a great deal!!! just wondering, can you use the miles on any Qantas flights or just those to the US?

PLATY

PLATY

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

The online booking engine is limited to domestic and trans Pacific flights - maybe you can book others by phone if you can locate award inventory (eg via ExpertFlyer of QF website)

EK redemptions appear to be limited to USA-Europe/Middle east and USA-SE Asia.

See the AS website for details

PLATY

PLATY

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

Note:

  • business class fights in Australia are a flat 20,000 points, so longer and mutli-sector flights become good value
  • I have spent some time on hypothetical bookings on the Alaska Airlines website and availability seems to be similar to that as QF website - so, no, magic pudding for the elusive trans Pacific awards
  • partnership with Emirates offers some earn and burn opportunities
  • peopel on other web sites report being able to buy up to four batchs of points with one credit card and then have simply biught more on another card so the number of points that can be bought is capped
  • if you book and fly an AS flight you can buy points at this rate as part of your flight purchase

The catch?

despite signing up I cannot purchase points -  I assume the account has either to be open for a minimum period and/or needs a points balance >0. I have tried transferring some Marriott points over to the AS account to try "activiate" the account, but don't know if these will register before thre points purchase promotion ends at the end of the month...

...so if you aren't already an AS member trying to get in beofre the promo ends may all be a wasted effort!

Wolf13

Wolf13

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

13 Sep 2013

Total posts 12

Im having the same problem.

Cannot purchase points.  (just joined today).

Any other ideas?

nix584

nix584

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Jan 2012

Total posts 253

AAdvantage also allow Australian residents to purchase miles and they regularly offer bonuses.

PLATY

PLATY

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

Another point...the screen shot as above is potentially misleading since you only find out that business is NOT available on every flight sector later in the booking process - thus in the above example you will almost certianly find it's the BNE-SYD leg which is available in business and the SYD-LAX only available in economy.

vansantjordan

vansantjordan

24 May 2013

Total posts 5

It s possiable to get business class on the Australia to US leg, but they are hard to come by. 

KK

KK

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Dec 2012

Total posts 104

Finnair is offering 40% bonus when purchasing Finnair Plus points. 

Wolf13

Wolf13

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

13 Sep 2013

Total posts 12

They are offering 40,000 + the 16,000 bonus for 1,000 EUROS

Alaska are offring the same- for 1,100 USD

S

S

13 Sep 2013

Total posts 105

Not as appealing at it first seems.

If you do a dummy booking, you'll notice that they don't offer direct Qantas Trans-Pacific in business for redemption. All the Qantas business flights shown require a stop. Then this is where they get cheeky....the flights have the domestic sector in business, but the flight to LA in Economy!

vansantjordan

vansantjordan

24 May 2013

Total posts 5

Not all of them, ie. on the 2nd july you can get a MEL-LAZ flight in business. 

vansantjordan

vansantjordan

24 May 2013

Total posts 5

*LAX

Wolf13

Wolf13

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

13 Sep 2013

Total posts 12

For some reason- I cannot purhcase.

I get this message on the page AFTER selecting amount of points- milage number and name:

Please correct the following errors:

  • The Mileage Plan account you specified is not eligible to purchase miles.
Anyone else getting this error?

 

Thanks

gredgy69

gredgy69

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 May 2013

Total posts 42

Wolf13, I am having the same problem and getting the same error message. If you try and use their automated travel assistant, they just refer you back to the page where you purchase them  - bloody useless.

I tried checking their terms and conditions but it only refers to bonus miles. I can't find any t & c for buying additional miles although they claim there is some. It may require an email to sort out.

Wolf13

Wolf13

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

13 Sep 2013

Total posts 12

Very bloody frustrating.

Article is slightly misleading- saying "first join, then go purchase miles"

Obviously there's more too it than that.

gredgy69

gredgy69

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 May 2013

Total posts 42

I think your right. Trouble is neither the article nor Alaskan website offer any clues to the intricacies of the offer.

KG

KG

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 736

It is common practice that your account has to be open for at least an Xamount of time, so if you just joined, big chance you are not eligible and you have to wait for the next promo.

Personally I have been buying points via US Dividend miles and it has worked well for me. First class flights for decent prices, you can route Australia-USA via Europe even for the same price and do a stopover. Mind you, it can be quite a puzzle to get the flights (often availability is ok, especially on TG) and as with AS you will have to deal with a US based call centre. If you are a bit airline / airport savvy and know how to deal with customer service centres it is not too hard to book though. USD Dividenmiles is great for TG, TK, AC, CA and NH flights (hard to come by LH F seats). I am waiting for my mileage to transfer to AA so I can book the menitoned CX flights.

Drawback when not being a high status member of the FF program is often availability (does not seem to be the case with AS as PLATY pointed out) and the fact that change fees can be high.

All in all great way to buy premium tickets on the cheap. Often you do have to be flexible in your travel as availability varies.

 

Mikeologos

Mikeologos

10 Aug 2013

Total posts 30

How exactly do I go about getting the Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong? Do I have to call them first to confirm they have seats, then buy the tickets and then book?

Wolf13

Wolf13

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

13 Sep 2013

Total posts 12

Search for an awards booking

Mikeologos

Mikeologos

10 Aug 2013

Total posts 30

I take it you did not read the whole article. IT mentions you cannot book CX tickets online. While KG above says he is waiting for a mileage transfer to AA to book the CX flights. 

watson374

watson374

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2221

If you cannot book it online you will need to ring up the call centre.

Same for AAdvantage.

Mikeologos

Mikeologos

10 Aug 2013

Total posts 30

Thanks, just needed to make sure before getting some skype credit.

Wolf13

Wolf13

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

13 Sep 2013

Total posts 12

Is there anywhere you can actually do a search for CX flights?

 

MikeM

MikeM

qantas

18 Oct 2012

Total posts 68

Thought... Can you gift them to your self?

PLATY

PLATY

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

Michael, why would you? You can simply buy multiple times! Per my earlier post, others have bought up to 4 lots on the same credit card and then simply used a different credit card to amass huge points totals.

Before spending up big, however, consider whether the cash is better spent elsewhere - AAdvantage typically have a buy 90,000 (the limit of 60,000 points plus a bonus of 30,000) promo from time to time for around USD2000. You can use the 80,000 AA points for a one-way to Europe in first on OnWorld flights weher award inventory is available, etc.

One key feature of Alaska Airline promo is that you can buy as many points as you feel you want/need! Maybe just be sure you can use the points yu buy for what you intend!

Expat

Expat

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2013

Total posts 1

Question, if I purchase a ticket with(bought) Alaska Air miles for a MEL>LAX return trip, can I actaully fly under my QF FF # so I get the status credits?

KG

KG

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 736

You never get mileage or status credits for award bookings. It is a specific booking class so even though it is an AS award, QF would not qualify your flight as being able to earn mileage and sc's.

If only that would work, we'd be flying almost for free ;)

MikeM

MikeM

qantas

18 Oct 2012

Total posts 68

Has anyone completed a transaction from being to end with this deal yet? No problems?

MikeM

MikeM

qantas

18 Oct 2012

Total posts 68

*Beginning to end

casanovawa

casanovawa

14 Sep 2013

Total posts 14

I'll probably sign up and see what its all about, but assuming like AA that Oz-US awards can only be flown TransPac and its two awards to fly via Asia is it??

PLATY

PLATY

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

UPDATE: 

I can now buy points on my Alaska Airlines account. I opened the account 12 days ago. I also booked one (very cheap) hotel night through their website, but suspect the black out period since account sign up to be the former issue preventing point purchase.

Jamesv

Jamesv

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Sep 2013

Total posts 11

I have just called Alaska Airlines and there is a 10 day waiting period from the time you join until the system permits you to purchase miles. 

Wolf13

Wolf13

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

13 Sep 2013

Total posts 12

Great bit of information.  Thanks James.

flyingroo82

flyingroo82

27 Sep 2013

Total posts 7

This is similar to Delta Airlines:

Buy miles may only be received into SkyMiles accounts that have been established for at least 10 days and have earned at least one mile since enrolling in the SkyMiles program.

Jamesv

Jamesv

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Sep 2013

Total posts 11

And the latest update on this offer.........if you reside outside US/Canada and do not have a US or Canadian credit card billing address, they reject the purchase.

I spoke with them this morning, having received an email rejecting my purchase which stated "Your transaction could not be completed because your credit card information could not be confirmed. Your purchase was cancelled and your credit card was not charged." [I should add I used a Citibank Emirates Platinum Credit Card, not some shonky credit card company]

Although there are no conditions for this purchase on the Alaska Airlines website they are adament that this offer is only for US and Canadian citizens.

Not good enough Alaska Airlines!!!!!!!!!

Wolf13

Wolf13

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

13 Sep 2013

Total posts 12

Wow...  What a bummer.

Did anyone actually complete the purchase 'without' a US credit card / address?

MikeM

MikeM

qantas

18 Oct 2012

Total posts 68

Jamesv, How long did it take for you to get the rejection email?

Wolf13

Wolf13

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

13 Sep 2013

Total posts 12

Did the author of this article actually go through the entire process- or was it just speculation?

PLATY

PLATY

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

Yep, I attempted two transactions yesterday and neither have gone through.

They accepted my credit card when I made a hotel booking on their website (perhaps because that is processed by a third party such as Expedia).

Does this mean that they won't accept a credit card for a flight booking?

And what happens if I try to use the 25,000 pts I have in my account with them and need to pay for csh component of reward flight?!

Wolf13

Wolf13

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

13 Sep 2013

Total posts 12

If its the case that no Australian can by miles- I think the author owes an apology to the readers- or at the very least- an amendament to the story to better explain the process.

I'm sure there's been countless Aus-BT'ers that have wasted time on this process- purely from reading this article.

PeterLoh

PeterLoh

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 May 2012

Total posts 582

Wolf13, I can confirm that Australian credit cards can be used when purchasing the points. However, some banks may block the transaction by default especially if there's no established pattern of foreign transactions.

PLATY

PLATY

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

Was told after a lengthy call to AS that my two transactions are supposed to be processed sometime in the next 24 hours - not clear if this means that they will be accepted or not!

PeterLoh

PeterLoh

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 May 2012

Total posts 582

PLATY, if you encounter problems with credit card verification when making the flight booking these issues can usually be sorted out by the call centre.

KG

KG

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 736

I've been buying US Airways dividend miles for years now with various credit cards issued from different banks in different countries, never had a problem! Surprised to read of the issues that people have buying AS miles.

PLATY

PLATY

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

OK, so my two transactions were just finally confirmed. It's taken 4 days, but thankfully resolved.

So two tranches of points, which cost USD1185 apiece, now representing potentially around $12,000 worth of business class travel.

KG

KG

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 736

PLATY: "AusBT needs to do its reseach so as not to mislead its readers and encourage costly mistakes in time and money!"

Guess AUSBT did not mislead their readers after all?!?!  :-))

Good to hear you and others were succesfull, could you please let us know how you went with actually booking the award seats (how long did it take, where did you search for award space, were your first choices available, what class, what were the booking costs and fuel/ sevrice charges etc etc)? Woudl be interested to get some insight in that.

PLATY

PLATY

19 Jan 2012

Total posts 427

Thanks to Peter the article is good in introducing the concept of buying points on discount to potential advantage (as ever assuming individual travel patterns and award availability).

Only a suggestion - for such articles perhaps it would be good to include any obvious practical info such as the main restrictions (e.g. need to be member >10 days), confirm offer open to Aussies, or if uncertain at least a note that these will need to be checked by the individual reader?

MikeM

MikeM

qantas

18 Oct 2012

Total posts 68

Success for me also.

Pretty please with that. Hope to book flights today - will be interested to see how that goes.

Wolf13

Wolf13

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

13 Sep 2013

Total posts 12

My attempt has hit the rocks.

Received the rejection email overnight.

Called Alaska Air- they said its been restricted to American and Canadian customers as of late last week.

Pretty much said my card had red flags because its international..  (Australian card- and my mailing address is Singapore where I currently reside).

Told me to take it up with points.com

No help whatsover.

KG

KG

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 736

US Airways processes the miles via points.com as well, so you should be able to use an international card.

All in all it sounds like the whole buying AS mileage is a bit of a hit and miss. Might be better off concentrating buying on UA or US (soon hopefully to be AA) mileage.

MikeM

MikeM

qantas

18 Oct 2012

Total posts 68

Flight booked, .... NYE to Australia in J for about $1300 AUD all inclusive.  Thats a massive win; thanks for the tip AUS BT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

KG

KG

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 736

Congrats, that is great. Could you perhaps fill us how far out from departure you booked, what were the taxes, did you book it online or via a call centre, where did you find award availability (assuming you are flying QF on AA codeshare) was availability similar to QF availability ?

MikeM

MikeM

qantas

18 Oct 2012

Total posts 68

Purchase of Points 

1100
Tax on Purchase  82.5
Total USD 1182.5
   
AUS total  1264.705882
CC surcharge @ 3% 37.94117647
Booking Taxes 50.80213904
   
Total AUD  1353.449198

Hi KG

I transacted every thing on line; never spoke with alaskan. I charged the transaction to AUD credit card that has a US bill address.

Alaskan award bookings mirror exactly the classic awards on the QF site; So I did my research on QF, interestingly the second i completed the transaction with alaskan the award flight dropped off the qf site also. I'm traveling mid 2014. The boking is showing on my QF profile also.

Wolf13

Wolf13

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

13 Sep 2013

Total posts 12

What do you mean you have a AUD credit card with a US billing address?

KG

KG

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 736

Thanks for elaborating on this Michael. Great price for a rtn in J.

As Wolf13 I am curious what type of credit card you've used.

MikeM

MikeM

qantas

18 Oct 2012

Total posts 68

Its one way only - but it could have been return for exactly twice the price. About $2700 - It also includes a domestic leg in business. I used an amex.

KG

KG

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2011

Total posts 736

My bad, indeed one way. Good price though.


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