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How to earn Alaska Airlines miles for the most value

Miles are tough to earn, but well worth the extra effort.

Our pick for transfering to Alaskan miles: Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card

75,000-point

Signup bonus after spending $3,000 in first 3 months

  • 6x points at Marriott Bonvoy hotels and 2x points on everything else
  • Automatic Silver Elite Status and 15 Elite Night Credits each year
  • Annual Free Night Award
See offer

Alaska Airlines is among the few airlines to offer rewards miles based on the miles you travel, rather than the dollars you spend. For that reason, you might find earning miles more challenging than other loyalty programs. Finder has compared all of the ways to earn miles as well as the various credit card options to lay out your best ways to start building a cache of Alaska miles.

9 ways to earn Alaska miles

Earn miles with credit cards

Typically, a credit card is one of the most reliable ways to build points on a travel loyalty program. Unfortunately, credit cards that can earn you additional Alaska miles are slim pickings. In fact, this is one of the major reasons that earning miles on your Mileage Plan is so difficult: Your earning options on the cards that DO earn Alaska Miles are simply far more limited than competing credit cards. Your primary options are just twofold: the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature and the Alaska Airlines Visa Business Card.

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature earns just 3x miles on Alaska Airlines purchases and 1x miles on everything else. The earning rate isn’t the worst, but you still have to fly on Alaska Airlines to earn those points. Meanwhile, a comparable cobranded card like the American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card earns 2x points at grocery stores in addition to American Airlines purchases.

Let’s look at the points you might expect to earn on these two cards when comparing eligible bonus categories in a given month:

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature points earned
PurchasesPoints earned
Groceries$400400 (1x)
Dining$300300 (1x)
Alaska Travel$200600 (3x)
Other$800800 (1x)
Total$1,7002,100
American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp miles earned
PurchasesMiles earned
Groceries$400800 (2x)
Dining$300300 (1x)
American Airlines Travel$200400 (2x)
Other$800800 (1x)
Total$1,7002,300

As you can see, the American Airlines card pulls slightly ahead thanks to its more flexible earning categories. Alaska’s miles are still impressive, but you lose out on value if you don’t happen to travel in a given month. Groceries on the other hand are something you’ll be buying all year round, so a card with this category will greatly increase your miles earned over the course of the year.

Compare cards for earning Alaska Miles

Directly earn miles on your Mileage Plan account with eligible purchases using Alaska’s cobranded credit cards. Other credit cards also allow you to earn points that can be transferred to your Mileage Plan account.

Of note are the Marriott Bonvoy credit cards, which allow you to transfer at 1 mile per Marriott Bonvoy point and gain 5,000 bonus miles when you transfer 20,000 to your Mileage Plan account.

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card
75,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
6x points at Marriott Bonvoy hotels and 2x points on all other purchases
$95
Earn 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months from account opening.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
125,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months. Plus, earn up to $200 in statement credits for eligible purchases at US restaurants within the first 6 months
6x points at Marriott Bonvoy hotels, 3x at US restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines and 2x for all other purchases
$450
Earn 125,000 bonus points when you spend $5,000 or more within your first 3 months. Terms apply, see rates & fees
Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ credit card
30,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
3x points at Marriott Bonvoy hotels, 2x on travel and 1x on all other purchases
$0
30,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in your first 3 months from your account opening.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Flying with Alaska Airlines or Alaska partners

You’ll generally earn one reward mile for each mile traveled on an Alaska flight. However, you may earn additional bonus miles depending on the type of fare you’re flying.

It’s a little confusing if you don’t have the chart in front of you, so here’s the breakdown:

Flight rangesCabinFare classBase milesBonus miles
  • 1-1999
  • 2000-2999 (operated by Horizon Air)
  • 3300-3499 (operated by SkyWest)
  • 4000-4799, 6000-6999, 8001 – 8100 (operated by American Airlines)
First ClassF, P, or I100%75%
Main (Economy)Y or S100%50%
Main (Economy)M or B100%25%
Main (Economy)H, Q, L, V, K, G, T, R, or X100%
5000-5499 (operated by Qantas)EconomyY, S, M, B, H, Q, L, V, K, G, T, or R100%

You’re guaranteed to earn at least 100% of the miles you fly as miles earned to your account. However, certain fare classes may grant you an additional mileage bonus as well.

What’s more, you can gain even more miles if you have MVP status in the Alaska Mileage Plan.

If you want to keep things simple, you can just remember that one mile traveled is one mile earned. But to really put this program to work you’ll need to do your research.

MVPMVP GoldMVP Gold 75K
Elite bonus miles50% bonus on miles100% bonus on miles125% bonus on miles
50,000 bonus miles on qualificationNoNoYes

Data obtained December 2020. Because values are subject to change, use data as a general guide only.

Alaska Airlines travel partners

You can earn miles with Alaska partner airlines, though your rates on earnings can differ from those applied to Alaska Airlines flights. Another thing to bear in mind is not all miles earned on partner flights apply toward Alaska Airlines elite status. Alaska Airlines’ partners as of December 2020 include:

  • Aer Lingus
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Condor
  • EL AL Israel Airlines
  • Emirates
  • Fiji Airways
  • Finnair
  • Hainan Airlines
  • Icelandair
  • Japan Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • LATAM Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
CabinPurchased Fare ClassBase milesBonus milesTotal Miles EarnedElite Qualifying Miles
BusinessJ,C,D100%150%250%150%
BusinessI,P100%125%225%125%
EconomyY,B,H100%0%100%100%
EconomyK, F, V, M, N, G50%0%50%50%
EconomyL, O, Q, S, R, W25%025%25%

Alaska dining program

Mileage Plan members can join the Mileage Plan Dining program to earn bonus miles when dining at participating restaurants. Check out our guide for a full breakdown of the program, along with some examples of participating restaurants.

Book partner hotels

You can also earn miles for booking stays with Alaska-partnered hotels.

HotelPotential miles
Alaska Airlines Hotels500–10,000 miles per night
Best Western250 miles per stay on qualifying rates
Choice Hotels250 miles per eligible stay
Coast Hotels500 miles per qualifying stay
InterContinental Hotels GroupVaries on suite; average is 2 miles per dollar
Marriott RewardsVaries on suite; average is 2 miles per dollar
Rocketmiles500 to 10,000 per night
Westmark Hotels2 miles for every dollar used toward accommodations; 1 mile per dollar spent on food and beverages

Data obtained December 2020. Because values are subject to change, use data as a general guide only.

Car rentals

Alaska allows you to earn miles when you rent cars with its car rental partners.

Car rental partnerMiles earned
Alamo50 miles per day on qualifying rentals
Avis50 miles per rental day on rentals of 1 to 4 days
500 miles per rental on eligible rentals of 5 or more days
Budget50 miles per rental day on rentals of 1 to 4 days
500 miles per rental on eligible rentals of 5 or more days
Dollar50 miles per day on qualifying rentals
150 miles per day on rentals of 3 or more days
Hertz50 miles per day on rentals of 1 to 4 days
500 miles per rental on rentals of 5 or more days
2,000 miles per rental at participating locations
National50 miles per day on qualifying rentals
Thrifty50 miles per day on qualifying rentals150 miles per day on rentals of 3 or more days

Data obtained December 2020. Because values are subject to change, use data as a general guide only.

Alaska shopping program

Earn additional miles by shopping through the Alaska Mileage Plan Shopping portal online. Additional miles earned through the portal vary by retailer, though you can earn anywhere from 0.5x miles per dollar up to 9x miles. Participating retailers number in the hundreds and change frequently, so you’ll want to log in to your Alaska Airlines account regularly to browse your options.

Buy Alaska miles directly

You can log in to your Mileage Plan account to purchase Alaska miles directly. Generally speaking, this isn’t a great way to earn points since the asking price per mile – about 2 cents per mile – is greater than the average redemption value of Alaska miles, which is 1 cent per mile on average.

Refer-a-Friend

Mileage Plan members can earn 5,000 bonus miles for each friend or family member approved for an Alaska cobranded card within 60 days of the referral date.

Bottom line

Alaska Mileage Plan‘s generous opportunities for earnings and wide variety of partner airlines make this program a solid choice for racking up miles. And if you take advantage of an Alaska credit card, you’ll find greater opportunities for earnings.

Once you’ve built up your mile collection, compare your redemption options to ensure you’re redeeming your miles for the best value possible.

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