Travel News

Alaska Airlines Shows Us (Again) Why You Shouldn’t Buy Miles Without a Plan

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Written by Charlie

Alaska Airlines has again shown us why you don’t buy miles speculatively! This latest move by Alaska may not affect many but it is a bad move and should serve as warning.

With credit card issuers tightening things up and airlines giving fewer miles for our flights, the idea of flying “for free” (or almost free) has kind of transitioned more to a “fly business for the price of economy” with many airlines.

Alaska Airlines Award Change Shows Us Why You Shouldn’t Buy Miles Speculatively

Link: Alaska Airlines Award Chart

That is where buying miles comes in. When airlines discount their miles for sale, it can be a great time to grab what you need to either top up for an award or buy enough outright for a business/first class redemption. But, now you are not “buying a ticket” but actually buying a currency which remains completely under control of the airline – which means they can change how much value you get from those miles overnight.

This is why I always make sure I am letting readers know that if they buy miles through my site, I get a commission. I also let them know that I never recommend buying miles speculatively because airlines can and do change the awards without notice.

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I always make sure you know not to buy speculatively – this is why!

No More Intra-Asia Stopover Awards

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Alaska Airlines has done this before – with the fantastic Emirates first class redemptions – and now they have done it again. While it was not overhauling an entire awards chart, it was slipping in something that prevents people from taking advantage of a great redemption opportunity with intra-Asia stopover awards. This had been a nice way to turn a one-way award into a tour around Asia at the price of a one-way.

It’s Not About This Award But What It Represents

Granted, most of my readers probably are not booking such an award flight but that is not the point. The point is that Alaska inserted that language with no notice and without giving time to book some last awards like that before the change. In fact, it was not even announced but was found by Shutterwhale this morning.

What makes this worse is that this comes on the tail end of another Alaska Airlines mileage sale. Many people bought miles with plans to use them but had not used them yet. Let this serve as another warning – do not buy airline miles speculatively! Make sure your awards are available and book them after buying the miles!

Buyer Beware / Blogger Beware

Like I mentioned above, I (and every other blog that writes about mileage sales) do make money when you buy the miles through my site. That is part of what makes me caution people right in the area of the link so that people know I am not trying to sell them on something for my own gain. If you hear of a great mileage sale on another site, just remember that they make money when you buy and take their glowing recommendation with a grain of salt (and mine). Make sure the purchase is good for you and that it makes sense – and book it right away.

Some of the links on Running with Miles are affiliate links that pay a commission if a purchase is made. Running with Miles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • If you don’t really understand the full picture…..Don’t post

    AS system allows redemption such as

    PVG-SIN-LHR-SIN clarify as a one way intra-asia and it was abused so much in 2 days and it’s the root cause of the devaluation.

    • I don’t care what the cause was – a material change was made without notice and without warning. Alaska cannot be trusted and their miles should not be purchased speculatively by people – such is the point of the post.
      But good job letting the point sail over your head…

  • So Charlie I assume your basing all this on the fact that you are a long time AS flyer ( paid tickets) if not the only ones that are really affected our us that actually fly on paid tickets and loyal to AS. By the by I am a MM on AS. I submit many of these changes are the direct result of hackers/bloggers

    • Being an East Coast dweller most of my life, I unfortunately did not have Alaska as an option for most flights. I do not disagree with you that the true Alaska loyalists are the ones that are hurt the most with these changes. However, while I do think there are groups/sites that really push certain loopholes way too much, the fault overall is with Alaska. It is Alaska that decides to bankroll their sheets with frequent mileage sales. It is Alaska that encourages elite members to fly other carriers (though they do require fewer miles flown if all on Alaska, of course) and achieve elite status. It is Alaska that doesn’t ensure their backend award systems have simple coding to prevent some of the wild routings that people abused.
      So, I do feel bad for you and other million milers like you as it is horrible to see a loyalty program move the goal posts. I think Alaska could make some of this better if they would at least give some warning – but they don’t.

  • Ugh. I’ve been saving Alaska miles for years and just started searching two days ago to use this stopover perk on the way to BKK. This is why I only spend on flexible bank points or cashback cards now. The airlines and hotels have screwed us over so consistently for so long that I refuse to contribute to their shady credit card system and give them my spend. Though I will use their cards for signup bonuses as it’s the only form of “revenge” I have access to.

    And I do realize in the grand scheme of things this is a small devaluation when compared to what other companies have done, which really only further proves my point.

    • Sorry about that! While you are right that it is a small devaluation, for me, it is more about the idea that Alaska feels they can make such changes without notice or announcement. What makes it worse is to do it right after having a sale on miles (that they sent me constant e-mails to remind me to buy).
      At least there are some great redemptions to be had and getting the miles from credit cards is certainly not the same thing (or the same hurt) as buying the miles so you should be ok!

  • Just dont fly alaska then. There are plenty of options everywhere they go. They will still be the best program in the end. Seriously if you cant trust them then dont fly them.

    • I have zero problems flying Alaska – they are a great airline. My lack of trust for them is when they push a mileage sale and then make a chance that impacts some of the people who had bought those miles.
      My only guess is that you were not one of those people that bought miles for such a use down the road?

  • I honestly don’t understand the hostility of Alaska loyalists here. Charlie wrote a post about an important development on his own blog. Now he’s not entitled to express his own opinion? This is certainly bad news for all of us who’ve used CX to explore Asia, and it does suck when an airline throws away the child with the bathwater in order to plug a single hole. And without a prior notice, which they promised they wouldn’t do again after the Emirates fiasco.

    If there is anything I disagree with in this article, it’s the characterization of the old Emirates award as “fantastic.” It was almost 100K miles IIRC, which was not fantastic, not “too good to be true,” quite the contrary — it was in line with the prevalent redemption rates for the first class travel for similar hauls.

    • Thanks, Andy! As to the Emirates part, I guess it was one of those things where the memory was better than the real thing. 🙂 it was probably due to the no fuel surcharges and Europe costing almost as much as anywhere so it made the anywhere part more attractive (since most of my redemptions are US-EU).
      I got a bunch of ATL loyalists last week so it is nice to see the different cross sections of loyalties in this space! 🙂

  • […] STOP buying miles from links the commercial blogs push all the time! They do it because it makes them MONEY. I don’t do it because I am an idiot do not condone buying miles because we should travel for free because hey, that is what is all about, come on! Only in very limited circumstances when you can get a good deal AND you can burn them RIGHT AWAY! If you bought some Alaska Airlines miles in a “sale” recently to use this way, you have been played. Alaska Airlines Shows Us (Again) Why You Shouldn’t Buy Miles Without a Plan. […]