How I Got to 85k (Now 115k) Alaska Miles

One of the things I want to do with this blog is help people understand down to the nitty gritty how to use miles and points to make travel possible. I’ve read a number of blogs where I’m constantly asking myself, “how in the world does that person afford to do this?”, so I want to be as transparent as possible as to how I’m traveling. For all of my future trips, I’ll try to show how I accumulated the miles or points, what the booking process was, and how much I actually spent.

So for my 85k Alaska miles (now 115k with the 30k from my most recent round of credit card apps), here’s the breakdown of how I accumulated them:

  1. ~25k: Sign-up bonus from the Alaska Airlines credit card in October of 2012
  2. ~25k: Miles from my flights to/from South Africa on Emirates (SFO-DXB-CPT, DUR-DXB-SFO). This was right after the partnership was announced, so even though I was on a cheapo 50% mileage-earning fare, they offered double miles on flights, so I ended up with a full 25k from this trip.
  3. ~5k: Miles from my Emirates flight on my trip around the world (DXB-LHR). Since I was booked in first class, I earned 1.5 miles on this segment.
  4. ~3,750: Miles earned from 3x miles on everyday spend on my Alaska Airlines card. I received this offer for Q3 where I earned 3 miles per dollar spent (capped at 2,500 bonus miles) at gas stations, grocery stores, drug stores, and restaurants. Almost the entirety of my spend during this period was at CVS.
  5. ~1,000: Miles earned from booking flights for myself and a friend to Portland using my Alaska Airlines credit card, which earns 3x miles on Alaska Airlines airfare purchases.
  6. ~25k: These miles came from a number of years of accumulating miles from Alaska, Delta, and American flights when I grew up in Seattle and before I was into miles and points.

The easiest way to accumulate Alaska miles (besides flying) is to apply for the Bank of America Alaska Airlines credit card. It’s one of the few credit cards which is still truly churnable (as in, you can apply for the exact same credit card multiple times and get the sign-up bonus each time), so even though the bonus is usually only 25k miles and comes with a non-waived first-year annual fee of $75, it can still be worth it if you’re looking at certain redemptions. There’s the added bonus of having potential increased mileage earning if Bank of America decides to run more bonus miles opportunities like the one I received in Q3. That being said, if you don’t ever credit flights to Alaska, you’re looking at 4 credit card apps to get to 100k miles for a first class one-way redemption on Emirates, which is definitely doable (especially if you have a particularly aggressive apply-every-3-months credit card strategy), but it’s slow going. You can also transfer points in from SPG, but those points are also hard to come by.

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