In an effort to reduce customers’ Wallet funds following the overwhelming amount of cancelled flights due to the pandemic, Alaska Airlines announced a unique opportunity for its frequent fliers today: Exchange your Wallet funds for miles!
On the surface, this seems like a good opportunity. But at a rate of 10,000 miles for every $100 in Wallet funds, one receives only half of the estimated $0.02/mile valuation on Alaska Miles by TPG.
The Pros of Converting
By exchanging your Wallet funds for miles, your spending power no longer has an expiration date. To view the current expiration date of your Wallet funds with Alaska, visit your Wallet, and then click “Expiration Dates” in the left sidebar. Many expiration dates are late in 2021 at this point, but if you are using an Alaska Airlines credit card, you are guaranteed to maintain your miles without the risk of expiration. If you are worried that you may accidentally allow your Wallet funds to expire, this could be a good conversion opportunity for you.
In addition, using Alaska miles to book your next flight will present more options than when booking with cash from your Wallet. For instance, we traveled to Tokyo using Alaska miles in 2018 by redeeming them through Alaska’s partnership with Japan Air. And with the new oneworld Alliance partnership in the works, Alaska is making it even easier to book your next trip with their miles.
The Cons of Converting
If you hold the Alaska credit card, and use your companion fare each year, remember you cannot redeem miles for the paid ticket. In this case, having Wallet funds available is your only alternative to a new purchase when using your companion fare. Also, if you are an elite traveler with Alaska Airlines, you should seriously reconsider converting your Wallet funds to miles. The primary reason is that mileage redemptions are not eligible for future elite status. Since qualifying segments must be paid for with cash, any booking made with miles will not count towards your 2022 elite status and could jeopardize your standing once the 2021 rollover expires.
Personally, I have $5,000 in pending travel with Alaska Airlines. While I could cancel all of my future commuter bookings, and redeem the Wallet funds for 500,000 miles, I would not fly a single elite qualifying mile for the next 10-15 trips. In addition, that sum of miles may encourage me to book an international First Class itinerary post-pandemic that I could not otherwise book with the Wallet funds. While tempting, this is not how those funds were intended to be used. For these reasons, I am turning down the opportunity to receive a half-million miles from Alaska Airlines through this promotion.
Avoiding Wallet Fund Expirations
The way that I’m ensuring my Wallet funds never expire, is to keep the funds tied up in future flight bookings. Though I’m not personally optimistic that my regular flight routine will resume in January, I have my regular travel (all rescheduled from 2020) resuming in the new year. Thanks to the benefits offered to MVP Gold elite members, as well as all customers on select flights, I am able to rebook flights without change fees. This means when January rolls around, I can simply reschedule my flight to the next unbooked month of travel rather than cancelling the flight and moving funds into my Wallet. By keeping the funds out of my Wallet, and in confirmed bookings, I will avoid having them accidentally expire.
If you are an infrequent traveler, or simply do not want to deal with the headache of managing expiring Wallet funds, this promotion to convert your Wallet funds to miles is a good one; especially if you have the Alaska Credit Card which will ensure the miles do not expire by keeping your account active. Make sure to take advantage of it in the next few days as the promotion expires on October 12, 2020.
But if you hope to earn elite status in 2022, I would not recommend jeopardizing your travel qualifications by converting the wallet funds to miles since only the former will help you earn MVP, MVP Gold or MVP Gold 75K.