The Guide to Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
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For many living in the 50th state, Hawaiian Airlines is an excellent and practical choice: With hubs in Honolulu and Maui, it’s one of just two airlines that offer inter-island flights in Hawaii. It also offers top-notch amenities, such as spacious lie-flat seats in first class and complimentary meals for all passengers on long flights.
If you fly frequently on Hawaiian Airlines, participating in its loyalty program, HawaiianMiles, is a no-brainer. You'll rack up miles each time you fly, which can help you cover free flights in the future. Here's how it works.
Hawaiian Airlines miles program sign-up
Before you can start earning miles with Hawaiian, you’ll need to sign up for a HawaiianMiles frequent flyer account. It’s free to join, and you can register here.
Hawaiian Airlines vs. competitors: How it stacks in 2023
Hawaiian came in fifth place out of nine airlines in our most recent analysis on the best airline loyalty programs.
In terms of individual rankings, Hawaiian was all over the place. It came in first in operations, meaning it has impressively high rates of on-time performance, coupled with low rates of cancellations, passenger rebookings and baggage mishandling.
It also has relatively low fees. Hawaiian Airlines baggage fees start at $25, but they can easily be avoided, such as through holding certain Hawaiian credit cards or holding elite status. Even members of the frequent flyer program who don't qualify for elite status can get discounts on checked bag fees.
However, it’s not great if you’re flying with a pet. It had among the highest rates of pet deaths and injuries of all the airlines we reviewed.
It’s also not great in terms of the human in-flight experience. There are no seat back screens, so bring your own tablet, computer or smartphone to stay entertained on the long flight to Hawaii. And there’s no in-flight WiFi, though Hawaiian says it’s coming eventually.
Here's a closer look at how HawaiianMiles competed across categories:
Third in rewards (mile) value.
First in operations.
Second in elite status benefits.
Tied for second in terms of total fees.
Tied for second in best basic economy ticket.
Seventh in in-flight experience.
Tied for second worst in most pet-friendly airlines.
How to earn HawaiianMiles
Unlike most major U.S. airlines, Hawaiian awards miles based on how far you fly, not how much you spend on tickets. Its frequent-flyer miles, in other words, really are miles. That makes the process of earning miles a lot simpler. HawaiianMiles do not expire, so you don’t have to worry about keeping your account active.
Here are all the best ways to earn HawaiianMiles:
Earning HawaiianMiles when you fly
Hawaiian Airlines’ distance-based rewards system is fairly straightforward: When you fly 1 mile, you earn 1 mile. You can also get a 50% bonus on your miles if you fly business or first class. And if you have elite status (see below), you could earn additional bonuses.
One downfall: you don't earn HawaiianMiles for Hawaiian Airlines Main Cabin Basic fares, which is the airlines' version of basic economy.
Earning HawaiianMiles with a credit card
The easiest way to rack up HawaiianMiles quickly is to sign up for Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®, the airline’s consumer credit card. It comes with a good welcome bonus that's enough to cover certain round-trip flights.
The card also comes with other solid benefits:
3 HawaiianMiles per dollar spent on Hawaiian Airlines purchases.
2 miles per dollar spent on gas, dining and grocery store purchases.
1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.
One-time 50% off companion discount.
A $100 discount for a companion’s ticket each year.
Two free checked backs.
The card's annual fee is $99.
Buying additional miles and status
Hawaiian Airlines sells miles for about 3 cents each — a relatively high price. We generally recommend avoiding purchasing Hawaiian miles directly.
However, if you need just a handful of miles to purchase a valuable award ticket, it could be worth it. These standard purchased miles don’t count toward elite status, but you can pay to qualify for elite status separately if you want.
Buying up to elite status is less costly if you’re already close to qualifying, and more expensive if you’re not. If the value you’d get out of elite benefits outweigh the cost of leveling up, paying for this status could be a decent option.
» Learn more: Dozens of ways to earn Hawaiian Airlines miles
How to redeem HawaiianMiles
When you earn enough miles, you can redeem them for flights on Hawaiian Airlines, which is typically the best way to flex your points for maximum value.
You can also redeem miles on partner airlines or with partner hotels. There are also non-travel ways to redeem HawaiianMiles, such as purchasing gift cards or donating them to charity, though those redemptions typically don't offer maximal value. Here are all the ways to redeem HawaiianMiles:
The best redemption option: booking flights on Hawaiian Airlines
The most straightforward (and high-value) way to spend HawaiianMiles is on Hawaiian Airlines itself.
Here are the different award seat fares the airline offers, from least to most expensive:
The Saver and Flex fares for each class offer identical benefits. The only difference is the cost. When demand for a certain flight is high, you may have to pay the Flex fare, which is more expensive. Depending on the cost of a cash ticket, this may not end up being a good use of miles, so always compare before you book. You can also purchase upgrades to Hawaiian Airlines First Class and Hawaiian Airlines Business Class with miles, if you choose.
If you're planning to use points to book an Extra Comfort seat, which is effectively Hawaiian Airlines’ premium economy class, you must pay for it in points upfront. Unlike many other airlines, Hawaiian does not allow you to use miles to pay for the upgrade on an airfare you already hold in standard economy.
If you carry the Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®, you qualify for discounts on flight awards through the airline. You’ll have to log on to your account — the one linked to your card — to see these fares.
» Learn more: The best Hawaiian island to visit for first-timers
Another great redemption: transferring miles to Hawaiian partners
You'll get the most value for your HawaiianMiles by redeeming them for first or business-class tickets on Hawaiian Airlines partners.
This isn't the easiest option, to be sure. Unlike with other airlines, you need to make reservations by phone when booking partner award travel through Hawaiian Airlines, which can be cumbersome and time-consuming. Sometimes, it can also be difficult to find available award seats. But if you can manage it, redeeming this way is usually a great method to get an insanely good value out of each mile. You can read more about which award flights are available on Hawaiian Airlines' website. Here are some solid options:
Bad redemption options
When you’re getting less than 1 cent per mile of value, take it as a sign: That redemption option just isn’t that good. Here are a couple you should watch out for.
Retail gift cards. Hawaiian Airlines has partnerships with a few other grocery, dining and fuel companies where you can exchange miles for gift cards. However, 5,000 miles converts to only a $25 gift card, which basically cuts your mileage value in half relative to their value when used to pay for flights. Only redeem for gift cards if you don't intend to fly.
Hotels. The HawaiianMiles Hotel Awards platform lets you redeem HawaiianMiles for room reservations at more than 300,000 hotels, resorts, and independent boutiques. But a NerdWallet analysis of hotel redemptions found that miles tend to lose 40% of their value when used to book hotels versus flights. Thumbs down.
» Learn more: The complete guide to redeeming Hawaiian Airlines miles
What are my HawaiianMiles worth?
So you have a bunch of HawaiianMiles. What are they actually worth? Based on our research, HawaiianMiles are worth 1 cent each.
Use this calculator to easily check the value of your Hawaiian net worth:
HawaiianMiles Pualani Elite
When you fly frequently with Hawaiian Airlines, you can qualify for more benefits and bonuses through its Pualani Elite Status program. The airline offers two tiers of elite status:
Elite status becomes active about 48 hours after the miles that qualify you for it post to your account. That status lasts for the remainder of the calendar year and the full calendar year following that. So, if you earn status in September of 2023, your status will remain valid for the rest of 2023 and the entirety of 2024.
Because some Pualani membership benefits are Hawaii-specific, this status is most valuable to people living in Hawaii. For example, the status comes with access to Premier Club lounges in Hawaii as well as simpler access to flights to neighboring islands, both of which are benefits that are easier to make use of when you're based in the state of Hawaii.
(Pualani, by the way, is the name of the airline's mascot, the woman who appears on the tails of its airplanes. The word means "heavenly flower," and the airline refers to her as Pualani, Flower of the Sky.)
Pualani Elite benefits
Each tier of elite membership qualifies for different levels of benefits. Here are just some of the goodies included, but you can see the full list on the Hawaiian Airlines website here.
Number of free checked bags for member
Frequent flyer mile bonus
Priority security lines in select airports
Premier Club Access in Honolulu, Hilo, Kona, Kahului and Lihue
Earn 500 HawaiianMiles on any Neighbor Island flight
How to earn Hawaiian Airlines elite status
You can attain Pualani status by earning "elite-qualifying miles" or flying a certain number of segments in a calendar year, or by paying to uplevel your status.
Elite-qualifying miles include:
Miles earned by flying on Hawaiian Airlines.
Elite-qualifying miles do not include:
Miles earned on a co-branded credit card.
Bonus miles earned through elite status or fare class bonuses.
Here’s what you need to earn elite status.
To earn this status, you must EITHER earn this many eligible miles
OR fly this many eligible segments
Hawaiian Airlines mileage partners
Hawaiian Airlines isn’t part of one of the three major airline alliances (Star Alliance, Oneworld and SkyTeam), but it has a valuable network of airline transfer partners.
You can earn HawaiianMiles with select airline partners by using your membership ID when flying on these carriers:
All Nippon Airways (select flights).
Korean Air (select flights).
Unlike some major airlines, Hawaiian Airlines doesn’t allow you to book award flights with partners online. Instead, you need to call the reservation line and have your membership number ready. Check the airline’s award chart to see how much these seats will cost in miles. You can book award travel through these partner airlines:
All Nippon Airways.
The airline keeps partner award travel simple: It offers only round-trip award tickets for these airlines, not one-way, multicity or stopover flights. Except for JetBlue, these airlines also limit the availability of award seats on each flight, so it might be tricky to nab one. But if you can find a flight that’s worthwhile, redeeming for partner travel can be quite valuable.
» Learn more: The complete guide to Hawaiian Airlines partners
Credit cards that earn HawaiianMiles
Hawaiian Airlines offers two co-branded cards, one for consumers and one for businesses. Both help you earn miles through the airline's loyalty program.
Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®
3 HawaiianMiles per dollar spent on Hawaiian Airlines purchases
2 miles per dollar spent on gas, dining and grocery store purchases
1 mile per dollar spent on everything else.
Annual fee: $99.
Hawaiian Airlines® Business Mastercard®
3 HawaiianMiles per dollar spent on Hawaiian Airlines purchases
2 miles per dollar spent on gas, office supply stores and dining purchases
1 mile per dollar spent on everything else.
Annual fee: $99.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card