Review – Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card offers a valuable companion fare benefit each year, and earns you a respectable 3x miles on Alaska and Virgin America purchases.
- Sign-Up Bonus
It offers a sign-up bonus of 30,000 miles after you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days. Minimum spend $1000 is required, and based on TPG’s latest point valuations, 30,000 Alaska miles are equivalent to $570.
Get a companion fare good for free travel on Alaska – minus taxes & fees starting at $22. This companion fare is offered to cardholders each year on their account anniversary, but in subsequent years you’ll need to pay $99 plus the taxes & fees, so the first year’s fare is even more valuable.
Virgin America is officially part of Alaska Airlines, the companion fare is good for travel on that carrier as well.
One area where this card actually outdoes co-branded offerings from other airlines is its earning rate.
Most of the major US carriers’ cards offer 2 miles per dollar on airline purchases, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card gets you 3x miles on spending with Alaska and Virgin America.
TPG values Alaska miles at a very respectable 1.9 cents apiece, you are getting quite a decent return (5.7%) on spending with the airline.
If you frequently travel on Alaska for work or pleasure and you want to build up your Mileage Plan balance, this card is an obvious choice for airline purchases, the Platinum Card from American Express offers a superior return on airfare purchased directly from airlines – 5x points.
But you can’t transfer those points to Alaska, so depending on your travel priorities, that may be a moot point.
You can transfer Starpoints from the Starwood Preferred Guest program to Alaska at a 1:1 rate – get a 5,000-mile bonus for every 20,000 points you transfer,
However, Alaska doesn’t partner with any of the other 3 major transferable points programs, so your options for accumulating miles are somewhat limited.
That’s to say, you should most likely use another card for non-Alaska purchases, since you can do better than the card’s earning rate of 1 mile per dollar.
30,000 miles are enough to book a free trip, like a round-trip domestic coach flight in the US, a one-way first-class flight within the US or a one-way flight to Hawaii.
Alaska partners with enough carriers to cover your travels across much of the globe, from American Airlines to British Airways to Singapore Airlines to Qantas.
You won’t necessarily get the lowest mileage rate for these partners when redeeming through Alaska, but by taking advantage of Alaska’s allowance of one stopover on one way award tickets, you can build some great itineraries.
That’s to say, the more Alaska Mileage Plan miles you’re working with, the more options you have for booking award flights, both on Alaska metal and on partners.
Highlights include Japan Airlines first class one-way from the US to Asia for 70,000 miles, Cathay Pacific first class from the US to Asia for 70,000 miles one-way & Air France from the US to Tahiti one-way in business class for 60,000 miles.
The card has no foreign transaction fees, so you can use the card anywhere around the globe without incurring extra charges.
The card’s most lucrative benefit is naturally the annual companion fare, which you’ll earn within the 1st 2 billing cycles after your account anniversary.
With the companion fare, a friend or family member can travel with you on an Alaska-operated flight.
As mentioned above, for the first year you only need to pay the taxes and fees starting at $22, but in subsequent years you’ll have to pay a $99 base fare plus the taxes & fees starting at $22.
The companion fare is only valid for coach travel, but it is eligible for upgrades.
A better value for this perk that you don’t have to pay for the ticket with your Alaska Airlines Visa. That means you can choose to use a card that offers an annual travel credit or simply pick a card that earns you transferable points, ideally with a bonus for airfare.
- Who Is This Card For?
The card only makes sense if you want to earn and burn Alaska miles. That doesn’t mean you’re limited to Alaska Airlines’ route network, but you’ll at least want to make sure its airline partners make sense based on your travel plans.
This card could also make sense for you if you don’t have Alaska Airlines elite status, but want a taste of those elite perks. Since cardholders get one piece of free checked luggage – along with up to six other passengers on the same reservation, when traveling on Alaska & Virgin America, save $25 per person on every trip. You don’t have to pay for your airfare with the Alaska card in order to enjoy this benefit.
What’s more, the card has a $75 annual fee, which is on the low end compared to many travel rewards credit cards.
Not everyone wants to spend money each year to keep a credit card open, so you’ll have to determine whether it’s worth it to you.