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Maximizing the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card: Flight Bonuses and $99 Companion Ticket

by on March 15, 2012 · 44 comments

in Alaska, Bank of America, Credit Cards, Visa

TPG Contributor Josh is an MVP Gold with the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Program cardholder of the Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card. Since so many of the top credit card offers right now are Chase and American Express-focused, I asked him to expand on some of the perks of the Bank of America Alaska credit card so you all can consider it for your future applications.

Though it has some key benefits like being able to earn and use miles on partners American and Delta, Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan is an oft-overlooked gem among the legacy carrier programs. We’ll take a look at some of those in later posts, but for now, let’s talk about two key perks associated with the Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card so you can decide if it makes sense for you.

UNDER THE RADAR
Like Alaska’s Mileage Plan program, this card is often ignored because of the lowly 25,000 bonus mile sign-up (although there are sometimes higher bonus offers, like last June’s for 40,000 miles), and the $75 annual fee. In reality the card offers two advantages that measure up favorably to any other card on the market if you fly Alaska frequently.

FLIGHT PURCHASE BONUSES
-3 miles per $1 spent on Alaska: Like most airline cards, Alaska offers bonus miles for each dollar spent on airfare.

-1,000-mile booking bonuses: Alaska offers 1000 bonus miles for flights purchased on their website with the Bank of America Visa, even flights on American or Delta (like an itinerary for a non-stop roundtrip from LAX-JFK) as long as one of the segments is on Alaska Airlines. This is not a one-time bonus between selected cities, but something offered on every flight purchased on www.alaskaair.com.

-Doubling the bonus: Alaska flights (not partners) are the same price whether booked as roundtrip or one-way flights. Booked separately, each direction of a roundtrip flight earns the 1000-mile bonus regardless of distance flown. Better yet, these bonuses usually post within days of booking. One does not need to wait until after a statement closes.

Example: Alaska offers $65 flights (after taxes) between Spokane and Portland during most of March. I’m an Alaska MVP Gold (I’ll get to Alaska elite status in a future post), which means I earn a minimum of 500 miles on any flight, and 100% bonus flight miles. So, as an Alaska Gold MVP, if I book a roundtrip Spokane-Portland as two separate one-way reservations, the $130 I spend on airfare will earn me:

-390 miles for the airfare purchased using my BofA Visa
-500 mile minimum guarantee
-500 elite bonus miles
-1,000 bonus miles each way for using my BofA Visa

For a total of: 4,390 miles. Almost the equivalent of flying from Seattle to London!

The only downside is that only 1,000 miles of that are elite qualifying miles. Still, the bonus purchase miles are still exceptional and can be put toward future trips. I’ll cover some gem redemptions of the Alaska Mileage Plan program in future posts.

$99 COMPANION FARES
Several credit cards offer companion fares certificates, and Alaska’s are fairly similar, but still hold tremendous value. Cardholders are given a certificate code for a $99 companion fare (plus taxes) within 1-2 weeks of approval and then on every subsequent anniversary of cardmembership.

The only restrictions are that two seats must be available, and the flights must be wholly operated by Alaska Airlines. Otherwise, the savvy traveler can use it for any fare class on any flight. Unlike Delta’s Amex certificate, both flyers still receive mileage credit and both qualify for upgrades based on the elite status of the higher flyer.

The best possible use of the certificate is probably on coveted flights to Hawaii. If you book one ticket in first class, the other flyer also flies up front for just $99, and they still get a 50% elite qualifying mile bonus, just like a paying customer. Plus, travelers may still earn mileage with other programs, so one may earn Alaska status miles while the companion earns status miles with either American or Delta.

So for instance, if you and your partner wanted to get from Seattle to Honolulu in first class this March, one of you could book a roundtrip flight for just about $1,400, and then use your companion certificate to get a second seat in first class for $99 plus taxes. Essentially you just scored two first-class roundtrip tickets to Hawaii for $700 a ticket.

MORE THAN A ONE-TIME FLING
While the Alaska Mileage Program has many merits in its own right, it really shines when combined with bonuses from the associated Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card. Unlike other cards consumers might collect for the lucrative sign-up bonus  and then put into a drawer, this card allows for solid bonuses on flight spending throughout the year and it has been reported you can apply multiple times for this card – some even report every 6 months!

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • Akparsa

    Unfortunately, the Alaska Airlines companion fare is no longer good for First Class flights.

  • Sk3

    How do you set for your miles to accrue to AA/DL? And do bonus miles accrue too? Using your above example, could I earn 4,390 miles from Spokane and Portland on AA?

  • thepointsguy

    That was just an error and it’s been corrected- it is still available for first class

  • BadTeacher

    You could earn the booking miles (2390) on AS and the actual flight miles on AA. Just list your AA number in the appropriate frequent flyer field when you make your reservation. If you are a DL or AA elite you will also gain access to elite seating once your reservation is confirmed and be eligible to earn elite bonus miles.

  • Scott H.

    Thanks for the great post. The Alaska Visa Signature card is what turned me on to this points collecting universe. As a result it is still my favorite card. I use that companion ticket every year to fly to Hawaii. Although I do not use it for first class fare getting two roundtrip tickets to Maui in coach for $250 each is still pretty sweet.

    One question I have is that this year 4 of us are going to Hawaii. If I buy the tickets for everyone, will I get the 1,000 booking bonus for each ticket I purchase, so potentially 4,000 miles?

  • http://travelsort.com/ TravelSort

    Also note that if you apply now, call in to get an extra 1000 MP miles, for a total of 26K rather than the 25K online. See our post update: http://travelsort.com/blog/alaska-airlines-visa-companion-ticket-no-more-first-class

  • al613

    Do you earn 1k miles on paying taxes on an award ticket?

  • Brian(J)

    AS miles can be used for a Cathay Pacific flight to Bali, and if CP doesn’t fly from your city AS will provide the connecting flight in the same class. So Sun Valley ID to Bali is bookable
    Sun valley to SEA on AS
    SEA to SFO (or LA or VAN) on AS.
    SFO (or wherever) to Hong Kong on CP. Stopover permitted.
    HK to Bali.
    And then the whole thing again on the return, but without the stopover. 110,000 miles for a J ticket.

  • Modernhaus

    I’m so glad you covered this card and FF program…I’m in San Diego with family in Portland. Alaska is one of the few with nonstop flights between us.

    I looked into this card a month ago and thought it seemed very solid, but was curious why I’ve never seen it covered on the blogs.

    I was thinking another benefit for card churners is that this is drawn off B of A, not the usual Amex/Chase/Citi/Cap one, so it shouldn’t interfere with getting other big bonus cards.

  • Piedmont Pauper

    I just used a companion fare for a ticket this summer for OAK-JNU. Good use of the pass on an expensive route with no competition from other carriers.

  • BadTeacher

    You would get 1000 bonus points for each ticket if each is booked separately (and each direction as well if you book everything as a one-way, so 8000 in total). The downside is then you are on completely separate reservations and can’t share status benefits if you’re an elite.

  • HikerT

    We used 3 companion tickets last year to fly to Mexico, Hawaii, etc. from SEA in first class for less than $700 each and we both got MVP status on AS in the process. In hindsight I wished we had put all those MQMs on DL as I also got 25K DL MQMs last year from one of the AMEX transfer promos. It would have been much better to have MQMs rollover on DL instead of AS MVP status as the latter is almost useless if you get DL status (which is pretty easy to get).

  • Rfento05

    How reasonable is it to use the free FC voucher to get first class from the mainland to Hawaii then have HNL serve as the base to continue on to PPT using Hawaiian airlines to save money/points rather than using miles on air France or air tahiti nui?

  • HikerT

    The US Airways card isn’t pushed very hard either, but you can probably figure out why. ;) For me, BoA almost always hits Experian, as does AMEX and Citi so I don’t see much benefit of the issuer being BoA. For a 25K bonus, that inquiry is not worth 25K to me. I already have the personal and biz cards so already get 2 companion tickets each year. The other thing to keep in mind is you can keep the companion ticket if you cancel as soon as it shows up in your account. So if you are churning this card it is best to wait until anniversary, get the companion ticket, cancel to avoid the fee, and re-apply. Only do shorter churns if you don’t care about the companion ticket.

  • HikerT

    Question re: “both qualify for upgrades based on the elite status of the higher flyer.” Let’s say my companion and I are both AS elites but she wants MQMs on AS and I want MQMs on DL. Are you saying if we use the companion ticket to purchase a fare that offers instant upgrades to elites, if she chooses AS for the miles and I am the companion choosing DL for miles, we will both get instant upgrades due to her AS status, and I can still earn MQMs on DL? I probably wouldn’t do that as the fare difference isn’t enough to sacrifice the 50% extra MQMs, but just curious.

  • Benthelefty

    How is award availability? I haven’t researched awards even, but is it distance or tier based? Looking to fly IAH to SEA possibly and curious what that would be in miles; OW awards possible?

  • HikerT

    OW awards are possible, but only on AS metal. Availability isn’t great, but far better than DL. I prefer to redeem skypesos for awards on AS metal, and save my AS miles for awards I can’t book with either DL or BA. BA is actually better to redeem for most AS non-stop award flights due to the distance based award pricing. From IAH to SEA you can just go here to check availability and check pricing if using AS miles (be sure to select the calendar option). Only low level awards can be booked with DL or BA miles.

    http://www.alaskaair.com/planbook

  • Csmithktm

    Fantastic for Hawaii!

    I recently booked a ticket from Seattle to Maui with a 45 minute stop in Portland. My trip to Portland was Horizon Air of course and then a 737 to Maui. Ticket was $545 booked in advance and had a FREE upgrade to first class for my Gold status. I then used my $99 companion fare which also got the FREE upgrade. All total, with taxes, we came in right at $700 roundtrip with First Class!

    You can’t beat that with a stick!

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  • puchski1

    The $99 companion fare is the real deal. Both my wife and I have the card and my own business has a card, so we get three certificates a year. We very easily got the F fare for $99 on every trip we wanted to take. And the fine print? It says that the fare is good for ALL cities served by Alaska. This is very much unlike my yearly DL companion coupon that has so many fare, date, destination restrictions that it is worthless to me. And…it is not valid for travel to Alaska or Hawaii. So yes, the Alaska $99 companion are is well worth the annual fee for the card.

  • Guest

    Can I use my frequent flyer miles and a companion pass on the same flight? I have enough miles to get an almost free first class roundtrip to hawaii, can I use the $99 companion pass with those miles?

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  • Swanny2you2

    According to a letter I received from Alaska Airlines, today, “All Companion Fares issued beginning August 1, 2012, may be used for coach class bookings, only . . . If you currently have a Companion Fare code in your Alaska Airlines ‘My Account’, you can apply it to as first class booking until its expiration date.”

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  • Mark Mohr

    No, it’s not an error. Alaska Airlines has eliminated first class companion certificates after Aug. 1, 2012. Visa companion certificates will only be good for coach seats.

  • Lynnmariehallstrom

    I”m new to Alaska miles/partners thing…We (2) want to travel to Kauai from X-mas to New Years, from Seattle. Have $35,000 points and a signature alaska visa, $99 partner fare. What is our best option there? Any black out dates? First class?

  • Hansenshouse

    UGH! You can no longer use your companion ticket for first class travel on Alaska. Do any other airline cards offer this benefit. I will seriously consider changing

  • thepointsguy
  • Theraincity

    And the 1,000 mile booking bonus will be eliminated too! Alaska has steadily degraded the value of being a loyal customer over the years to the point where it seems as if we are viewed as “mark to be fleeced” rather than customers who are valued!

  • Shelly5512

    Am thinking of applying for the card so I can take advantage of the companion fare. How much do you need to charge on the card each year to be eligible for the companion taicket?

  • guest

    Nothing. There is no minimum required. You get the code after you get approved. The 25,000 miles takes a little longer, a few weeks to get deposited to your account

  • Naomi

    Can you use your points and then book the $99 partner fare? I thought I remembered in fine print reading that $99 partner fare is applied only when you buy directly from Alaska Airlines and not when you redeem flight using your points….let me know how that goes.

  • Botz

    I just got my signature card I gave them my existing program number but the card has a new number on it. Will I be able to transfer these Dover. Also I haven’t got a companion fair code that I am aware of. I didn’t think I got that until my anniversary. Waiting patiently to to see when a what account my 25000 miles are added to.

  • Wlcam

    You can only use the $99 fare in coach. They cancelled being able to use it in
    first class in July 2012

  • Jdshireman

    I’ve had an Alaska Airlines Bank of America Visa for at least five years, but haven’t heard about companion fares until we flew down from SEattle to Oakland on Wednesday. How do we enroll?

  • Guest

    Alaska Airlines 25,000/2,500 bonus mile referral offer. Enough for a free airline ticket. Apply online for an Alaska Airlines VISA card, and receive approval in less than 30 seconds.

    Simply scan the barcode or email me, to select me as your referral friend, and you’ll be well on your way to a free airline ticket/bonus miles. It couldnt be any easier.

  • Lola

    You can NO LONGER USE a COMPANION FARE FOR FIRST CLASS TICKETS! Pretty shitty as that was the only real benefit to the companion fare.

  • Chris

    Question: I live in PDX, Alaska flights to Mexico are what I am interested in. I have an Alaska card, an SPG card. trying to understand what my best general use card would be, and if I should work on collecting Alaska, BA, AA, SPG points, or some other miles/points program to get the max value. Thanks

  • Frances

    I have the Visa Signature Card. How do I get the Companion Fare Certificate Code?

  • scott

    Do they still offer the 1000 mile bonus for each reservation? I dont see it in the terms and conditions application online. this would be beneficial to us as we travel with a large family and we like Alaska air. If there is now 1000 mile bonus per reservation then our american airlines card is fine as we earn miles for alaska with the american card already.

  • small_lion

    I believe they stop offering 1000 bonus miles.

  • 2dogs2humans

    Eric… we have an interesting question about this card… my husband and I both applied this Christmas… we were told that if we didn’t activate the card we would not receive the companion fare, however we would both receive the 25,000 bonus miles. We received the miles, activated his card… we both still were charged the $75 annual fee and we both received the the companion fare. We called BofA… we were miss informed by the woman we applied with. We now have two cards with two annual fees and two companion fares. PROBLEM we only wanted one card in the end and one companion fare… and as you can imagine 2×25,000 miles, hence the reasoning for us both applying. We now want to cancel my card and keep his… we have already booked a trip to Hawaii using his companion fare. do you think we can book my companion fare ticket, pay the bill with the $75 anual fee and then cancel my account or consolidate the accounts?

  • Lydia

    It’s in “my wallet” in “my account” on the Alaskaair.com website.

  • Lydia

    No, it must be a purchased ticket.

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