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Alaska Airline’s Mileage Plan program has seen some devaluations — including the recent, especially painful price hike for Emirates redemptions — but its award chart still has some sweet spots, including Cathay Pacific first class to Asia and flights from the US to Hawaii. Even if Alaska’s own route network doesn’t align with your travel plans, chances are you’ll find flights that work on one of its partners — which is impressive, considering that the carrier doesn’t belong to one of the three global airline alliances.
Apart from flying with Alaska or crediting American flights to the airline, one of the easiest ways to accumulate Mileage Plan rewards is to use the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card. While this card isn’t new — and we’ve discussed its benefits in various posts over the years — let’s take a step back and give it the full TPG review treatment.
Here’s a list of the card’s features:
- 30,000 bonus miles after you make $1,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days.
- Annual companion fare from $121 ($99, plus taxes and fees from $22) after you make $1,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of your account opening. There are no blackout dates.
- Free checked bag for you and up to six other passengers on the same reservation.
- 3 miles for every $1 spent on Alaska Airlines tickets, vacation packages, cargo and in-flight purchases.
- 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
- Earn and redeem Alaska Mileage Plan miles to over 800 destinations around the world on Alaska Airlines and our more than 15 global airline partners.
- No foreign transaction fees, plus chip enabled for enhanced security when used at chip-enabled terminals.
- The benefits above apply to Visa Signature consumer accounts only and different benefits apply to Platinum Plus® accounts. Card type is determined by creditworthiness.
The card has a $75 annual fee.
Is It Worth It?
Currently the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card is offering a sign-up bonus of 30,000 miles after you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days. This is a slight step up from the previous bonus of 25,000, however you didn’t need to spend anything to receive that haul of miles. Still, $1,000 is a relatively low minimum-spend requirement, and based on TPG’s latest valuations the extra 5,000 miles are worth $90. Using the same valuation, 30,000 Alaska miles are worth $540.
The sign-up bonus is definitely on the small side, at least compared to offers we’ve seen for other airline co-branded cards. Still, those 30,000 miles are enough to book a free trip, such as a one-way first-class flight within the US, a round-trip domestic coach flight or a one-way flight to Hawaii.
One area where this card actually outdoes co-branded offerings from other airlines is its earning rate. While 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. Especially considering that TPG values Alaska miles at a very respectable 1.8 cents apiece, you’re getting quite a decent return (5.4%) 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. You can transfer Starpoints from the Starwood Preferred Guest program at a 1:1 rate (and get a 5,000-mile bonus for every 20,000 points you transfer), but Alaska doesn’t partner with any of the other three major transferable points programs, so your options for accumulating miles are somewhat limited. That said, 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.
Cardholders also get a free checked bag on eligible reservations (also for up to six companions on the same reservation), and this perk doesn’t require paying for your airfare with the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card. This can save you $25 per trip.
The card’s most lucrative benefit, however, is the annual companion fare, which you’ll earn once you meet the same minimum spending requirement of $1,000 in the first 90 days of cardmembership (and within the first two billing cycles after your account anniversary thereafter). With the companion fare, a friend or family member can travel with you on an Alaska-operated flight — you’ll only have to pay a $99 base fare plus taxes and fees starting at $22. The companion fare is only valid for coach travel, but it is eligible for upgrades; TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig took advantage of this fact to status-match to Alaska MVP Gold 75k and very generously use some of the four one-way upgrades that come with that status to upgrade my parents to Hawaii (after helping them book discounted airfare thanks to the companion ticket). Suffice it to say, my family was thrilled!
For more info on the companion ticket and how to get the most value out of it, see TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen’s post on the subject. A few quick tips to keep in mind are that round-trip flights will generally offer a better value for this perk, and you don’t have to pay for the ticket with the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card. 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.
Thanks to a decent earning rate for Alaska Airlines purchases and the valuable companion ticket you can use once a year, this card can be a great choice. Even if your favorite destinations aren’t served by the airline, Alaska’s partner carriers could have you covered — and redeeming for these awards with Mileage Plan miles is often a great value. Just remember that you can only use the companion fare for flights on Alaska metal.
Featured image by FG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images.