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

March 15, 2012
4 min read
Maximizing the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card: Flight Bonuses and $99 Companion Ticket
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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 Credit Card so you can decide if it makes sense for you.

Like Alaska’s Mileage Plan program, this card is often ignored because of the lowly 30,000 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.

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

-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!

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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.

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.

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!
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Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.