Should We Bank Miles To Alaska Even If We Never Fly Them? What Credit Cards Would Work With This Strategy?
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TPG reader Nate e-mailed me this week with the following question:
"Should my wife and I bank miles at Alaska for dual elite status - even if we never fly Alaska?
(1) free upgrades to first and premium economy
(2) miles for hotel/air to US, Europe, Mexico, Hawaii
(3) priority boarding and seats
What cards would you recommend for our strategy?"
This is a really topical question because Delta - who is partnered with Alaska - is really changing their frequent flyer program. It could make sense for a lot of people to now bank their miles to Alaska instead of Delta, even if they never step foot on an Alaska plane.
By banking to Alaska, your miles have the potential to become far more valuable than Delta Skymiles. Once you become an Alaska MVP Gold or Gold 75k member, you'll earn access to seat upgrades, priority boarding and exit row seating on Delta. Plus, Alaska's got a great lineup of award partners like American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Air France, Korean Air, and Emirates, on which I recently flew in First Class.
Consider how much you value redeemable miles. While this strategy won't be as valuable as top-tier elite status in either Delta's or American's frequent flyer program, it would still give you a lot of flexibility and benefits.
The credit card I'd recommend for this strategy is the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card, which presently offers a potential 40,000 sign-up bonus - 25,000 upon approval and 15,000 more when you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months. Though seemingly targeted to Alaska elites, this offer is worth investigating because this card's bonus usually hovers around the 25,000 mark (there's also another offer of 30,000 miles upon approval with no spending). Other perks of the card include a Coach Companion Fare every year from $118 ($99, plus taxes and fees from $19); earnings of 3 miles for every qualifying dollar in purchases of Alaska Airlines tickets, Vacation packages and Cargo purchases; and no limit to the number of miles you can earn with the card, which has a $75 annual fee.
Because you mentioned hotel points and are considering Alaska, you could also get the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express, which not only earns Starwood points for awards at the chain's 1,100+ properties, but which you can also transfer to Alaska airlines at a 1:1 ratio and get a 5,000-mile bonus on transfers of 20,000 miles, so it's like earning 1.25 miles per $1 on your purchases with this card. The Starwood Amex currently has a sign-up bonus of 25,000 points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. For more information, see this post.