Which Credit Card Should I Use to Pay for My Flight?

Jun 9, 2017

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“Reader Questions” are answered three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — by TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel.

Both the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card are popular options with points enthusiasts. So TPG reader Kunal wants to know which one he should use on an upcoming Alaska Airlines purchase…

Should I use my Alaska Visa credit card for an Alaska Airlines ticket or should I book it through my Chase Sapphire Reserve? Both give me 3x points.

TPG Reader Kunal

Great question, Kunal. You’re correct that both these credit cards would earn 3x rewards on this purchase — the Alaska Airlines Visa earns 3x on all Alaska Airlines, while the Chase Sapphire Reserve earns 3x on all travel purchases. So the number of points/miles earned for this transaction would be the same either way.

However, we also want to also consider the value of those two different types of points and miles. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles are pretty valuable thanks to Alaska’s many excellent partners and its reasonably priced award chart. In fact, TPG currently values Alaska miles at 1.9 cents apiece, which is at the high end of mileage currencies. But TPG considers Chase Ultimate Rewards points to be worth even more at 2.2 cents each. So unless you have a specific upcoming Alaska redemption in mind or already have plenty of Ultimate Rewards points, you’ll probably want to use your Chase Sapphire Reserve for this transaction.

But wait! There’s one more variable to consider in this equation. If you’re planning to travel with another person on this Alaska flight, it might be the perfect opportunity to use your Alaska Airlines companion fare. This is an annual perk that comes with the Alaska Airlines Visa card — if you purchase an Alaska ticket for one person, you can bring along a companion for just $99 plus taxes and fees (which vary depending on the ticket but start around $22). It’s one of the better companion pass deals around, but right now it’s even better than usual for new cardholders because if you sign up for the Alaska Airlines Visa, you won’t get charged the $99 for the companion fare in your first year, meaning you can bring along a companion for just the cost of the taxes and fees.

Alaska companion fare discount code
Your companion fare discount code will appear in your Mileage Plan account after you get the Alaska Airlines Visa card.

There are a few basic rules for using the companion fare, but they’re pretty straightforward. Travel must be on Alaska Airlines — not any partners — and is only valid for economy seats. You and your companion must be booked at the same time on the same itinerary, but you can easily book online using the code deposited in your Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan account soon after you’re approved for the card. There aren’t any fare restrictions or limited seat inventory — so long as there are two seats in economy on the flights you want, you can use the companion fare. And both you and your companion will be eligible for upgrades and will accrue miles for the flights.

Finally, when it comes to paying the taxes and fees, you don’t even have to use your Alaska Airlines Visa — you can use any credit card you want. So you can still use your Chase Sapphire Reserve, even though you won’t be earning a ton of points because there won’t be much to pay. And getting an enormous discount is always a better deal than earning points and miles.

So if you’re traveling with a companion, Kunal, now you have another option to consider. Thanks for the question, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured image courtesy of Alaska Airlines.

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