Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card review
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated for accuracy. It was originally published on March 22, 2019.
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card overview
The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card is one of the best cards to use for earning Alaska miles. Alaska Airlines miles are exceptionally valuable, even if you don’t live on the West Coast, because you can use them to book flights on partner airlines including Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Qantas and LATAM. This card also comes with an annual companion fare that can save you hundreds of dollars in airfare each year. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐½
*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
Alaska Airlines is odd in that it isn’t a part of any of the three major airline alliances, but it still has an extensive network of partner carriers. These partners are a big part of the reason Alaska Airlines miles are often ranked as the most valuable miles in TPG’s monthly valuations (not counting transferrable points). The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program also has very generous rules when it comes to booking award flights: you’re allowed to add in stopovers for free (in hub cities), even on one-way awards. I’ve taken advantage of this to book business-class flights on Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines while adding in stopovers in Hong Kong and Tokyo.
Given how many sweet spots there are in the Alaska Airlines program, it’s not surprising that these miles can be difficult to obtain. Only a single one of the major transferrable points programs (Marriott) partners with Alaska Airlines. Aside from the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business credit card, the Signature card is your only option for easily earning a big chunk of Alaska miles.
Who is this card for?
Obviously, this card only makes sense if you want to earn and burn Alaska miles. You’re not limited to Alaska Airlines’ route network, but you’ll want to make sure its airline partners make sense based on your travel plans.
This card could also make sense for you if you don’t have Alaska Airlines elite status, but want a taste of those elite perks. Since cardholders get one piece of free checked luggage (along with up to six other passengers on the same reservation) when traveling on Alaska, you’ll save $30 per person each way. You don’t even have to pay for your airfare with the Alaska card in order to enjoy this benefit.
Currently the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card is offering an intro bonus of 40,000 miles and Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22). To qualify, make purchases of $2,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account. Based on TPG’s latest point valuations, 40,000 Alaska miles are worth $720.
Main benefits and perks
The card’s most lucrative benefit is naturally the annual companion fare, which you’ll earn every year on your account anniversary. With the companion fare, a friend or family member can travel with you on an Alaska-operated flight booked on alaskaair.com. As mentioned earlier, if you spend $2,000 or more in the first 90 days of account opening, you only need to pay $99 plus taxes and fees (starting at $22) for the companion fare.
The companion fare is only valid for coach travel, but it is eligible for upgrades. TPG Editor-at-Large Zach Honig took advantage of this to status match and earn Alaska MVP Gold 75k, then generously used some of the four one-way upgrades that come with that status to upgrade his parents to Hawaii (after helping them book discounted airfare, thanks to the companion ticket). Suffice it to say, his family was thrilled!
For more info on the companion ticket and how to get the most value out of it, see TPG Senior Points and Miles Contributor Nick Ewen’s story on “Maximizing the Alaska Airlines Visa Companion Fare.” Keep in mind are that round-trip flights will generally offer a better value for this perk, and you have to pay for the ticket with your Alaska Airlines Visa.
As previously mentioned, the card also offers a free checked bag for the cardholder and up to six other travelers on the same reservation. There are no foreign transaction fees, so you can use the card anywhere around the globe without incurring extra charges.
How to earn miles
One area where this card actually outdoes co-branded offerings from other airlines is its earning rate. While most of the major U.S. carriers’ cards offer two miles per dollar on airline purchases, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card gets you 3x miles on spending directly on Alaska Airlines purchases. Considering that TPG values Alaska miles at a very respectable 1.8 cents apiece, you’re getting quite a decent return.
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. The Platinum Card® from American Express offers a superior return on airfare purchased directly from airlines (5x Amex points) and comes with a $550 annual fee (See Rates & Fees), but you can’t transfer those points to Alaska, so consider your travel priorities.
You can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Alaska at a 3:1 rate (and get a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points you transfer). Alaska doesn’t partner with any of the other major transferable points programs, so your options for accumulating miles are somewhat limited.
You should most likely use another card for non-Alaska purchases, since you can do better than the card’s earning rate of one mile per dollar.
How to redeem points
The welcome bonus is currently higher than it has been in the past. Those 40,000 miles are enough to book a one-way first-class flight within the U.S., a round-trip domestic coach flight in the U.S. or a one-way flight to Hawaii.
Alaska also partners with enough carriers to cover your travels across much of the globe, from Singapore Airlines to British Airways to Emirates to Qantas. You won’t necessarily get the lowest mileage rate for these partners (depending on the route) when redeeming through Alaska, but by taking advantage of Alaska’s allowance of one stopover on one-way award tickets, you can build some great itineraries.
Obviously, the more Alaska Mileage Plan miles you’re working with, the more options you have for booking award flights. The best ways to maximize Alaska Airlines redemptions include Cathay Pacific first class from the U.S. to Asia for 70,000 miles one-way, Japan Airlines first class one-way from the U.S. to Asia for 70,000 miles and Fiji Airways from the U.S. to Tahiti one-way in business class for 55,000 miles. You could even fly to Australia on Fiji Airways and add in a free stopover in Fiji on the way for the same 55,000 miles in business class.
Alternatives To The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature
Earning Alaska miles will not make sense for everyone. If you only plan on using miles for domestic travel, and you don’t live on the west coast, you could be better off earning Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points (plus, the intro bonus you earn from any Southwest credit card will count toward earning a Southwest Companion Pass, which gets you nearly 2-for-1 travel for up to two years).
My favorite Southwest card is the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, because it’s loaded with benefits including a $75 annual Southwest travel credit, 20% back on in-flight purchases (drinks, Wi-Fi, messaging and movies), four upgraded boardings in the A1–A15 position each year (worth up to $50 each) and 7,500 bonus points every year you keep the card (worth $112 according to TPG’s latest valuations). The travel credit drops the card’s net annual fee from $149 to $74, which is cheaper than the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card.
If you’re interested in booking premium-cabin awards, earning flexible rewards could be better because you won’t be stuck with rewards attached to a single loyalty program. Flexible rewards, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards are much easier to earn because there are more rewards credit card options, and many of the cards have either bigger welcome offers or better earning rates in bonus categories.
|Card name||Better for…||Bonus||Annual fee|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||Earning flexible rewards||60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months.||$95|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card||Domestic travel||up to 75,000 points; 40,000 points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months account is open. Plus, earn an additional 35,000 points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 6 months account is open.||$149 annual fee|
|American Express® Green Card||Earning flexible rewards||30,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months. Terms apply.||$150 (see rates and fees)|
Thanks to a decent earning rate for Alaska Airlines purchases and the valuable companion ticket you can use once a year, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature 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 Airlines metal.
Apply here for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card with a 40,000-mile bonus.
Featured image by FG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images.
Alaska miles are extremely valuable because you can book awards on partners like Emirates, Icelandair, Korean Air and Japan Airlines. The current bonus of 40,000 miles can book you a roundtrip ticket on Alaska Airlines from Boston to San Diego or New York to Seattle, for example.
- Now - 40,000 Bonus Mile + Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ Offer.
- Get 40,000 bonus miles and Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) with this offer. To qualify, make purchases of $2,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account.
- Save with a free checked bag on Alaska flights for you and up to six other guests on the same reservation.
- Get Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ every year! Each year on your account anniversary get a companion fare from $121 ($99 plus taxes and fees from $22). Valid on all Alaska flights booked on alaskaair.com with no blackout dates.
- Earn unlimited 3 miles for every $1 spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases and 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases. And, your miles don't expire on active accounts.
- New! Enjoy 50% off day passes at the Alaska Lounge and 20% back on all Alaska Airlines inflight purchases when you pay with your new card.
- Redeem miles with no blackout dates on any of Alaska's 1,200 daily flights or choose from over 900+ destinations with more than a dozen global airline partners. Plus, get exclusive access to discounted redemption levels when you redeem miles for hotel stays at over 400,000 properties using Alaska Airlines Hotels.
- Plus, no foreign transaction fees and a low $75 annual fee.