Get access to valuable airline miles: Review of the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card
Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® card overview
The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card is one of the best cards for earning Alaska miles. Even if you don’t live on the West Coast, Alaska Airlines miles are exceptionally valuable since you can use them to book flights on Oneworld partner airlines including Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Qantas and American. This card also comes with an annual companion fare that can save you hundreds of dollars in airfare each year. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
Alaska Airlines miles have long ranked as one of the most valuable airline miles in TPG’s monthly valuations, thanks to Alaska's extensive network of partners and membership in the Oneworld alliance.
The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program has very generous rules when it comes to booking award flights: You’re allowed to add stopovers for free on most awards and even on one-way awards. I’ve taken advantage of this to book business-class flights on Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines and add stopovers in Hong Kong and Tokyo.
While there are many sweet spots in the Alaska Airlines program, these miles are difficult to obtain. Only one of the major transferrable points programs (Marriott) currently partners with Alaska Airlines.
Applying for the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card and the Alaska Visa Signature card are your main options for easily earning a big chunk of Alaska miles. So let’s dive in to see if the Visa Signature card is a good fit for you.
Who should get the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card?
Obviously, this card is a great choice if you frequently fly Alaska Airlines. With a $75 annual fee, this card provides elite-like perks without Alaska Airlines elite status. Cardholders get one piece of free checked luggage for themselves and up to six other passengers on the same reservation when traveling on Alaska, saving $30 per person each way on checked bags. You’ll also enjoy Alaska-related discounts, including 20% back on Alaska Airlines inflight purchases.
If you fly Alaska with a friend or family member at least once a year on paid fares, this card is also worth considering because of its companion fare (more on that in a moment).
Even if you rarely — or never — fly with Alaska, remember that you’re not limited to Alaska Airlines’ route network. Alaska miles are great on a variety of partners, too.
Sign-up bonus miles worth $900
Right now, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card is offering 50,000 bonus miles, plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22), after you spend $2,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account. TPG values 50,000 Alaska miles at $900, making this one of its best welcome offers in recent memory.
Card benefits and perks
The card’s most lucrative ongoing benefit is likely the annual companion fare, which you’ll earn every year on your account anniversary.
The companion fare is only valid for coach travel, but it is eligible for upgrades if you hold Alaska’s elite status. TPG’s Summer Hull has taken advantage of a status match to earn Alaska MVP Gold 75k status, then used some of the four one-way upgrades that come with that status to upgrade flights to Hawaii that were booked using the companion fare.
For more information on the companion ticket and how to get the most value out of it, see our tips on maximizing the Alaska Airlines Visa Companion Fare. Remember that round-trip flights will generally offer a better value for this perk and you’ll 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 Alaska miles
With the Alaska Airlines Visa card, you’ll earn 3 miles per dollar on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar on all other eligible purchases.
If you frequently travel on Alaska Airlines for work or pleasure and want to build up your Mileage Plan balance, this card is an obvious choice for airline purchases. Considering that TPG values Alaska Airlines highly at 1.8 cents apiece, that’s a 5.4% return.
You should likely use another travel credit card for non-Alaska purchases since you can do better than the card’s earning rate of 1 mile per dollar. However, if you really want to rack up Alaska miles for partner award flights, then that advice may not apply, since Alaska miles are so valuable and challenging to otherwise get without flying Alaska.
How to redeem Alaska miles
There are many ways to slice and dice the 50,000 bonus miles. Short-haul Alaska awards (such as Seattle to San Francisco) start at just 5,000 Alaska miles each way. Many longer flights (such as Seattle to New York City) are 12,500 miles in economy. If you want first class, it’s often 40,000 miles on longer domestic flights, but can start as low as 15,000 miles each way on shorter flights. If you want to head to Hawaii, those awards start at 15,000 miles each way in economy and 40,000 each way in first class.
Alaska’s partners will also cover your travels across much of the globe. Those partners include British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and more. You won’t necessarily get the lowest mileage booking rate for all of 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.
Some of our favorite ways to maximize Alaska Airlines redemptions include booking 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 starting at 70,000 miles and Fiji Airways from the U.S. to Fiji 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 for the same 55,000 miles in business class.
But you don’t have to lap the planet to maximize Alaska miles. Booking awards around the U.S. and Canada from just 5,000 Alaska miles each way is also a pretty great deal.
Which cards compete with the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card?
If you’re interested in booking premium-cabin awards, earning transferable rewards points could be better because you won’t be stuck with rewards attached to a single loyalty program.
Flexible rewards points, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and Capital One miles, are easier to earn. Plus, many of these cards offer bigger sign-up bonuses or better-earning bonus rates in different spending categories. Here are a few great cards for earning transferrable points if you’re not in specific need of Alaska miles:
|Card name||Better for||Sign-up bonus||Annual fee|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred Card||Earning flexible rewards.||60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.||$95.|
|Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card||Rewards rate (2 miles per dollar on all purchases).||75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.||$95.|
If you can qualify for a business card (and there are many ways to do so without owning a physical store), you should consider opening the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card instead. It offers a sign-up bonus of 70,000 bonus miles after you make at least $4,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.
Whether you’re an Alaska loyalist or want to diversify your points and miles portfolio with valuable Alaska miles, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature is a great choice. Thanks to a decent earning rate for Alaska Airlines purchases and the valuable annual companion ticket, the card’s $75 annual fee pales in comparison to the benefits.
Official application link: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card available with 50,000 bonus miles, plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22), after you spend $2,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account.
Additional reporting by Ryan Wilcox, Stella Shon and Benét J. Wilson.