Get access to valuable miles: Review of the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card
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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 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.
Even before its recent official entrance into the Oneworld alliance, Alaska Airlines had an extensive network of very solid partner carriers. These partners are a big reason why Alaska Airlines miles have often ranked as the most valuable airline miles in TPG’s monthly valuations (not counting transferrable points). And now that Alaska is an airline in the Oneworld alliance, there are even more possibilities for Mileage Plan miles.
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, 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.
There are many sweet spots in the Alaska Airlines program. The ‘downside’ is that these miles can be difficult to obtain. Only one of the major transferrable points programs (Marriott) currently partners with Alaska Airlines. Aside from buying miles, flying a lot on paid flights or applying for the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card, the Alaska Visa Signature card is your main option for easily earning a big chunk of Alaska miles.
Let’s dive in to see if this card is a good fit for you.
Who should get the Alaska Airline Visa Signature?
Obviously, this card is a great choice if you frequently fly Alaska Airlines. However, remember that you’re not limited to Alaska Airlines’ route network. Alaska miles are great on a variety of partners, too.
If you fly Alaska, 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.
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.
The card also offers discounts on some Alaska-related offerings, including 20% back on Alaska Airlines inflight purchases and 50% off day passes to the Alaska Lounge network when you pay with the card. Keep in mind that many services are reduced during the pandemic, including lounge access.
Right now, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card is offering an intro bonus of 40,000 Alaska miles and Alaska’s famous companion fare certificate with $2,000 or more in spending on the card in the first 90 days. The companion certificate can be used to bring a companion on a paid Alaska fare from $121 ($99 fare + taxes and fees from $22). This even works for Alaska’s round-trip tickets to Hawaii.
TPG values 40,000 bonus Alaska miles at $720. The companion fare raises the value even more, depending on how you use it. To qualify for the sign-up bonus, you’ll need to make purchases of $2,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account.
Card benefits and perks
The card’s most lucrative ongoing benefit is likely the annual companion fare, which you’ll earn upon opening the account and every year on your account anniversary. With the companion fare, a friend or family member can travel with you on a paid 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 earn your first companion fare and only need to pay $99 plus taxes and fees (starting at $22) for the second traveler.
The companion fare is only valid for coach travel, but it is eligible for upgrades based on your Alaska status perks.
TPG’s Zach Honig and Summer Hull have both 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 info on the companion ticket and how to get the most value out of it, see our tips in “Maximizing the Alaska Airlines Visa Companion Fare.” Keep in mind 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
One area where this card actually outdoes cobranded offerings from other airlines is its earning rate. Many of the sub-$100 per year major U.S. carriers’ cards offer just 2x miles per dollar on airline purchases, but the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card gets you 3x miles on spending directly on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases.
Considering that TPG values Alaska miles highly at 1.8 cents apiece, it’s a nice return.
If you frequently travel on Alaska Airlines 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; earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year starting Jan. 1, 2021) but it also comes with a $695 annual fee (see rates and fees) and you can’t transfer those points to Alaska. Consider your travel priorities when deciding which card to use for your Alaska tickets.
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 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, then that advice may not apply in your situation since Alaska miles are so valuable and challenging to earn elsewhere.
How to redeem Alaska miles
There are many ways to redeem the 40,000 sign-up bonus miles from this card. Short-haul Alaska awards (such as Seattle to San Francisco) start at just 5,000 Alaska miles each way. Many of the longer flights (such as Seattle to NYC) 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 in first class.
Alaska also partners with enough carriers to cover your travels across much of the globe. And now that Alaska Airlines is in Oneworld, your options have expanded.
Those partners include Singapore Airlines, British Airways, Emirates, Qantas and Aer Lingus. 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.
Related: Best ways to redeem Alaska miles
Obviously, the more Alaska Mileage Plan miles you’re working with, the more options you have for booking award flights.
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 for 70,000 miles and Fiji Airways from the U.S. to Fiji one-way in business class for 55,000 miles.
When the world reopens, 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.
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.
Alternatives to the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature
If you’re interested in booking premium-cabin awards, earning flexible 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 much easier to earn because there are more rewards credit card options and many of the cards have either 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…||Bonus||Annual fee|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||Earning flexible rewards||100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening.||$95|
|Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card||Earning flexible rewards||60,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.||$95|
Thanks to a decent earning rate for Alaska Airlines purchases and the valuable annual companion ticket, 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 also a great value. Just remember that you can only use the companion fare for flights on Alaska Airlines operated flights
Application link: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card available with up to 40,000 bonus miles with $2,000 in spending in the first 90 days.
Additional reporting by Benét J. Wilson.
Featured image by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy
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Updated on 6/8/21
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