Get access to the most valuable airline miles: Review of the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card

Jan 30, 2022

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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.

Even before its official entrance into the Oneworld alliance, Alaska Airlines had an extensive network of solid partner carriers and is a big reason why Alaska Airlines miles have ranked as the most valuable airline miles in TPG’s monthly valuations. Now that Alaska is an airline in the Oneworld alliance, there are even more possibilities for Mileage Plan miles.

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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 this Visa Signature card is a good fit for you.

In This Post

Who should get the Alaska Airline Visa Signature card?

Alaska Airlines A320-200 at San Jose International Airport in California
(Photo by Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

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 several Alaska-related discounts, including 20% back on Alaska Airlines inflight purchases and 50% off day passes to the Alaska Lounge network when you pay with the card.

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 worth $720

Right now, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card is offering an introductory bonus of 40,000 bonus miles, a $100 statement credit, and Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) when you make $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account. This even works for Alaska’s round-trip tickets to Hawaii. TPG values 40,000 Alaska miles at $720.

Card benefits and perks

The card’s most lucrative ongoing benefit is likely the annual companion fare, which you’ll earn upon meeting the spending requirements of the sign-up bonus and 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 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.

Resting in Alaska First Class coming home from Hawaii (Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Resting in Alaska first class on the way home from Hawaii. (Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

For more information 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.” 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.

(Photo by Wallace Cotton/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wallace Cotton/The Points Guy)

How to redeem Alaska miles

There are many ways to slice and dice the 40,000 bonus miles. Short-haul Alaska awards (such as Seattle to San Francisco) start at just 5,000 Alaska miles each way. Many of 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 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.

Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy
Use your Alaska Airlines miles to book a first-class seat on Cathay Pacific. (Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy)

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.

When borders reopen, 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.

(Screenshot from Alaska Airlines)

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.

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

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. 80,000 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). 60,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. $95

Related: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

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 40,000 bonus miles plus Alaska’s CompanionFare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after you make $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account — plus all the other benefits discussed above — for an annual fee of $50 for the company and $25 per card.

Bottom line

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 40,000 bonus miles, $100 statement credit and Alaska’s Companion Fare after $2,000 spending in the first 90 days.

Additional reporting by Stella Shon and Benét J. Wilson.

Featured image by John Gribben for The Points Guy.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.

Updated on 5/4/22.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,600

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on dining and 2x points on travel, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Regular APR
16.24% - 23.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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