Unlock access to valuable miles: A 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 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 isn’t (yet) part of a major airline alliance, but even before its official entrance into the Oneworld alliance, it had an extensive network of very solid partner carriers. These partners are a big reason why 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 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, but 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 credit 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 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 don’t even have to pay for your airfare with the Alaska card in order to enjoy this benefit.
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.
Currently, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card is offering an intro bonus of 40,000 Alaska miles, first-year annual fee waived (then $75 ongoing) and Alaska’s famous companion fare certificate. 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. To qualify for the sign-up bonus, 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 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 major U.S. carriers’ cards offer 2 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 at a very respectable 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 $550 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.
How to redeem Alaska miles
Those 40,000 miles from the sign-up bonus 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. 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 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.
But you don’t have to lap the planet to maximize Alaska miles. You can even book awards around the U.S. and Canada from just 5,000 Alaska miles each way.
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||60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months.||$95|
|Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card||Earning flexible rewards||60,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of 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
Additional reporting by Chris Dong.
Featured image by FG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
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TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200
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*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
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