Good returns, uninspiring benefits: Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard review
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest sign-up bonus and card perks. It was originally published on June 4, 2019.
Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard overview
The Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard offers an above-average return for a cobranded airline card, but doesn’t come with many benefits. Those who regularly check bags with Hawaiian and can maximize the partner award possibilities will get the most value from this card. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐
*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
Among credit cards that don’t get a lot of attention is the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise considering the airline’s limited route network and that it isn’t part of a major airline alliance. However, Hawaiian offers some solid partner award-redemption opportunities, and the cobranded card is currently offering an elevated welcome bonus. So, let’s take a closer look at everything the Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard has to offer and see whether it’s worth picking up.
Who is this card for?
Because all of the card’s major perks are specific to the airline, the Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard is best for flyers who regularly book with Hawaiian. The easiest way to use HawaiianMiles is for flights on Hawaiian. The card has a reasonable $99 annual fee that’s waived the first year and its welcome bonus has a relatively low spending requirement, so you can earn a substantial number of miles without breaking the bank.
The information for the The Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
The Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard is currently offering a welcome bonus of 60,000 bonus HawaiianMiles after you spend $2,000 on the card in the first 90 days. That’s worth $540 based on TPG’s valuations. That might not sound exciting at first, but the spending requirement is also a lot lower than on most travel rewards cards. Plus, you’ll get a 50% discount on one published full coach round-trip fare for a companion.
Main benefits and perks
All of the card’s perks revolve around flying Hawaiian Airlines. The card offers a unique feature that lets you transfer miles between accounts, but lacks some run-of-the-mill perks that most other cobranded airline cards offer, such as priority check-in and boarding. Benefits include:
- A $100 companion discount for a travel companion on round-trip travel between Hawaii and the mainland on Hawaiian Airlines after each account anniversary
- Free checked bag for the primary cardholder on Hawaiian Airlines-operated flights between North America and Hawaii and between neighboring islands when booking flights directly with the airline using the Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard (Elite members receive this benefit in addition to their usual baggage allowance.)
- Shared miles — Primary cardholders can share HawaiianMiles among friends and family without a fee, up to 10 times per calendar year.
- Inflight purchase credit for Elites — Pualani Elite Platinum and Gold members are eligible to receive an inflight purchase credit of $10 a day, up to $100 a year. It can be used to cover onboard entertainment, beverages and premium meals.
- No foreign transaction fees
- World Elite Mastercard benefits — With a World Elite Mastercard, you’ll get an array of value-added benefits such as a $10 Lyft credit after taking five or more rides each month, a $5 discount on orders of $25 or more from Postmates and cellphone protection.
How to earn points
The earning structure on the Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard is better than most cobranded airline credit cards. The card offers 3 miles per dollar on Hawaiian Airlines purchases, whereas most of its counterparts offer 2 miles per dollar on airline spending. Although not industry-leading, the card has an above-average return on the top everyday spending categories — 2 miles per dollar on gas, dining and grocery stores and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. Cardholders earn bonus miles at thousands of shops and restaurants that are a part of the HawaiianMiles Marketplace.
How to redeem points
The most obvious use of HawaiianMiles is for Hawaiian Airlines award flights. Although the program technically publishes an award chart, each award type provides a range of prices, rather than fixed redemption rates, meaning that you’ll typically get consistent value from your miles. To give you a general idea, first-class awards between Hawaii and the West Coast start at 40,000 miles one way, but can go up to 80,000 miles. As a cardholder, you’ll also get automatic discounts on coach awards across the airline’s entire route network.
Although Hawaiian Airlines isn’t part of the three major airline alliances, you can redeem your miles on partners such as JetBlue, Japan Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Korean Air. Unlike Hawaiian-operated flights, partner awards have fixed redemption rates — with the exception of JetBlue — and in many cases, they’ll provide you with the most value for your miles.
That current 60,000-mile welcome bonus? You might be able to book a one-way first-class flight between Hawaii and the continental U.S. on Hawaiian. Or, you could book a round-trip business-class flight within Asia on Korean Air. Partner awards are not available through Hawaiian’s website, so your best bet is to use ExpertFlyer to search for award availability and then call to book.
HawaiianMiles can be redeemed for hotel stays, car rentals, gift certificates, grocery, shopping and dining gift cards, magazines and newspapers. Miles can also be transferred to Hilton Honors, the Caesars Rewards loyalty program and Points.com. However, these types of redemptions generally offer poor value compared to using them for award flights, so we recommend avoiding them.
Which cards compete with the Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard?
Since Hawaiian Airlines is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards and a 3:1 transfer partner of Marriott Bonvoy, there are plenty of other credit cards that can help you boost your balance of HawaiianMiles while enjoying a different selection of perks.
The closest comparison to the Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard in the Amex lineup is the American Express® Gold Card. The Amex card comes out ahead on bonus categories, offering 3x points on all flights purchased directly from airlines and 4x points at restaurants worldwide and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 spent each year at supermarkets). Amex Gold has a higher annual fee of $250 a year (see rates and fees), but it comes with a number of travel perks that help recoup that, including a $100 annual airline fee credit that you can use toward incidental airline expenses such as baggage fees and a $120 annual dining credit (allotted in $10 monthly increments) that can be used at various dining partners. The American Express Gold Card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months, which is less than the Hawaiian Airlines welcome bonus, but those points also offer more flexibility when it comes time to redeem.
The Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard definitely isn’t for everyone. However, if you can use the free checked bag benefit and the partner award possibilities, then it can make a solid case for itself, especially if you are a frequent flyer on Hawaiian.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, please click here.