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The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card is a favorite among frequent travelers for cardmember perks like Companion Fare™ and miles-earning potential. This card offers lots of value not only for Alaska Airlines flyers but for those who fly its MileagePlan partners at least once per year.
While Alaska Airlines is headquartered in Seattle with a route network focused on the West Coast, Alaska Airlines offers flexibility with its loyalty program, Mileage Plan. By summer 2021, Alaska is joining forces with American Airlines as part of the oneworld alliance, to offer elite privileges across a broad range of airlines and an expanded international network. This will boost Alaska’s total number of airline partners to 16. MileagePlan members will be able to redeem Alaska miles on more than 800 destinations worldwide, making Alaska Airlines a popular carrier.
In this review, we take a closer look at the benefits of the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card and how to use the card to its maximum potential.
Review: What is the value of the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card?
The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card is a great option for two types of people: those who want to earn a lot of useful airline miles or those who frequently fly on Alaska Airlines.
In either case, this credit card packs a lot of value. You’ll enjoy Alaska Airlines-exclusive perks such as a free checked bag on every flight and discounts on in-flight purchases and lounges. You’ll earn miles that can be redeemed not only on Alaska Airlines, but on 16 other airlines that are part of Mileage Plan. While many of the Mileage Plan airlines are already part of the oneworld alliance, you can find some exclusive airlines such as Korean Air. Though the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card is an airline card, it offers a high level of flexibility and options to book award travel beyond the Alaska Airline flights.
However, this card requires some management to maximize its value. The value of Alaska miles can vary greatly depending on the award ticket. To attain the higher end of this spectrum, you will need to conduct research on the best way to use your miles across different airlines/dates/times. Your redemptions require extra attention because of these limitations, which don’t leave a lot of room to travel whenever you want. If you’re looking for a greater level of freedom (albeit at a reduced value), consider general travel rewards cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.
Bottom line: The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card offers a high potential value for those willing to put in a moderate amount of work into redeeming their rewards.
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card benefits and features
The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card has a $0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $75. This annual fee undercuts similar cards offered by its domestic airline competitors:
|Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card||$0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $75|
|Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®||$99, waived for first 12 months|
|Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card||$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99. (See rates and fees)|
|Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®||$99|
|JetBlue Plus Card||$99|
|Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card||$99|
|United℠ Explorer Card||$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95|
With the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card, you’ll earn rewards in the form of Mileage Plan miles. The welcome bonus with this card is twofold: You’ll earn 50,000 bonus miles and Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 plus taxes and fees from just $22). To qualify simply make purchases of $2,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account. We estimate that each mile is worth $0.015, making this welcome bonus worth about $600. The spending threshold for the sign-up bonus is relatively low and will help you earn a large pool of Alaska miles in a short amount of time.
To continue earning rewards, you'll Earn unlimited 3 miles for every $1 spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases and unlimited 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases. And, your miles don't expire on active accounts. While the earnings rate on this card is rather mediocre, the major benefits of the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card are its attainable sign-up bonus and the Companion Fare.
What are Alaska miles worth?
While we estimate Alaska Airlines miles to be $0.015 on average, the value varies greatly depending on how you use your miles.
Alaska’s partnerships with the oneworld alliance and a handful of other airlines make its miles especially valuable. Mileage Plan miles can be redeemed for Alaska Airlines flights or for flights on any of its partners, so you can book award travel to destinations not served by Alaska Airlines. MileagePlan partners include:
- Aer Lingus
- American Airlines
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- EL AL Israel Airlines
- Fiji Airways
- Hainan Air
- Iceland Air
- Japan Airlines
- Korean Air
- LATAM Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
Note that seven of the airlines listed above are already part of the oneworld alliance. Outside of the oneworld alliance, some other notable MileagePlan partners include Emirates (not part of any alliance) and Korean Air (part of SkyTeam).
While it takes some trial and error, you’ll find that some Alaska’s partners offer better redemptions than others. For example, booking award tickets on international airlines typically offer a better value but are harder to find. This contributes to the extremely inconsistent value of Alaska miles.
The table below displays some of the sample trips we looked at and the corresponding prices — both in U.S. dollars (USD) and miles. We’ve sampled eight different roundtrip economy flights that you can book using your Alaska miles. To calculate the value of one Alaska mile, we subtracted the fee from the value of the ticket and divided it by the required miles. You can use this formula to determine whether or not you’re getting the best value from your award ticket.
Price in miles + fee
Value of ticket
|Alaska Air||Seattle||Los Angeles||40K + $12||$296.20||$0.007|
|Alaska Air||Anchorage, Alaska||Portland, Ore.||25K + $11.20||$414.70||$0.016|
|Alaska Air||Los Angeles||Tampa, Fla.||25K + $11.20||$298.20||$0.011|
|American Airlines||New York City||Chicago||25K + $36.20||$192||$0.006|
|American Airlines||Los Angeles||Tampa, Fla.||25K + $36.20||$246||$0.008|
|British Airways||New York City||Warsaw, Poland||65K + $559.05||$1,718.50||$0.018|
|British Airways||New York City||London, England||65K + $643.05||$2,172.54||$0.024|
|Korean Air||Detroit||Seoul, South Korea||70K + $77.55||$2,055.77||$0.028|
Note that all award travel comes with a fee covering taxes, fuel surcharges and more. For Alaska Airlines flights, this fee is relatively low. Certain carriers, however, can charge exuberant surcharges. For instance, British Airways is known for charging hefty airline fees. In one of the trips we looked at, in addition to paying 65,000 miles, you would need to pay $643 in fees.
Also worth noting is that not all flights on Mileage Plan partner airlines will be available for booking through Alaska Air miles. The partner carriers must make the flights specifically available to Alaska Air. In our research, we’ve seen a decent amount of American Airlines and British Airways coverage. However, when it came to some of the other airlines, available flights were far less frequent, limiting the program’s overall flexibility.
Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare: How to use it
This card's other significant benefit is the annual Coach Companion Fare, which costs $121 per year. When flying on Alaska Airlines, you can bring a travel companion along with no blackout dates. This benefit has a potential value of hundreds of dollars, easily compensating for the card’s $0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $75 annual fee. Companion tickets, as they are commonly known, are a coveted benefit for those who frequently travel with companions.
Depending on your travel, Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare can be very valuable, though the value is hard to estimate. Essentially, the more expensive the itinerary, the greater the discount this benefit will provide.
First checked bag free
If you or your travel companions tend to pack heavy, the Alaska Airlines credit card can save you money with the first checked bag fee waived. This benefit is extended to the cardholder and up to six companions on the same reservation. The first checked bag with the airline costs $30, which means this benefit has the potential of saving you up to $210 in baggage fees per flight.
Discounts on in-flight purchases and lounge day passes
Finally, you’ll receive a few exclusive perks when flying Alaska Airlines. You’ll receive 20% back in statement credits on in-flight purchases when using your Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card.
Even sweeter, you’ll be able to enter any Alaska lounge with a nice discount of 50% off the standard rate, bringing the cost down to just $25. This is a wonderful perk for those who fly Alaska once in a while, but not often enough to justify purchasing a lounge membership.
How does the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card compare to other cards?
To help you decide whether or not the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card is for you, we evaluated three competing cards:
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is an attractive airline mile and travel rewards credit card for individuals who value flexibility. This card earns users Ultimate Rewards points – one of the best credit card rewards programs. Part of what makes Chase Ultimate Rewards® great is the ability to transfer points to Chase’s 13 hotel and airline partners.
Choosing between the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card comes down to your airline preferences and whether or not you are loyal to Alaska Airlines. If you have no brand loyalty and are simply looking to maximize your points, opt for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. But if you spend a lot of money on Alaska Airlines tickets already or want to access airlines that Chase doesn't partner with (for example, Korean Air and American Airlines), the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card will provide a better value for you.
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card vs. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Consumers who want to save on their travel but don't want to deal with a complicated rewards program should consider the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. This card provides a flat 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card allows users to swipe and receive statement credit on travel purchases. If you don't want to spend time in front of a computer trying to find the best points-to-dollar ratio for flights, you will likely walk away with one of the best net rewards using the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card vs. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Although the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card won't get you any Alaska-related benefits, the card is a good option for frequent Southwest flyers. You'll Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 3X points on dining purchases for the first year.
The Southwest Companion Pass is a similar benefit to Alaska's Famous Companion Fare. You'll get to designate one travel companion to fly them for just the cost of taxes and fees, starting at $5.60.
Airline credit cards are meant to improve the overall ground and flying experience. However, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card isn’t just an airline card. It offers the best of both worlds, offering more flexibility than usual. Thanks to its rewards program, Alaska Mileage Plan, you’ll be able to book awards on a variety of airline partners. Alaska miles are some of the most coveted rewards in the points and miles game because you can score incredible redemptions if used wisely.
For rates and fees of Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, please click here.
The information related to Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®, Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®, JetBlue Card and Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card has been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply to American Express credit card offers. See americanexpress.com for more information.