Back in June 2016, Alaska Airlines sweetened the deal on its miles credit card by eliminating foreign transaction fees and boosting its signup bonus to 30,000 miles after a cardholder spends $1,000 or more within their first 90 days. But shiny new terms and conditions don’t necessarily mean you should simply sign up for a card. Airline mile credit cards are truly intended for a carrier’s most frequent fliers — and if you happen to fly one all the time but are prone to carrying debt, then a non-rewards credit card is probably best for you anyway. (You’ll just wind up losing points or miles to interest.) With that in mind, here’s what you should know about the Alaska Airlines credit card.
What Is an Alaska Airlines Credit Card?
Fun fact: Alaska Airlines technically carries two U.S. consumer credit cards: the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card and the Alaska Airlines Platinum Plus credit card, both offered by Bank of America. However, interested customers can only apply for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature. The Platinum Plus exists solely as a card for people whose credit profile doesn’t quite qualify for the primary product, a Bank of America spokesperson confirmed. (You can see where your credit stands by viewing two of your free credit scores on Credit.com.) The Alaska Airlines Platinum Plus credit card touts a lower annual fee ($50) than the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature but also carries fewer benefits and a smaller credit limit. Here’s a breakdown of the major terms and conditions for each card. (Note: You’ll have to read the card agreements for full details.)
The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card
Rewards Details: Cardholders earn three miles per dollar spent on Alaska Airlines tickets, vacation packages, cargo and in-flight purchases, and one mile per dollar everywhere else. There’s no cap or expiration date on miles.
Signup Bonus: Cardholders can earn 30,000 bonus miles if they spend $1,000 or more within the first 90 days.
Travel Benefits: A free checked bag for you and up to six companions; cardholders are eligible for an annual companion fare from $121 (that’s a $99 base fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after you spend $1,000 or more within the first 90 days. Plus, no foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $75
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): Variable 12.49% to 19.49%, depending on creditworthiness
The Alaska Airlines Platinum Plus
Rewards Details: Cardholders earn two miles per dollar spent on Alaska Airlines purchases.
Signup Bonus: Cardholders can earn 5,000 bonus points if they spend $1,000 or more within the first 90 days.
Travel Benefits: Cardholders don’t get the annual companion fare, but they are eligible for a $50 annual airfare discount.
Annual Fee: $50
APR: Variable 12.49% to 19.49%, depending on creditworthiness
What Is the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan?
Under its standard loyalty program — the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan — frequent fliers can earn one mile for every mile flown to various cities. Vacation package purchases made through the carrier’s website earn 1,500 bonus miles per booking. You can earn miles when you fly partnering airlines, book certain hotel stays, rent cars with certain companies, dine out at select restaurants and shop in the plan’s online portal, but the rate at which you’ll earn miles can vary by partner and class. Redemption rates can vary as well. You can start redeeming for award travel starting at 7,500 miles.
Should You Get an Alaska Airlines Credit Card?
Let’s talk about the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card, since it’s the one interested customers can apply for directly. In terms of a brand-centric airline miles card, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card is a pretty good deal. It offers three miles per dollar on its tickets, vacation packages and in-flight purchases — lots of airline mile credit cards only offer two. The miles you earn can be redeemed for travel with a bunch of partnering airlines, including American Airlines, British Airways, Delta and Qantas. Plus, the annual fee pales in comparison to the ones many premium credit cards carry, so, if you’re already an Alaska Airlines frequent flier — and you’re able to pay your purchases off each month — well, getting the card could be sort of a no-brainer.
If your travel habits are more fluid — or there isn’t an Alaska Airlines hub anywhere near you — you’re probably better off going a different route. That means you should either opt for a card from an airline that you do fly all the time or choose a general-purpose rewards credit card that lets you redeem points for travel. Here are a few alternatives.
Our Picks for Alternatives to the Alaska Airlines Credit Card
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Why We’re Mentioning it: It’s one of the few credit cards out there that matches the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature’s three-miles-per dollar return, only this time it’s points across airfare and hotels. You also get three points per dollar back at restaurants and one point per dollar everywhere else. Plus, the Reserve has a sweet signup bonus — 100,000 points (equivalent to $1,500 when redeemed through Chase’s travel portal) when you spend $4,000 in your first three months — that could more than make up for its high $450 annual fee.
Other Travel Benefits: $300 annual travel statement credit, $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check every four years, airport lounge access with a complimentary Priority Pass Select membership and no foreign transaction fees.
Annual Fee: $450
APR: Variable 16.24% to 23.24%
Why We’re Mentioning it: You get 1.5 miles back on every dollar you spend, but since Discover is currently matching all the miles new cardholders earn in their first 12 months, you’ll basically get three miles per dollar that first year. (Note: The mile match is paid out once the year is over.) Plus, the Discover it Miles has no annual fee, so it’s a good alternative for a less frequent or more frugal traveler.
Other Travel Benefits: No foreign transaction fees
Annual Fee: $0
APR: Variable 11.74% to 23.74%, after the 14-month 0% introductory APR expires
Why We’re Mentioning it: An option for travelers looking for a few more bennies with an affordable annual fee, Venture Rewards cardholders earn unlimited two miles back on every dollar they spend and 40,000 bonus miles (equal to $400) in travel when they spend $3,000 in their first three months. Rewards can be redeemed for a statement credit against any travel purchase you make, with no expiration dates.
Other Travel Benefits: You also get World Elite Visa benefits, which includes complimentary concierge services, travel upgrades and savings at select hotels and travel protection up to $1,500 per trip for non-refundable expenses if your vacation gets cut short or canceled.
Annual Fee: $59, waived the first year
APR: 13.74% – 23.74% (Variable)