The Verdict: The Alaska Airlines Credit Card is a solid option for someone with good credit who regularly flies with Alaska Air and its network of 17 partner airlines, both domestic and international. And it’s best suited to be a complementary card, used only for Alaska Airlines expenses to supplement an everyday card with more well-rounded rewards.
You see, the Alaska Airlines Credit Card isn’t one to seek out if you’re looking to take a quick trip on a credit-card company’s dime. Its 40,000-mile initial bonus, which you’ll receive two to three weeks after account approval, is nice, but your good credit can get you a lot more up front. Furthermore, the 1 point you’ll earn per $1 that you spend on most purchases and the ability to earn up to 5 points per $1 by booking restaurant reservations through Alaska’s Mileage Plan Dining program are okay. But the 3 points per $1 that you’ll earn on Alaska Airlines purchases ultimately define the card.
If you spend a lot on Alaska Airlines, its credit card should prove worthwhile. But if you don’t, the card’s $75 annual fee (waived the first year) will skew the offer against you. You can find more information, including why certain elements of the offer may change if your credit isn’t quite good enough, below.
- 40,000-Mile Initial Bonus: Spending at least $2,000 within 90 days of account opening scores you 40,000 bonus miles — redeemable for roughly $496 in airfare, according to our calculations. That’s not quite as much as some other travel rewards cards currently offer, but they tend to have far higher spending requirements. And that makes this bonus particularly helpful to relatively light-spending travelers as well as those who’d rather not put all of their monthly expenses on Alaska Airlines plastic, even for just a few billing cycles.
- Up To 5 Miles Per $1 Spent: This maximum earning rate applies to purchases made with Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan Dining partners. This should help you reduce your restaurant costs both at home and while traveling most places. Mileage Plan Dining seems to have pretty good coverage across the country, but you should definitely search your favorite destinations before applying just to be sure. The only other thing to note about this aspect of the offer is that not all restaurants are rewards-eligible every day of the week. Double-checking before making a reservation is therefore a good idea, too.The rewards party continues with what frequent flyers will consider the offer’s primary source of value: 3 points per $1 spent on Alaska Airlines tickets, baggage fees, in-flight purchases and vacation packages. On all other purchases, you will earn the industry-standard 1 point per $1 spent.
- Free Companion Ticket Each Year: Let’s say you and your significant other enjoy taking a yearly trip to Alaska. Well, as far as your wallet’s concerned, only one individual will be on the itinerary. That’s because your card entitles you to a free round-trip ticket, which covers a base fee of at least $99 and $22 in fees, for one companion each year. And your travel partner will still earn miles for the trip. Pretty nice. All you have to do to qualify the first year is spend at least $2,000 in the first 90 days. And you merely have to keep your account in good standing to earn this bonus in subsequent years. If your account is closed or changed from a Visa Signature, you will lose the benefit.
- Free Checked Bags: Each time you fly Alaska Air, you and up to six companions won’t have to worry about your first checked bags. All of the tickets must be on the card’s bill, however, so getting reimbursed by your travel companions (if you require it) will be on you. Nevertheless, this single feature could save a frequent flyer hundreds of dollars each year, not to mention the points you’ll earn for picking up the tab. But it still shouldn’t be overstated given that other airlines extend similar generosity to customers, cardholders or not.
- $75 Annual Fee, Waived the First Year: There is no annual fee for the first year. But the annual fee that is charged starting the second year is nearly four times higher than the market average of $19.49, according to WalletHub’s latest Credit Card Landscape Report, and is the primary negative against which you must weigh the card’s positives. In other words, will this card prove to be worth at least $75 more than the best no-annual-fee card you could get? Does it beat out other offers that also come at a cost but sport different types of rewards? The answers to those questions depend on your credit standing and spending habits, and we’ll do our best to help you fill in the blanks throughout the remainder of this review.
- No Low Intro Financing Offer: Many credit cards, even some obviously geared toward travel rewards, offer 0% introductory interest rates applicable to new purchases, balance transfers or both. The Alaska Airlines Credit Card is not among them. That means the ability to always pay your monthly bill in full should be a prerequisite for applying.
Other Things To Consider
- Platinum Possibility: Not all applicants who get approved for an Alaska Airlines credit card will get the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card. Instead, those whose credit is good but not great will get the Platinum Plus version. Although Platinum costs $25 less per year, this is not an upgrade. Platinum Plus offers only a 5,000-mile initial bonus and a $50 annual airline credit in place of Signature’s companion ticket worth at least $121. It also comes with a lower credit limit.According to the terms and conditions, applicants who get approved for a limit of at least $5,000 get Signature cards and everyone else gets Platinum Plus.
- 17 Airline Partners: Don’t worry; it’s not exclusive. Getting the Alaska Airlines Credit Card doesn’t marry you to the carrier or its route schedule. In fact, you have the ability to transfer your miles to 17 partner airlines. In other words, 40,000 Alaska Airlines miles would become 40,000 American Airlines miles.The following is a list of partners. And if you decide to avail yourself of this feature, just make sure that you’re getting a fair transfer ratio (hopefully at least 1:1, or 1 Alaska Airlines mile equals 1 partner airline mile), and keep in mind that you may have to pay fees that are not covered by the miles.
Aeroméxico Emirates Korean Air Air France Fiji Airways LATAM Airlines American Airlines Hainan Airlines PenAir British Airways Icelandair Qantas Cathay Pacific Japan Airlines Ravn Alaska Delta Airlines KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
- Miles Usually Don’t Expire: The only two scenarios in which your miles can expire are if you don’t use the card at all for the first two months your account is open or if there is no account activity for 24 consecutive months. Otherwise, you can redeem your miles at will. Just bear in mind that the number of miles needed to book a given ticket could rise in the future, thus making your miles worth less. It’s called rewards devaluation.
- Potential For Above-Average APR: Depending on your creditworthiness, you could get approved for an interest rate befitting someone with excellent credit or one more suited to someone with fair credit, according to our latest Credit Card Landscape Report. More specifically, it could be between 15.99% to 23.99% (V). That means you shouldn’t count on carrying a balance with this card, which is wise considering that any finance charges would eat away at your rewards earning.
- No Foreign-Transaction Fee: Sure, Alaska’s a domestic carrier, so a foreign-transaction fee wouldn’t be horribly out of place, but it’s certainly nice to know there isn’t one. Many of the card’s partner airlines are internationally based, after all, and you never know where your travels will take you.
- Overdraft “Protection”: You have the option of signing up for overdraft protection to cover the cost of transactions that exceed your available credit, which would ordinarily be declined. But don’t. Maxing out your credit line is quite harmful to your credit score, and the overdraft amounts are treated as cash advances. That means they will immediately begin to accrue interest. A $12 fee will also apply when the amount covered by overdraft protection is at least $12.
Compared To The Competition
Which airline credit card flies the highest? You can check out our editors’ picks for the best airline credit cards to get the complete story, but here’s a quick snapshot of how the Alaska Airlines Credit Card compares to some of its most popular peers:
Alaska Airlines Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
|Annual Fee||$0 1st yr, $75 after||$99||$95|
|Rewards Bonus||40,000 miles||40,000 points||100,000 miles|
|Rewards Rate||1 - 3 miles / $1||1 - 2 points / $1||2 miles / $1|
|Purchase Intro APR||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Transfer Intro APR||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Regular APR||15.99% - 23.99% (V)||15.99% - 22.99% (V)||17.24% - 24.49% (V)|
|Editors' Rating||3.0 / 5||4.3 / 5||5.0 / 5|
|Details, Rates & Fees||Learn More||Learn More||Learn More|