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The Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card has unveiled a slate of significant changes — some welcome, some not so welcome — that will affect its value proposition for cardholders.
First, the good news: Effective Jan. 18, 2023, the card will add some useful 2X bonus spending categories, as well as a bigger sign-up bonus for new applicants, along with some additional side perks such as priority boarding.
But with positive updates come the bad, including an increased annual fee, a higher spending threshold to earn that new introductory bonus and — perhaps the most high-profile change — new requirements to snag the card's popular Companion Fare perk, if you're not already a cardholder.
For those current cardholders, the new rewards and perks go into effect immediately, and the annual fee will increase to $95 (from $75) on their next anniversary date.
Overall, the updates bring the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card more or less in line with competing airline credit cards at similar price points. Here's a look at what's changing:
Changes to the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card at a glance
Rules for receiving ongoing Companion Fare
Checked bag benefit
Bank of America® relationship bonus
Alaska Airlines lounge discount
What changes are positive?
For new cardholders, the higher introductory bonus offer should be a welcome addition.
That means the new 70,000-mile offer is worth an estimated $240 more than the old 50,000-mile offer. This added value makes up for the increased annual fee, even if the new sign-up bonus is for a limited time and requires an additional $1,000 in spend within the first 90 days after approval.
And the ability to earn 2 Alaska Airlines miles per $1 spent on gas, cable, streaming and local transit purchases is also a big plus. Previously, one of the card's biggest weaknesses was that it featured underwhelming bonus categories: 3 miles per $1 spent on Alaska Airlines purchases, but only 1 mile per $1 spent on everything else. And since Marriott is the only transfer partner that allows conversion of its points to Alaska miles (aka Mileage Plan miles), that means the only other way to earn Alaska Airlines miles is through flying on Alaska Airlines (or a partner airline).
So the ability to earn bonus miles in any capacity is a net positive.
The card also is getting some much-needed side perks: priority boarding, a discount on an annual Alaska Airlines lounge membership and the ability to earn 10% more miles with an eligible Bank of America® account.
What changes are negative?
The Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card is a perennial resident on NerdWallet's list of best airline credit cards, and while the card update will probably not change that, there are some drawbacks to it now.
First, the card will be more expensive to keep in your wallet, now that the annual fee is rising by $20. But $95 per year is the effective going rate on most mass-market co-branded airline credit cards. The $75 fee was nice while it lasted, but it'll still be relatively easy to extract well more than $95 in value from this card annually.
The bigger negative change is to the card's unique and valuable Companion Fare perk. Previously, cardholders would receive a Companion Fare automatically each year when they paid their annual fee. Now, new cardholders must spend $6,000 on eligible purchases in the previous cardmember year (not calendar year) — in addition to paying a higher annual fee — to qualify for the Companion Fare. (Note: This change does not apply to existing cardholders, but there's a slight increase to the "taxes and fees" that all cardholders will now owe on a Companion Fare.)
While this is worse than having no spending requirement, the threshold is still significantly lower than any other airline card with a $95 annual fee that also offers a companion ticket. If the card had always offered the Companion Fare with a $6,000 spending requirement, it still would have been considered a significant perk relative to its competitors.
Additionally, cardholders must now pay for flights with their Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card to get free checked luggage. Previously, travelers could use any card to pay for their flight as long as they were Alaska Airlines cardholders. This will impact flyers who are accustomed to booking flights with a card that offers trip delay or trip cancellation insurance, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.