Is the Alaska Airlines Visa Card Worth Its Annual Fee?

Reyna GobelNovember 21, 2019
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With a $75 annual fee, it could be worth getting the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card largely for its welcome bonus while giving yourself a year to see if the card is a good fit: Get a $100 statement credit, 40,000 bonus miles and Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after you make $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.

Whether it’ll be worth keeping for the long term depends in part on how often you fly Alaska Airlines. Here’s how to figure out whether the card makes sense for you:

Calculate how much you would save in checked bag fees

Alaska Airlines charges $30 for a checked bag. This fee on the first checked bag is waived for the cardholder and up to six people traveling on a reservation, so the savings here can really add up fast. If you took just one round-trip flight on Alaska Airlines and checked a bag, you’d save $60.

Take advantage of the Companion Fare

In addition to the welcome bonus, holders of the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card who complete the spending requirement earn a $99 Companion Fare. This means if you book yourself a ticket, you can bring along a travel companion from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22).

The Companion Fare is issued annually. In order to get at least $75 worth of value out of it, you would have to book a ticket for a companion that costs more than $196 ($75 + $99 + $22 for taxes and fees). Thus, plan on using it for more than just a short, cheap flight to get the most bang for your buck.

Look at where Alaska Airlines flies and then think about where you will likely fly this year. It’s easy to think about a trip to Alaska, but it’s a different story to price out hotels, research activities and look at menus online from regional restaurants. You don’t want to pick a card because of wishful trip planning. Plan out the trip you want to take. Alaska flies all over the United States, and its partners fly all over the world.

Plan what you'll do with the welcome bonus

Though the welcome bonus on this card is lower than that of some other airline cards, you can also book cheaper awards with Alaska in some cases. For example, the cheapest flight with American Airlines miles costs 7,500 miles each way for distances of 500 miles or less.

But with Alaska Mileage Plan, you can take short hops of less than 700 miles for just 5,000 miles each way. If you fly quite a bit on short flights among West Coast cities, you can make good use of the welcome bonus for this card.

NerdWallet values Alaska miles at 1 cent each.

Consider your current flying and spending habits

If you fly frequently on Alaska Airlines, that doesn’t necessarily mean the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card is the best card for you — or at least not as your primary travel card. After the first year, receiving the annual Companion Fare doesn’t require a minimum purchase. Thus, you could decide to solely use this card for your Alaska Airlines purchases, on which you will earn 3 miles per $1 spent. Then, use another card that offers bonus points for everyday activities such as gas or grocery spending.

The bottom line

The primary feature of the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card that makes the annual fee worth it beyond the first year is the Companion Fare offer. It can also be worth it if you'd otherwise be paying a lot of baggage fees on Alaska.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

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