Is the Alaska Airlines Visa Card Worth Its Annual Fee?
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With a $95 annual fee, it could be worth getting the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card largely for its welcome bonus while giving yourself a year to see if the card is a good fit: Get 70,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $122 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $23) with this offer. To qualify, make $3,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.
» Learn More: Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan: Your Complete Guide
Whether it’ll be worth keeping for the long term depends in part on how often you fly Alaska Airlines — and how much you're willing to spend on the card each year. 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.
» Learn more: Guide to Alaska Airlines Baggage and Other Fees
Take advantage of the Companion Fare
In addition to the welcome bonus, new holders of the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card who complete the $6,000 annual spending requirement earn a $99 Companion Fare. This means if you book yourself a ticket, you can bring along a travel companion from $122 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22).
The Companion Fare is issued annually for qualifying members.
Cardholders prior to Jan. 18, 2023, will continue to receive an automatic Companion Fare annually, regardless of card spend.
In order to get at least the annual fee worth of value out of it, you would have to book a ticket for a companion that costs more than $217 ($95 + $99 + $23 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.
» Learn more: Alaska Airlines credit card review
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 1.2 cents each.
Consider your current flying and spending habits
If you fly frequently on Alaska Airlines, that doesn’t necessarily mean the Alaska Airlines Visa® 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. You can also use it to earn 2 miles for every $1 spent on eligible gas, cable, streaming services and local transit including ride share purchases.
The bottom line
The primary feature of the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card that makes the annual fee worth it beyond the first year is the Companion Fare offer, if you can meet the minimum $6,000 annual spend as a new cardholder. It can also be worth it if you'd otherwise be paying a lot of baggage fees on Alaska.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: Find the best airline credit card for you Why the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card Is great for frugal West Coast travelers Alaska Airlines MVP elite status program: The complete guide