Like most of the travel rewards cards in my wallet, the Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® won my business with an attractive sign-up bonus.
At the time, a round-trip ticket to Hawaii from the mainland started at just 35,000 miles, and I was just 10,000 miles shy of two round-trip tickets immediately upon earning the bonus. But I didn’t even wait that long to book a flight. Instead, I reserved two one-way tickets on Hawaiian and two one-way tickets on United (where I also had miles). I was on the beach in no time flat.
That was years ago. But this card stays in my wallet, despite a $99 annual fee, due to some benefits that are too good to give up. Here are some of the main reasons I’m a fan of this card.
Good value on redemptions
The Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®’s earning rate is pretty standard: 1 mile per dollar on most purchases, 2 miles per dollar on gas, groceries and dining, and 3 miles per dollar on eligible Hawaiian Airlines purchases. But the redemptions are especially attractive: Just 35,000 HawaiianMiles can get you a round-trip ticket from the mainland United States. Compare that to United, which costs 45,000 MileagePlus miles for the same round-trip itinerary. That means that if you use your card wisely, it has the potential to get you to Hawaii in a relatively short period of time.
A good use for low award balances
With any frequent flyer program, it can be depressing to look at your mileage balance in the months following a redemption. Sometimes you have just 6,000 or 7,000 miles sitting in there, meaning you’re a long way from a free ticket on a flight you actually want to take. Small quantities of HawaiianMiles, however, have an appealing utility. Interisland flights start at 7,500 HawaiianMiles. On a multi-island trip, using miles for a flight between islands is like a small discount on your vacation.
$100 off companion pass
The first year after signing up for this card, cardholders will receive a one-time 50% off companion pass good for round-trip travel between North America and Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines. Every year after that, there’s a $100 off companion pass, also valid only on round-trip travel between North America and Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines. That means that anytime I’m looking for a cash fare, I can compare Hawaiian flights with those of their competitors at what amounts to $50 less per ticket.
Free checked bag
Snorkels and fins don’t fit in a carry-on — at least not if you want to also bring clothes on your trip. So this Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®’s free checked bag benefit, valid only for the primary cardmember, saves me $60 round-trip.
» Learn More: Airline credit cards that offer free checked bags
Free credit score on demand
The days when you had to pay to find out your credit score are gone, provided you have a credit card that gives you your score on demand and for free. With this credit card, I can check my FICO score as often as I like.
'Share Miles' option
Got 20,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles you’d like to transfer to a friend’s account? That will cost you $280. Compare that to one of the perks of the Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®: free cardmember-to-cardmember miles transfers up to 10 times a year.
Lots of ways to earn extra miles
The HawaiianMiles program has a feature called HawaiianMiles Marketplace that can accelerate earnings for anyone who holds a Hawaiian-branded credit card. Hawaiian Airlines partners with retailers all over the country that offer bonus miles if you shop in person in their stores using your Hawaiian Airlines card. This is separate from the airline’s virtual mall, where anyone can earn bonus HawaiianMiles shopping online with any credit card, which is also a great way to earn bonus miles for online shopping.
» Learn More: Find the best airline credit card for you
For example, if I go to the Pizza Hut in the Glassell Park neighborhood of Los Angeles and use my Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®, I get a Marketplace bonus of 2.5 HawaiianMiles per dollar spent. That’s on top of the 2 miles per dollar I get for using the card on dining purchases.
Of course, the best thing about this card is clear just from the name: It can help get you to one of the greatest vacation destinations on Earth on an airline that specializes in the spirit of aloha.
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 2021, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: 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: 5 things to do when you get the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard Travel loyalty program reviews Want to know how much your points and miles from these loyalty programs are worth?