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With one of the best sign-up enticements in the business — a virtually free companion fare — still available for a limited time, plus other perks, the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card is an excellent choice for thrifty travelers, particularly those based on the West Coast.
The card did get an overhaul in January 2023 with a slew of adjusted perks and new terms, including a higher annual fee. (See if we think its still worth it.)
Still, folks who travel in groups and can’t meet other cards’ steep spending minimums to earn bonus miles could be particularly poised to reap the card's benefits.
Here's why the Alaska credit card might deserve a slot in your wallet.
Low minimum spending to get bonus
The sign-up bonus for the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card is: Get 70,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ ($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. NerdWallet values Alaska miles at 1.4 cents each.
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Lots of credit cards offer big point bonuses to users who meet a certain spending minimum in the first few months. But across the board, those minimums are pretty steep.
For example, the popular Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has a bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Not everyone can responsibly charge that much in three months. Very few credit cards can compete with Alaska in this department. The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card and the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card are among the few that also offer a relatively low spending minimum.
» Learn More: Find the best airline credit card for you
Discounted companion fare
A discounted companion fare of $99 has long been a feature of the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card, but keep in mind that $23 in taxes and fees apply. So the $99 ticket is actually $122, but it’s still an outstanding benefit.
Note that as of Jan. 18, 2023, accessing the Companion Fare benefit requires an additional step: It is only available to cardmembers who spend $6,000 on the card annually. This fare would be in addition to any Companion Fares that come with the welcome bonus.
The Alaska Companion Fare works like this: Book two tickets on the same round-trip flight from the cardmember’s account and apply the discount shown. The price for both tickets will be just $122 more than the price for one. The cardholder does not need to be one of the two travelers.
So if you want a friend or family member to travel to you, you can get them a ticket at a steep discount.
Earn miles flying from the West Coast
These days, airlines partner with so many other airlines that you can get almost anywhere when booking. But companies with hubs in your region often have better itineraries and better deals.
Alaska Airlines is based in Seattle and also has hubs in Portland, Oregon., Anchorage, Alaska, San Francisco and Los Angeles. If you’re based in one of those cities, Alaska may have some of the best fares to your destination. When you pay with an Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card, which awards three MileagePlan miles for every $1 you spend booking directly through the airline, you’re getting bonus miles while also getting a good fare. You also get 2 miles for every $1 spent on eligible gas, EV charging station, cable, streaming services and local transit, including ride share purchases.
» Learn more: Beginner’s guide to points and miles
Free checked bags and priority boarding for you and up to six travel companions
Free bags for seven people each way can save you at least $200, so this card’s checked-bag benefit measures up well against competing airlines’ credit cards.
United Airlines-branded credit cards customarily offer a free checked bag for the cardholder and one travel companion. The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® will get you and up to four companions a free checked bag. A few cards out there offer free checked bags for even bigger parties, like the eight-companion policy of the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®. But that card comes with a $450 annual fee.
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 2024, 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