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Alaska Airlines Credit Card Review: Worth the $75 Fee

The card's Companion Fare offer could save you big on tickets — and not just to Alaska. Let's crunch the numbers.
Airline Credit Cards, Credit Cards
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Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card: Everything You Need to Know

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card stands out from the airline card competition for one major reason: It offers an annual Companion Fare, which allows you to get a ticket for a traveling partner for just $99 plus taxes and fees once a year. That makes it well worth the modest $75 annual fee, and a fabulously valuable choice for anyone who flies on Alaska Airlines with another person at least once a year.

Don’t be fooled by its name, either — even if you aren’t specifically bound for Alaska’s icy tundra, this card could still be a great option.

Nerd tip

Keep in mind that if you apply for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card and are approved for a limit under $5,000, you’ll get the Alaska Airlines Platinum Plus® credit card instead. That basic card comes with a smaller annual fee but also fewer benefits, including a small annual travel credit instead of the Companion Fare benefit.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card

Apply Now on Bank of America's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 690
    850
    Good - Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • Sign-up bonus
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • Miles don't expire on active accounts
    • Free checked bag

    Cons

    • Has annual fee
    • Requires good/excellent credit

    Annual Fees

    $75

    APR

    • APR: 16.24% - 24.24% Variable APR
    • Penalty APR: up to 29.99% APR
    • Cash Advance APR: See Terms

    Bonus Offers

    Buy one ticket, get one for just taxes and fees (from $22) plus receive 30,000 bonus miles with this special offer. To qualify, make purchases of $1,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account.

    Intro APR

    • N/A
  • Additional Information
    • SPECIAL INTRODUCTORY OFFER: Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ + 30,000 Bonus Miles
    • Buy one ticket, get one for just taxes and fees (from $22) plus receive 30,000 bonus miles with this special offer. To qualify, make purchases of $1,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account.
    • Enjoy another Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare™ every year! That's right, ANNUALLY for $99 (plus taxes and fees from $22) on your account anniversary valid on Alaska and Virgin America flights booked on alaskaair.com.
    • Save with a free checked bag on Alaska and Virgin America flights for you and up to six other passengers on the same reservation.
    • Earn 3 miles for every $1 spent directly on Alaska Airlines and Virgin America purchases and 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
    • Earn unlimited miles and travel with no blackout dates.
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • There are two types of cards: the Visa Signature® card and the Platinum Plus® card. The card you receive will be determined by several factors including your income and credit history. The benefits and bonus miles above apply to Visa Signature cards only. The Annual Fees, benefits and bonus miles for Platinum Plus® cards are different. For more information on the differences, see the Features section accompanying the application.

Key features

Good for:

* People who fly on Alaska Airlines with a companion at least once a year

* People who travel internationally

Bad for:

* People who fly routes that Alaska Airlines doesn’t cover

* People looking for luxury benefits

Here’s what you need to know about this card: 

  • Sign-up bonus: Buy one ticket, get one for just taxes and fees (from $22) plus receive 30,000 bonus miles with this special offer. To qualify, make purchases of $1,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account.

  • Annual fee: $75

  • Companion Fare: Get a Companion Fare ($99 plus taxes and fees) every year on your account anniversary. Terms apply.

  • Ongoing rewards

    • Earn 3 miles per dollar spent directly on Alaska Airlines and Virgin America purchases
    • Earn 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Foreign transaction fees: None

  • Where Alaska Airlines flies: The airline flies to 100+ domestic and foreign destinations, with most routes concentrated on the West Coast; it also carries more passengers between Alaska and the lower 48 states than any other airline, according to its website.
  • Waived checked bag fees: Free checked bag on Alaska and Virgin America flights for you and up to six other passengers on the same reservation

To find out whether this card is worth the annual fee, check the calculator.

Where the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card shines

Companion Fare

Horizon Air, a regional airline owned by Alaska Airlines, serves complimentary beer and wine on most of its flights. (These free drinks aren’t available on Skywest E-175 aircraft, however.)

The most valuable feature on this card, by far, is the Companion Fare. This annual benefit allows you to cover a companion’s airline ticket for as low as $121 ($99 plus taxes and fees, starting at $22) on any coach flight on Alaska Airlines or Virgin America booked through alaskaair.com. Plus, this benefit comes automatically each year on your account anniversary, regardless of how much is spent on the account. With the special introductory offer, you’ll also get a Companion Fare for $0 (plus taxes and fees) after meeting the spending requirement. More on that later.

Considering how expensive it is to fly to certain destinations — even in coach — this benefit makes the card incredibly valuable. Say a round trip to Hawaii costs $1,000 per ticket. Assuming a Companion Fare of $121, you’d save $879 when purchasing your fellow traveler’s ticket. You can maximize this benefit by purchasing a ticket to one of Alaska’s most expensive destinations, such as Hawaii, Mexico or Costa Rica.

Solid sign-up bonus

This card comes with a valuable sign-up bonus: Buy one ticket, get one for just taxes and fees (from $22) plus receive 30,000 bonus miles with this special offer. To qualify, make purchases of $1,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account. To figure out how many rewards are needed for a trip, check out Alaska’s mileage tool.

Typically, the Companion Fare costs $99 (plus taxes and fees). In addition to this special introductory offer, you’ll begin receiving the regular annual Companion Fare after you’ve held the card for one year. For an annual fee of $75, this benefit is a steal.

Free checked bags

Most airline cards offer this benefit, and Alaska is no exception. It offers a free checked bag for you and up to six people on your reservation. That could be worth plenty. For example, if you and a companion checked a bag on a round trip, this benefit would save $100 — more than enough to wipe out the annual fee of $75.

No foreign transaction fees

Because this card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, you won’t have to pay more just for using it to make purchases outside of the U.S. For frequent international travelers, this is a must-have benefit. Non-travel cards typically charge 3% extra on every international transaction, which can make trips abroad a little more expensive.

What to know about Alaska Airlines miles

Alaska Airlines miles are worth 1.1 cents each on average when redeemed for flights, according to NerdWallet valuations. Most other airline miles are worth roughly the same. You might be able to get more per mile, depending on how those rewards are redeemed. You can redeem those miles for flights and upgrades on Alaska Airlines, Virgin America and select partner airlines through alaskaair.com.

In addition to earning miles through the co-branded credit card, you can earn miles by flying on Alaska Airlines and qualifying airline partners — for example, through American Airlines or British Airways. Flyers can earn one mile per actual mile flown, according to Alaska Airlines’ terms. But bonuses are also available, depending on the fare class and flyer loyalty status.

Where the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card falls short

Limited routes

Alaska Airlines doesn’t fly to every state in the U.S. That makes the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card a poor choice for some folks — especially those who often travel to, say, Ohio or North Dakota. If this is you, consider a co-branded card for an airline that actually flies where you want to go.

If Southwest Airlines flies all your most-traveled routes, for example, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card might be a valuable pick. It earns 2 points per dollar spent on Southwest Airlines flights and Rapid Rewards Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Points are worth 1 cent on average, according to NerdWallet valuations.

The annual fee isn’t waived for the first year

With the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card, the annual fee is charged to your account straight away. Other cards waive the fee in the first year.

Want to limit your first-year costs? The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card might be a good choice. In addition to an annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $95, it offers more versatile rewards. It earns 2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases, worth 1 cent each when redeemed as credit toward travel purchases.

No luxury benefits

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card offers generous benefits, but it’s no luxury card. For a card that gets you into fancy airport lounges, consider The Platinum Card® from American Express instead.

This card offers 5 points per dollar spent when booking airline flights directly through airlines or American Express Travel and offers several other generous perks. The annual fee is a steep $550, but the card’s rich benefits — including access to several lounges — may make up for it.

Should I get the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card?

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card isn’t a good deal if the airline doesn’t cover the routes you travel most. But if Alaska is your go-to airline, this is one of the most valuable mass-market airline cards available, and well worth the annual fee.

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