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Why the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card Is Great for Frugal West Coast Travelers

Nov. 29, 2018
Travel, Travel Credit Cards
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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 Signature® credit card is an excellent choice for thrifty West Coast travelers.

Folks who travel in groups and can’t meet other cards’ steep spending minimums to earn bonus miles are especially poised to reap its benefits.

Here are the features that make this card a good fit for these travelers.

Low minimum spending to get bonus

The sign-up bonus for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card is: Buy 1 ticket, get 1 for just the taxes and fees with Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ Offer. Get 30,000 bonus miles after you make $1,000 or more within the first 90 days of your account opening.

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 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® the bonus is: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*.

Not everyone can responsibly charge that much in three months. Very few credit cards can compete with Alaska in this department. The Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express and the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card are among the few that also offer a relatively low spending minimum.

Free companion fare

A discounted companion fare of $99 has long been a feature of the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card. But users who sign up in time get that $99 knocked down to nothing the first year once they’ve met the spending minimum.

In either case, $22 in taxes and fees apply. So the $99 ticket is actually $121 and the “free” ticket is actually $22, but it’s still an outstanding benefit.

» Learn more: Smart credit card strategies carry couples around the world

It 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 $22 more than the price for one. The cardholder does not need to be one of the two travelers. So if you want two friends or family members to travel to you, you can get them two tickets for just over the price of one. If you use your bonus miles to meet two friends for a fun getaway, it can be like getting three tickets for the price of one.

A relatively low annual fee

Many rewards credit cards these days start at about $95 a year in annual fees, making the $75 annual fee for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card a little more attractive. But unlike some others, this card does not waive the fee the first year.

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.

» Learn more: 5 things the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program gets right

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 Signature® 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.

Free checked bags 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 2019, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Best travel credit cards of 2018
Best credit cards to use on discount travel websites
Travel rewards bucket list: Visit 40 countries on 2 million points

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