Editorial Review

Alaska Airlines Credit Card Review: Well Worth $75 a Year

It's the perks rather than the rewards that make this card so valuable. The Companion Fare benefit and bag-fee waivers can save you hundreds.

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We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

Our Take

3.7

NerdWallet rating

The Bottom Line: If you fly Alaska Airlines regularly — and many people couldn't, even if they wanted to — this card is close to a must-have.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card

on Bank of America's secure website

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card

Annual Fee
$75
Regular APR
16.99% - 24.99% Variable APR
Intro APR
N/A

Quick Facts

Annual Fee
$75
Regular APR
16.99% - 24.99% Variable APR
Intro APR
N/A

Pros & Cons

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

recommended credit score

Alternate Pick: luxury travel

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Lounge access and high-end perks

This card gives you 5 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines (including Alaska), hundreds of dollars a year in travel credits and an array of luxury perks — including access to several airport lounge networks. For high-end travelers, it's worth the king-size annual fee of $550.

Read our review

Full Review

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 the airline’s name, either. After completing its takeover of Virgin America, Alaska Airlines now flies to more than 100 domestic and foreign destinations. Its routes are primarily concentrated on the West Coast, but it offers flights from more than 30 states. It also carries more passengers between Alaska and the lower 48 states than any other airline, according to its website.

So even if you aren’t specifically bound for the Alaskan tundra, this card could still be a great option.

NERD NOTE: If you apply for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card and are approved for a credit 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.

Key features of the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card

  • Sign-up bonus: 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.
  • Annual fee: $75.
  • Companion Fare: Get a Companion Fare ($99 plus taxes and fees) every year on your account anniversary. Terms apply.
  • Ongoing rewards:
    • 3 miles per dollar spent directly on Alaska Airlines purchases.
    • 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Foreign transaction fees: None.
  • Baggage benefit: First checked bag free on Alaska Airlines flights for you and up to six other passengers on the same reservation.

Use our calculator to see whether your spending will make up for the cost of carrying this card:

Where the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card shines

Companion Fare

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 booked through alaskaair.com. Plus, this benefit renews automatically each year on your account anniversary, regardless of how much you spend on the account. With the card’s 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 more expensive destinations, such as Hawaii, Mexico or Costa Rica.

Solid sign-up bonus

This card comes with a valuable sign-up bonus: 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. To see out how many miles you need for a trip, check out Alaska’s mileage tool.

Free checked bags

Most airline cards offer this benefit, and Alaska is no exception. Alaska charges $25 for the first checked bag (rising to $30 on Dec. 5, 2018). If you and a companion each checked a bag on a round trip, this benefit would more than make up for 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 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.

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 and select partner airlines through alaskaair.com.

In addition to earning miles with the 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 airline routes

Alaska Airlines is best for people who live on the West Coast, folks who travel among West Coast destinations or those who travel to the West from other parts of the country. It doesn’t fly to every state, so if you need to go to, say, Ohio or North Dakota, you’re out of luck. In many of the states it does serve, it offers service only to the western U.S. If you live in, say, Minneapolis and regularly fly to Seattle, Alaska can meet your needs. If you need to go to New York or Richmond, Virginia, every month, it won’t.

If Alaska can’t meet your needs, consider a card for an airline that flies where you need to go. If Southwest Airlines flies 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.