Alaska Airlines Credit Card Review: Well Worth $95 a Year

The Companion Fare benefit and bag-fee waivers can save you hundreds — if Alaska Airlines is (or can be) your go-to airline. For some, that won't be possible.
By Claire Tsosie 

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Our Take

5.0

NerdWallet rating 
The bottom line:

If you fly Alaska Airlines with another person at least once a year, this card is a must-have. Be aware, however, that Alaska doesn't fly everywhere.

Jump to: Full Review
Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa® Credit Card
Annual fee
$95
Regular APR
19.24%-27.24% Variable APR
Intro APR
N/A
Rec. credit score
690-850 (Good - Excellent)
Apply now

on Bank of America's website

Quick Facts

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Companion benefit

  • Free checked bag

Cons

  • Requires good/excellent credit

  • Has annual fee

  • Rewards have limited flexibility

Compare to Other Cards

NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Annual fee

$95

Annual fee

$0

Annual fee

$95

Regular APR

19.24%-27.24% Variable APR

Regular APR

16.24%-27.24% Variable APR

Regular APR

20.24%-27.24% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
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Full Review

The Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card, issued by Bank of America®, stands out from much of 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 $122 ($99 plus taxes and fees from $23) once a year after spending at least $6,000 annually.

Companion tickets are rare and valuable, especially among cards at this one's price point: a $95 annual fee.

Alaska Airlines' routes are mostly concentrated on the West Coast — it doesn't fly to every state, or every major airport — so this card won't be a match for some travelers. But for anyone who flies on Alaska Airlines with another person at least once a year, it's a no-brainer.

🤓Nerdy Tip

If you apply for the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card and are approved for a credit limit under $5,000, you’ll get the Alaska Airlines Platinum Plus® credit card instead, which offers more basic benefits.

Key features of the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card

Card type: Airline.

Sign-up bonus: Get 70,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $122 ($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.

Annual fee: $95.

Companion Fare: Get a Companion Fare from $122 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $23) each account anniversary after you spend $6,000 or more on purchases within the prior anniversary year. Terms apply.

(Note that if you've held the card since before January 2023, the $6,000 spending requirement might not apply. See here for more.)

Ongoing rewards:

  • 3 miles per $1 spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases.

  • 2 miles per $1 spent on eligible gas, cable, streaming services and local transit, which includes ridesharing, trains, tolls and ferries.

  • 1 mile per $1 spent on all other purchases.

NerdWallet values Alaska miles at 1.2 cents each. This is a baseline value, drawn from real-world data on hundreds of economy routes, not a maximized value. In other words, you should aim for award redemptions that offer that value or more from your Alaska miles.

Foreign transaction fees: None.

Benefits:

  • Free checked bags: First checked bag free on Alaska Airlines flights for you and up to six other passengers on the same reservation when you pay for your flight with your card.

  • In-flight savings: 20% back on in-flight purchases, such as food, beverages and Wi-Fi, made on flights owned and operated by Alaska Airlines.

  • Priority boarding. 

  • Rewards boost: Eligible Bank of America® account holders receive a 10% rewards bonus on all miles earned from purchases. 

  • Lounge discount: Get a $100 discount on an Alaska Lounge+ Membership when you pay for it with your Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card.

🤓Nerdy Tip

In January 2023, the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card underwent a significant overhaul, including changes to its annual fee, rewards structure and Companion Fare policy.

Credit score requirement: According to the issuer, you'll need good credit (generally defined as a score of 690 or higher) to qualify for the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card. Keep in mind that credit scores alone do not guarantee approval for any credit card.

In addition to earning miles on purchases made with the card, you can earn miles by flying on Alaska Airlines and qualifying airline partners. Flyers can earn 1 mile per actual mile flown, according to Alaska Airlines' terms. Bonuses are also available, depending on the fare class and flyer loyalty status. For example, if you paid $400 using your card for a 500-mile flight on Alaska Airlines in coach without elite status, you would earn 1,200 miles from using your card, and 500 miles from Alaska Airlines, for a total of 1,700 miles, worth $20.40 based on NerdWallet valuations.

Where the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card shines

Companion Fare

The biggest draw of this card, by far, is its Companion Fare perk. It allows you to cover a companion's airline ticket for as low as $122 ($99 plus taxes and fees, starting at $23) on any flight on Alaska Airlines booked through alaskaair.com. To qualify, you must spend at least $6,000 in purchases within the prior anniversary year.

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.

Double sign-up bonus

This card comes with a unique sign-up bonus that packs two perks in one: Get 70,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $122 ($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. To see how far this bonus might take you, check out Alaska’s mileage tool.

Solid rewards structure

The Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card offers valuable and useful bonus rewards categories. You’ll earn 3X miles on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases; 2X miles on gas, cable, streaming and transit; and 1X miles on everything else. The highest rewards rate on many airline cards at this price point is just 2X. 

The Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card’s closest competitor may be the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, which has a nearly identical rewards structure. It earns 3X on Southwest purchases; 2X on transit, commuting, internet, cable, phone services and select streaming; and 1X on everything else. However, its annual fee of $149 is higher than what you’ll pay for the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card.

Free checked bags

Most airline cards at this price point offer this benefit, and the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card is no exception. Alaska Airlines charges $30 for the first checked bag. 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 $95.

In-flight savings

With this card, you can get 20% back on all Alaska Airlines in-flight purchases, such as food, beverages or Wi-Fi, paid in the form of a statement credit. If you tend to buy snacks and other goodies during flights, this benefit could put some money back in your wallet.

Rewards boost

Cardholders with an eligible Bank of America® account will receive 10% more miles earned on purchases. Qualifying accounts include non-business Bank of America® checking or savings accounts that have an average daily balance greater than $0 or that have had a deposit or withdrawal within 90 days. Investment accounts with Merrill with an average daily balance greater than $0 are also eligible.

Why you might want a different card

You aren't — or won't be able to be — loyal to Alaska Airlines

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 certain states, so if you need to go to, say, Mississippi or North Dakota, you're out of luck. In many of the states the airline does serve, it offers service only to the western United States. If you live in Minneapolis and regularly fly to Seattle, Alaska can get you there. If you need to go to New York or Richmond, Virginia, every month, it won't.

Side benefits aren't flexible

The Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card offers generous perks for traveling with companions and checking bags, but maybe those benefits aren't a good fit for you. A card with flexible travel credits instead might be a better match. Try the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card instead, which carries an annual fee of $95.

With this card, you also get up to $100 in statement credit each calendar year for airline incidentals, which can be used to cover purchases made on domestic-originated flights on certain U.S.-domestic airline carriers, including seat upgrades, checked baggage fees and airport lounge fees with eligible airline carriers.

Or maybe you want to keep things simpler in terms of rewards and just earn a high flat rate on everything? If so, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card might be a good choice. It earns 2 miles per $1 spent on purchases, worth 1 cent each when redeemed as credit toward travel purchases. With this card, you can apply for TSA Precheck or Global Entry and get reimbursed for the application fee when you pay with your card. (Normally, the application fees for these are $78 for TSA Precheck and $100 for Global Entry.) The card also comes with a big sign-up bonus: Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel. The annual fee is $ 95.

If the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card don't make sense for you to carry, you can always try NerdWallet's other best-rated credit cards.

Should I get the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card?

The Alaska Airlines Visa® 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.

on Bank of America's website

Methodology

NerdWallet reviews credit cards with an eye toward both the quantitative and qualitative features of a card. Quantitative features are those that boil down to dollars and cents, such as fees, interest rates, rewards (including earning rates and redemption values) and the cash value of benefits and perks. Qualitative factors are those that affect how easy or difficult it is for a typical cardholder to get good value from the card. They include such things as the ease of application, simplicity of the rewards structure, the likelihood of using certain features, and whether a card is well-suited to everyday use or is best reserved for specific purchases. Our star ratings serve as a general gauge of how each card compares with others in its class, but star ratings are intended to be just one consideration when a consumer is choosing a credit card. Learn how NerdWallet rates credit cards.