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.

Claire TsosieDecember 2, 2019

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Our Take

4.5

NerdWallet rating 

The Bottom Line: If you fly Alaska Airlines with another person at least once a year, this card is a must-have.

Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature®  Credit Card

on Bank of America's website

Annual Fee

$75

Regular APR

17.49% - 25.49% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Quick Facts

Annual Fee
$75
Annual Fee
$75
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

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. Terms apply.

Read our review

Compare to Other Cards

Annual Fee

$75

Annual Fee

$0 intro for the first year, then $95

Annual Fee

$95

Regular APR

17.49% - 25.49% Variable APR

Regular APR

17.49% - 24.74% Variable APR

Regular APR

17.49% - 24.49% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score

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.

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, this $75-annual-fee card is a fabulously valuable choice.

Nerd tip: 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, which offers more basic benefits.

Key features of the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card

Card type: Airline.

Sign-up bonus: Get 40,000 bonus miles and Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) with this offer. To qualify, make purchases of $2,000 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:

  • 3 miles per dollar spent directly on Alaska Airlines purchases.

  • 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.

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.

  • 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.

  • Discounted lounge access: 50% off day passes for Alaska Airlines lounges.

Nerd tip: 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 it does serve, it offers service only to the western United States. 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.

Alaska Airlines miles are worth 1.2 cents each on average when redeemed for domestic flights, according to NerdWallet valuations. You might be able to get more per mile, depending on how those rewards are redeemed. You can also redeem 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. 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 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.

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: Get 40,000 bonus miles and Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) with this offer. To qualify, make purchases of $2,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account. To see how far this bonus might take you, check out Alaska’s mileage tool.

Free checked bags

Most airline cards offer this benefit, and Alaska is no exception. Alaska 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 $75.

Discounted lounge access and in-flight savings

With this card, you can get a 50% discount on day passes for Alaska Airlines lounges. Normally, day passes are $50 each; with the card, they're $25. At these lounges, you'll have access to fast Wi-Fi, comfortable seating and food and beverages, including cocktails or Starbucks coffee. Keep in mind, though, that Alaska only has lounge locations at a small handful of airports.

The card also gets you 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.

Where the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card falls short

Weak ongoing rewards

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card offers bonus rewards on purchases made with Alaska Airlines, but not on other categories, such as dining or gas. Among airline cards, such a set-up used to be common, but that's starting to change. Consider the United℠ Explorer Card, for example, which offers bonus rewards on purchases from United Airlines, restaurants, and hotels.

Want to earn high flat-rate rewards on everything? The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card might be a good choice. It earns 2 miles per dollar spent on all 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 $85 for TSA Precheck and $100 for Global Entry.) The card also comes with a big sign-up bonus: Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel. The annual fee is $0 intro for the first year, then $95.

Side Benefits aren't flexible

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® 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® Visa® credit card instead, which carries an annual fee of $95.

With this card, you also get up to $100 in airline incidental credits each calendar year, 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. And like the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, it offers a reimbursement for TSA Precheck or Global Entry application fees. It also offers 2 points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases, and 1.5 points per dollar spent on all other purchases. The sign-up bonus is generous, too: Receive 50,000 bonus points – a $500 value – after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

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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