Who Is This Credit Card Best For?
Flies regularly and likes finding ways to score even more travel—for free See more cards
Diligently searches for the best products and delights in a good bargain See more cards
Loves to explore places and experience new things See more cards
Frequently shops with a particular merchant and wants to be rewarded for their loyalty See more cards
If you have good credit and frequently travel on Alaska Airlines, the Visa Signature card packs a valuable punch. Besides the opportunity to rack up extra frequent flyer miles in the airline’s Mileage Plan rewards program, you’ll get some valuable travel benefits, both as a new cardholder and on an ongoing basis. The value of the annual companion ticket alone may outweigh the modest annual fee, especially if you use the benefit on a more expensive destination.
If you only fly occasionally, however, you may want to consider other travel cards, perhaps one that awards miles for dining out, gas or groceries too. The fact that this card doesn’t award bonus miles on non-airline purchases makes it harder for less frequent travelers to build up their stash.
Double bonus for new cardholders
Annual companion ticket
Solid rewards-earning rate on airline purchases
Everyday spending earns miles at a low rate
Airline cards have less flexibility
- Double bonus for new cardholders: The 50,000-mile welcome bonus isn’t especially notable, but this card comes with two other valuable incentives that are pretty unusual among cards with similar annual fees. Besides the miles, you’ll get an opportunity to buy a companion ticket good for one round-trip coach fare for just $99 plus taxes and fees (which start at $22). Typically you have to wait for your cardholder anniversary to access the companion pass deal, so that's a nice addition to the welcome offer.
- Annual companion ticket: Every year on your cardholder anniversary (after you pay your annual fee) you’ll get another chance to purchase one companion fare for $99 (plus taxes and fees) on a round-trip or one-way coach itinerary. This can be a very valuable benefit if you use it for more expensive cross-country flights that might otherwise cost at least $275 plus taxes and fees.
- Solid rewards-earning rate on airline purchases: Your purchases with Alaska Airlines will earn 3 miles per $1 spent, as good or better than many competing airline cards with similar annual fees.
- Everyday spending earns miles at a low rate: Unlike some comparable airline cards, this one doesn’t award bonus miles on groceries, restaurant tabs, or any other regular spending categories. This makes it harder for more occasional flyers to rack up miles quickly.
- Airline cards have less flexibility: While all airline cards bind you to a particular brand, they’re not the only way to earn frequent flyer miles. General travel cards from issuers like Chase or Capital One don’t usually afford you the same level of travel benefits, but you can fly on any airline you want and still earn valuable miles. Sometimes they can even be transferred to your favorite airline’s rewards program.
Bonus for New Cardholders
If you make at least $2,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of your account opening, you’ll earn a two-part bonus: 50,000 miles and the option to get a companion ticket (which you can use to purchase a round-trip or one-way coach seat for someone traveling with you) for a base fare of $99 plus taxes and fees.
The 50,000 miles is a mediocre bonus for a card with a mid-range annual fee, and each mile is relatively low-value compared to other frequent flyer programs, according to our estimates. We’ve determined the 50,000 miles are worth $425—less than half the value of bonuses on some of the competing airline cards. Luckily, the other part of this card’s introductory offer sweetens the deal, offsetting the relatively meager value on the miles.
Based on The Balance’s analysis, each Alaska Airlines mile is worth, on average, 0.85 cents when redeemed for flights. Most of the major U.S. airlines have miles worth far more than this, in some cases over 2 cents each, according to our calculations. See our in-depth comparison of points and miles for more information.
Earning Points & Rewards
You’ll earn 3 miles for every $1 you spend with Alaska Airlines and 1 mile for every $1 you spend everywhere else. The triple miles is a pretty good rate, considering some cards with similar annual fees pay only 2 miles per $1 spent with their airline. Still, without other ways to earn extra miles, the card isn’t ideal for people who don’t travel frequently.
There’s no cap on the miles you can earn and they don’t expire while your account is active. If they expire due to inactivity, Alaska Airlines will reinstate them for up to one year for a fee.
If you fly Alaska Airlines, you may already be earning miles as a member of the Mileage Plan, the airline’s free loyalty program. But if you haven’t already joined, Alaska Airlines will automatically enroll you when you become a cardholder.
You can redeem Alaska Mileage Plan miles for flights to over 900 destinations around the world, taking flights on Alaska Airlines or any of its 18 airline partners, as long as they’re booked through Alaska Airlines. These include American Airlines, British Airways, and Korean Air. Keep in mind that at 0.85 cent apiece, the average value of these miles is pretty low. The benchmark is 1 cent each, and we value frequent flyer miles from Delta Airlines at 1.54 cents each and from United Airlines at 2.19 cents each.
If you’re planning to use miles for a partner airline flight, keep in mind that redemption values can vary among airline carriers. Alaska Airlines allows one stopover on most one-way award flights, which could allow you to get more out of your ticket if you’re creative in planning your itinerary.
While there are no blackout dates, rewards seats may be limited on some flights, especially during peak times. You can only use one partner airline per rewards ticket, which means you can’t fly one airline to the destination and a different airline on the way back.
How to Get the Most Out of This Card
Beyond making sure you meet the spending requirement for the welcome bonus, make sure to use the companion pass to maximize the value from this card. Of course, use the card for all your Alaska Airlines purchases to earn the miles (and to get a 20% rebate on inflight purchases). If you want to be comfortable, you should also take advantage of the half-off deal on Alaska Airlines airport lounge day passes. They’re $25 each instead of $50.
Because this card earns only 1 mile per $1 spent on non-Alaska Airlines purchases, you might consider carrying a second rewards credit card that you can use to max out earnings on all your non-Alaska Airline purchases.
The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card offers a couple of cardholder benefits that the editors of The Balance consider “excellent.”
- Airline companion pass: Each year on your cardholder anniversary date, you’ll receive a companion pass good for a round-trip coach flight for just $99 plus taxes and fees (as little as $121 total). The companion must travel with you, on an Alaska Airline flight that you’ve paid for with your card.
- Free checked bag: Get one free checked bag on Alaska Airlines flights for you and up to six other guests on the same reservation. Since you’d otherwise be charged $30 for your first checked bag, that’s a savings of $60 per person per round-trip.
On Alaska Airlines, pineapples fly free. You won’t pay a checked bag fee for “one properly packaged box of pineapples when traveling within the United States” from any of several Hawaiian island airports Alaska serves.
- 50% off Alaska airport lounge access
- 20% rebate on in-flight purchases
This card is issued and administered by Bank of America. In J.D. Power’s 2020 Credit Card Satisfaction Study, the big bank ranked third out of 11 national credit card issuers, earning 812 out of 1,000 points.
In addition to the usual suite of large bank services (24/7 customer support, a mobile banking app), the bank offers a complimentary FICO credit score, updated monthly.
Bank of America provides industry-standard security, including zero liability for fraudulent purchases, and alerts for suspicious activity on your card account.
The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card’s fees are in line with industry standards. There’s no foreign transaction fee, so take this card with you when you venture afar.