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Alaska Airlines Credit Cards: The Amazing Perk You Need to Know About

7 min read
Susan Shain By Susan Shain Mar 21, 2019 | Updated Nov 26, 2019

When I lived in the 49th state, one type of plastic reigned supreme: Alaska Airlines credit cards.

Wherever you were — checking out at the grocery store, paying your bar tab — these shiny blue cards would get flashed around, their benefits touted by all the Alaskans I knew.

As it turns out, Alaska Airlines credit cards can be a wise choice for residents of the lower 48, too. With the airline’s reach throughout the United States, Mexico, and Central America, as well as some unique and generous perks, these cards are popular for good reason.

Here’s what you need to know.

The Basics of Alaska Airlines Credit Cards

Unlike some other airlines (cough, Southwest, cough), Alaska keeps it pretty straightforward when it comes to its credit cards.

There’s only one personal card available: the Alaska Airlines Visa card (available as either an Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card, if your starting credit limit is $5,000 or above, or an Alaska Airlines Visa Platinum Card otherwise — we’ll be discussing the Visa Signature version in this post).

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$75
Regular APR17.24%–25.24% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

Aside from that, business owners can also apply for the Alaska Airlines Visa Business card. (Even if you don’t think you’d qualify for a business card, you might. Here’s how to tell.)

Alaska Airlines Visa® Business credit card

Alaska Airlines Visa® Business credit card

Our rating
Min. credit levelExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$50 for the company and $25 per card
Regular APR17.49% - 25.49% Variable APR on purchases
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

Bank of America is the credit card issuer for both the business and personal versions. The cards are very similar, and share the following features:

  • 40,000 bonus miles, plus Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare™ after spending $2,000 within the first 90 days after account opening
  • Annual companion fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from just $22) on account anniversary
  • 3X miles per dollar on Alaska Airlines purchases; 1X on everything else (with no mileage cap)
  • One free checked bag for you and up to six other guests on the same reservation
  • No foreign transaction fees

The annual fees are similar, too: $75 for the personal card, and $50 per business (plus $25 per card, including the first card) for the business version.

If you have a starting credit limit of less than $5,000 and get the Alaska Airlines Visa Platinum version, you’ll likely get a smaller introductory offer and reduced benefits.

To qualify for either of the Alaska Airlines credit cards, your credit scores should be good to excellent. Before applying, check your credit scores to make sure they fall within the correct range.

You might read about another card called the Alaska Airlines Platinum Plus, which was given to people who didn’t qualify for the regular Alaska Airlines card. While the Platinum Plus card has technically been discontinued, your card might say “Visa Platinum Plus” if you receive a credit line of less than $5,000. When I called BofA, the agent promised you’ll still receive all the major perks of the regular Visa card, including the companion fare — but you might not get certain extra benefits like extended warranties or travel accident insurance.

5 Reasons to Love Alaska Airlines Credit Cards

For frequent flyers who live on the west coast, Alaska Airlines credit cards have some very attractive features. Here are five of them.

1. Companion fare

Ask any Alaska Airlines cardholder about her favorite perk, and she’ll probably cite the companion fare. That’s because it’s basically a 2-for-1 airline ticket!

I’ll let Alaska Airlines explain exactly how it works: “The companion fare entitles the cardholder to purchase one round-trip coach companion fare on Alaska Airlines from $121 (USD) ($99 base fare plus applicable taxes and fees from $22 depending on your flight itinerary) when traveling with another guest on a paid published coach airfare on the same itinerary, booked at the same time.”

Translation: When traveling with a buddy, you can get two tickets for the price of one (plus at least $121 in fees).

When I lived in Alaska, many people used this perk to fly to expensive destinations like Hawaii. If you purchased an $800 ticket to Maui, you could purchase your companion’s ticket for as little as $121 — saving you almost $700.

Scuba diving in Hawaii

Scuba diving in Hawaii — after flying on a companion fare from Alaska!

When you first get an Alaska Airlines card, your companion fare will appear in your Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan account six to eight weeks after you complete the minimum spend.

From there out, as long as you keep the card (and pay the $75 annual fee), your companion fare will appear within the first two billing cycles after your account anniversary.

A few more things to know about the companion fare:

  • It applies to economy flights booked through alaskaair.com.
  • Flights must be entirely on Alaska Airlines or Virgin America metal.
  • Your companion must fly the exact same route as you.
  • You cannot use miles to purchase the flight — you must use cash or credit card.
  • Both you and your companion will earn Alaska miles for the flight.
  • There aren’t any blackout dates.
  • You must book your companion ticket within 12 months of its issue date (before it expires), though your actual travel dates can be later than that.
  • Although you can give your companion fare to somebody else, you must pay for the reservation if you’re not traveling.
  • You can still upgrade to first class, but you and your companion must both be upgraded.

2. Strong signup bonus

When you sign up for one of the Alaska Airlines cards and spend $2,000 in the first 90 days, you’ll receive both a 40,000-mile introductory bonus and a code good for one companion fare (for the personal Visa Signature and business cards).

Depending on where you’re coming from, 40,000 miles might be enough for a round-trip flight from the contiguous U.S. to Hawaii or Alaska. To see where your miles could take you, check Alaska’s mileage awards chart.

Business owners could even apply for the personal card and the business card. By meeting the minimum spend for both, you’ll earn 80,000 miles and two companion fares — enough for several trips!

3. Range of airline partners

Alaska Airlines, which bought Virgin America in 2016, now flies to more than 115 destinations in the United States, Mexico, Canada, and Costa Rica.

And, while it doesn’t belong to one of the three main airline alliances, it has an impressive range of partners:

Alaska Airlines Partners
Aer Lingus American Airlines British Airways
Cathay Pacific Condor Emirates
Fiji Airways Finnair Hainan Airlines
Icelandair Japan Airlines Korean Air
LATAM Airlines PenAir Qantas
Ravn Alaska Singapore Airlines

You can use Alaska miles with any partner in that list, including some seriously luxurious airlines like Cathay Pacific and Emirates, which give you incredible value for your Alaska miles. You could, for example, fly from the U.S. to Asia in first class on Cathay Pacific for 70,000 miles one way — a flight that, in cash, would cost almost $10,000. That’s almost 14 cents per mile!

Cost of Cathay Pacific flight in cash

Cost of a Cathay Pacific flight in cash or by credit card.

4. Free bags

When you’re a cardholder, you’ll get your first bag free on Alaska Airlines flights (even if you didn’t pay for the flight with the card).

Since Alaska Airlines charges $30 for the first checked bag, that could lead to significant savings. If you’re flying with your partner and two children, that could save you $240 round trip, easily eclipsing the annual fee.

Even if you’re not a cardholder, Alaska offers several exceptions to baggage charges. If you’re a resident of Alaska, simply sign up for the free Club 49, and you’ll get two free checked bags on any flight that includes a city in Alaska. Additionally, anyone flying entirely within the state of Alaska can check up to three bags for free. Lastly, when traveling from Hawaii, you can check one box of pineapples for free; when traveling from certain west coast airports, the same goes for a case of wine.

5. Solid frequent flyer program

Although some of the most beloved features of Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan (like free changes) went the way of the dodo last year, it’s still a great frequent flyer program.

One perk: You’ll earn miles based on how far you fly — not on how much you paid — which is a rarity among airlines these days. (Don’t forget you’ll earn 3X miles per dollar spent at Alaska Airlines from your credit card, too.)

On rewards flights, Alaska offers one free stopover per one-way trip, or two stopovers per round trip. Translation? You could fly from Los Angeles to Auckland on Fiji Airlines, with a multi-day stopover in Fiji — essentially getting two vacations for the price of one!

Fun fact: Since Alaska Airlines is a sponsor of the Portland Timbers soccer team, wearing a Timbers jersey to PDX will get you early boarding on all Alaska flights.

3 Downsides of Alaska Airlines Credit Cards (Plus Recommended Alternatives)

Even if you live near an airport served by Alaska Airlines, here are three things to consider before grabbing one of these cards.

1. Low earning on non-Alaska purchases

Sure, sure: These credit cards offers 3X miles per dollar on Alaska Airlines purchases, which is more than the majority of co-branded airline cards that offer 2X. That’s a huge benefit if you’re spending a lot on Alaska Airlines flights.

That said, the cards only offer 1X mile per dollar on everything else. When compared to earning powerhouses like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review) — which earns 3X on travel and dining (including Alaska Airlines purchases) — and The Platinum Card® from American Express (Review), which earns 5X on eligible airline purchases — you can see why it’d be harder to rack up miles with the Alaska Airlines cards.

Even other co-branded airline cards, like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® (Review) and the United℠ Explorer Card (Review), recently increased their earning potential in non-airline categories: The former gets 2X miles per dollar at restaurants and gas stations, and the latter gets 2X miles per dollar at restaurants and hotels.

2. No annual fee waiver

Although many cards waive the annual fee for the first year, the Alaska Airlines credit cards do not. BofA will charge the $75 annual fee on your very first statement.

Keep in mind, however, that you will receive a companion fare after spending $2,000 in the first 90 days, which could be worth far more than $75. And you’ll get one of those every year after your account anniversary. $75 is actually a bit lower than most airlines cards too, which are around $100.

If you don’t want to pay an annual fee right away, consider the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard® (Review), and United℠ Explorer Card (Review). Or, look into the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card (Review), a solid general travel rewards card whose $95 annual fee is waived the first year. 

3. No lounge access

Unfortunately, the Alaska Airlines cards don’t come with any lounge access.

If you’d like widespread lounge access, consider airline-agnostic rewards cards like the Amex Platinum or Chase Sapphire Reserve (read our head-to-head review of the two cards here).

Or, for airline-specific lounges, consider the United℠ Explorer Card (Review), which comes with two free lounge passes per year, or the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® or the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express , both of which come with lounge access (and high annual fees). 

If you already have the Marriott Bonvoy Card from American Express (Review), formerly known as the Starwood Preferred Guest, you can transfer points to Alaska Airlines at a 3:1 ratio, with a 5,000-point bonus when you transfer 60,000 points. But note that it’s not accepting new applications right now.

Is an Alaska Airlines Credit Card Right for You?

If you couldn’t tell, I’m a big fan of Alaska Airlines and its co-branded credit cards.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$75
Regular APR17.24%–25.24% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

Alaska Airlines Visa® Business credit card

Alaska Airlines Visa® Business credit card

Our rating
Min. credit levelExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$50 for the company and $25 per card
Regular APR17.49% - 25.49% Variable APR on purchases
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

If you live in the 49th state, or one of the airline’s hubs — Seattle, Portland, Anchorage, San Francisco, Los Angeles — this card’s a no-brainer. That’s because you’ll be able to easily take advantage of the companion fare, which will more than make up for the annual fee.

Since the card doesn’t earn a lot on non-Alaska Airlines purchases, however, you should round it out with another travel rewards card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review), which earns better rewards on everyday spending.

If you don’t live near an airport that Alaska serves — and won’t be able to use the companion fare — opt for a credit card from your local airline instead. Here are the best credit cards for air travel and general travel rewards.

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For rates and fees of the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, please click here.

For rates and fees of the The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.

AT A GLANCE

Each Alaska Airlines credit card earns 3X miles on Alaska Airlines purchases and provides a handful of useful benefits. Among those perks is the esteemed companion fare, which allows you to book a discounted second ticket to the same destination for a base fare plus fees.

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The information related to Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®, Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, and Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express have been collected by Credit Card Insider and have not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of these products.

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  • Vash

    There’s an issue with this article. There are actually two Alaska Airlines personal cards. Since this is a Visa Signature Card, the minimum limit is 5k. So you have to be able to be approved for a credit limit of 5k or more. If you cannot be approved for that, they will issue you the Alaska Airlines Platinum Plus. The plus only comes with a 5k point bonus and has far fewer benefits. Also, because the card is issued by Bank of America, they prefer that you have a prior relationship with the bank. This is similar to credit unions. People have been declined for this card for not having an open Bank of America account. Though, I assume that’s more of a factor for people who’s credit score/situation is on the cusp of acceptability.

    • Brendan Harkness

      Thanks for letting us know! I’ve updated the article to reflect that.