The allure of airline credit cards is simple: They can help you supplement the frequent-flier miles you earn when you fly.
And choosing an airline card is, to some degree, a simple exercise as well.
The best airline miles credit card for you is likely to be the one whose carrier you fly most frequently. After all, what’s the point of being able to earn miles on a card if you never fly with the airline that’s handing out those points?
If you live near an American Airlines hub or fly that airline primarily, for instance, you might consider Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite. If you mainly fly United, there’s United MileagePlus Explorer. If Delta is your airline of choice, there’s Gold Delta SkyMiles from American Express.
But if you’re not likely to fly the biggest carriers, consider the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature.
How Do Airline Credit Cards Work?
Airline credit cards can help you supplement the frequent-flier miles you earn when you fly. You earn miles at a pre-set rate, and you might earn accelerated rewards if you use the card to, say, buy airline tickets or make in-flight purchases.
If you fly even somewhat regularly, the best airline rewards credit card will get you to a free flight that much faster.
That said, even the best airline credit cards often come with annual fees. And there’s no point paying a fee for credit card benefits that you don’t use.
Among the best perks you should look out for: free checked bags and access to airline lounges, which can help offset the cost of the annual fees.
The Case for Alaska Airlines Visa Signature
Although Alaska Airlines isn’t among the nation’s so-called ‘Big Four’ airlines — United, American, Delta, and Southwest — it’s not exactly small. After its acquisition of Virgin America at the end of 2016, Alaska became the country’s fifth-largest carrier, with nearly 1,200 daily flights to 115 destinations in the United States, Mexico, Canada, and Costa Rica.
When you factor in its global network of partners — which includes American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, and Qantas, among others — Alaska connects travelers to more than 800 cities around the world. And you can use or earn Alaska plan miles through those other carriers.
Alaska’s frequent-flier program is popular among travelers, and its loyal fliers appreciate Alaska’s level of customer service.
One of the nicest perks: A free companion ticket. If you sign up and are approved for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card, you can purchase one coach ticket for companion travel for just the cost of taxes and fees (which starts from around $22). That’s if you make at least $1,000 in purchases within 90 days of opening the account. You’ll also get a sign-up bonus of 30,000 miles if you hit that spending threshold within 90 days.
The free ticket is good for the first year, but in subsequent years you are eligible to purchase an annual companion ticket for just $99 plus taxes and fees. This annual perk is in many cases worth more than the $75 annual fee that the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card charges.
This comes on top of other benefits, such as a free checked bag on Alaska flights for you and up to six other passengers on the same reservation.
Plus, you get triple miles on Alaska Airlines purchases. In other words, you will earn 3 miles for every $1 spent on Alaska purchases, and 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
* 30,000-mile sign-up bonus if you spend $1,000 in first 90 days.
* Buy one ticket, get companion coach ticket for just the taxes and fees if you make $1,000 in purchases in first 90 days.
* Free checked bag on Alaska flights for you and up to six other passengers on the same reservation.
Annual Fee: $75
APR range: 16.49%–24.49%