Alaska Airlines Card Overhaul: $95 Fee, 2X Rewards, Companion Fare Tweaks

First, the good news: Effective Jan. 18, 2023, the card will add some useful 2X bonus spending categories, as well as a bigger sign-up bonus for new applicants, along with some additional side perks such as priority boarding.

But with positive updates come the bad, including an increased annual fee, a higher spending threshold to earn that new introductory bonus and — perhaps the most high-profile change — new requirements to snag the card’s popular Companion Fare perk.

It’s unclear when these changes will go into effect for existing cardholders. But overall, the updates bring the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card more or less in line with competing airline credit cards at similar price points.

Here’s a look at what’s changing:

Changes to the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card to glance

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

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

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

  • Earn 2 miles per $1 spent on eligible gas, cable, streaming service and local transit (including rideshare) purchases.

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

  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles and an Alaska Airlines Companion Fare after making $2,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account. Terms apply.

  • Limited time: Earn 70,000 bonus miles and an Alaska Airlines Companion Fare after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account. Terms apply.

Rules for receiving ongoing Companion Fare

  • Get an Alaska Airlines Companion Fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) every year on your account anniversary. Terms apply.

  • Get an Alaska Airlines Companion Fare from $122 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $23) each account anniversary after you spend $6,000 or more on your card within the prior anniversary year.

  • Priority boarding when you pay for your flight with your card.

  • Free checked bag for you and up to 6 guests on the same reservation.

  • Same benefit, but you must now pay for your flight with your card in order to qualify. Also, the benefit is now available for co-applicants and authorized users when they book a reservation on their card.

Bank of America® relationship bonus

  • Eligible Bank of America® account holders will earn a 10% rewards bonus on all miles earned from purchases on your card, issued monthly.

  • Qualifying accounts include consumer (non-business) checking or savings accounts with Bank of America® or an investment account with Merrill that maintains an average daily balance greater than $0 or a Bank of America® checking or savings account that has had a deposit or withdrawal within 90 days.

Alaska Airlines lounge discount

  • Get $100 off an annual Alaska Lounge+ Membership purchased with your card.

What changes are positive?

For new cardholders, the higher introductory bonus offer should be a welcome addition.

That means the new 70,000-mile offer is worth an estimated $240 more than the old 50,000-mile offer. This added value makes up for the increased annual fee, even if the new sign-up bonus is for a limited time and requires an additional $1,000 in spending within the first 90 days after approval.

And the ability to earn 2 Alaska Airlines miles per $1 spent on gas, cable, streaming and local transit purchases is also a big plus. Previously, one of the card’s biggest weaknesses was that it featured underwhelming bonus categories: 3 miles per $1 spent on Alaska Airlines purchases, but only 1 mile per $1 spent on everything else. And since Marriott is the only transfer partner that allows conversion of its points to Alaska miles (aka Mileage Plan miles), that means the only other way to earn Alaska Airlines miles is through flying on Alaska Airlines (or a partner airline).

So the ability to earn bonus miles in any capacity is a net positive.

The card also is getting some much-needed side perks: priority boarding, a discount on an annual Alaska Airlines lounge membership and the ability to earn 10% more miles with an eligible Bank of America® account.

What changes are negative?

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card is a perennial resident on NerdWallet’s list of best airline credit cardsand while the card update will probably not change that, there are some drawbacks to it now.

First, the card will be more expensive to keep in your wallet, now that the annual fee is rising by $20. But $95 per year is the effective going rate on most mass-market co-branded airline credit cards. The $75 fee was nice while it lasted, but it’ll still be relatively easy to extract well more than $95 in value from this card annually.

The bigger negative change is to the card’s unique and valuable Companion Fare perk. Previously, cardholders would receive a Companion Fare automatically each year when they paid their annual fee. Now cardholders must spend $6,000 on eligible purchases in the previous cardmember year (not calendar year) — in addition to paying a higher annual fee — to qualify for the Companion Fare. (Also of note: a slight increase to the “taxes and fees” you’ll owe on a Companion Fare.)

While this is worse than having no spending requirement, the threshold is still significantly lower than any other airline card with a $95 annual fee that also offers a companion ticket. If the card had always offered the Companion Fare with a $6,000 spending requirement, it would still have been considered a significant perk relative to its competitors.

Additionally, cardholders must now pay for flights with their Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card to get free checked luggage. Previously, travelers could use any card to pay for their flight as long as they were Alaska Airlines cardholders. This will impact flyers who are accustomed to booking flights with a card that offers trip delay or trip cancellation insurance, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

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