Major hat tip to Doctor of Credit and his reader, George K, for finding this nugget in Alaska Airline’s recent SEC filing. Apparently Alaska Airlines has made plans with Bank of America to increase its sign-up offer for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card — from 25,000 miles to 30,000 miles — in May of 2016.
Alaska Airlines generally doesn’t offer a generous sign-up bonus, which frustrates many people. I’m personally okay with it because I think the companion fare is more valuable than the miles but, hey, more miles don’t hurt either!
I presume this is a permanent change given the special attention it receives in the filing. Last year Alaska also added a free checked bag for the first time, and it recently announced that it would be removing foreign transaction fees. These are all moves toward making the card more comparable to other airlines’ competition. However, let’s hope that companion fare remains. At the time the foreign transaction fee change was announced, I heard there would be other changes. I do not know if this is the only “other change” or if there is more news coming.
Doctor of Credit comments that this isn’t such a big deal given that you can often find offers for 50,000 miles.
I dispute that. There were some offers for 50,000 or 40,000 miles in late 2014 and early 2015, but since then I believe the most common offer has been for the standard 25,000 miles. Update: I apparently misread this part of DoC’s post, as the comment was meant to be about the 50,000-point offers provided by the competition, not Alaska. I agree that the last few years have often seen more miles, though the recent trend skews lower.
One tip that you should remember is to avoid signing up when the flight attendants pass applications down the aisle. Instead, go online and apply during the reservation process. (Make a fake booking if necessary, and don’t proceed with payment.) At some point you will see an offer to get a $100 statement credit in addition to the 25,000 miles. This more than makes up for the first year’s annual fee. Doctor of Credit comments that there are often offers that waive the annual fee, but I haven’t seen those — usually it’s this $100 statement credit that is provided instead.
Alaska provides direct comparison in the filing of its offer with those of other major airlines. Note that while all of these other carriers offer 50,000 miles on a more regular basis than Alaska, it does seem that 30,000 and 25,000 have become more common among other airlines recently. Banks are less desperate for customers, so this seems like the “new normal.” Alaska may not feel it has to increase it’s bonus much further than 30,000 to be competitive.
It’s also worth noting that the new 30,000 mile offer will be available after spending $1,000 in 3 months. The current offer of 25,000 miles is after approval, and only the statement credit (if offered) requires a spending threshold.
This is good news for those who like to earn and redeem Alaska Airlines miles. I’ve long argued their program is a great pick, and it is now the only major U.S. airline that still operates a distance-based program that can make it easier to earn miles on cheap tickets.