A longstanding favourite among Canadian points collectors, the MBNA Alaska Airlines MasterCard has offered a sweet deal of 25,000 points for a $15 net first-year annual fee for as long as most of us have been in the game. That’s why it was a bit of a surprise to learn of some changes being made to this card and the way in which it’s being offered to consumers.
In a nutshell, the most significant change is that whereas previously you’d be offered either the World Elite or the Platinum Plus version of this product based on your income, now they’ve been divided into separate products with distinct signup bonuses. There’s also slight modifications to the annual fee and a modest improvement in card benefits. We’ll break it down.
World Elite vs. Platinum Plus
Generally speaking, MasterCard slaps the “World Elite” label on its high-end card products, which are intended for those who have an annual personal income of greater than $80,000 or a household income of greater than $150,000. The “Platinum Plus” moniker is used for mid-range cards with lower income eligibility requirements.
In the past, there was a single application process for the MBNA Alaska Airlines MasterCard. If your income was greater than $80,000, you’d be automatically sent the World Elite version of the card (assuming you’re approved, of course); otherwise, you’d receive the Platinum Plus version.
Either way, you’d get the 25,000 bonus miles, and there were no real differences between the two versions of the card other than some insurance benefits and their physical appearance.
Now, you see the following message instead when you go to the MBNA Alaska application page.
You’re basically given the option to apply for either version of the card depending on your income. I’m not sure if MBNA will still automatically consider you for the Platinum Plus version if you happen to apply for the World Elite despite not meeting the income requirements, though I’m inclined to believe they will.
Changes to Fees, Bonuses, and Benefits
To further differentiate the two products, the World Elite and the Platinum Plus now have different annual fees and signup bonuses. Previously, both cards had offered 25,000 bonus miles for a $75 annual fee, although a $60 cashback offer gave you an effective first-year annual fee of $15 (and you could always cancel before the first year was up).
Now, the MBNA Alaska Airlines World Elite MasterCard offers 30,000 bonus miles if you spend $1,000 in the first three months, with an annual fee of $99. You can still get a $60 rebate through Great Canadian Rebates, making your net cost $39 for the first year.
Meanwhile, the MBNA Alaska Airlines Platinum Plus MasterCard offers 20,000 bonus miles if you spend $1,000 in the first three months, with an annual fee of $75. There’s a $60 rebate on this one as well, so your net cost for the first year is $15.
You could frame these changes as a devaluation, since, on average, the signup bonus across the two versions of the card is now subject to a mildly higher annual fee. However, I don’t think anyone could argue that getting either 30,000 or 20,000 Alaska miles for a respective outlay of $39 or $15 is still anything but a fantastic deal.
Moreover, as a counterweight to this small negative change, MBNA and Alaska Airlines have also introduced a free checked bag benefit when travelling on Alaska Airlines for up to six passengers on the same reservation, available on the World Elite card only. The free checked bag benefit will be much more useful to those based in Western Canada, since Alaska Airlines only flies to Vancouver, Victoria, and Calgary, but it’s a potential money saver nonetheless.
Nothing else is changing – the US$121 companion voucher, points earning rate, and insurance benefits for both versions of the card will remain in place.
Can You Get Both?
One of the interesting questions that arise from this situation is whether you can hold both the World Elite and Platinum Plus versions of the card at the same time, because that could allow you to really rack up the points a lot faster and get yourself much closer to some sweet redemptions through Alaska Mileage Plan.
A few years ago, people used to abuse opening three or four MBNA Alaska credit cards at the same time, so they tightened things up and introduced a rule whereby you could only hold one account per card product at any given time (though you could always cancel and reapply).
Now that the World Elite and Platinum Plus have been segmented out, there’s a good chance that they could be considered distinct card products, in which case it would just be a matter of making a new application for the card you don’t currently hold.
Remember that MBNA allows you to split out your existing credit limits in order to get a new credit card application approved (i.e., if you have $10,000 outstanding credit with MBNA and they don’t want to approve you for more, you can simply ask for $5,000 to be “split” into a new account in order to get an application approved).
In terms of the GCR rebate, anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that the “Maximum one per individual” footnote is loosely enforced. It seems that if your application gets automatically approved or it goes to pending and you call in to get it approved, then the cashback will post smoothly even if it’s not your first $60 cut. But if there’s any issues along the way and you have to manually ask GCR for the credit, then they’ll take notice of any previous cashbacks on the MBNA Alaska in your account and deny you this one.
Of course, the tricky thing about applying for both versions of the card is that the income requirements are mutually exclusive – you're supposed to be applying for the World Elite if you meet the income threshold of $80,000 personal / $150,000 household, and you're supposed to be applying for the Platinum Plus otherwise. Perhaps it's best for those of you who've recently experienced an income change to take the plunge...
If you already have a GCR account, now's the time to fire it up and go for those bonus points. If not, keep in mind that you can support this blog by applying through one of our Great Canadian Rebates referral links. GCR offers the highest rebates available on the MBNA Alaska cards, so you're always getting the best deal.
You can apply for the MBNA Alaska Airlines World Elite MasterCard via the following link:
You can apply for the MBNA Alaska Airlines Platinum Plus MasterCard via the following link:
The MBNA Alaska Airlines MasterCard has been one of the easiest ways to rack up miles within the fantastic Mileage Plan program, and I'm glad that the recent round of changes hasn't been too bad. While the miles-to-fee ratio has decreased slightly on average, both the World Elite and the Platinum Plus still offer a killer deal considering the many ways to use Alaska miles for tremendous value.