Last week I published a rundown of the amazing value that you can get out of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. The program has so many redemption sweet spots, and it's one of the most outstanding programs around in that regard.
However, what makes Mileage Plan especially compelling for Canadians is how it has a co-branded credit card right here in Canada, which is unusual for a US airline. In fact, none of the "big three" legacy carriers – American, United, or Delta – offer co-branded Canadian credit cards (I believe Delta had one not long ago, but it was discontinued).
What's more, the MBNA Alaska Airlines MasterCard is actually one of the top credit cards for travel rewards in the Canadian marketplace, due to its strong signup bonus, low (net) annual fee, and easy approval requirements. Let's discuss in detail.
The MBNA Alaska Airlines MasterCard offers 25,000 miles in the Mileage Plan program upon spending $1,000 within the first 90 days of account opening. The annual fee of $75 is not waived, although by applying through Great Canadian Rebates, you get an instant rebate of $60 for signing up the card. That means that the net annual fee is just a paltry $15, which is an incredibly low price to pay for 25,000 Alaska miles.
As a point of reference, 25,000 miles can be used for up to five one-way flights between Seattle and either Vancouver or Calgary, on Alaska Airlines flights. Or, they can go towards a first-class ticket on Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines. Check out the full guide for more.
Another awesome perk of this card is that every year you get one round-trip companion fare from US$121 ($99 plus taxes and fees from $22) on Alaska and Virgin America flights, with no blackout dates. Since it's a companion fare, it's best used for travelling as a duo: you have to book one round-trip somewhere on the Alaska route network, then you apply the companion fare to the booking to add the second passenger for just US$121.
The companion fare can be great for those of you living in cities serviced by Alaska (in Canada, that's only Vancouver or Calgary). It'll be less useful for those of us on the East Coast, for example, though if you spend a fair amount of time in the US, it can still be a valuable perk.
With the MBNA Alaska Airlines MasterCard, you'll earn 3 miles per dollar spent on Alaska Airlines airfare and vacation packages, and 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.
As far as Canadian credit cards go, this card isn't the best option for daily spending. Cards like the American Express Gold Rewards Card offer 2x points on gas, groceries, and travel purchases. Meanwhile, other cards like the American Express SPG Card allows you to earn more valuable points currencies like Starpoints. However, by virtue of being a MasterCard, you'll find that the Alaska card is accepted at more locations than any of your American Express cards, so it can be a good backup option to keep in your wallet.
Here's where the card pales in comparison to some of the other good travel rewards credit cards in the marketplace. Unlike the American Express cards I've talked about so far, the MBNA Alaska Airlines MasterCard doesn't offer much in the way of travel insurance. It doesn't have emergency medical insurance, flight delay and trip cancellation insurance, purchase protection, or any of that good stuff.
For that reason, this card is best suited for simply signing up, meeting the minimum spend requirement, grabbing the points, and then leaving it in the back of your wallet for small purchases here and there. It's not really optimal to use this card for large purchases or to book travel – use the Platinum Card or the Gold Rewards Card for that instead.
You might have seen this card marketed as the MBNA Alaska Airlines World Elite MasterCard. While it's true that the World Elite card has a minimum income requirement of $80,000 in personal annual income or $150,000 in household income, the good news is that if you don't meet this requirement, MBNA will automatically consider your application for the Platinum Plus version of the card, which has exactly the same signup bonus of 25,000 miles!
This means that the income requirement effectively counts for nothing, since you'll get the 25,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 regardless of whether you receive the World Elite or the Platinum Plus edition of the card.
It's also very easy to get approved for this card (and any MBNA card in general). Even if your initial application comes back declined, if have an existing MBNA credit card and you give the MBNA credit department a call, they are more than happy to shift your available credit around in order to approve you.
For example, say you had an existing MBNA cashback card with a credit limit of $5,000. If your application for the MBNA Alaska Airlines MasterCard gets declined, you can call in, tell them that you're "not seeking new credit", but would merely like to move $2,500 of your existing $5,000 credit limit to this new card. They will usually be more than happy to approve you via this channel.
Apply through Great Canadian Rebates, via the link below, to get the $60 rebate (the highest rebate available), making your net outlay only $15.
If you don't already carry the MBNA Alaska Airlines MasterCard in your wallet, pick one up now! Acquiring 25,000 Alaska miles for just $15 out-of-pocket is an irresistible deal, and one you should definitely take advantage of if you want to get the most out of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. Best of all, the card is easily "churnable", which allows you to really rack up the Alaska miles in a short period!