MBNA happens to be one of the most lenient issuers among the major Canadian financial institutions that deal in travel rewards credit cards, and it’s also the sole issuer of an Alaska Airlines co-branded credit card in Canada – the MBNA Alaska Airlines MasterCard.
Sharpening your strategy with MBNA will therefore go a long way towards helping you rack up Alaska miles much faster, getting you closer to your next big trip in Cathay Pacific First Class, Japan Airlines First Class, or even Emirates First Class 😉…among several other excellent redemption options as well.
In this post, I’ll share some of the tips I’ve picked up over several years of applying for MBNA Alaskas, as well as relatively new data points that I’ve come across in recent months.
Maximizing the MBNA Alaska: The Basics
Believe it or not, you used to be able to hold three or four MBNA Alaska credit cards at the same time. The signup bonus was 25,000 Alaska miles at the time, and there was no minimum spending requirement, so it was possible to rack up a spectacular balance of miles in a very short period.
Unfortunately, those days are long gone, with the issuer having implemented a one-Alaska-card-at-a-time policy a few years ago. Then, in the middle of last year, MBNA refreshed the card to bring us two different versions:
The World Elite version, with a signup bonus of 30,000 Alaska miles upon spending $1,000 in the first three months, an annual fee of $99 (reduced to $39 by applying through Great Canadian Rebates), and a minimum income requirement of $80,000 (personal) or $150,000 (household)
The Platinum Plus version, with a signup bonus of 20,000 Alaska miles upon spending $1,000 in the first three months, an annual fee of $75 (reduced to $15 by applying through Great Canadian Rebates), and no minimum income requirement
First of all, this is a question that I keep getting over and over again, so I think it’s worth saying upfront: No, the two versions of the MBNA Alaska do not count as separate products, so you generally cannot hold onto both of them at the same time.
They’re mutually exclusive by design: unless you happen to be Schrödinger’s credit card applicant, you can’t be above and below the World Elite income threshold at once, so it makes sense that you can only have one of the two versions of the card open at any time.
Next, let’s talk about that $60 rebate that you get via Great Canadian Rebates (GCR) when applying for the card. The ability to lower the annual fee to a net $15–39 (depending on which version of the card you get) is a huge part of the MBNA Alaska’s appeal, but if you look at the terms and conditions of the GCR offer, you’ll see that each customer is only supposed to receive a maximum of one $60 rebate.
That’s not exactly helpful if you’re planning to cancel and reapply for this card multiple times in order to supercharge your Alaska balance, is it? Thankfully, there are a few factors that soften this blow.
First of all, most of the time, the GCR rebate is processed automatically, so most people do in fact receive the $60 rebate on subsequent repeat applications.
But if the cash back doesn’t come through automatically and you must request it manually (this might happen if your application wasn’t instantly approved my MBNA and had to go through the credit department), GCR will cite the terms and conditions and deny you a second $60 rebate if you’ve already received one.
What’s the workaround here? Simply open a new GCR account every time you’re reapplying for the MBNA Alaska if you want to be absolutely certain of receiving the cash back.
Lastly, it appears that the MBNA Alaska credit card is not available to Quebec residents. Unfortunately, I don’t really have a workaround here.
You could look into maintaining a “residential” address in Ontario that’s actually a mail forwarding service (similar to what we do with US credit cards), but is it really worth complicating your credit profile with a second address just to get in on the Alaska program? I don’t know…
Anyway, that’s about all for the basics.
Maximizing the MBNA Alaska: Getting Declined + Moving Credit
I say that MBNA is “lenient” not because they’re particularly generous with approving your credit card applications. Sure, you might get instantly approved the first few times, but MBNA seems to pay quite a bit of attention to the particulars of your credit file, and may well deny you if you’ve had more than a handful of credit inquiries in the past six months or so.
(Remember that MBNA pulls your credit file from TransUnion, so any hits you have on the Equifax side won’t be visible to them.)
However, MBNA is pretty unique among Canadian credit card issuers in that when they decline your application, they’re not denying you the product itself, but rather they’re denying the additional credit that comes with the product.
If MBNA sees a higher-than-average number of credit inquiries on your file, they might interpret that as “credit-seeking” behaviour: a sign that you’re in desperate straits and asking everyone in town to lend you money. It’s therefore understandable that they’d feel uncomfortable extending you more credit.
But here’s the thing with MBNA: even if you originally get denied for a new card, you can still get approved by moving the credit limit from an existing MBNA card. That way, you aren’t being extended any additional credit beyond what you already have!
Here’s how this works. Say you apply for a new MBNA Alaska and get denied. Bummer… but it doesn’t have to be.
Unlike other issuers who hide behind a denial letter with a list of vague reasons, MBNA actually has human credit analysts that you can speak to. Give them a call at +1 (888) 898 1620 and ask them about your application. If you’ve indeed been denied, simply say something along the lines of “I understand that MBNA doesn’t want to extend me any more credit. I’m happy to split off the credit limit from my existing card to get approved instead. Can we do that?”
Let’s say you had a MBNA Best Western Rewards MasterCard with a credit limit of $5,000 on it. The credit analyst will verify with you how much of this existing credit limit you’d like to split off, and you could do an equal split of $2,500 each, or you could bring over $1,000, or $4,000, or any figure you wish.
(Thanks to doing these credit splits, I’ve had MBNA credit cards with limits as low as $500 in the past – of course, these cards were purely for points-earning purposes and I didn’t really spend much money on them, so it’s not like I needed the credit limit anyway.)
Once the agent processes your desired credit limit split, you can expect a brand-new approved credit card – welcome bonus and all – in the mail!
Using this technique, you can get approved for MBNA credit cards pretty much every time, and there’s not many issuers out there that you can say this about.
Maximizing the MBNA Alaska: Cancelling and Reapplying
As I’ve mentioned on the blog before, there’s no real scientific rule as to how long you should wait before cancelling and reapplying for a credit card. It’s all about how “aggressive” you want to be with your strategies, how carefully you want to preserve your long-term relationship with a certain issuer, as well as how many inquiries and new accounts your credit profile can handle.
The conventional wisdom is to wait six months before cancelling a credit card (since that allows the account to mature on your credit file and contribute to your credit health) and three months before reapplying for the card (since otherwise there’s the risk of a previously closed account being reopened).
But you know what? If there’s one issuer with whom I’d say it’s okay to play things a little fast and loose, it would be MBNA. They just seem to care less than the other issuers.
Here’s one example of what I mean: the aforementioned risk of your old account getting reopened if you reapply within three months seems to be mitigated by alternating between the World Elite and Platinum Plus versions of the MBNA Alaska.
Indeed, many data points support the idea that you can apply for the Platinum Plus very soon after closing your old World Elite account (or vice versa) and come through with the welcome bonus.
(As stated above, the income requirement prevents you from holding both products at the same time, but it’s not inconceivable to have an income that tends to yo-yo around the $80,000 mark every time you reapply.)
Now, it should go without saying that you shouldn’t be too obvious about all of these strategies in your dealings with MBNA.
Think about it: the true purpose of the MBNA Alaska Airlines MasterCard is most likely to encourage some measure of brand loyalty in Canadian travellers who might occasionally fly with Alaska Airlines, by treating them to a nice welcome bonus and a handful of perks and benefits on Alaska-operated flights. The purpose probably isn’t to fund your lavish travels on Alaska’s partner airlines, which just so happen to be some of the most luxurious First Class airlines in the world.
Keep this in mind, and position yourself accordingly, when chatting up those MBNA credit analysts over the phone. 😉
The MBNA Alaska Airlines MasterCard is one of the cornerstones of the grand strategy of Miles & Points in Canada, providing easy access to the lucrative Alaska Mileage Plan program and opening the door to some of the highest-value redemption opportunities around. There’s a particular game plan when it comes to working with MBNA that’s pretty distinct from other Canadian issuers, and I hope you’ll find some of these strategies helpful as you look to get more and more of those welcome bonuses under your belt.