We’ve just caught wind that the MBNA Alaska Airlines Mastercards are set to be discontinued tomorrow, November 7, 2022.
The news comes as a surprise, and a sad one for that matter, with no official announcement from MBNA. Let’s unpack what’s going on.
MBNA Alaska Airlines Mastercards Set to Be Discontinued
According to a conversation with an MBNA representative via their online chat, the MBNA Alaska Airlines Mastercards will no longer be available to new applicants as of tomorrow, November 7, 2022.
This includes both the MBNA Alaska Airlines World Elite Mastercard as well as the MBNA Alaska Airlines Platinum Plus Mastercard. The two cards have nearly identical features, with slight differences in their welcome bonuses, annual fees, and insurance packages.
We also have a data point from Philippe B., a member of the Prince of Travel Elites Facebook group, with confirmation from the MBNA call centre.
Existing cardholders will be able to continue using their Alaska Airlines cards. As long as you currently have an Alaska card, you have nothing to worry about in terms of earning Alaska miles on everyday spending.
If you’re scrambling to make sure you’re a cardholder before the deadline, I have some good news: some people are still getting approved today, before the application form is removed tomorrow.
I found myself in-between Alaska cards this morning, so I applied immediately and I was fortunate to receive instant approval!
Remember, you’re most likely to get instant approval with MBNA if you have fewer than five TransUnion inquiries in the past six months.
Otherwise, your application may go to pending, where a human team will review it sometime in the next two weeks. At that point, there’s no telling if you’ll be able to be approved for a pending application for a product that is now closed to new applicants.
Even so, as long as you don’t currently have either of the Alaska cards, there’s no harm in trying. The primary reason to manage your TransUnion inquiries is to stay in MBNA’s good books, and the issuer as a whole will lose a ton of its unique appeal with the end of the Alaska cards.
What’s Next for Canadians and Alaska Mileage Plan?
MBNA’s Alaska cards have been popular for a few reasons.
Alaska Mileage Plan is one of the most compelling frequent flyer programs available to Canadians. It offers redemptions on a wide range of aspirational Oneworld and independent airline partners, with some incredible sweet spots on an extremely favourable award chart.
With a stopover policy that allows an extra destination for no additional cost, and no change or cancellation fees, Alaska Mileage Plan keeps finding ways to impress.
However, Alaska miles are hard to earn in Canada, with the only sources being the MBNA Alaska cards, transfers from Marriott Bonvoy, or shopping through Alaska Mileage Plan’s online portal (which is very heavy on American retailers). Going forward, this will only be more difficult.
Canadians who wish to continue earning Alaska miles will no longer be able to rely on welcome bonuses worth up to 30,000 miles. Instead, the only option to earn Alaska miles directly will be for existing cardholders who spend on their grandfathered cards, earning 1 mile per dollar spent on all purchases.
Otherwise, you can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Alaska Mileage Plan at a 3:1 ratio. While this seems like a poor proposition, it can be a good choice based on each program’s respective Points Valuations – subject to your particular redemption, of course.
Don’t forget that American Express Membership Rewards transfer to Marriott Bonvoy at a 1:1.2 ratio, so you’ll still have a pathway into Alaska Mileage Plan even if your Bonvoy earnings are slim. Amex credit cards are a great choice if you rely on large welcome bonuses to power your points earnings.
Finally, you can turn to US credit cards, where Bank of America still offers the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card and the Alaska Airlines Visa Business Card.
Canadians will need an established credit history in the US, but Bank of America is reportedly somewhat friendly to applicants without a social security number or ITIN – although you may need to grease the wheels by speaking with a human in-branch or over the phone.
Why Is MBNA Discontinuing the Alaska Cards?
It’s hard to say why MBNA has decided to discontinue their Alaska cards.
If I had to guess, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are changes coming to the way Alaska Mileage Plan manages their bank partnerships, alongside upcoming changes to airline partner awards. Regardless, MBNA has also had a handful of oddball co-branded retail partnerships come and go over the years, so I wouldn’t say this discontinuation is unprecedented.
That being said, with upcoming changes to Alaska Mileage Plan redemptions, the appeal of earning Alaska miles may be up for debate. Time will tell if that is the case, and maybe the loss of an easy way to earn Alaska miles in Canada won’t have such a catastrophic impact.
All we know for now is that the MBNA Alaska cards appear to be going away, and there’s really no downside to grandfathering yourself as a cardholder today while you still can.
Data points are mixed, but you should be eligible for approval as long as you don’t currently have an Alaska card, and it’s possible you’ll get instant approval as long as you have fewer than five TransUnion inquiries in the past six months.
Be sure to get one last application in before the anticipated devaluation to Alaska Mileage Plan redemptions in December 2022. For all we know, this may be your last opportunity both to earn Alaska miles easily, and to burn them at sky-high value.