Thursday, May 11, 2017

The 2017 Alaska Business Credit Card Review

When Alaska Airlines acquired Virgin America in April 2016, many people wondered whether the Virgin Visa and Alaska Airlines Visa credit cards were still worthwhile.

If you’re a small business owner who frequently flies on either airline, you might be thinking the same thing.

We break down the pros and cons of the Alaska business credit card, compare it to other major travel offers, and discuss how the Alaska-Virgin merger will impact the business credit card.

The Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Card Reviewed

The Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Card starts you off with a solid signup bonus: 30,000 Alaska Airlines bonus miles when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days. One Mile at a Time values Alaska miles at about 1.8 cents each, so your bonus is worth around $540.

As for ongoing rewards, you get 3 miles per $1 spent on Alaska and Virgin purchases and 1 mile per $1 elsewhere.

A major Virgin Visa Signature perk made its way over to the Alaska business credit card: Every year, you can get an annual companion fare from $121 ($99 base fare, plus at least $22 in taxes and fees).

This means that once a year on an Alaska or Virgin flight, you can bring someone along for just $99 in base fare and applicable taxes and fees. You also get one free checked bag for you and up to six other people on your reservation. (Currently, business cardholders only get this benefit on Alaska flights, not Virgin ones.)

The Alaska business credit card has a $75 annual fee but comes with no foreign transaction or additional employee card fees. If you check bags on a roundtrip Alaska flight at least twice a year or if you use the companion ticket on a base fare over $174, you can easily recoup the annual fee.

Get the Alaska Airlines Visa business credit card if:

  • You or people on your reservation check bags on at least three Alaska or Virgin flight segments.
  • You want a solid signup bonus worth about $540 in airfare on Alaska, Virgin, or one of their partners.
  • You can get good use out of the companion fare discount.

Skip the card if:

  • You don’t often check bags on Alaska or Virgin (a general travel card would be better).
  • You don’t want to deal with the hassle of a companion fare and would rather have a straight-up airline fee reimbursement (check out the American Express Business Platinum).

How Does the Alaska Airlines Visa Compare?

Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Card vs. Chase Ink Business PreferredSM

The Chase Ink Business PreferredSM is one of the best general travel cards on the market, offering a signup bonus of 80,000 Ultimate Rewards Points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months.

You also get an ongoing base rewards rate of 1 point per $1, and 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent annually on:

  • Travel, including airfare, hotels, rental cars, train tickets, and taxis
  • Shipping purchases
  • Internet, cable, and phone services
  • Advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines

There’s no foreign transaction or employee card fees, and its annual fee is a reasonable $95. The card’s main value is in its rewards: Redeemed well, Ultimate Rewards Points can be worth upward of 3 cents each.

Typically, the best way to redeem is by transferring to one of Chase’s airline or hotel loyalty partners, which include United, British Airways, and Hyatt. If you redeem for travel booked through Chase’s Orbitz-powered portal, your points will be worth 1.25 cents each.

This brings the signup bonus’ value to at least $1,000 (if you book travel through Chase) and possibly $2,400 or more if you redeem well. That blows the Alaska card’s 30,000-mile bonus out of the water—but you’d also be giving up the companion fare and free checked bag benefits.  

Verdict: If you’re looking to maximize signup bonus value, go with the Ink Preferred. Otherwise, stick with Alaska business credit card.

Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Card vs. Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN

If you want to fly in luxury, look no further than the Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN.

In addition to Global Entry or TSA Pre-check application fee reimbursement, the card offers free Gogo or Boingo internet access and access to the network of American Express lounges, which include Centurion, Delta Sky Club, and Priority Pass Select.

Plus, you get an annual $200 airline fee credit, which reimburses you for checked bag fees, on-board meals, and so on. If getting value out of Alaska’s companion discount is too much of a hassle, the Platinum’s $200 credit is a good alternative.

The card does come with a steep $450 annual fee, but the charge is mitigated by the value of its perks as well as a signup bonus of up to 75,000 Membership Rewards points (50,000 when you spend $10,000 in the first three months and an additional 25,000 when you spend another $10,000 in the same time period). It’s meant for luxury business travelers, so if you spend a lot of time in airports, it’s well worth a look.

Verdict: If you spend big and fly often, go with the Platinum. Dedicated Alaska flyers should stick to the branded Alaska business credit card.

What Does the Virgin-Alaska Merger Mean for Cardholders?

As of May 2017, the Virgin America Visa Signature is no longer accepting new applications; throughout the year, Virgin Elevate Points will fold into Alaska Airlines miles.

As for the Alaska business credit card, here’s what you can expect:

  • You can use the annual companion discount on both Virgin and Alaska flights.
  • Unlike the personal Alaska Airlines credit card, the free checked bag benefit only applies to Alaska flights—not Virgin flights.
  • You can earn bonus miles on both airlines and redeem with them or any of their partners.
  • You can convert your Virgin America Elevate points to Alaska miles at a rate of 1.3 miles per point; you can’t convert Alaska miles to Elevate points.
  • Your flight options will expand, to the tune of 1,200 daily flights to over 114 destinations.

Expect more details to emerge as Virgin America is folded into Alaska Airlines.

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