Thursday, September 26, 2013

mbna Alaska Airlines MasterCard Review

Below you will find the complete review of the card as seen on the main Rewards Canada site.
 
A little known card to the general public in Canada but well known in frequent flyer circles, the MBNA Alaska Airlines MasterCard is a strong card due to Alaska’s Mileage Plan program being one of the better frequent flyer programs in North America. You may say however that this card is only for those in Alberta and British Columbia as those are the only provinces Alaska Airlines serves but with the great depth of airline partners in the Mileage Plan program this card can actually work for most Canadians.

Overview

The MBNA Alaska Airlines MasterCard has been on the Canadian market for quite some time but for the past couple of years it really declined in popularity since MBNA (or their parent company TD) took it off their general public website and you had to phone in to apply for the card or apply via Alaska Airlines. Now the card is back and being promoted once again by MBNA. The card falls into the middle of the pack in terms of benefits, cost and rewards but don’t let that fool you as it can make a strong presence in anyone’s credit card portfolio whether it is your primary, secondary or tertiary card.

Sign up Features
The MBNA Alaska Airlines MasterCard comes with a 25,000 Mileage Plan Miles sign up bonus that is awarded upon approval. An annual coach companion fare every year from only US$118 ($99 base fare plus taxes and fees from $19) is included with the card and $50 off a new Board Room initiation fee. Board Room is Alaska Airlines’ Business Class lounge program which provides access to Board Rooms in Anchorage, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and San Francisco as well as 50 affiliated lounges worldwide. The cost of membership before the $50 credit ranges from US$295 to US$450 depending on your elite status within the Mileage Plan program.

Costs
The MBNA Alaska Airlines MasterCard comes with a $75 Annual fee . $75 is lower than many of the cards it competes against in the Canadian market but is average for mid-level cards that don’t offer many insurance or non-reward specific benefits. Supplementary cards are free which is becoming the norm for many cards in the Canadian market. The 18.99% interest rate is slightly lower than the majority of airline and other major travel credit cards. You can get $60 of that annual fee back if you apply for the card via Great Canadian Rebates


Earning
The MBNA Alaska Airlines MasterCard earns points directly into the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program as follows:
3 Miles per dollar spent on Alaska Airlines tickets, cargo purchases, in-flight purchases and vacation packages
1 Mile per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases

  

Redeeming
This is the portion of the MBNA Alaska Airlines MasterCard that is the star! MBNA Alaska Airlines MasterCard earns offers numerous redemption options via the Mileage Plan program. Of course, being a frequent flyer program, the primary redemption option which most people look at are reward flights on Alaska Airlines and their Mileage Plan partner airlines. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is situated very smartly, they are not part of any of the three major worldwide airline alliances but rather they are partnered with key airlines from each the Star Alliance, oneworld and even SkyTeam. The airlines you can redeem Mileage Plan miles for are as follows:
Alaska Airlines
American Airlines
Delta Airlines
Air France/KLM
British Airways
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
PenAir
ERA Alaska
AeroMexico
Emirates
Korean Air

Fiji Airways
Qantas
LAN
As you can see they have quite the varied partner list that pretty much covers the globe in terms of possible award ticket redemptions.

For redemptions on Alaska Airlines there are numerous options depending on availability. Much like many other frequent flyer programs, award seats are limited at the lower redemption level but you can use more miles to get an ‘any seat any time’ award ticket as long as the flight still has seats available. Mileage Plan also has a Miles+Money option where you can use miles to provide a discount of up to 50% off the price of a flight (capped at $200). See the award chart links below for more details on how many miles are needed for flights on Alaska Airlines.

Finally you can also you Mileage Plan miles to upgrade a qualifying purchased economy fare (Y,S,B,M,H fare classes) to Alaska Airlines first class. Those upgrades cost 15,000 miles one way regardless of the distance or cost of flight.

Alaska Airlines has a great online award ticketing engine that provides a relatively easy booking process not only for Alaska Airlines award tickets but also for many of their airline partners.

The program can be very lucrative because it offers First Class redemptions on some big time dream flight airlines like Emirates and Qantas. In fact, the Alaska Airlines program is better than Emirate’s own Skyward program for EK First Class redemptions between North America and the Middle East as you only 180,000 miles with Mileage Plan versus 217,500 with Skywards. And Mileage Plan allows one way redemptions for EK flights (ie 90,000 for that First Class ticket to the Middle East) whereas Skywards does not! Mileage Plan also allows for a free stopover on their one way awards which means if you book two separate one way awards you can actually get two free stopovers.

Here are links to all of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan flight award charts:

Central and South America

Outside of flights, Mileage Plan miles can also be donated or used to purchase magazines. This is one program that has not expanded on their rewards catalog like many other programs.

Features and Benefits

The standard MBNA Alaska Airlines MasterCard comes with MBNA’s Platinum level of benefits which is provides a benefit package that fits that card in the middle of the pack in terms of what is offered. These benefits include travel accident insurance, trip interruption insurance, car rental CDW coverage, purchase protection and extended warranty.

When you apply for and receive the MBNA Alaska Airlines MasterCard you may actually get the World Elite version of the card which provides even more benefits like Price Protection, Concierge service and more. Whether you get World Elite version depends on your income level.

Other features of the card are the annual companion fare benefit (see the next section for more details) and the $50 discount on Alaska Airlines Board Room memberships (covered in the Sign Up Features section above)

What is good about this card
One of the best features of this card is the annual US$99 coach companion fare. A regular feature of the card since it launched, the companion fare benefit is similar to the one found on the RBC WestJet World Elite MasterCard. Essentially you can book an Alaska Airlines flight in coach (economy class) and bring along a companion for only $99 (plus taxes and fees of at least $19)

Also what is good about this card is the Mileage Plan program itself! The variety of airlines you can redeem on and the ability to redeem for one way awards, especially on airlines that don’t offer that feature in their own frequent flyer programs show the strength of this small but mighty program.

The sign up bonus alone is worth a flight to pretty much anywhere in North America making it another good feature of the card. 

What is not so good about this card
As with any credit card tied into a frequent flyer program comes the dreaded availability issues on award tickets and any extra taxes and fees. While Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is pretty good on the latter the issue of availability is always a consideration that needs to taken into account when choosing a card like this. If you can be flexible in your dates, airlines and routing (ie making connections vs. direct) then this is less of an issue.

The inability to redeem for flights within Canada. Unfortunately Alaska Airlines does not partner with any Canadian airlines which means you cannot redeem for flights within Canada.

Conclusion
When someone outside of Alberta or British Columbia sees the MBNA Alaska Airlines MasterCard they may not even give a second glance because they may have never heard of the airline to start with or if they have they may pass since they think it is only a good card for Albertans or British Columbians. As you can see from the review that is not the case due to the great variety of airline partners that Alaska Airlines. Live in Toronto? You can redeem for flights on American, Delta, Air France KLM, British Airways, Emirates, Korean and more. If you are a frequent traveled with Alaska Airlines, this card is a must, even if you may travel semi-frequently with their airline partner and funnel those flights into Mileage Plan then this card is must. As long as you can forego award flights within Canada and be flexible in your award dates then this card should rank relatively high in your choices for an airline card. Looking for award travel within Canada or don’t spend enough to meet many of the award chart amounts then this card is not for you. You’re better off with a travel points card or one that ties into Aeroplan or WestJet.

Overall I don’t think the card has made huge inroads against many of the cards in Canada but since its recent re-introduction into the online market so that it is easily available to the general public I do believe some will jump on this card as it does have its place in the market and it can be very rewarding.

Care to comment? Do you agree or disagree with us? Tell us what think about the mbna Alaska Airlines MasterCard below!

Related Links:
mbna Alaska Airlines MasterCardAdvertisementon mbna.ca
Rewards Canada's Canadian All Travel Rewards Credit Card Comparison including the mbna Alaska Airlines MasterCard
Rewards Canada's Canadian Airline Only Credit Card Comparison including the mbna Alaska Airlines MasterCard

Other cards to consider would come from the Airline Card category or the Hybrid Card category:
WestJet RBC World Elite MasterCard
CIBC Aerogold Visa Infinite
RBC Visa Infinite Avion
Marriott Rewards Premier Visa
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express
American Express Gold Rewards Card
Diners Club Club Rewards MasterCard

17 comments:

  1. Since I just got it in August, in time for the cash boost of $75 from GCR (=making my cost $0)

    Tips
    If your income is below 70K (I think), you won't automatically get the World Elite version. And when you later update your income online to above 70K, you should later get an offer to upgrade to World Elite with 10K bonus.... I wish I knew this before I applied @@ as I'm stuck with WE version

    Create the AlaskaAir account first yourself (use LEGAL name), and provide that in the CC application..instead of letting MBNA creating it for you

    25K Alaska miles is good for 1 round-trip YYZ-LAX flight on AA (let's say ~$600 value)

    For Companion fare, for Ontario people, closest USA airport to find non-stop to redeem companion is probably NYC-SEA or ORD-ANC/SEA/Portland, yes, not many choices, so some people just give their companion away or don't use it

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  2. A good review, but I really have to question the value for folks outside BC/AB...maybe for folks in Toronto or Montreal, but without a Canadian partner, there's no way to connect to those International partners (without a high priced domestic ticket to YYZ or YVR).

    In Ottawa - Canada's fourth largest city - there are exactly FOUR flights per day amongst all Alaska Airlines partners: 2 to ORD on AA and 2 to DTW on DL...and just try finding reward ticket availability on those flights!

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    Replies
    1. Fair enough and I agree to a point. I did a sample search however between YOW and CDG in November, there was availability on AA. Total miles in economy was 40,000 and just under $200 in taxes/fees! Its all about being flexible in the dates of travel.

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  3. Ok for us in Southern Ontario that can fly out of Detroit, it seems to make sense. I just priced DTW-MIA and it was 25,000 MileSaaver on AA, which is the sign up bonus.
    So, for the companion fare, it has to be non-stop? That flight is non-stop, so I'm assuming for the 99 plus fees I'm good? Except for the main flight it was about $80.00 in fees....so, for 2 flights from Detroit to Miami I'm looking at 80 + 99 + about 20 more in fees? 200 or so for 2 flights seems pretty good, and I guess we could go farther like Jerry said to LAX. Just soooo hard finding award space!

    Jay.

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    Replies
    1. In short - only works on Alaska flights (nonstop or not), does NOT work with reward flight
      so it's quite useless for Ontario people unless one pays for position flights to NYC or ORD (YYZ-ORD is average $400 RT, or 9000 Avios RT)..but then that erases any savings for companion fares (e.g. ORD-SEA is $400 USD RT)

      Companion FAQ
      http://www.alaskaair.com/content/mileage-plan/frequently-asked-questions/faq-companion-discount-code.aspx
      Your Companion Fare Discount Code can be applied to a new reservation made at alaskaair.com for Alaska Airlines flights only. Your reservation must be made for two people booked in the same itinerary, traveling together, and ticketed at the same time. Companion Fare Discount Codes are only valid on alaskaair.com®.

      Why fly DTW-MIA if you can redeem YYZ-MIA on AA (vs. 20K Avios RT) since you cannot use your companion ticket

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  4. Thanks Jerry, you guys know your stuff, and I really appreciate it!
    Jay

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  5. I have always been quite happy with this card. It has been in and out of my wallet since it first arrived in Canada as the Bank of America Canada Visa Classic (2004/5?) The annual fee is reasonable and if you do sign up through GCR you get the fee back anyway. The card doesn't have a lot of perks, but the ability to redeem on so many partners - AA, DL, EK, BA (but don't - high fuel surcharge) makes it a very versatile card. AS is not my primary FF program but I like to build up a balance in it as I find it to be very easy to redeem awards on their partners. I'd say getting this card is a no-brainer. The customer service also is pretty good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the feedback from someone who has had the card for long time!

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  6. How do you know if it's eligible for the cash boost from GCR? Does it have to be one of the credit cards listed on the left of the page?


    And how long did it take for you to get the card after applying? I'm looking to get it in time to buy tickets for travel in July. If I wait, then the prices will go up...not sure if it's worth it.

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  7. Look under Credit Cards & Finance, you should be able to find the card. The companion fare can be used any time after getting the card and then resets each anniversary. Points you don't have to wait either, once they post to your Mileage Plan account you can use them

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  8. Thank you! Can't wait to receive my card so I can book a flight in July!

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  9. pretty darn sure the info here about using the card miles on flights from anywhere in canada on partner airlines is VERY wrong!!! i have been a card member for about 15 years...i used to live in alberta but now live in saskatchewan....was inquiring about using my airmiles on a partner airline to fly to mexico since there is no alaska air service here.
    Was told you can only use your airmiles flying out of an Alaska airlines hub city....furthest west hub cities being Calgary or denver...no good.....needless to say i got 120,000 airmiles that are useless to me right now!!!!!

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  10. Whoever you inquired with gave you the wrong information, travel does not have to be from a hub. See this screen shot for a dummy search I did on Alaskair.com. Roundtrip between Regina and Minneapolis is 25,000 miles + $78! you can redeem your miles on any partner airline as long as they serve the city you are departing from. So for Sask it is only Delta Airlines from Saskatoon and Regina.

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  11. Thank you for your response, I will look into this further!

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  12. Ok so I called alaskaair and you were right...as long as the partner airline flies out of that city I can use my miles...
    Still have to pay the taxes which of course are ridiculous in canada but what can you do!!!!
    Anyways I was mid informed by an Alaska air service person many years ago, glad I came upon this site which caused me to investigate again
    Thank you!!!

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  13. You're welcome! Glad they were able to clarify it as well.

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