Most travel rewards credit cards boast a range of benefits: low (or no) annual fees, a hefty sign-up bonus, convertible points, automatic elite status, and so on.
Alaska Airlines’ Visa Signature card, on the other hand, for the most part staked its fame on a single benefit, outlined in the card’s online application form: “Receive an annual Companion Fare from $110 ($99 base fare plus taxes and fees, from $11 depending on your Alaska Airlines flight itinerary).”
Savvy travelers quickly recognized that terrific value could be derived from the companion-ticket benefit when booking first-class trips to Hawaii or Mexico.
And therein lay the card’s appeal. (The card’s 25,000-mile sign-up bonus is notably weak, and the $75 annual fee is no bargain.)
Key Benefit, Downgraded
Beginning on August 1, however, the annual companion ticket will be restricted to coach fares—no more first class.
According to Alaska Airlines:
All new companion fare certificates issued after August 1st will be valid in conjunction with Coach Class only. Any unused certificates may still be used towards First Class until their expiration date. Ongoing cost pressures and growing demand for limited space in First Class (particularly on flights to Hawaii and the East Coast) prompted the changes. Our companion fare still offers tremendous value in that—unlike other airlines’ offerings—it can be used for travel to anywhere we fly, including Hawaii and Mexico. Additionally, as an MVP Gold, you can still use your benefits to upgrade to First Class when traveling on a companion fare ticket.
That amounts to a significant devaluation of the card’s signature benefit and makes the card a much less attractive option amid a sea of rewards credit cards with outsized bonuses and perks.
Predictably, the downgrade has been roundly deplored in the travel blogosphere and by rewards-focused travelers on websites such as FlyerTalk.
It’s possible that the falloff in new and continuing card subscribers will force Alaska and its card-issuing partner, Bank of America, to reinstate the benefit to maintain its customer base. But that’s a long shot.
For the time being, while the card may still work for Alaska loyalists, it will hold little allure for others.
Reader Reality Check
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.
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