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Is There an Alternative to My Airline Credit Card?

Dear Tim,

I have been using an Alaska Airlines/Bank of America Visa for all of my purchases each month. I think I have around 50,000 Alaska miles, but I have never used one mile for anything. I don’t want to pay all the miles they would require for a short West Coast trip. Bank of America will be charging me a $75 renewal fee, which I intend to ask for as a credit when I cancel. Will you recommend a Visa or MasterCard I can switch to?

Chuck from Renton, WA

Dear Chuck,

Actually, since you live in Renton and probably fly mostly from Seattle, the Alaska Mileage Plan credit card is a good choice.

My general advice is that travelers should hold the credit card affiliated with the airline program they participate in most regularly. Since Alaska is one of the dominant airlines at Seattle’s airport, and since you have already accumulated a significant number of miles in that program, my guess is that Alaska’s Mileage Plan is a program that will best meet your needs in the long term.

The annual fee for the Alaska card is comparable to other airline mileage cards’ (although many waive the fee for the first year), and the earning rate is also in line with other cards.

You expressed some concern about award prices, but there too Alaska is quite competitive. In fact, their restricted domestic coach award, if booked online, is only 20,000 miles—5,000 fewer miles than you’d be charged in most other programs. You might also be interested in Alaska’s periodic award discounts. For example, now through February 14, you can take advantage of a 5,000-mile discount on award trips between Seattle and a number of cities in California.

While you may have some reservations about the Mileage Plan credit card, under the circumstances I think you’d likely be more disappointed with a different card.

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