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By Credit Card Company
mbna Alaska Airlines Mastercard Review Posted on Sep 26, 2013

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 World Elite® Mastercard® credit card 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.

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

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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 on our blog

Related Links:
Alaska Airlines World Elite® Mastercard® credit cardon Great Canadian rebates
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

 

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