Update: These offers for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express have expired. Learn more about the current offers here.
While I’ve long had the Alaska Airlines Visa Card, it has been noticeably missing one very common perk offered by co-branded US airline credit cards nowadays — a free first checked bag. Well, it looks like that has finally changed.
As of today, Alaska Airlines is offering a first checked bag free for those with the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card. That’s a savings of $25, which is what they usually charge for the first checked bag. Per the press release:
Alaska Airlines today announced it is doing away with the standard fee for the first checked bag for Alaska Airlines Visa Signature consumer cardholders.
“This is a benefit our customers have been asking for,” said Sangita Woerner, Alaska’s vice president of marketing. “Today we’re thrilled to announce that our Visa Signature consumer cardholders and their friends and family traveling in the same reservation with them will enjoy one free checked bag with every flight – as a core benefit of our card program.”
They were playing around with this concept earlier in the year, as Alaska offered all passengers a free checked bag for the month of January, and then extended the promotion into February for those with their co-branded credit card.
The basic details of the free first checked bag benefit are as follows:
- Only available to the primary cardmember and up to six companions traveling on the same reservation
- The Mileage Plan number has to be on the reservation at the time of check-in in order to qualify for the benefit
- You don’t have to pay with the Alaska Airlines Visa Card to qualify
- New card members should be eligible for this benefit within 2-3 weeks of card approval
That’s a pretty nice perk if you fly Alaska frequently but don’t have status. Keep in mind Alaska is probably the US airline which does the best job with checked bags. They have a 20 minute baggage service guarantee. Through this guarantee, if your bags are not at baggage claim within 20 minutes of your plane’s arrival at the gate, you get a $25 discount code for use on a future Alaska flight, or 2,500 bonus miles (the latter is a better value, as Alaska miles are worth much more than a penny each to me). So if there’s a US airline I don’t mind checking bags on, it’s Alaska.
If you haven’t yet applied for the Alaska Visa Signature Card, the best sign-up bonus on the card is available directly on Alaska’s website. Just make a “dummy” booking and go all the way to the purchase page for any ticket (if you already have the card, don’t log into your Mileage Plan account when doing so).
There you’ll see an offer for 25,000 bonus miles upon account approval, plus a $100 statement credit after making at least $1,000 in purchases within 90 days of your account open date. That’s not a huge sign-up bonus, though you can earn the bonus on the card even if you’ve already had it, and Alaska miles are extremely valuable.
However, if the goal is simply to earn as many Alaska miles as possible through everyday credit card spend, then the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express are much better options. That’s because those points can be converted into Alaska Mileage Plan miles at a 1:1 ratio, and for every 20,000 points you transfer you get a 5,000 point bonus. That’s basically like earning 1.25 Alaska miles per dollar spent, if transferring points in the right increments.
This is more Alaska playing catch up than innovating, though it’s still nice to see this benefit added. Over the years I’ve picked up the Alaska Visa Card several times, so this is a nice added perk for the card.
Will anyone get use out of the first free checked bag benefit now offered by Alaska?
(Tip of the hat to Travel Codex)