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[Nope, nothing in it for me if you apply for this debit card]
Update: Bank of America is no longer issuing the Alaska Air debit card.
Many folks don’t want to sign-up for credits cards because they have a low credit score (you shouldn’t sign up for credit cards with a score below 700) or because they don’t want the temptation of being able to spend more than what’s in their bank accounts. You just won’t get ahead paying interest on your credit cards, so it is best to NOT sign-up for credit cards if you can’t pay your balance in full each month.
However, there are a few debit cards which let you earn miles for using them. Of course, putting your actual spending on a debit card won’t get you as many miles and points as signing-up for credit cards and getting 50,000 point sign-up bonuses.
As I tell folks during my introduction to miles and points at conferences: The average American household earns ~$50,000 a year, so if you spend everything on a credit or debit card, you’ll earn only 50,000 miles and points (assuming 1 mile per $1 spent), which is enough for only 2 domestic tickets.
But something is better than nothing. For most folks, you get a better return by going after credit card sign-up bonuses, but that option is not available to all Americans.
Bank of America Alaska Airlines Debit Card
The Bank of America Alaska Airlines debit card is only available for personal (not business) checking accounts with Bank of America. If you already have a Bank of America checking account, you can request an Alaska Airlines debit card for your account. If you’re signing up for a new Bank of America checking account, you can request an Alaska Airlines debit card.
You can use Alaska Air miles for flights on American Airlines, Delta, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, and even Emirates.
3,000 Mile Sign-up Bonus: You get 3,000 Alaska Airline miles for making a purchase with the Bank of America Alaska Airlines debit card.
Fees: $30 annual fee for the debit card and there may be monthly fees for your Bank of America checking account, depending on which account you open.
Earning Miles: Earn 1 Alaska Airlines mile per $2 spent. This isn’t as good as the earnings ratio on the Delta personal debit card where you earn 1 Delta miles per $1 spent, but depending on how you redeem your miles, Alaska Airlines miles could be more valuable.
The terms say “Earns miles on purchases only. Does not earn miles for ATM transactions, cash-back amounts at point of sale, or for federal, state or local tax payments, or similar payments to federal, state and local government agencies.”
I didn’t earn any miles when I used the Bank of America Alaska Airlines card to make a tax payment, but I did earn miles for using the Delta debit card. Earning miles for just a $3.49 flat fee when you pay your taxes is unprofitable and I don’t expect it to last long.
Limits: The terms say that you can’t earn more than 100,000 Alaska Air miles in a calendar year (excluding the sign-up bonus). This means that you won’t earn miles for spending more than $200,000 in a calendar year. And like most debit cards there is a daily maximum to the amount of purchases you can make.
Bottom Line: You earn less miles with a debit card than with a credit card and consumer protections are usually weaker with a debit card. But this could be useful for folks who don’t or can’t apply for credit cards.