After disappearing in late 2013, the Hawaiian Airlines credit card (formerly issued by Bank of America) re-emerged early last year as the Barclaycard-issued Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard. Those already holding one of the old Hawaiian Airlines Visa cards should have received their reissued World Elite MasterCard in mid-2014.
In the past, there were two different personal versions of the card: Visa Signature ($79 annual fee) and Platinum ($50 annual fee). Now, there’s one personal version (although there’s a business version, too). It’s a World Elite MasterCard, and it’s got a (higher) annual fee of $89.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the rewards structure. Cardholders still earn:
- 2 miles per dollar spent on Hawaiian Airlines purchases
- 1 mile per dollar spent on other purchases
- 2 to 10 miles per dollar spent at participating partners (these include various resorts, hotels and car rental companies)
- Miles for flights taken on partner airlines. The amount you earn varies by airline and route.
There’s no limit on the number of miles you can earn.
The card is running a sign-up bonus of 35,000 bonus miles (after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days), but that may not be quite enough for a round-trip flight. Cardholders do have access to discounted fares — but if there aren’t any available for the flight you want, you could end up paying 40,000 miles and up (sometimes WAY up) for a round-trip coach ticket between ticket between Hawaii and the continental U.S. You can also get one-way tickets between the islands for as low as 7,500 miles.
Redemption options and value
As with many airline mileage programs, how much your miles are worth depends on how, where and when you choose to redeem them. Because ticket prices and rewards availability are always fluctuating, the worth of your miles will fluctuate as well. Say you’re flying coach from Los Angeles to Honolulu in May. If you fly out on Monday May 5, your miles will each be worth 0.73 cents (40,000 miles required for a $293 ticket):
However, if you wait two days and fly out May 7, your value per point will increase to 1.8 cents each if you take an evening flight:
Flying on May 7: mile value = 1.8 cents each
You can also redeem for flights on Hawaiian’s partner airlines (including American, All Nippon, JetBlue, China Airlines, Korean Air, Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia). Value varies when you redeem this way, but it allows you to use your points on a variety of itineraries, both within the continental U.S. and in a variety of Asian countries.
If you don’t want to use your rewards for air travel, there are quite a few other options…
You can redeem for merchandise, as well as car rentals and hotel stays. For example, 10,000 miles will get you a $50 gift certificate for Alamo Car Rental or National Car Rental. You can also take advantage of the card’s partnership with Hilton to get 1.5 Hilton HHonors points for each HawaiianMile. You have to redeem in 10,000-mile increments. That means you could use 30,000 of your 35,000-mile sign-up bonus to get 45,000 Hilton HHonors points — enough for one night in a Category 6 hotel (or three nights in a Category 2 hotel).
Airline cards aren’t just about the miles you earn each time you swipe, but about the extra perks that make travel more pleasant or that accelerate your rewards earnings. This card will get you:
- One free checked bag: This is for the primary cardholder only (other airline cards kick in a free bag for a companion or two).
- 5,000 bonus miles: You get 5,000 bonus miles each year you send $10,000 or more on the card.
- Companion discounts: There are two companion discounts. As with the old card, you get a one-time 50 percent companion discount on a round-trip ticket. With the new card, you also get a $100 discount on a companion coach ticket on each account anniversary. There are some restrictions, however. These discounts are available only on round-trip fares between North America and Hawaii. You also can’t use either discount on code-share flights – or on any kind of ticket besides economy class. And, as is the case with most companion discounts, you have to pay any necessary taxes and surcharges associated with your ticket.
- World Elite benefits: World Elite benefits generally come with cards that sport high annual fees (take, for example, the Citi Prestige, which has a $450 annual fee). So paying $89 for the suite of World Elite benefits isn’t bad. These include a suite of travel insurance protections, concierge service and travel perks (such as room upgrades and free breakfast, if you’re staying at participating hotels).
- No foreign transaction fees: Paying an extra 2 to 3 percent with each purchase overseas can add up. This card waives those fees.
- EMV chip: Not all travel-related cards have this, but this card includes an EMV smart chip, necessary for purchases overseas.
The travel perks of this card don’t really stand out – there are no free checked bags for companions and no priority boarding (a staple on similarly priced cards from other airlines). However, the companion ticket offer is quite competitive. Quite a few airline cards offer companion ticket discounts or straight-up free companion tickets. But many limit those offers to the continental United States. The World Elite benefits are the icing on the cake.
Just watch out for the redemption value – it can dip pretty low, depending on the day and time you fly. Plus, because flights to Hawaii require so many miles in the first place (many more than a domestic round-trip fare), it could take you a while to earn a free round trip, with your regular spending earning only 1 mile per dollar.
Benefits and rewards aside, you must look at the big picture with this card: Unlike a lot of other airline cards from bigger carriers (American, Delta, United), this card is built for very specific routes. With other airline cards, you have a certain amount of flexibility to maximize your points. If the reward flights for your intended vacation destination cost a fortune in miles, you can always decide to vacation somewhere else. Hawaiian airlines, however will get you only to and from Hawaii and select destinations within the continental U.S.
The card makes up for that somewhat with its airline partners, which offer you the flexibility to redeem for routes Hawaiian Airlines doesn’t fly. Still, you have to go through the hassle of booking by phone when redeeming this way. Plus, the value isn’t always the best. Round-trip flights within North America start at 30,000 miles when you redeem HawaiianMiles for an American Airlines flight, even though they start at 25,000 AAdvantage miles when booked directly through American.
If you’re planning a trip between the continental U.S. and Hawaii, though, and can take advantage of the one-time 50 percent companion discount, this card would be a good choice. After you use up the sign-up bonus and that one-time offer, the card will remain a good value if you spend enough ($10,000) to earn the $5,000 bonus each year, fly often enough on Hawaiian to earn extra miles and can use the yearly companion discount.
Looking for a go-to card for other travel or just need a viable alternative? Consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred card – it is one of the most flexible travel cards and isn’t associated with a particular airline. However, you can transfer points to most airline frequent flyer programs on a 1-1 basis and Sapphire Preferred has about the same annual fee. Right now there is a nice 40,000 point signup bonus after making $4,000 in purchases during the first three months.
Written or last updated January 5, 2015