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Is the Hawaiian Airlines credit card worth an $89 fee? Consider a no annual fee alternative

*Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

This article was last updated Jan 29, 2016, but some terms and conditions may have changed or are no longer available. For the most accurate and up to date information please consult the terms and conditions found on the issuer website.

The information related to The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express and The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, and the Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®  has been collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

When you think of vacation, how can you not think of the beautiful islands of Hawaii? The year-round sunshine, white sand beaches and laid back lifestyle make it one of the most attractive vacation destinations in the world.

The Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® has great perks, like the 35,000 bonus mile introductory offer and one time 50% off a companion ticket. For those looking to grab a free roundtrip flight with miles, the 35,000 miles can get you there, and could save you $400, $500 or more in airfare. If you’re traveling with a companion on a paid fare you can get a few hundred dollars off by using the companion ticket discount. Either of these perks can easily justify the $89 annual fee.

There are a few alternative cards that can earn Hawaiian Airlines miles, including one with no annual fee.

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, and Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express earn Amex Membership Rewards® points that you can transfer directly to your Hawaiian Airlines mileage account any time.

We’ll discuss those options later.

Where does Hawaiian Airlines fly?

Hawaiian Airlines has many routes to Hawaii from the North American mainland, with most non-stop flights coming from the West coast. Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Oakland, Sacramento, San Jose, San Diego, Phoenix and New York are your gateways for North America flights.

Check out the below flight map for your flight route options (click here for full version of route map)

How to find awards

Booking a Hawaiian Airlines flight with your award miles is simple.

  1. Go to https://www.hawaiianairlines.com/ and log into your Hawaiian Airlines account.
  2. Go to “Book” and select “flights” to search for an available flight.
  3. Select your flight details, and at the bottom of the booking select “Share Fare As: Miles

Once you get the results for your dates, find the one that works for you (and your miles balance), and book away!

For more details on how to book, click here

What do awards cost?

Using your HawaiianMiles to book flights gives you 3 award price levels on coach class (SuperSaver, Coach Saver and Coach Flex), and 2 award options for First/Business class (First/Business Saver and First/Business Flex.

From the mainland U.S., the lowest you can pay is 40,000 miles roundtrip for a Coach SuperSaver flight (20,000 miles one way), and in First Class the lowest you can pay is 80,000 miles roundtrip (40,000 miles one way).


SuperSaver fares are only available via the Hawaiian Airlines website, and can be hard to find during peak periods, so don’t count on getting those low prices for flights around the holidays.

But as a Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® holder, you get a 5,000 mile discount off all roundtrip awards to and from the U.S. mainland, so you can get a Coach SuperSaver flight for 35,000 miles roundtrip.

Note: You can also use your HawaiianMiles on other airlines by calling the HawaiianMiles Service Center and having them assist with your booking. You can book flights on American Airlines, JetBlue, ANA, Korean, Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin Australia. The miles needed to book these flights are very high and this is generally NOT a recommend option.

Upgrading Hawaiian Airlines flights

If you feel like splurging, you can use your HawaiianMiles to upgrade your seat to First Class. Upgrades are subject to availability, and the miles needed depend on the availability of “Saver” or “Flex” seats.

To upgrade to a Saver First class seat, the cost is 25,000 miles each way, and upgrading to a Flex First class seat is 50,000 miles each way.

This may seem like a steep price, but the cash upgrade cost is $350 – $800 each way depending on the route, season and availability, so 25,000 miles is a reasonable price to pay if it’s available. Plus, you’ll be on the flight for a minimum of 5 hours each way and Hawaiian flies roomy widebody planes with lots of legroom in First Class.

The great thing is that even the lowest fare tickets can be upgraded.

Note: HawaiianMiles upgrades must be completed no later than 26 hours prior to the scheduled departure time. After that, only cash upgrades are available, as they start offering those 24 hours before departure.

One time 50% off companion ticket

The Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® offers a one time 50% discounted companion ticket that can save you a few hundred dollars when looking to flying to Hawaii with someone else. Let’s look at an example ticket purchase to see how it works and how much you can save.

Chicago to Maui in June 2016:

$1,112 for first ticket, $556 for second ticket, total cost = $1,668

That’s $556 less than buying 2 tickets without the discount.

There are a few limitations to consider when booking the companion fare.

  • Both tickets must be purchased on same flight (and same class of service) using the Primary Cardmember’s Hawaiian Airlines MasterCard
  • The full price ticket must be a regular cash fare. Mileage award tickets don’t qualify for this deal.
  • You can only use the savings for flights between Hawaii and North America, not between islands.
  • Not valid on multi-city flights or codeshare flights with partner airlines
  • You can’t get the companion savings on First Class or “Extra Comfort” fares
  • The offer expires 13 months after your credit card account is opened

Annual $100 companion discount

Once you’ve held the credit card for a year, you receive a separate, annual $100 companion discount. This is not a lucrative as the 50% companion fare, but still a great value. The rules are the same as the above companion fare discount, except you only have 12 months to use this one.

5,000 mile anniversary bonus

Another annual bonus that you can receive is the 5,000 mile anniversary bonus. This bonus is earned when you spend at least $10,000 in net purchases within the credit card account anniversary year. You can only earn 5,000 bonus miles, regardless of the amount of purchases made over $10,000.

The ‘annivesrary year ‘begins on the day you activated your account, so it’s not a calendar year. If you opened your account on April 1, your spending from April 1 – March 31 would count toward the anniversary bonus.

When you hit the spending requirement, these miles will automatically apply to your account on the account cycle date of your anniversary month, and you can earn this bonus every year you are a cardholder.

Free first checked bag

As a cardholder, your first checked bag is free on Hawaiian Airlines flights, saving you $25 per flight. This is only between North American and Hawaii or between neighbor island flights, and only a benefit for the Primary Cardmember.

The biggest catch is that all ticket purchases be made direct through Hawaiian Airlines using your Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®. So you can’t buy your ticket on Expedia or any other travel website, even if you use your card to purchase it, otherwise you won’t get the free checked bag.

The only way to get it is to buy your ticket from the Hawaiian Airlines website or call center using your Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® to pay.

If you plan on flying to Hawaii more than once, this benefit can quickly help defray part of the card’s $89 annual fee.

Share miles with family and friends free

When you are a Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® cardholder, the fees for transferring your HawaiianMiles are waived, allowing you to pool your miles for free. Non-cardholders are subject to a $25 fee and $0.1 per mile for share miles, so this feature has some great value. This is a great feature for couples or families who want to sign up for the Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® and pool their miles together for an upcoming Hawaiian adventure!

You can share miles with family and friends as many times as you want, but recipients can only receive up to 10 transactions per year.  But you can transfer as little or as many miles as you want, with no minimum or maximum restrictions on each transfer, so you can wait until you have all the miles you need before doing a transfer.

To ensure the transfer is free, as a cardholder you must have a current email address on file in your HawaiianMiles account.

Inflight Purchase Credit (Pualani Platinum and Pualani Gold Members Only)

If you hold Gold or Platinum frequent flier status within Hawaiian Airlines, as a cardholder you can receive up to $100 in annual inflight credit (up to $10 maximum per day). This includes credit for onboard entertainment, beverages and premium meals. Purchases MUST be made on your Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® and the credit is only valid on Hawaiian Airlines flights.

Requirements for Pulani membership are:

Gold Membership:

  • Fly 30 segments or …
  • Fly 20,000 flight miles.

Platinum Membership:

  • Fly 60 segments or …
  • Fly 40,000 flight miles.

You can find more details on membership levels and benefits here.

Other cards that earn Hawaiian miles

Flying on Hawaiian Airlines is a great way to get to Hawaii, but you don’t need a Hawaiian branded card to earn HawaiianMiles. American Express Membership Rewards® points transfer to Hawaiian miles at a 1:1 ratio, and can be earned using several different cards.

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express – This $0 annual fee card gives you great earning power (2x points at US supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x), 1x points on other purchases.), and making 20 or more purchases in a billing period give you a 20% points bonus. You can transfer points you earn directly to your HawaiianMiles account, as well as Delta, British Airways, and others.

Check out the details here – it’s a great way to build up real airline miles without an annual fee.

The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express – This card gives you great earning power (3x points per dollar spent at US Supermarkets up to $6,000, 2x points a US gas stations), and making 30 or more purchases in a billing period give you a 50% points bonus.  For example, a family spending $2,000 per month, with $500 in groceries, $250 in dining and $200 in gas, could earn 57,600 points annually. There is a $95 annual fee.

The Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express – This card earns 3x on airlines and 2x points as US gas stations, supermarkets and restaurants. It also comes with a $100 airlines credit, good for incidentals when flying (checked bag fees, etc.). Points can add up quickly, if we take the example family from above, they could earn 46,800 points PLUS the 25,000 bonus points with this card. No intro fee first the first year, $195 after that.

Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express – This gives you 5,000 EXTRA miles when transferring 20,000 points to HawaiianMiles. Do note, Marriott and Starwood will be merging, and this benefit may not stay the same. $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95. Check out the details here.

There is another Hawaiian Airlines credit card geared toward Hawaii residents, and offered by Bank of Hawaii. The card has the EXACT SAME features as the Barclays Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®, including earning, benefits and the fee. Basically, if you live in Hawaii, you’ll get a card that says ‘Bank of Hawaii’ on it, and if you don’t, you’ll get the version without the Bank of Hawaii logo. Check out the details here

Is the card it worth the fee?

If you’re looking to get away to Hawaii and fly on Hawaiian Airlines at least once a year, this card could be a great value. With the bonus miles and in-flight perks, you could enjoy flying to Hawaii on the cheap. But if you are only looking to fly to Hawaii once every few years, there may be a few better options for getting there, especially with the variety of American Express offers and flexibility of their points program.

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