The Amex Platinum Companion Ticket Benefit – Is It Worth It?

by on May 17, 2012 · 57 comments

in American Express

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Yesterday I posted about British Airways’ 3-day business class fare sale and I got a bunch of Tweets and emails about whether the fare would qualify for the American Express Platinum Companion Ticket benefit. Unfortunately, the answer is no, but it made me want to dig deeper into this benefit since I am a Platinum cardholder and have never taken advantage of this feature.
There is no limit to the number of Companion Tickets cardholders are eligible for through the program, and there are no blackout dates—if you can buy a ticket on an eligible flight and there is space, you can get a Companion Ticket. The big caveat is that only refundable tickets are eligible for Companion Tickets. Generally refundable tickets are the most expensive out there, but this could still be an okay deal in certain situations depending on the ticket you purchase. International Business and First class tickets are among the most expensive out there, so getting a second ticket for free—even with taxes and fuel surcharges—can equate to a lot of value. Still, after pricing out a few options, this perk isn’t for the light of wallet.

How To Book
In order to score a Companion Ticket, you must book through Amex’s Platinum Travel Service by calling 1-800-443-7672 or 1-800-525-3355. You cannot earn a companion ticket by booking anywhere else–and remember they can only quote you refundable ticket prices if you are going for the Companion Ticket.

In addition, the companion must be flying on the exact same itinerary as the cardholder. If your travel plans change—either the cardholder or the companion—the ticket must be canceled, refunded and rebooked.

Eligible Routes
Not all routes and tickets qualify, and the only way to find out whether your prospective trip does is to call the PTS line and run it past them, or to parse out this route map. All flights must originate either in the US or from one of seven Canadian gateways (Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax).

I actually think the easiest way to use this tool is to look at the destination you would like to travel to, and then see which gateways in the US and which airlines you’re eligible to fly.

Example Scenarios
So for instance, when I clicked on Auckland, New Zealand, I found out that I could fly from Honolulu, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Vancouver on Air New Zealand Business Class; from New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Honolulu or Vancouver on China Airlines in First or Business; or Emirates from New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Seattle, or Dallas in First or Business Class.

Just taking that example, a roundtrip business class itinerary on Air New Zealand from San Francisco in May is going for around $5,548 plus $89 in taxes on the Air New Zealand site for a refundable ticket (minus a $500 cancellation fee). So for two people to fly this itinerary would be $11,274. When I called the PTS line, they found a refundable fare of $9,265 plus $788 in taxes for a total of $10,053. If I were to add on a companion, I’d just have to pay the taxes of $788, and my new total would be $10,841. So it would be cheaper, but only by about $430.

To test out another example, I priced out a business class ticket from JFK-London Heathrow on British Airways at $3,877 plus $1,096 in taxes on PTS quoted me the same in taxes and $8,318 for a refundable fare. So in this case, two travelers booking on would pay $9,946 while an Amex Platinum cardholder would get their business class ticket and a companion fare for $10,510. More than booking two separate tickets! That’s because the Amex tickets are refundable, but still – hardly a bargain. Where this might make sense is getting a first class ticket for $10,331 plus $1,096 in taxes plus a second first class ticket for just the $1,096, bringing your total to $12,523. The best price I could find on was actually the same, so if you were able to pay the full price for a first class ticket, you’d just be paying the $1,096 in taxes and essentially saving over $10,000.

For a third and final example, Emirates flies direct from DFW-Dubai, so I thought I’d price out that flight since I’d like to try out the airline myself. On the Emirates website, I found a business class ticket for $8,390 plus $80 in taxes–so two tickets would be $16,940. A first class ticket for $14,944 plus $80 in taxes, so two would be $30,048. Amex priced out a business class ticket for $13,909 plus $1,109 in taxes for a total of $15,018–almost $2,00 in savings. The first class ticket according to Amex would be $20,782 plus $1,109 in taxes for a total of $21,891. With a companion ticket (so just taxes) that total would $23,000–over $7,000 in savings.

Obviously this kind of spending and these amounts of money aren’t for everyone, but if you do have a splurge coming up or your work is sending you somewhere on a full-fare refundable ticket, this is a great way to cut your expenses down by a fair amount. And it seems like the higher the ticket price, the more the savings. So fingers crossed for Emirates first class!

Just remember, the “free” companion tickets are also subject to taxes and fees ranging from $50-$500, a September 11 security fee of up to $10, as well as airline fuel surcharges. So you could be looking at $1,300 in fees if you pick the most tax and surcharge-heavy ticket out there like BA flights through London.

Also as a reminder, here is a list of the 23 participating airline partners: Aer Lingus, AeroMexico, Air Canada, Air France, Air New Zealand, Alitalia, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Japan Airlines, Jet Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, LAN, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, South African Airways, Swiss International Air Lines, Virgin Atlantic.

Your Experiences
Have any of you used Platinum Travel Services to book a Companion Ticket? How was the experience? What did you learn? Share your stories with us in the comments below!

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Ericlipkind

    The only time it made sense for me was when I went from Newark to Montego Bay, Jamaica on United (when they were part of MR). I think shorter haul international like the Caribbean is where it could make sense.

  • Jessica

    I’ve called before asking for quotes and both times the Amex representative said that they rarely work for people but they would still try. It sounds like it is a rarely used benefit.

  • Ben

    Is the companion ticket eligible to earn miles? This would be a big factor in determining whether or not the small savings are worthwhile…

  • Ray

    Used to use this benefit back in the day when there really were not discounted business or first class fares. My question is that Amex is supposedly offering the free companion ticket on lower fares (fares other than the pricey refundable fares). See below text and link. Know anything about this?

    “The International Airline Program now has newly available lower fares…”

  • Jim

    Of course depends on the fare…which is always the answer, I assume.

    Hey points guy, does AMEX travel “charge” to book online? I couldn’t get a straight answer from them recently. I booked 3 awards tickets on Continental (I still love them), and “bought” 2 tickets via AMEX travel using Membership Awards.

    I had a $12.95 charge for using the system, is all I can figure out. What has been your experience with this, or have you had any issues. Not to go off topic or anything!!!

  • davidu

    I think the “lower fares” they refer to are business class tickets, instead of just F.

  • David

    It is expensive but useful when traveling for work where I can take my wife along with me. It would still technically be my ticket, which my company is paying for, but it would be for two not one. The other way it is useful, I presume, is when u have your own business and you can take a tax break on the ticket if your wife isn’t covered.

  • Ns

    get a copy editor, please.

  • Chananaya

    is the companion booked in the same class of service ?
    For example I book class M on LY which is refundable and also up-gradable, planning to upgrade using points. will adding the companion mean that I can only upgrade myself and not the companion?

  • PJ

    a bit off the subject: I got 7 United Gift Certificates thru 2@$200 credit on Amex Platinum airline incidentals. anybody can share the experience if the tax and fees on award tickets can be paid with GC’s
    say if I book 5 award tickets and each has fees over $50 . Can I use 5 GC’s@50 each to pay ?

  • arcticbull

    They do charge a ticket booking fee, I think that’s been brought up here before, and it’s about $6.00 — this means you’re buying the extra 1X points for $6.00 As such you shouldn’t book through Amex Travel unless your tickets cost more than say ~$600 a piece (meaning you’re buying Amex MR for $0.01/ea).

  • I Like Lagals

    I have not used it “yet” but the best options currently exist on NZ and AC! For example I was pricing LAX to Cook Islands (Raratonga) N/S on NZ, First Class running ~$2000/ticket which makes it only $1000pp. Now, the key reason NZ and AC have better options is that they have fewer first class fare buckets

  • dsssp

    Come on! are you SERIOUS point guy! Please… Please come up with a more a more clever or useful way of getting your ( deserved) platinum card referral bonus from Amex.. Are you really peddling the platinum card’s companion ticket feature to your readers on fares north of 10K. Really? What percent of your readership do you think have ever purchased a ticket for 10K in their lifetime or is planning on doing so even if they have the resources to do this. Let’s see…The same readership that is concerned about the booking fee of $6 that amex charges for phone bookings and how this cost diminish their points accrual is actually going to pay 10K and more for plane fares? I don’t think so. I am generally a fan of yours, but the premise of this article is ludicrous for 99% of your readership and it generates concerns and questions about your true intent .

  • Stephan

    Since when does NZ have First Class? Neither NZ or AC have F – you are looking at J.

  • Pandaexpressrocks

    Hey TPG
    There is Free 100 SPG point on Facebook

  • Greenville Dentist

    +15 other comments in 1 day – obviously some of us appreciate the post. I for one have AMX Platinum and like questions answered here that I’d have to otherwise research the fine print. All blogs make their living based on ads and commissions – I for one am happy to support those I follow. Next time, just skip it if doesn’t apply to you.

  • Scottrick

    I’ve seen similar benefits on other cards, but usually when parsing the T&C I read something like “you must pay the J price for one fully refundable business class ticket and both passengers will be booked in to the Z fare bucket for discount business.” This seems to remove some of the benefit of paying for a full-fare ticket since presumably they’re no longer refundable. However, it also means that both passengers will earn miles for the flights because it’s not an award bucket. Can you clarify if this is how the AmEx Plat benefit works?

  • thepointsguy

    You kind of missed the point- it wasn’t saying this perk was great for everyone. In fact, the title says “Is it worth it” and if you read through, you’ll realize its only good if you spend a huge amount on tickets.

    Every post isn’t going to be an “Amazing deal”… I like doing analysis on credit card benefits regardless of whether they are a great deal or not.

  • Brewster

    I’ve had a platinum card for years and tried this a few times. I don’t have an employer paying the fare. It has NEVER seemed practical. Sure, if you were going to pay full fare for both, this might be a savings in some circumstances, but what practical traveler is paying full fare for business or first class tickets? You will almost, no always be better off approaching this in another way, like buying frequent flyer miles, choosing full fare coach and upgrading, or shopping for discounted business and first class tickets. This is a bogus offering from Amex that looks like a deal, but almost never is. If you have money to burn, it’s an easy way of feeling like you saved some, but if you have money to burn, you aren’t availing yourself of “deals” like this.

  • crs051767

    Sorry GD & TPG, I can definitely relate to dsssp’s comments. TPG, I am sure that most of the people that visit your site are budget-conscious travelers looking to learn from you how to save/maximize our money; but most of your examples are directed to elite travelers, which most probably have money to burn and do not have the need to be here in the first place (like GD). I would recommend you to poll your audience to see what our real needs are. I certainly enjoy reading your posts and watching your pics & videos having the time of your life in 5-star hotels, but the reality is that besides being very entertaining they offer little value to us 99-percenters who stay in 2.5 to 4 star hotels. Maybe for the future you can also add more material/examples that are oriented to us mortals?

  • Miles


    Do you really think TPG needs to peddle AMEX? I find his article informative even if I never spend the money for the AMEX deal.

  • [email protected]

    I am using the delta amex reserve and wanted a bit of advice. I have a recuring bill worth 18k points a year, though the company wants to charge me 120 dollars to use this. Is it worth it for skymiles? I currently dont have a hotel linked card and exclusively use marriott properties. The billing company charges nothing for visa cards. Should i add a marriott visa or othe hotel card?

  • Fauxblogger

    @crs by virtue of tpg blog many of the 1% received Delta elite status (with zero flown miles) and Hyatt elite (with zero night stays). Gentle suggestion to read more and *itch less.

  • Jim

    thank you. I have only used AMEX to book a few times, used to transfer MR points out into airline programmes. First time booking via their site, and it miffed me that there was a charge! Even charge when you use MR to book, since you “buy” the ticket then redeem points. Thanks for the info!

  • Jim

    I do this as often as I can. I have COGs bills, and lease payments that I can use AMEX on and reap the rewards. I have also used USAir, and Continental Visa/MC in the past and racked up several hundred thousand miles paying recurring bills.

    If you view the points as worth roughly a penny each, then you would be a few dollars ahead by paying the $120 per month. AMEX is the most expensive card to take as a seller (I don’t like to take it so much, the rate is almost twice as Visa/MC). Visa/MC usually cheaper to process and thus no surcharge.

    I guess it all depends on where you want the points to go. In the good ol’ days, AMEX MR points could be transferred into soooo many airline programs such as Southwest, Continental and more. Now the CC alliances have changed and there aren’t as many air partners. You can book with MR, but it doesn’t seem quite the same – it’s based on the prevailing price of the airline tickes.

    In the past I have taken my family of 5 on vacations, and all the airfare has been paid with CC rewards. I sure miss the days of Diner’s Club.

    Hope this helps!

  • Djnightside

    I’ve only tried this once, and I just couldn’t get the numbers to work for me. I was pricing out a flight from DFW to Charles de Gaulle (Paris). The British Airlines site had business class tickets at $1549 each way. Through amex travel the round trip cost with a companion ticket was $5888. A small savings, but still outside of what I was willing to pay for the tickets.

  • scbelle

    Late comment! So I’ve only recently gotten a platinum card myself, but I book a lot of travel for my parents (who are miserable with working on the computer to find the best flights, etc.). They fly a lot of biz/first, and I have been pricing on the companion ticket program for them for about 7 years. All of the flights have been to Latin America, South America, and Europe. NEVER has it been a better deal for them to use this program.

    Having personally joined up last fall (expensive but worth it), I decided I may as well see what they could do for me when booking my honeymoon to southeast asia. We were being fairly picky about what airlines we would fly and what kind of flight schedule we would allow, as we wanted the travel to be as easy as possible. Booking ourselves, the easiest route we found totaled out to about $16K for both of us… So we were ready to compromise a little bit on routing when we found alternate flights that required only a slightly more difficult route for $12K.

    I called Amex expecting nothing, but they were actually able to find us good routing on JAL for $8K (altogether) through the companion program. The agent was awesome and actually searched around to find us the best deal within our parameters. FYI, at the time, JAL was NOT shown as one of the three airline options in the program on the online map for Bangkok. The travel rep explained that the map cannot always be updated as quickly as the fares are made available, so always make the call. (They are now showing 12 airlines flying into BKK, including JAL).

    Lessons learned:
    (1) If you find a good rep, save their 5 digit extension
    (2) Have some knowledge about flight routing before you call. This can help you help your travel rep search for different options to max your savings
    (3) If your first travel rep only gives you one option, call back for another rep. The best reps will quote you a few different routing/date/time options, companion vs straight out purchase, membership rewards options, etc. Amex has done some shaking up in the travel dept, and while some reps are still EXCELLENT, there are few out there who aren’t as experienced/eager to help you out.

  • mark

    Do you have a rep that is good and their extension perhaps?

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  • JMH12734

    I have a Platinum card and recently explored this option. It’s is totally not worth it – much less expensive to go directly to the airlines and purchase 2 first class refundable tickets.

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  • Nataliepfine

    i will buy thissss

  • Ejk0366

    I just read on some website that you can use the Amex Companion Ticket benefit on some airlines to upgrade to first class. Is that accurate, and are you upgrading from a non-refundable business to first class? If so, what are the economics of that?

  • Don

    I seen conflicting information that that the $99 companion benefit has been removed for the Delta Gold card and possible the platinum Delta card as well. Does anyone have a definitive answer on this

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  • paul ash

    So true

  • paul ash

    dsssp is absolutely right.

  • paul ash

    If he didn’t need to peddle amex, he wouldn’t have a referral link and he sure as hell wouldn’t have a blog site that peddles all sorts of credit cards for kickback referral bonuses

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  • Vince

    For the first time the Amex program has worked for me. JFK-PPT, saved 3k.

  • Chris

    I would NEVER EVER suggest you pay for an Amex Platinum card based on this (non)benefit. I have tried it for years. Most times it makes absolutely no sense – you can buy two nonrefundable business class fares on good routes for much less. I managed to use it a couple of times when my trip was being paid for – paid a huge preimum over published fare — but the only way was going through HORRIBLE routing (going East to India from US West Coast, long stopovers in Asia, etc..) It’s hardly worth the time of the phone call to Amex. Every time I try this I become more determined to give up my Platinum card…It creates very ill will towards Amex – which I like otherwise, but this “benefit” is a complete joke.

  • b

    It makes most sense for a business owner to use this benefit. Instead of he and his wife travelling with ony his being tax deductible (without the benefit), for the same price, both he and his wife fly with his very expensive refundable ticket being fully tax deductible (with the benefit). Essentially, it allows the spouse to fly and legally deduct their expenses as a legitimate business expense.

  • Royal2000H

    We used this last week to book a round-trip (multi-leg) trip through LAX to China on Cathay Pacific. Platinum’s full fare + companion ended up saving us a few thousand dollars over getting two of Cathay’s cheaper non-refundable business tickets.

    It is a little annoying that Amex’s full business fare was about $1000 higher than we saw for Cathay’s full business fare (fully refundable), but overall it was cheaper with companion considered.

    That being said, a different itinerary we tested 6 months to a year ago was definitely not worth it. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the details.

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    To add a data point on NZ. For some high season dates (New Year 2014) LAX-AKL, Amex companion total was ~$12,100 all in, while 2x the cheapest restricted J fares came to ~$12,400. Not really a great value proposition!

  • name

    they are not

  • lost horizon

    I really appreciate this article. Regardless of the “haters” out there PointsGuy” this was a very balanced blog.

    I have used this deal before but had the advantage of flying BC for work so bringing a companion worked out. In that case, Houston to Cape Town, the Amex fare was only a little higher than what I could find online — but I had to talk to Amex several times before they found a fare that was close to being reasonable. I am now planning a similar trip and the initial Amex fare is roughly double what can be found online so unless Amex comes down in price, as they did before, it will not be worth it for me.

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  • James Alex Larounis

    Do you have a website link to where you found that info?

  • Peter

    You got that right. It’s the old bait and switch program

  • JG

    I have used the companion tickets for a few years for work- mainly to Europe with coworkers on my same itinerary and they have been fantastic!

  • rchris23

    I spent 3 hrs with Amex today and none of them could clarify the following: im currently a Premier gold member and have been toying the idea of upgrading it to platinum. if Im a platinum member and to utilize the companion program do I have to be one of the traveler? ie. can I buy my dad a ticket on first class and my mom qualifies as companion? even though they’re not PC membes/holders? I was told unless I travel no one else who has a PC qualify for this benefit. I travel intl a few times a yr and also pay for my parents travel and typically travel business as its more comfortable. I dont know if this card is worth it but if I have to travel each time then its of no use to me.

  • Gaurav

    you can book tickets for your mom and dad as long as they both are on same flight, originating within USA and headed to same destination

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