How airline companion tickets can save you serious money on your summer trip
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Summer’s right around the corner, and a (mostly) COVID-19 free vacation season will mean nearly unprecedented travel demand worldwide. With that demand sending prices sky-high, you’ll want to make sure you’re making the most of your money on your next big trip — and one of the best ways to do so is with airline credit card companion tickets.
Essentially, in addition to helping travelers earn free flights by racking up frequent flyer miles, some airline credit cards offer companion certificates or discounts so that cardholders can bring a friend along for free.
These aren’t your average BOGO deals, though. Some companion tickets are restricted to certain regions or cabin classes, while others are based on credit card spending or are only good for award tickets. What kind of companion ticket you have will depend completely on the credit card you carry. So let’s look at the airline credit cards that offer this as a benefit and what you’ll need to do to earn it and then maximize it for your own travels.
We’ll break down the list by airline, since some have multiple credit cards for which companion travel is a perk.
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Alaska Airlines offers a companion ticket through its cobranded credit cards. Both the personal and business version come with a Companion Fare from $121 ($99 fare, plus taxes and fees from $22) as part of the welcome bonus and reissued annually.
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card
Companion ticket benefit: The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card comes with a companion ticket benefit that’s one of the easiest to understand and to use. Every year you carry this card, you are entitled to an annual companion fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees, usually about $22). This includes new applicants, as the first year’s companion fare is part of the current welcome offer on the card.
The rules stipulate that the primary traveler and their companion must be booked on the same itinerary. While the cardholder does not need to be one of the travelers, you must pay for the tickets using the corresponding Alaska Visa.
The companion fare is valid for travel in economy only, and it must be redeemed within 12 months of the issue date, but travel can take place afterward.
What’s great about this benefit is that both the primary traveler and the companion will earn full mileage credit for their flights. In addition, both tickets are eligible for upgrades if you have Alaska elite status or want to use a pair of the carrier’s Gold Guest Upgrades.
Welcome bonus: 40,000 bonus miles, a $100 statement credit, and Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) when you make $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.
Annual fee: $75
Other benefits: This card earns a considerable 3 miles per dollar spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else. It has no foreign transaction fees and provides a free checked bag on Alaska flights for the cardholder and up to six other guests on the same reservation. Here’s our full card review.
Official application link: Alaska Airlines Visa.
Companion ticket benefit: The Alaska Airlines Visa Business credit card offers an identical companion ticket benefit
Welcome bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus miles plus Alaska’s CompanionFare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after you make $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.
Annual fee: $75
Other benefits: Earn 3 miles per $1 spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases, 1 mile on everything else. Receive a free checked bag for you and up to six companions.
Official application link: Alaska Airlines Visa Business.
Barclays offers two different American Airlines companion tickets through its cobranded cards.
Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard and AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard
Companion ticket benefit: In 2019, Barclays revamped both cards’ benefits to include companion tickets. Every account anniversary, Aviator Red cardholders who spend $20,000 in a year will receive a $99 (plus taxes and fees) Companion Certificate for a round-trip domestic economy fare within the 48 contiguous United States. (Alaska and Hawaii residents will be able to travel from their home state to the 48 contiguous states.)
Meanwhile, Silver cardholders can earn two of these certificates with $20,000 annual spending.
In either case, your account must remain open for 45 days after your anniversary date to qualify for the Companion Certificate.
Welcome bonus: The Silver is not available to new applicants. The Aviator Red is offering 50,000 bonus miles after you make your first purchase within 90 days.
Annual fee: $99 for the Aviator Red card; $195 for the Aviator Silver
Other benefits: The Aviator Red card earns 2 miles per dollar spent on American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else. The Aviator Silver card earns 3 miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases, 2 miles per dollar on hotels and car rentals, and 1 mile per dollar on everything else.
Both cards offer a first free checked bag on domestic flights, priority boarding, inflight Wi-Fi credits and discounts on other inflight purchases. For more details on each and how they compare, check out this post.
The information for the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Silver and the Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Companion ticket benefit: The Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card has offered one of the longest-standing companion ticket benefits and it’s still one of the best options out there. Each year, cardholders are entitled to a companion certificate for one round-trip itinerary within the 48 contiguous United States (or from Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands to the 48 states) in the main cabin.
You have to pay taxes and fees, though they’re capped at $75. Among the restrictions are that this ticket is only valid on airfares purchased in the L, U, T, X or V classes of service (so no Basic Economy “E” fares) and only the primary traveler accrues miles.
Welcome bonus: Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles & 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first three months.
Annual fee: $250 (see rates and fees)
Other benefits: This card earns 3 miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels. Cardholders also earn 2 miles per dollar spent at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets and 1 mile per dollar spent on all other eligible purchases.
Cardholders get a free checked bag for themselves and up to eight companions on the same Delta flight reservation, plus 20% savings on inflight purchases as well as Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights. With Status Boost, you can also earn up to 20,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) by spending up to $50,000 in a calendar year. You can find more details on the card in our full review.
Official application link: Delta SkyMiles Platinum Amex.
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
Companion ticket benefit: Thanks to its much-higher annual fee, cardholders can expect a better companion ticket benefit with the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card. Each year they renew, cardholders will receive a companion certificate good for one round-trip itinerary within the 48 contiguous United States (with the same dispensations for folks in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands) in Main Cabin, Delta Comfort+ or first class. They’ll only be responsible for taxes and fees on the second ticket, up to $75.
Welcome bonus: Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles & 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
Annual fee: $550 (see rates and fees)
Other benefits: This card’s main benefit is that it offers Delta Sky Club access when you’re traveling on flights marketed or operated by Delta. You also receive two one-time guest passes each year and can bring two guests for $39 each.
Cardholders can also earn a mileage boost based on spending: 15,000 MQMs toward status when you spend $30,000, $60,000, $90,000 and $120,000 on the card in a calendar year. Spending $25,000 also gets you a Medallion Qualification Dollar waiver toward Silver, Gold or Platinum Medallion status.
The card’s other benefits are mostly in line with those of the Platinum version. However, it also provides complimentary access to American Express Centurion Lounges when flying Delta with a ticket purchased on the card. For more details, read our full review here.
Official application link: Delta SkyMiles Reserve Amex.
Delta business credit cards
Note that Delta offers business versions of the two personal cards listed above: the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card. The companion ticket benefits on these cards are identical to their respective personal counterparts above, so if you have a small business, either of these could be a good option for traveling with a companion this summer.
Related: Best Delta credit cards of 2022
Companion ticket benefit: The Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® offers a one-time 50% companion discount to new cardholders. The companion discount is good for a full coach round-trip fare for a companion traveling on the same itinerary between Hawaii and North America.
Although this 50% off companion discount isn’t as great as some of the companion fares listed here, it still represents substantial savings for two people traveling together. In addition to this one-time 50% companion discount, cardholders are eligible for an annual $100 companion discount for round-trip travel between Hawaii and North America on Hawaiian Airlines.
Welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 90 days, plus an additional 20,000 miles after spending a total of $4,000 on purchases within the first six months.
Annual fee: $99
Other benefits: The Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® earns 3 miles per dollar spent on eligible Hawaiian Airlines purchases and 2 miles per dollar spent on gas, dining and grocery store spending. All other purchases earn 1 mile per dollar spent.
Cardholders get a free checked bag on flights operated by Hawaiian Airlines and discounted award flights.
Additionally, cardholders pay no foreign transaction fees abroad and can share miles with friends and family without a fee.
For more information, check out our full review.
The information for the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Companion ticket benefit: Southwest’s famed Companion Pass is essentially an unlimited two-for-one pass on both paid and award tickets. It’s valid for the calendar year in which you earn it, plus the following one. You can achieve it by racking up 125,000 qualifying points or taking 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year.
The good news is that sign-up bonuses and points earned by spending on Southwest’s cobranded credit cards count toward this qualification threshold. Some savvy spending can get you the Southwest Companion Pass faster than you think.
Welcome bonus: All three Southwest credit cards offer an identical sign-up bonus of a 75,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card.
Annual fee: $69 (Plus), $99 (Premier), $149 (Priority)
Other benefits: Despite their different annual fees, these three cards offer a similar suite of benefits.
The Priority comes with a $75 annual Southwest travel credit and four upgraded boardings per year (when available). The Premier and Priority cards offer the opportunity to earn Tier Qualification Points based on spending (1,500 for each $10,000 spent annually) and waive foreign transaction fees.
All three offer varying anniversary bonuses ranging from 3,000 points with the Plus to 7,500 with the Priority. Here’s a handy comparison of all three.
Small businesses can also earn points toward this perk. Points earned on both the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card will count toward the carrier’s Companion Pass.
Of course, companion tickets aren’t just awarded to those with credit cards of U.S.-based airlines. Some international carriers offer cards with similar perks available to U.S. applicants. These could go a long way toward offsetting the costs of your next trip overseas.
Companion ticket benefit: Travelers who hold the British Airways Visa Signature® Credit Card can earn the carrier’s “Travel Together” companion ticket every calendar year in which they spend $30,000 or more on purchases. This ticket is basically a two-for-one award ticket for round-trip travel on British Airways flights originating and ending in the U.S. It can be redeemed for any class of service, though there are some restrictions.
Only one voucher can be earned per 12-month period. The cardholder and their companion must be on the same flight in the same class of service. You will be responsible for taxes and fees on both tickets, but only mileage for one will be deducted. The credit card account must also be open and in good standing when you redeem it.
Though this can be a great deal for saving on premium awards, keep in mind that taxes and fees on British Airways tickets can really add up. Luckily, cardholders are eligible for statement credits to offset these fees: $100 for economy and premium economy, $200 for business- and first-class seats. These credits can be claimed up to three times per year.
Welcome bonus: New cardholders can earn 100,000 bonus Avios after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. Additionally, cardmembers can earn 5 Avios per dollar on eligible flights (thereafter 3 Avios per dollar) and 3 Avios per dollar on hotels booked directly with the hotel (thereafter 2 Avios per dollar) within the first 18 months of account opening. Of course, cardmembers continue to earn 1 Avios per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Annual fee: $95
Official application link: British Airways Visa.
Companion ticket benefit: The Barclaycard Lufthansa Miles & More World Elite Mastercard also offers a companion benefit — and the great thing is that you are eligible for it after your first purchase and automatically every year after your account anniversary.
That said, it’s only eligible for economy travel departing from the U.S. to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. It also only applies to H, M, Y or B fare codes. These are non-discount economy fares, so they can be more expensive than the lowest-priced option. Cardholders must also pay all taxes and fees on both tickets, which can be hundreds of dollars.
Welcome bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days after account opening and payment of the annual fee.
Annual fee: $89
Other benefits: This card earns 2 miles per dollar spent on tickets purchased from airlines that participate in the Miles & More program, like Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian Airlines. It earns 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else and carries no foreign transaction fees.
Cardholders receive two, one-time Lufthansa Business Lounge vouchers upon first purchase, plus every account anniversary after the annual fee payment. If you’re going for Miles & More elite status, primary cardholders are eligible to convert award miles into status miles at a ratio of 5:1 for a maximum of 25,000 award miles.
The information for Barclaycard Lufthansa Miles & More World Elite Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Companion ticket benefit: The Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard® also offers a companion reward benefit. Those who spend $25,000 in a cardmember year will be rewarded with a choice of a one-cabin upgrade from economy classic to premium economy when flying on an award ticket, or one matching companion fare in the same cabin class when the primary cardholder redeems miles for their ticket. Either must be redeemed within two years of issuance.
For the latter benefit, the cabin in which you can redeem your miles will be restricted based on your Flying Club tier status. Basic Red members can only redeem it for economy tickets. Silver members can redeem for either economy or premium economy. Gold members can choose between economy, premium and Upper Class.
Clearly, this benefit is most useful for top-tier elites, as it’ll unlock the carrier’s business-class product. And the Virgin Atlantic Mastercard actually offers a shortcut to that status via credit card spending. Cardholders earn 25 tier points per $2,500 spent, up to 50 per month.
Keep in mind that the cardholder still has to pay for taxes and fees on both tickets, which can cost thousands of dollars.
Welcome bonus: Earn up to 50,000 bonus Flying Club miles: 30,000 after you spend $1,000 on purchases within 90 days of account opening. Earn up to 15,000 additional bonus miles every anniversary after qualifying purchases of $25,000 during your cardmember year and 5,000 when you add an authorized user.
Annual fee: $90
Other benefits: This card earns 3 miles per dollar spent on Virgin Atlantic purchases and 1.5 miles per dollar on everything else.
The information for the Virgin Atlantic Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
In addition to welcome bonuses and travel perks, companion certificates can be a compelling reason to apply for an airline credit card. Before you do, though, review the terms and conditions carefully to make sure that you will be able to maximize this benefit’s value. Many companion certificates are restricted to specific classes of service, geographical regions and time constraints, which can all limit their usefulness.
However, if you find one that matches your needs, a credit card companion certificate can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars on airline travel each year and might be well worth it.
Featured photo by Vladimir Vladimirov / Getty Images.
Additional reporting by Ryan Wilcox, Carissa Rawson, Summer Hull and Ariana Arghandewal.
Updated on 5/4/22.
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