A Guide to Airline Credit Card Companion Tickets
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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 card holders can fly 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 do 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.
Companion ticket benefit: This card’s companion ticket benefit is 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, from $22). The stipulations include that the primary traveler and their companion must be booked on the same itinerary. The card holder does not need to be one of the travelers, but must be the one paying for the tickets. The certificate is valid for travel in economy only (though your ticket might be upgrade-eligible). It must be redeemed within 12 months of the issue date, though travel can take place afterwards. What’s great about this benefit is that both the primary traveler and the companion will earn full mileage credit for their flights.
Welcome bonus: The bonus is currently a historically high 40,000 miles when you spend $2,000 in the first 90 days of account opening.
Annual fee: $75
Other benefits: This card earns a considerable 3 miles per dollar on Alaska Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. It has no foreign transaction fees and provides a free checked bag on Alaska flights for the card holder and up to six other guests on the same reservation. Here’s our full card review.
Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
Companion ticket benefit: This card recently introduced a companion discount, which helps make up for the loss of its 10% mileage refund perk. You can earn a $125 American Airlines flight discount certificate after spending $20,000 or more during a card membership year and renewing your card. As a side note, the CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard earns a $99 (plus taxes) economy companion ticket after you spend $30,000 on it in a card membership year and renew it (account must remain open at least 45 days after anniversary date), like the Barclays products below do.
Welcome bonus: Citi is currently offering 50,000 bonus AAdvantage miles when you spend $2,500 in the first 3 months.
Annual fee: $99, waived the first year
Other benefits: This card’s other benefits including earning double miles on American Airlines purchases and at restaurants and gas stations, and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. It affords free checked bags for the card holder and up to four companions on the same reservation, priority boarding and a 25% discount on inflight food and beverage purchases using your card. Here’s our full card review.
The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard and AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard
Companion ticket benefit: Barclays recently revamped both cards’ benefits to include new companion tickets starting May 1, 2019. On their account anniversary with the Red version, card members who spend $20,000 in a year will receive a $99 (plus taxes) 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 either to the 48 continental states. Silver card holders can earn two of the certificates with $20,000 annual spending.
Welcome bonus: The Silver is not available to new applicants. The Red is offering 60,000 bonus miles after you make your first purchase within 90 days.
Annual fee: $99 for the Red, $199 for the Silver
Other benefits: The Red earns 2x miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. The Silver earns 3x on American Airlines purchases, 2x on hotels and car rentals and 1x on everything else. Both offer free checked bags, priority boarding, inflight Wi-Fi credits, inflight purchase discounts and the ability to purchase extra American miles at a discount through the Flight Cents program. For more details on each and how they compare, check out this post.
Companion ticket benefit: This card has offered one of the longest-running companion ticket benefits, and it’s still one of the best options out there. Each year, card holders 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 USVI to the 48 states) in the main cabin. You must still 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 will accrue miles.
Welcome bonus: Earn 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) and 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $100 Statement Credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months.
Annual fee: $195 ($250 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020) (see rates & fees)
Other benefits: This card earns 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases, and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. Card holders get a free checked bag for themselves and up to eight companions on the same reservation plus 20% savings on inflight purchases as well as Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding. You can also earn up to 20,000 bonus SkyMiles and 20,000 MQMs by spending up to $50,000 in a calendar year. Find more details on the card in our full review.
Companion ticket benefit: Thanks to its much-higher annual fee, card holders can expect a better companion ticket benefit with the Delta Reserve. Each year they renew, card holders 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 USVI) 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: New card holders can earn 40,000 bonus SkyMiles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after spending $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months.
Annual fee: $450 ($550 if application is received on or after 1/30/2020) (see rates & 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 can bring two guests for $29 each). Card holders can also earn a mileage boost based on spending: 15,000 SkyMiles and 15,000 MQMs for spending $30,000 in a calendar year, and an additional 15,000 SkyMiles and 15,000 MQMs if you hit $60,000 in a calendar year. Its other benefits are mostly in line with those of the Platinum version. For more details, read our full review here.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
Companion ticket benefit: Southwest’s storied Companion Pass is essentially an unlimited two-for-one pass on both paid and award travel that’s good for the calendar year in which you earn it and the following one. It is not an automatic credit-card benefit, but you can achieve it by racking up 110,000 qualifying points or taking 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year. The good news is that points earned by spending on Southwest’s cobranded credit cards count toward this qualification threshold, so a well-timed sign-up bonus and some savvy spending can get you there faster than you think.
Welcome bonus: While all three cards offered Southwest’s vaunted Companion Pass as a sign-up bonus earlier this year, that particular deal is no longer available. For now, all three offer an identical sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
Annual fee: $69 (Plus), $99 (Premier), $149 (Priority)
Other benefits: Despite their different annual fees, these three cards offer a similar suite of benefits. All three earn 2 points per dollar on Southwest flights and hotel and car-rental partners, and 1 point per dollar on everything else. The Priority comes with a $75 annual Southwest travel credit and four upgraded boardings per year (when available). The Premier and Priority offer the opportunity to earn Tier Qualification Points based on spending (1,500 for each $10,000 spent up to 15,000 per year) and waive foreign-transaction fees. All three offer varying anniversary bonuses ranging from 3,000 with the Plus to 7,500 with the Priority. Here’s a handy comparison of all three.
Those are the credit cards of US-based airlines that offer companion tickets. Here are some international carriers with credit cards that do the same.
Companion ticket benefit: Travelers can earn the British Airways Visa’s “Travel Together” companion ticket every calendar year that they spend $30,000 or more on purchases. This ticket is basically a two-for-one award for round-trip travel on British Airways flights originating and ending in the US. 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 card holder and their companion must be on the same flights in the same class of service, and 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 do redeem it. Though this can be a great deal for saving on premium awards, keep in mind that taxes and fees on BA tickets can really add up, so budget for hundreds or even thousands of dollars in addition to the Avios you redeem.
Welcome bonus: New card holders can earn up to 100,000 Avios (50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening and an additional 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $20,000 total on purchases within your first year)
Annual fee: $95
Aeromexico Visa and Aeromexico Visa Signature
Companion ticket benefit: Both these cards offer a companion certificate upon approval that must be used within 12 months of issuance. It is valid for first-time Aeromexico Visa card members who use it for round-trip travel from the US to Mexico on Aeromexico or Aeromexico Connect only. It is only good for tickets booked in Y, B or M economy fare codes (so you won’t find too many discounted tickets) and both travelers must be on the same itinerary. In addition, card holders will receive an annual $99 companion certificate each year upon account renewal. The same fare-code restrictions apply.
Cardmembers are also eligible for a fourth free ticket on group reservations. When they purchase three full-fare tickets on Aeromexico in T, Q, L, H, K, U, M, B, Y, C and J classes (meaning business class counts), they’ll get the fourth one free. All passengers must be traveling together on all segments, and it cannot be combined with any other discounts.
Sign-up bonus: The Visa Signature offers 15,000 miles with first use, while the regular Visa offer is just 10,000 miles.
Annual fee: $80 for the Visa Signature, $45 for the Visa
Other benefits: Card holders of both products earn 2 miles per dollar on Aeromexico purchases (and gas stations and grocery stores with the Visa Signature), and 1 mile on everything else. They get free checked bags, and each year, they receive one Club Premier Day Pass good for Thursday-Sunday visits when traveling on Aeromexico. Visa Signature card holders receive a 4,000-mile anniversary bonus, while Visa card holders get 2,000 miles. Visa Signature holders are eligible for one free upgrade per year available after the account anniversary on economy bookings in T, Q, L, H, K, U, M, B or Y fare codes that must be reserved into the I class on Aeromexico flights departing from the US.
Barclaycard Lufthansa Miles & More World Elite Mastercard
Companion ticket benefit: The great thing about this card’s companion benefit 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 US to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and must be booked in H, M, Y or B fare codes — i.e., non-discount economy. Card holders must also pay all taxes and fees on both tickets, which can be hundreds of dollars.
Welcome bonus: Applicants can earn up to 50,000 bonus miles: 20,000 after first use and an additional 30,000 miles after spending $5,000 or more on the card within 90 days of account opening.
Annual fee: $89
Other benefits: This card earns 2 miles per dollar on tickets purchased from airlines that participate in the Miles & More program, like Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian Airlines. It earns 1 mile per dollar on everything else and waives foreign-exchange fees. Card holders can also expect two one-time Lufthansa Business Lounge vouchers upon first purchase and every account anniversary after the payment of the annual fee. If you’re going for Miles & More elite status, say to earn non-United Star Alliance Gold, or to be eligible to book Swiss first class as an award, primary card holders are eligible to convert award miles into status miles at a ratio of 5:1 for a range of 5,000-25,000 award miles.
Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard
Companion ticket benefit: This card recently introduced a new companion ticket benefit. Like the British Airways ticket, this one is a spending-based two-for-one award.
Those who spend $25,000 in a cardmember year will be rewarded with a choice of a one-cabin upgrade for the primary card holder when flying on an award flight from economy classic to premium economy; or one matching companion fare in the same cabin class when the primary card holder redeems miles for their ticket. Either must be redeemed within two years of issue.
For the latter benefit, the cabin into which you can redeem your miles will be restricted based on your Flying Club Tier status. Basic Red members can only redeem for economy tickets. Silver members can redeem for either economy or premium economy. Gold members have their choice of those or Upper Class. Clearly this is most useful for top-tier elites. The card holder 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, 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 3x miles on Virgin Atlantic purchases and 1.5x on everything else. You can also earn 25 Tier points for every $2,500 in purchase you make each year, up to 50 per month.
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’s 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 izusek / Getty Images.