A guide to airline credit card companion tickets
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This post has been updated with the latest credit card information and benefits. It was originally published on April 23, 2019.
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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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, usually about $22). The rules stipulate that the primary traveler and their companion must be booked on the same itinerary. The cardholder does not need to be one of the travelers but must be the one paying for the tickets.
The companion fare is valid for travel in economy only (though your ticket is upgrade-eligible). 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.
Welcome bonus: A $100 statement credit, 40,000 bonus miles and Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare™ after 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 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.
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. Silver cardholders can earn two of the certificates with $20,000 annual spending. Both accounts 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 Red is offering 60,000 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 2x miles per dollar spent on American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else. The Aviator Silver cards earns 3x on American Airlines purchases; 2x on hotels and car rentals, and 1x on everything else.
Both cards 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.
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 40,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn a $100 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 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 everything else.
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. Find more details on the card in our full review.
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: 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
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, though 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.
Companion ticket benefit: The Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® offers a one-time 50% companion discount to new cardholders. The companion discount is good toward 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 a 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.
Annual fee: $0 the first year, then $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 are able to share miles with friends and family without a fee.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card
Companion ticket benefit: Southwest’s famed Companion Pass is essentially an unlimited two-for-one pass on both paid- and award-travel tickets that’s good for the calendar year in which you earn it, plus the following one. It is not a complimentary card benefit, but 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 up to 80,000 points. Earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 9 months.
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 Earn 5 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases (on up to $2,000 spent per month) between 12/1/2020 and 3/31/2021. Earn 2 points per $1 spent on all other Southwest purchases, and 1 point per dollar spent 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 cards 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 points with the Plus to 7,500 with the Priority. Here’s a handy comparison of all three.
Those are the credit cards of U.S.-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 Signature® Card’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 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 up to 100,000 Avios: 50,000 bonus Avios after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three 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
Barclaycard Lufthansa Miles & More World Elite Mastercard
Companion ticket benefit: The great thing about the Barclaycard Lufthansa Miles & More World Elite Mastercard 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 U.S. 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. 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 can receive 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, 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.
Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard®
Companion ticket benefit: The Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard® introduced its Companion Reward Benefit fairly recently. 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 flight, 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 into 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. The Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard® offers an opportunity to reach 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 3x miles per dollar spent on Virgin Atlantic purchases and 1.5x 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 izusek/Getty Images.
Additional reporting by Carissa Rawson, Summer Hull and Ariana Arghandewal
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