How to save money with an annual Delta companion ticket

Aug 18, 2020

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While not everyone is flying again, a growing number of travelers are returning to the skies. And while every domestic airline has new COVID-era rules and regulations designed to keep travelers safe, Delta consistently comes out at the top of the pack for its cleaning procedures, continued capacity caps and blocked middle seats.

If your family is looking to book an upcoming trip with Delta, it makes sense to get the best deal you can on flights. One way our family saves money on travel is by pulling the trigger on increased card welcome bonus offers a few times a year. But another important part of our travel-for-less strategy is to ensure we have access to valuable airline companion certificates for when we do need to buy tickets with cash.

The lineup of Delta Amex cards includes several that come with an annual companion certificate at each renewal. And, right now, you may have more of these Delta companion certificates at your disposal than normal as the expiration dates have been extended on those that would have normally expired since the onset of the pandemic.

In fact, this is exactly how we booked a national park trip out west this fall for our family of four.

We used the Delta companion certificate that was just awarded with the renewal of my Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, as well as last year’s companion certificate that was extended past its typical August expiration date.

Essentially, my family of four can now fly Delta for the price of two.

Related: Best credit cards for flying Delta

Each year you renew your eligible Delta Amex credit cards, you’ll receive a companion ticket on your cardmember anniversary.

I have kept my Delta Platinum Amex around year after year in large part because of this benefit. Since families often travel with more than just one person, this is a card perk that can quickly pay for itself.

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Photo courtesy of Delta
Photo courtesy of Delta

Which Delta cards have a companion ticket?

Platinum and Delta Reserve SkyMiles consumer and small business cardholders both receive an annual companion ticket at each renewal of the card. This includes:

Since this benefit is extended to both the consumer and business versions of the card, you can earn more than one if you have multiple eligible cards.

The companion ticket can be used on certain round-trip tickets within the contiguous United States. Residents of Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands can originate from those destinations to travel to the 48 contiguous states. (You must have an eligible address on file with SkyMiles.)

If you have the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Amex, the companion ticket is only eligible for economy-class flights, while the Delta Reserve companion ticket can be used for first class, Comfort+ or the main cabin.

Related: Credit cards with an anniversary bonus

First class seating aboard Delta's A220 (Photo by Darren Murph/The Points Guy)
First-class seating aboard Delta’s A220 (Photo by Darren Murph/The Points Guy)

This annual award is automatically deposited into your SkyMiles account the month you pay the annual fee, and it’s typically valid for a year from the date it was issued (though potentially longer now due to COVID-19). The ticket must be booked and the trip must be taken before the certificate expires. You still need to pay the taxes and fees on the second ticket, but otherwise, this can result in a buy one, get one flight deal.

The Delta companion ticket award you receive by renewing your Platinum Delta Amex is valid in the Delta economy L, U, T, X and V fare classes. This excludes Delta’s basic economy fares (E class) and some higher coach fare classes. In my experience, this means you can use the Delta companion ticket on a wide variety of dates and routes, but certainly not on every single flight.

The companion certificate on the Delta Reserve Amex is valid in all those economy fare classes listed above as well as in I and Z (first class) and W (Comfort+).

Related: Every Delta premium seat ranked best to worst

How to use the Delta Companion ticket

To show you the value of the Delta companion ticket, let’s use my fall travel example. This round-trip, nonstop flight from Houston (IAH) to Salt Lake City (SLC) cost about $466 on Delta. That isn’t a very good deal, but tickets to fly during holiday breaks can be more expensive than you want (yes, even during a pandemic).

The Delta companion ticket is a great way to save money when prices are expensive, as one round-trip ticket cost $466, but the second ticket only costs an additional $20 in taxes and fees when using the companion ticket (this total will be higher with connecting flights).

Getting holiday travel from Houston to Salt Lake City for two passengers for $486 with the companion voucher is a much better deal than one ticket for $466. Multiply that number for the other two members of our family and we saved around $900, thanks to these companion vouchers.

Screenshot courtesy of Delta.com
Screenshot courtesy of Delta.com

Using the Delta companion ticket is thankfully pretty simple. Log in to your online Delta SkyMiles account, and after you select “Profile” you’ll find your companion certificates listed in the “Certificates, eCredits and vouchers” section.

Screenshot courtesy of Delta.com
Screenshot courtesy of Delta.com

From there, you can select to use a certificate and then proceed to search for eligible Delta flights by hitting continue at the bottom of the page.

Screenshot courtesy of Delta.com
Screenshot courtesy of Delta.com

You can only search for flights for the two people on the trip using the certificate, so additional children or travelers may have to be booked separately. You can then have their itineraries linked to yours by calling 1-800-221-1212.

Related: What it’s like to fly in the U.S. right now 

Delta airplanes at the gate in Boston
(Photo by QualityHD/Shutterstock)

Saving hundreds of dollars with the Delta companion ticket

If you used the Delta companion ticket in a similar manner as we did, it can easily be worth more than the $250 annual fee it costs to keep the Delta Platinum Amex in your wallet (see rates and fees).

The Delta Reserve has a $550 annual fee (see rates and fees) but comes with a variety of additional benefits including Sky Club access, bonus elite miles, Sky Club guest passes and a companion ticket eligible for first-class flights. Presuming you use the Sky Club benefits and place an increased value on sitting in first class, the math can check out for that card, too.

Another cool feature of the Delta companion ticket is that it’s transferable. If you can’t personally use the voucher, you can let someone else benefit from the savings. That makes it flexible for families who don’t always travel together as the cardholder doesn’t have to be on the flight.

The primary (paid) ticket on the reservation using the Delta companion ticket will accrue SkyMiles, but the companion ticket won’t. The tickets are eligible for upgrades consistent with the SkyMiles program. Keep in mind, however, that if you cancel your itinerary after purchasing your ticket, you usually won’t be able to reuse your companion certificate. During COVID-19, there’s been more flexibility than normal with the certificates if your travel plans need to change.

Earn bonus Delta SkyMiles

If you’re interested in adding a Delta credit card to your wallet, here are the current offers:

According to TPG‘s current valuations, 40,000 Delta SkyMiles are worth $480 — and there are lots of ways to put SkyMiles to great use when you’re ready to travel again.

Bottom line

I have the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Card, which I’d rank as one of the best travel credit cards for my family. I got it for its increased welcome bonus at one point many years ago, but I keep it in my wallet for the annual companion ticket and other perks that make flying Delta more comfortable and affordable.

Does your family make use of Delta’s companion certificate to save money on flights?

If you’re new to The Points Guy, check out our Beginner’s Guide to learn more.

For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve Card, please click here
For rates and fees of the Delta Platinum Amex Card, please click here

Featured image courtesy of Delta Air Lines

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