How to save money with an annual Delta companion ticket
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With vaccines being rolled out across the country, a growing number of travelers are returning to the skies.
However, we’re not fully back to normal yet. And while every domestic airline has its own take on COVID-era rules and regulations designed to keep travelers safe, Delta consistently comes out at the top of the pack for its cleaning procedures and blocked middle seats (at least through April).
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 in late 2020 for our family of four.
We used the Delta companion certificate that had just been awarded with the renewal of my Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card, as well as 2019’s companion certificate that was extended past its typical August expiration date.
Essentially, my family of four flew Delta for the price of two thanks to these valuable certificates.
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. This is why I have kept my Delta Platinum Amex around year after year. Since families often travel with more than just one person, this is a card perk that can quickly pay for itself.
And if you don’t already have a Delta credit card, now is a great time to get one as the cards are offering increased welcome bonuses.
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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:
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles, plus 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases and up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first three months of account opening.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles, plus 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases and up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first three months of account opening.
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card: 60,000 bonus miles, 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs), and a $100 statement credit after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card: 60,000 bonus miles, 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs), and a $100 statement credit after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
Since this companion voucher benefit is extended to both the consumer and business versions of the card, you can earn more than one voucher if you have multiple eligible Delta 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.
This annual award is automatically deposited into your SkyMiles account the month you pay the card’s annual fee, and it’s typically valid for a year from the date it was issued (though potentially longer now right 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+).
How to use the Delta Companion ticket
To show you the value of the Delta companion ticket, let’s use my recent trip to national parks in Utah as an example.
This round-trip, nonstop flight from Houston (IAH) to Salt Lake City (SLC) cost about $466 on Delta. That isn’t a great deal, but tickets to fly during holiday breaks can be more expensive than you want, 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 on the trip, thanks to these companion vouchers.
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.
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.
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.
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 consumer card 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. However, during the pandemic, 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:
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in purchases on and up to $50 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within your first 3 months of account opening. Terms apply. (Does not have a companion ticket.)
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles, plus 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases and up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first three months of account opening. Terms apply.
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles, plus 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases and up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first three months of account opening. Terms apply.
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?
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Featured image courtesy of Delta Air Lines
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