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What happens to your airline companion fare or hotel free night certificate now?

Nov. 02, 2020
13 min read
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The world is slowly getting used to a new "normal." Travel bans have been decreed and then extended; theme parks, casinos and hotels have closed with opening dates pushed back; and restaurants and bars have become -- and remain -- take-out only establishments in some places.

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Life as we know it will continue to change over the coming months, leaving us all with a slew of questions — especially travelers who are now sitting on a pile of companion fare and free hotel night certificates earned through cobranded credit cards or elite status.

So, what will happen to those travel certificates now that it's difficult to travel for the time being? Here's what we found out.

Related: Visit this page for TPG’s full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Airfare companion certificates

Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines all offer companion fare certificates as a benefit of their cobranded credit cards, so you may have an unused certificate credited to your account right now.

Alaska Airlines companion fare

If you have an outstanding companion fare benefit from the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card, you’re in luck. All certificates set to expire in 2020 are now valid until Dec. 31, 2020, allowing you to purchase travel through Nov. 26, 2021.

Related: How to use the Alaska Airlines Visa companion fare

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American Airlines companion certificate

There are certain American Airlines cobranded credit cards that offer companion certificates, including:

  • CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® — $99 companion certificate after you spend $30,000 or more on the card in a calendar year and renew the card (account must be open for at least 45 days after account anniversary date).
  • AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard — You earn one certificate each cardholder year when you spend $30,000 or more. This certificate offers one or two additional tickets for $99 (plus taxes and fees) on paid flights operated by American Airlines.
  • AAdvantage® Aviator® Red Mastercard — Earn an annual companion certificate good for one guest at $99 (plus taxes and fees) after spending $20,000 on purchases.
  • AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard — Receive one each account anniversary year, good for one guest at $99 (plus taxes and fees), after spending $20,000 on purchases in that year.

The information for the CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card, AAdvantage Aviator Silver, AAdvantage Aviator Red, and AAdvantage Aviator Business cards have been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Both Citi and Barclays have offered extensions on expiring companion certificates. Eligible Barclay AAdvantage cardholders with certificates expiring between March 31, 2020 and May 31, 2021 will be able to use them through June 30, 2021.

Meanwhile, Citi is offering six-month extensions for both companion certificates and flight discounts.

Related: American Airlines joins Delta and United in extending elite status and more

Delta Annual Companion Certificate and other benefits

If you hold specific Delta cobranded credit cards, you are entitled to a companion certificate.

  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: Use the companion certificate for domestic Delta One, first-class and coach round-trip flights.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card: Use the companion certificate for domestic Delta One, first-class and coach round-trip flights.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card: Use the companion certificate for domestic Main Cabin round-trip flights.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card: Use the companion certificate for domestic Main Cabin round-trip flights.

Related: Here's how to save money with a Delta Annual Companion Certificate

One of the cards' best benefits is an annual companion travel certificate. (Photo courtesy of Delta)

Recently, Delta issued another extension of benefits that come with its cobranded credit cards, including annual companion certificates.

Companion certificates (including those issued in 2019) that come as benefits of the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card will be valid through Dec. 31, 2021, though you have to book and complete travel by the end of 2021.

If you've booked a trip using a SkyMiles Companion Certificate (or a combination of cash and miles or an upgrade using miles or certificates, you'll need to call the airline to make any changes.

Those who earn the $100 Delta flight credit from the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card will see their expiration dates extended to Dec. 31, 2021.

Any unused Sky Club guest passes that come as a perk of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve card will now be valid through Dec. 31, 2021.

As announced previously, Global Upgrade Certificates, Regional Upgrade Certificates and $200 travel vouchers that Diamonds and Platinum Medallions have selected through Choice Benefits and are set to expire between March 1 and June 30, 2020, will have their expiration dates extended to Dec. 31, 2020. Members with ones that expire after June 30, 2020 will receive an additional six months beyond the current expiration date.

2020 Choice Benefits will not be given a further extension, though the carrier will offer its highest-tier elite members a new round of Choice Benefits for the 2021 Medallion year without needing to requalify, since it has already extended Medallion status through Jan. 31, 2022.

Related: Delta becomes the first US airline to extend elite status

Free night certificates from hotels

Many hotel chains offer a free-night reward, and so plenty of TPG readers are anxiously waiting to find out if their certificate expiration dates will be extended.

Marriott Free Night Awards

Travelers have a few ways to earn Marriott Free Night Awards (FNA). You can earn one as part of your credit card benefits package, for example. The up to 35,000-point certificate is earned on the anniversary of the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card, while the up to 50,000-point certificate at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program (certain hotels have resort fees) is earned on the anniversary of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card.

You can also earn one of these reward nights as your Annual Choice Benefit, through a promotion or as part of a travel package.

Marriott just issued another round of extensions for any FNA that was set to expire in 2020. You can now use these through Aug. 31, 2021. Any certificates that had an original expiration date before 2020 are not eligible for this further extension.

Related: Unlock incredible value by using your free night certificate at Category 7 Marriott properties

Marriott Suite Night Awards

Marriott says Suite Night Awards (SNA) that were due to expire on Dec. 31, 2020 have been extended by one year to Dec. 31, 2021.

Related: How easy is it to use Marriott Suite Night Awards?

W Santiago's E WOW Suite. (Photo courtesy of Marriott)

World of Hyatt certificates

If you're a World of Hyatt loyalist, you may have any of the following awards waiting to be used:

All awards with 2021 expiration dates will be extended.

Any unused club lounge access or suite night awards with a Feb. 28, 2021 expiration will be extended to Dec. 31, 2021. In addition, all unused free night awards that were earned in 2020 with 2021 expiration dates will be extended to Dec. 31, 2021. The certificate extension encompasses all free night awards, including those earned from promotional programs such as the Brand Explorer challenge.

Members do not need to do anything on their end for these changes to take place. Unused club lounge and suite upgrade awards that expire in February 2021 and free night awards issued in 2020 with an expiration date before Dec. 31, 2021 will be replaced with a new award beginning Nov. 20, 2020. All other qualifying, unused awards will be updated by the 20th day of the month in which the award would have originally expired.

Earlier this year, World of Hyatt extended status for elite members without needing to spend a single night in a hotel. If you held status with Hyatt on March 31, 2020, your tier was automatically extended through Feb 28, 2022.

Additionally, Hyatt will postpone the introduction of off-peak and peak point redemptions. That change was scheduled to go into effect on March 22, 2020, but the company will now wait until July 2021.

Finally, World of Hyatt extended the suspension of points forfeiture again, now through June 30, 2021. (Hyatt points don't expire but can be forfeited if there's no activity in your account for 24 consecutive months.)

Related: Maximizing Chase Hyatt Visa free night rewards

Hilton Weekend Night Reward

Hilton has extended the expiration date of its Weekend Night Reward certificates, such as the ones earned with the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, for a second time. The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex 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.

Starting Jan. 1, 2021, all newly-issued Free Weekend Night Reward certificates will be valid through December 31, 2022. And like current certificates, their validity has been expanded to cover any night of the week — providing valuable flexibility for cardholders.

As a reminder, here are the existing policies related to certificates issued in 2020:

  • Any remaining, unexpired certificates issued before May 1, 2020 are valid through Aug. 31, 2021 — on any night of the week.
  • Any certificates issued from May 1 through Dec. 31, 2020 are valid for 24 months from the date of issuance — and also on any night of the week.

In addition, bonus points earned on Hilton credit cards will continue to count as Base Points on eligible purchases through Dec. 31, 2021, thus counting toward elite status tier qualification — including Lifetime Diamond Status.

You don't need to do anything to take advantage of the extension. Hilton will automatically update your certificate in its system.

See this post for Hilton's most recent round of perks extensions.

Related: Maximizing Hilton Amex free night certificates

IHG Anniversary Night

IHG is extending the expiration of its Anniversary Night certificates that are a perk of its U.S. and U.K. cobranded credit cards. According to the chain, certificates expiring from March 1, 2020, will now be valid through Dec. 31, 2020. Certificates issued in 2020 will have an 18-month redemption period. IHG's website says it "will be reaching out to cardmembers directly with more information."

Related: Top hotels for redeeming the IHG Rewards Premier Card anniversary reward night

Radisson Free Night E-Cert

E-certs earned using the Radisson Reward Visa Card, which are scheduled to expire between March 1 and July 31, 2020, can be redeemed through June 30, 2021.

The information for the Radisson Reward Visa 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.

Free day certificates from rental car companies

Enterprise and National were the first rental car companies to extend elite status. National's free rental day certificates have a validity of one year after the year in which they were earned, so any free rental days earned in 2019 can be used through Dec. 31, 2020. And, now, Emerald Club members can redeem free days at participating Enterprise locations through Dec. 31, 2020, for travel by Jan. 31, 2021.

National's Emerald Club counter (Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)

Originally, Enterprise also told TPG that it would not extend free days earned from the popular One Two Free promotion slated to expire on June 15. However, the company did end up extending that promotion, through Dec. 31, 2020. It allows members to score a free day after just two rentals — while still racking up rental credits at the usual rate.

Related: Your guide to car rental companies elite status extensions

Avis Preferred members at the Preferred Plus level or higher will have their elite status extended through Jan. 15, 2022, and any Avis Reward Days earned from a Free Days promotion were originally extended to Sept. 30, 2020, but Avis has issued another extension on these rewards, until December 15, 2020, according to an Avis spokesperson.

Hertz has extended status levels for its elite members until Jan. 31, 2022, and extended the life of points set to expire up to June 30 of this year to Dec. 31, 2020.

Certificates from Amtrak

On April 6, Amtrak paused the expiration of all coupons — including companion passes, upgrade certificates and others — until Sept. 25, 2020. Now that that deadline has passed, Amtrak has extended these benefits once again, through December 31, 2020. All Amtrak Guest Rewards points that were due to expire were extended until Dec. 31, 2020.

Bottom line

We understand it's frustrating to be stuck in a "no travel" pattern, and even more so to have uncertainty about some of the perks you're accustomed to using, such as your hotel free night and airline companion certificates. But, the good news is that many hospitality companies are trying to get ahead of the curve and are adjusting expiration dates on these benefits so you have the chance to get value from them later this year or next.

Have you talked with a hotel or airline about your travel certificates? Are you satisfied with the outcome? Let us know in the comments section below.

Feature photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy.

Featured image by Alberto Riva
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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