Nowadays airfare is so expensive, it sometimes costs a small fortune just to fly somewhere with your spouse or family. Credit cards with companion tickets are one way to save money when are traveling with others. But just because an airline credit card offers companion tickets as a benefit doesn’t mean your travel buddy really gets a completely free ride.
Let’s take a look at your options for 2014. Please keep in mind that, with all of these offers, you will still have to pay any applicable government taxes and fees on the second ticket for your companion (fortunately those are pretty reasonable on domestic flights).
Delta Airlines companion ticket:
Some (but not all) of the the Delta AmEx cards include a companion airfare benefit that you get once per year of membership.
- The Platinum Delta SkyMiles card has a $150 annual fee, but it comes with an almost free companion ticket each year of cardmembership. You just have to pay the applicable taxes and fees on the second ticket, which will range from $22 to $68, according to AmEx. It can be used for a round-trip economy class flight within the 48 contiguous United States. That alone could make the card worth it, but when you consider the included benefits like Zone 1 Priority Boarding and the ability to check your first bag for free, this card is money well spent, even if you travel only once per year. Terms and restrictions apply. Here is the current offer for it.
- The Delta Reserve card has a $450 annual fee so it will make sense only for die-hard travelers. You get a companion voucher once per year, but unlike the card above, you can redeem it for an economy or first-class fare within the 48 contiguous United States. As with the Platinum card, you’ll need to pay any taxes and fees associated with the ticket. Even though the annual fee is high, it can be worth it if you use the voucher for a first-class flight (because you know how much those flights cost normally). Terms and Restrictions apply. Here is the current offer for it.
Or for a more in-depth review, you can compare all 3 Delta SkyMiles cards side by side here.
US Airways companion ticket:
Their Premier World MasterCard has an annual fee of $89, which is pretty reasonable, considering that it scores you two companion tickets per year for $99 each (plus any taxes or fees). The benefits aren’t too shabby either: Zone 2 priority boarding, first-class check-in and, once per year, a US Airways Club day pass for free.
The companion tickets are good for travel within the continental U.S. or Canada. To use them, the cardholder must have purchased a ticket for at least $250.
I think this would be most useful if you have a family of 4 or more. Mom and dad could buy tickets for themselves and the two kids could fly for $99 each thanks to the vouchers.
Virgin American discount benefit:
This is a bit different than the others. As a cardmember, once per year you can buy a companion ticket and get $150 off the price. So rather than paying a pre-determined amount for the airline companion ticket, this credit card gives you a straight $150 off on a full-fare economy ticket. If the ticket you buy is less than $150, you forfeit the rest of the discount.
I’m a huge fan of this card for several reasons:
- The annual fee is only $49.
- Your points are worth more. Each point is worth a pretty consistent 2.2 cents toward award airfare.
- There are no blackout dates and no seat restrictions
To see the current bonus offer, check out my Virgin America review.
The Platinum Card from American Express:
For those who travel internationally and fly business class, this charge card’s companion ticket offer is an incredible value even though it has an annual fee of $450.
Simply purchase a qualifying international business- or first-class ticket through AmEx, and you get complimentary companion airfare for free. You do, however have to pay the applicable taxes and fees on the second ticket (which can range from $52 to $365 round trip) and fuel surcharges, which can give you major sticker shock — fuel surcharges can be upwards of $2,000 on some routes.
You’re also limited a bit when it comes to airlines, as only flights booked on participating partners are eligible for this benefit. There are currently 28 airlines participating, including Delta, British Airways, Lufthansa, South Africa Airways and AeroMexico.
Despite the costs and limitations, considering how expensive international first-class tickets can be, the companion benefit can still save you thousands — and there’s no limit to how many you can take advantage of the benefit per year.
Check out our review of the Platinum Card from AmEx to find out more.
Hawaiian Airlines companion ticket
The Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard has two companion ticket discounts. The first can be used just once: 50 percent off the price of a companion’s ticket on a coach round trip between Hawaii and the continental U.S. The second can be used once each year of cardmembership: $100 off a coach companion ticket (on a round trip between Hawaii and the continental U.S. In both cases, you still have to pay any fees and taxes associated with the fare.
You can apply for the card here (and go for the 35,000-mile sign-up bonus they’re offering right now).
British Airways companion ticket
This card offers what’s called the “Travel Together” benefit. If you redeem your Avios for a reward ticket, you can invite a companion along without using any additional Avios. There’s a big hurdle to get this benefit, however: You get it only after spending $30,000 on the card in a calendar year.
Once you earn a Travel Together ticket, it’s good for two years for all travel originating in the U.S. Your companion joins you in whichever cabin your ticket is booked. As with most companion tickets, you have to pay all applicable fees, taxes and surcharges. And keep in mind that British Airways has a reputation of being a bit fuel-surcharge happy. According to the card’s terms and conditions, you could pay up to $1,250 in extra charges for a Travel Together ticket from Seattle to London.
Right now, you can get 50,000 bonus Avios for opening the card, if you spend $2,000 in the first three months. You can snag that offer by applying here.
Alaska Airlines companion ticket:
Once per year, cardmembers can purchase a companion ticket for $99 plus applicable fees and taxes (which start at $19). The card’s annual fee is $75, which is a bit less than the other guys, but I’m still not the biggest fan of this card. Why? As it is issued by Bank of America, a reputation for less than stellar customer service, rightly or wrongly, might apply.
This article was written or last updated March 12, 2014.