Are Airline Credit Card Companion Tickets Worth It?

Are Airline Credit Card Companion Tickets Worth It?

 

A TravelSort reader writes “Are there any credit card companion ticket deals that are worth it? I have a family of four and it can be hard earning enough miles for award flights for all of us, so am interested in companion tickets that could help us save cash or miles required for the four tickets.”

Airline companion tickets are often not a great deal, as they can be very restrictive, requiring the purchased ticket to be refundable, which, even with the “free” companion ticket, can result in a higher price than purchasing two discounted tickets. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of some of the current offers. It's a good time to look at these, since one of the most notable ones, the British Airways Visa 100,000 points offer, is only valid until for another few days, until February 27.

Could Be Worth It for Some

1. British Airways Visa Companion Ticket

Pros

  • Used in conjunction with award ticket: cardholder redeems for his/her award ticket, and companion ticket voucher is used with it
  • Valid for first and business class international travel
  • Notwithstanding rule for “roundtrip travel originating from U.S.” possible to book one way with companion ticket
  • Easy to book online
  • Companion certificate valid for 2 years after issue

 

Cons

  • Both award ticket and companion ticket incur high fuel surcharges and taxes. Expect to pay $2300 for two first class roundtrip tickets from NYC to London using the primary award ticket and companion ticket
  • Valid on British Airways metal only; codeshares and partner flights not eligible
  • Requires spending $30,000 on British Airways Visa within a calendar year, to receive the companion ticket certificate. High opportunity cost: see British Airways 100K Avios Points Offer Back But Worth It?

 

2. Delta Reserve AMEX Companion Ticket

Pros

  • Valid for first or business class domestic tickets
  • Valid for discounted fares (L, U and T for economy, and A and I for domestic first class)
  • Companion Certificate is transferable
  • Primary traveler can accrue Medallion Qualifying Miles, including bonus miles if flying business or first class

 

Cons

  • Only valid for travel in the 48 contiguous states; not valid for travel to Hawaii or Alaska
  • Once primary ticket and companion ticket are issued, not transferable
  • Primary and companion ticket taxes and fees must be paid for with the Delta Reserve card for which the companion certificate was issued

 

3. Southwest Companion Pass

Pros

  • Can use pass with both award tickets and paid tickets
  • Companion Pass can be used for any available seat on every Southwest flight, even when primary cardholder uses a Wanna Get Away fare, unlimited number of times
  • Requires earning 110,000 Southwest miles in a calendar year, which is easy if you get both the Southwest personal and business cards (50,000 points for each after $2000 spend within the first 3 months) then earn an additional 6000 miles
  • Valid through the end of the year after you earn it; e.g. if you earn the companion pass early in 2013 it's valid through the end of 2014
  • Can change your designated companion up to 3 times during the validity of the pass

 

Cons

  • It's Southwest (yes, I'm biased–have flown once with them, and never again!)
  • Cannot use on Air Tran, only on Southwest flights
  • Cannot transfer Chase points into Southwest to count towards the 110,000 miles

 

4. Citi ThankYou Premier Companion Ticket

Pros

  • Earn frequent flyer miles for both primary cardholder's flight and companion flight
  • Authorized user on the credit card also eligible for companion ticket
  • Able to upgrade with miles and upgrade certificates, depending on fare class

 

Cons

  • Companion ticket only works with paid ticket
  • Domestic travel only (can book international travel with the Citi Thank You Prestige Card)
  • Coach travel only
  • Must book with Spirit Incentives, where fares generally 15%-35% more expensive
  • Delta flights currently not available online; must call to book

 

Not Worth It for Most

1. Alaska Airlines Visa Companion Ticket

Pros

  • Can be used on tickets to Hawaii
  • No blackout dates; only restriction is that two seats must be available
  • Can be booked online

Cons

 

2. US Airways Premier World MasterCard Companion Ticket

Pros

  • Two companions may travel with primary cardmember, for $99 each
  • No phone booking fee (since unable to book online)

 

Cons

  • Only flights on US Air and US Air Express metal are eligible; no codeshares
  • Domestic tickets within the 48 contiguous states and flights to Canada only
  • Minimum base fare of $250
  • Must call to redeem companion fare
  • Only domestic 
  • A number of blackout dates. 2013 blackout dates include:
  • March 8, 10, 15, 17, 28, 29
  • April 1, 6, 7
  • May 24
  • June 28, 29
  • July 6, 7, 28
  • August 4
  • December 1, 2, 20, 21, 28, 29, 30
 

3. AMEX Platinum

Pros

 

  • “Free” companion ticket (no $99 co-pay as with some of the other companion tickets)
  • No minimum fare restriction
  • No blackout dates; if there's space for two, may use companion ticket
  • May use on first class and business class travel
  • No limit to companion tickets that are available

Cons

  • Only refundable tickets are eligible; will often be more expensive than two discounted tickets
  • Must call AMEX Platinum Travel Service to book

 

3. Delta Platinum AMEX

Pros

  • “Free” companion ticket (no $99 co-pay as with some of the other companion tickets)
  • No minimum fare restriction
  • Available in L, U and T fare codes (discounted fares)

 

Cons

  • Valid for domestic travel only
  • Valid for coach ticket only
  • Valid only within the 48 contiguous United States
 
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