How airline companion tickets can save you money on your next trip

If you’ve been searching for a way to get the most bang for your buck on your next big trip, one of the best ways to do so is with airline credit card companion tickets. In addition to helping travelers earn free flights by racking up frequent flyer miles, some airline credit cards offer companion certificates or discounts so cardholders can bring a companion along for free.

These aren’t your average BOGO deals, though. Some companion tickets are restricted to certain regions or cabin classes, while others are based on credit card spending or are only good for award tickets. Here’s a look at the airline credit cards that offer companion tickets as a benefit and what you’ll need to do to earn and maximize them for your travels.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines offers a companion ticket through its co-branded credit cards. The personal and business versions come with a Companion Fare, which starts from $122 ($99 fare, plus taxes and fees from $23) and is reissued annually after spending at least $6,000 within the prior anniversary year. Sometimes Alaska will offer an additional Companion Fare as part of a sign-up bonus.

Alaska Airlines Visa credit card

Companion ticket benefit: The Alaska Airlines Visa credit card comes with a companion ticket benefit that’s one of the easiest to understand and use. Every year you carry this card and spend $6,000 within the prior anniversary year, you are entitled to an annual companion fare from $122 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees, usually about $23).

The rules stipulate that the primary traveler and their companion must be booked on the same itinerary. While the cardholder does not need to be one of the travelers, you must pay for the tickets using the corresponding Alaska Visa card.

The companion fare is valid for travel in economy only, and it must be redeemed within 12 months of the issue date, but travel can take place afterward.

What’s great about this benefit is that both the primary traveler and the companion will earn full mileage credit for their flights. In addition, both tickets are eligible for upgrades if you have Alaska elite status or want to use a pair of the carrier’s Gold Guest Upgrades.

Welcome bonus: Earn 70,000 bonus miles plus Alaska’s Famous Companion Fareā„¢ ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $23) with this offer. To qualify, make $3,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.

Annual fee: $95

Other benefits: This card earns a considerable 3 miles per dollar spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases, 2 miles per dollar on eligible gas, EV charging station, cable, streaming services, and local transit (including ride-hailing purchase) and 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else. It has no foreign transaction fees and provides a free checked bag on Alaska flights for the cardholder and up to six other guests on the same reservation.

Alaska Airlines Visa Business card

Companion ticket benefit: The Alaska Airlines Visa Business credit card offers an identical companion ticket benefit: Spend $6,000 within the prior anniversary year and you’ll receive an annual companion fare from $122 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees, usually about $23).

Welcome bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus miles and Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare; ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $23) after you make $3,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.

Annual fee: $70 for the company and $25 per additional card

Other benefits: Earn 3 miles per dollar spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases, 2 miles per dollar on eligible gas, EV charging stations, shipping and local transit, (including ride-hailing purchases) and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. Receive a free checked bag for you and up to six companions.

American Airlines

Barclays offers two different American Airlines companion tickets through its co-branded cards.

Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard and AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard

Companion ticket benefit: Every account anniversary, Aviator Red cardholders who spend $20,000 in a year will receive a $99 (plus taxes and fees) Companion Certificate for a round-trip domestic economy fare within the 48 contiguous United States. (Alaska and Hawaii residents can travel from their home state to the 48 contiguous states.) Meanwhile, Silver cardholders can earn two of these certificates with $20,000 annual spending. In either case, your account must remain open for 45 days after your anniversary date to qualify for the Companion Certificate.

Welcome bonus: The Silver is not available to new applicants. The Aviator Red is offering 60,000 bonus miles after you make your first purchase and pay the $99 annual fee in full within 90 days.

Annual fee: $99 for the Aviator Red card; $199 for the Aviator Silver

Other benefits: The Aviator Red card earns 2 miles per dollar spent on American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else. The Aviator Silver card earns 3 miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases, 2 miles per dollar on hotels and car rentals and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. Both cards offer a first free checked bag on domestic flights, priority boarding, inflight Wi-Fi credits, and discounts on other inflight purchases.

Delta

Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card

Companion ticket benefit: The Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card has offered one of the longest-standing companion ticket benefits, and it’s still one of the best options out there. It can be used for travel to all 50 U.S. states (including Hawaii and Alaska), Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. You must pay taxes and fees, though they’re capped at $80 for roundtrip domestic flights and $250 for roundtrip international flights.

Welcome bonus: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership.

Annual fee: $350

Other benefits: This card earns 3 miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels. Cardholders also earn 2 miles per dollar spent at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets and 1 mile per dollar on all other eligible purchases. Cardholders get a free checked bag for themselves and up to eight companions on the same Delta flight reservation, plus 20% savings on inflight purchases and Main Cabin 1 Priority Boarding on Delta flights.

Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card

Companion ticket benefit: With its much higher annual fee, cardholders can expect a better companion ticket benefit with the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card. Each year they renew, cardholders will receive a companion certificate good for one round-trip itinerary in first class, Delta Comfort+ or Main Cabin and, now, Premium Select on select eligible routes. They’ll only be responsible for taxes and fees on the second ticket, up to $80 for roundtrip domestic flights and $250 for roundtrip international flights.

Welcome bonus: Earn 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $6,000 in purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership.

Annual fee: $650

Other benefits: This card’s main benefit is that it offers Delta Sky Club access when traveling on flights marketed or operated by Delta. You also receive four one-time guest passes each year and can bring two guests for $50 each. The card’s other benefits are mostly in line with those of the Platinum version. However, it also provides complimentary access to American Express Centurion Lounges when flying Delta with a ticket purchased on the card.

Delta business credit cards

Note that Delta offers business versions of the two personal cards listed above: the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business American Express Card and the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card.

These cards offer similar benefits to their personal counterparts, including companion tickets and access to Delta Sky Club lounges. The annual fees and requirements may differ slightly, so be sure to review the details before applying.

In conclusion, airline credit card companion tickets can be a great way to maximize your travel savings and bring a companion along for free. Whether you frequently fly with Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, or Delta, there are credit card options available that offer companion ticket benefits. Remember to carefully consider the terms and conditions of each card, including spending requirements, restrictions, and annual fees, to ensure that the benefits align with your travel needs. Happy travels!

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