The 5 Best Credit Cards With Airline Companion Tickets
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For as long as I can remember, the standard sign-up bonus for a rewards credit card has been a “free flight.” Yet the truth is that these award flights are no longer free. Between reduced award availability and increased taxes and fees, this benefit has steadily become less valuable. Nevertheless, there is one credit card perk that, while not free, is actually gaining in value. The offer of a companion ticket — a free or discounted ticket for someone traveling with you on the same flight — will always be worth more as airline ticket prices rise. At the same time, it is important to note that all companion tickets are not created equal. Let’s take a look at the top credit cards that feature an airline companion ticket offer. (See also: The Best Travel Rewards Cards)
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card does not offer companion passes directly; it just makes it faster to earn one. First, sign up for the card and enjoy a sign-up bonus of 25,000 Rapid Rewards® points after you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account. Also get 6,000 points after your Cardmember Anniversary. These points count toward the 110,000 points necessary to earn a companion pass that is valid until the end of the following year.
Unlike other passes that are only good for one ticket, once this Southwest pass is earned, travelers can use it for unlimited free travel for a companion on both paid and award flights. So if you buy a flight for yourself, or redeem points for an award, your companion flies free. Therefore, the value of this pass is limited only by the amount of traveling you do. I applied for and received both the business and consumer cards with the 50,000 point bonus, then used the cards to earn an additional 10,000 points to receive the companion pass. There is a $99 annual fee.
Miles & More® Premier World MasterCard®
Barclay's Miles & More® Premier World card offers an annual companion ticket after first purchase. Miles can be redeemed for flight awards and upgrades on Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, SWISS, Star Alliance airlines and other partners. This is also one of the rare cards that offer rewards on balance transfers!
Sign up offer: Earn 20,000 award miles after your first purchase or balance transfer. Earn up to 15,000 award miles with balance transfers (1 mile per $1 transferred) within 30 days of account opening. There is an annual fee of $79, waived for SEN and HON Circle Members.
Editor's note: This offer is no longer available
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card From Bank of America
Cardholders receive a $99 Coach Companion Fare within 1-2 weeks of opening an account and again each year afterwards. Then the pass can be used on any paid flight in coach. Since Alaska flies many routes to Hawaii, this can be a great way for two travelers to travel for the price of one. Even better, both travelers will earn miles from the flight. There is a $75 annual fee.
British Airways Visa Signature® Card
Not only did Chase make waves with the British Airways Visa Signature® Card by offering a big sign-up bonus (currently 50,000 Avios after $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening), but they give you the opportunity to earn a free companion award they call their "Travel Together" ticket. Cardholders receive this when they spend $30,000 in purchases on their British Airways Visa card within a calendar year. When booking an award flight operated by British Airways, the Travel Together ticket can be redeemed for a second seat for no additional points and is good for two years. Unfortunately, the second person will have to pay additional taxes and fuel surcharges. Since these charges can equal the cost of a coach ticket, using this companion certificate only makes sense when flying in business or first class. There is a $95 annual fee, waived the first year.
US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® from Barclays Bank
This card offers two $99 companion tickets each year. These tickets can be used in the United States and Canada, but not Hawaii and Alaska. There is a 14-day advance purchase requirement, a $250 minimum fare, and some blackout dates. Nevertheless, these can be very valuable when traveling to Canada and other expensive destinations.
Editor's note: This offer is currently unavailable.
Applying for a credit card with a companion ticket offers can be a great way to slash your travel costs nearly in half. By focusing on the best offers out there, and dismissing the ones of questionable value, you can ensure that you will not be disappointed when it comes time to book that half price vacation with your favorite travel companion.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any bank, card issuer, airline or hotel chain.