The 5 Best Credit Cards With Airline Companion Tickets

By Jason Steele. Last updated 16 July 2014. 8 comments

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For as long as I can remember, the standard sign-up bonus for a reward 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 five best credit cards that feature an airline companion ticket offer. (See also: The Best Travel Rewards Cards)

The Top Five Credit Card Airline Companion Ticket Offers

These five cards offer worthwhile companion tickets.

Southwest Airlines® Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

These credit cards do not offer companion passes directly; they just make it really easy to earn one. First, sign up for one or both of these cards and enjoy a sign-up bonus of up to 50,000 Rapid Rewards points each. 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.

Platinum Delta SkyMiles® From American Express

Delta offers three different SkyMiles cards that each feature different companion passes. Their Gold card has no annual fee the first year, then it's $95. Their Platinum SkyMiles card offers a free companion pass for a $150 annual fee. Finally, their SkyMiles Reserve card offers a free companion pass that is good for both economy and first class flights, but it has an annual fee of $450. Clearly, the best deal here is Platinum card that costs only $150. These passes are transferable, and I have used ones that were given to me by family members. Unfortunately, this pass is only received when your card is renewed each year and only the person flying on the paid ticket will receive miles.

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 this card by offering outstanding sign-up bonuses, 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 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. Unfortunately, the second person will have to pay additional taxes and their odious 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.

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.

Click here to apply for the US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® from Barclays Bank

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 card issuer.

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Guest's picture
Sherie

Just got the word earlier this month. Companion tickets issued after August 1st with the Alaska Airlines VISA may only be used for coach fares. Sigh....

Guest's picture
BC

I booked a companion fare from Citi ThankYou via Spirit Incentives. The prices we found were the same restricted airfare that we could find directly on the airline websites.

The one deal is that it's not exactly half off. Even the companion ticket is charged the full rate for taxes and fees.

Guest's picture
Guest

With the Delta AmEx platinum card, one also receives a free checked bag for each person on the owner's ticket and zone 1, priority boarding. It pays for itself if used by a person who flies often. The companion ticket also pays for the fee and I use it each year to give us a nice vacation, although it is for domestic travel only.

Guest's picture
AlohaDaveKennedy

Regarding the Citi Spirit companion passes, there appears to be about a $40-50 premium booking with Spirit. That is to say the "free" companion pass will cost you $40-50, which is not as bad a deal as this blog makes out.

Guest's picture
steve

Thanks this was extremely useful as I was looking to doa first class companion ticket to Spain and it seems like I have one real choice for that.

Guest's picture
Tim

CAUTION: As of October 20, 2013, Citi ThankYou® Premier Card will no longer offer the annual companion ticket for travel.

Guest's picture
Guest

The Premier Pass had one of the best companion travel programs that I've seen. Unfortunately it was cancelled in October 2013, so I'm going to look for a new credit card.

Guest's picture
Guest

Due to the US Airways merger they are eliminating their companion certificate offers but they are still soliciting new credit card memberships touting the feature without divulging that it is being eliminated by 2015. Clearly a "bait and switch" tactic.