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. There is a $99 annual fee.
Sign up offer: Earn 25,000 points after meeting spending requirements.
British Airways Visa Signature Card
The British Airways Visa Signature® Card offers a big sign-up bonus of 50,000 Avios after you make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening, plus an additional 25,000 bonus Avios when you spend $15,000 on purchases for a total of 75,000 bonus Avios. You also have the opportunity to earn a free "Travel Together" ticket when you 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. Cardholders also earn 3 Avios for every dollar spent on British Airways purchases and 1 Avios on other purchases. There are no foreign transaction fees and the annual fee is $95.
Sign up offer: Earn 50,000 Avios after you make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months, and an additional 25,000 bonus Avios when you make $15,000 in purchases.
Miles & More World Elite MasterCard
Barclaycard's Miles & More World Elite Mastercard offers an annual companion ticket after the first purchase, and each year after that. Cardholders earn two miles per $1 spent on airline partner tickets, and one mile per $1 spent on other purchases. Miles can be redeemed for flight awards and upgrades on Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, SWISS and other partners. There are no foreign transaction fees. There is an annual fee of $79, waived for Senator and HON Circle Members.
Sign up offer: Earn 20,000 miles after your first purchase and payment of the annual fee, plus an additional 30,000 award miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first 90 days.
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card
Cardholders receive an annual coach Companion Fare from $121. The pass can be used on any paid flight in coach. Cardholders also earn 3 miles for every $1 spent on Alaska Airlines tickets and Vacation Packages, as well as inflight purchases, and 1 mile for every $1 spent on other purchases. There is no mileage cap and miles won't expire. Plus, the first checked bag is free for you and up to six passengers on your reservation. There is a $89 annual fee.
Sign up offer: Earn 25,000 miles upon approval.
CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®
If you're a small business owner, you'll want to consider the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® from our partner Citi, which gives you an American Airlines Companion Certificate each year when you spend $30,000 and renew your cardmembership. In terms of rewards, this card offers 2x miles for every dollar spent on American Airlines as well as 2x miles on purchases at telecommunications, car rental merchants and at gas stations. Travel perks include free first checked bag for you and up to 4 companions on the same reservation, priority boarding, and a 25% discount on eligible in-flight purchases.
Sign up offer: Earn 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
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.