By Randi Gollin | American Express Credit Intel Freelance Contributor
5 Min Read | October 1, 2021 in Money
For those who travel with company, some of the best airline credit cards offer members free or deeply discounted companion tickets.
While you’ll always have to pay some level of taxes and fees, some cards cap these costs at around $75.
Depending on the card, you can usually qualify through membership renewal, points accrual, welcome bonuses, or by meeting spending requirements.
Rules and restrictions – including blackout dates and cancellation policies – vary from program to program.
Whether you’re organizing your next family reunion or an anniversary getaway, chances are that cost factors into your travel plans. Companion tickets or companion passes – a perk offered by some premium airline credit cards – can help keep your budget in line and, in some cases, make that dream trip possible. Specifically, these certificates can help you either get a complimentary or deeply discounted ticket, lowering the cost of a second seat dramatically.
Still, companion tickets aren’t totally free, and other considerations may impact your journey. So before packing your bags or finalizing your itinerary, here’s what you need to know about getting and using complimentary companion tickets with a credit card.
As its name implies, a companion ticket – also referred to as a companion pass, companion certificate, or companion fare, depending on the airline’s language – is an extra ticket offered to card members by some of the most coveted travel credit cards and co-branded airline credit cards. This second ticket can’t be acquired on its own without the primary card member first purchasing their own ticket.
Depending on the card issuer and airline, companion tickets are usually available at a base rate or, in some cases, for next to nothing. Taxes and fees are always attached – but those costs may be capped, some at rates of $75.
For example, a base rate companion ticket might be a round-trip itinerary in the main cabin or first class within the 48 contiguous United States, with the cost for the second ticket totaling $100 plus taxes and fees. A complimentary companion ticket, on the other hand, might cost no more than a maximum of $75 to cover taxes and fees, depending on the card issuer’s rules.
Every airline has its own set of rules and restrictions, and carriers may offer different kinds of companion tickets valid for different seat classes or destinations. But here’s how they work in a general sense:
Finally, it’s important to note that many programs require a companion to be booked on the same itinerary as the primary card member and in the same class of service. So if you want to put yourself in first class and your sister in coach, well, that probably won’t fly.
Airline credit cards have different prerequisites that card members must meet to earn that prized companion ticket. Here are some of the primary ways you can qualify:
Nothing lasts forever, and that includes the companion tickets you can earn with your eligible credit card. Most co-branded cards require that members redeem a companion ticket by a certain date, usually printed on the certificate. Again, different carriers, different expiration dates.
Some programs give you a wide berth, allowing you the luxury of two years from the issue date to use your companion ticket. More often, the pass may be valid for a year from the date it’s issued, or for the rest of a calendar year, through the next card renewal date.
Complimentary companion tickets can be a win-win deal for both card members and their chosen travel buddy. Still, many come with a few caveats that may not be top of mind when you’re booking your trip.
Free companion tickets are a bona fide perk of being an airline credit card member. While they’re not totally free – taxes and fees are always attached – they can lower the cost of a second seat dramatically. To get the most out of your almost-free guest ride, it pays to understand the ins and outs of how they work, from qualifying for a pass to expiration dates, restrictions, and cancellation policies.