Credit card companies are constantly closing loopholes to make airline rewards less valuable. Taxes, fees, and limited availability all eat into the value of your credit card miles. But as airfare gets ever more expensive, one credit card reward becomes more valuable – companion tickets.
Many of today’s top airline reward credit cards offer free companion tickets, so you can take someone with you on a flight. You can often redeem accumulated miles for part or all of one ticket, and then cash in the companion ticket for your friend, spouse, or whoever.
Some credit cards offer annual companion tickets. Others are currently offering companion tickets as sign-up bonuses when you get a new credit card and meet a certain spending threshold. Some of our favorites offer bonus miles worth $400 in travel credit (enough to cover many airline tickets).
Interested in adding a free companion ticket to your travel plans this year? Check out these 9 credit cards that offer free companion tickets:
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1. Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
This is one of the best travel rewards cards around right now, and part of the reason is that you can easily earn a Companion Pass. The Companion Pass program is better than just a single free ticket for your companion. With this program, once you hit 110,000 qualifying points or 100 one-way flights for the year, you get a Companion Pass. This lets you designate a person of your choice to fly with you on any Southwest flight for a year.
Even if you don’t travel enough to reach this level, you’ll earn A-List status with just 25 one-way trips or 35,000 tier qualifying points. And new cardholders can earn enough points for a free ticket. It’s why the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card is one of our favorites.
2. Platinum Delta Skymiles Card
This card has a hefty annual fee at $195. But every year, you can cash in for one free companion ticket for a round-trip economy class flight within the 48 contiguous US states. Depending on where you fly, that single reward (not including the first checked bag free and Zone 1 Priority Boarding perks) could easily outweigh the annual fee. Keep in mind, too, that you’ll still need to pay taxes and fees for your companion ticket.
3. The Delta Reserve Card
This card is suitable for hardcore travelers, due to its $450 annual fee. It, too, comes with a free companion ticket each year – but this can be a first-class ticket. So, again, if you’re flying first-class, the saved cost of the ticket could easily outweigh the annual fee, even once you pay taxes and fees.
4. Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card
This credit card offers a $99 Coach Companion Fare a week or two after opening an account, and upon annual renewal. You can use the pass for any coach flight. Alaska Airlines might sound restricted, but they actually fly to several highly-desirable locations, including Hawaii. And $99 for a flight to Hawaii isn’t bad at all.
5. US Airways Premier World MasterCard
The annual fee of $89 for this card is fairly low in the world of premium travel credit cards. And it offers two $99 companion tickets each year. You can use the $99 companion tickets on travel within the continental US and Canada, so long as the cardholder purchases a ticket for at least $250. In other words, if your flight costs $250+ for a single round-trip ticket, you can get two round-trip tickets for $349 or four tickets for the family for $698 (plus fees and taxes).
6. British Airways Visa Signature Card
The Travel Together program through the British Airways Visa lets you bring a companion with you on any flight when you use your Avios rewards to purchase the first ticket. This applies to any flight in any cabin that starts in and returns to the US. Plus, if you spend $30,000 on your British Airways Visa Signature Card within a year, you’ll earn a free Travel Together Ticket that’s good for up to two years.
The annual fee on the British Airways Visa Signature Card is $95.
7. The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express generally has great rewards, but the usefulness of the annual premium class international companion ticket is limited. Yes, you get a complimentary ticket for free when you book at qualifying international business or first-class ticket. However, the first ticket must be booked through AMEX, where prices are likely to be quite high. And you’ll have to pay taxes and fuel surcharges (which can be quite expensive) on the second ticket.
8. Virgin America Visa
Virgin offers a $150 coupon annually when you book another paid fare. You can use it on round-trip tickets, and only on trips with a maximum of three people on the itinerary.
9. Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard
The Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite MasterCard® doesn’t offer free companion tickets, but it does offer steep discounts on companion tickets. Once after you open the card, you can get 50% off the price of a companion ticket on a round-trip coach flight between Hawaii and the continental US. The second perk is an annual one: $100 off a coach ticket – round-trip between Hawaii and the continental US – each year.
Remember, when you’re checking out these credit cards for the free companion ticket: check out the added fees and restrictions. Not all these offers are created equal, and some airlines have higher fees than others. So check out up front exactly what you’ll have to pay for with your companion ticket before you decide which card to choose.