Which credit cards offer an airline companion pass?

Adam Frankel
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Adam Frankel
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Although credit card perks like airport lounge access and free hotel nights get most of the attention, a credit card with an airline companion pass perk can be even more valuable. There’s a wide variety of types offered, ranging from a fully free ticket (except for taxes and fees) to steep discounts and each airline and credit card has their own rules on how to acquire this coveted benefit. Here’s what you need to know.

What is an airline companion pass?

An airline companion pass, sometimes referred to as a companion fare, allows you to bring someone with you either for free or at a discount, although in both cases you’ll still have to pay taxes and fees on the companion ticket. This perk is generally only offered by some of the best airline credit cards and different rules apply to each one when it comes to how much of your companion’s airfare is covered and how to obtain the benefit.  

How does an airline companion pass work?

Each co-branded airline credit card has its own rules when it comes to earning and using a companion pass discount. But the process is typically the same:

  1. Meet the qualifications to earn the companion pass. To earn a pass, you’ll have to meet certain requirements. This could be a spending requirement, taking a number of flights taken within a specific period of time, or it could be an annual perk of holding a card and granted each year on your card anniversary at renewal.
  2. Book your ticket and your companion’s ticket. A companion pass can’t be used for a solo traveler. You’ll usually have to book both tickets at or around the same time, which means there will have to be two available seats on the flight you’re looking to take.
  3. Pay the remaining balance. At a minimum you’ll have to pay taxes and fees on the companion ticket, along with the cost of the first ticket. Some companion passes may be for a discount, like 50% off, rather than complimentary, so you’ll have to pay any fare difference when you make the booking.

Which credit cards offer this perk?

If you’re looking for a credit card that comes with an airline companion pass perk, there’s a long list of cards to choose from, each with their own requirements to earn and redeem the benefit. Here’s a list of each companion fare benefit, which cards offer it and how to get it.

Southwest Companion Pass

Southwest Airlines’ Companion Pass is the most generous companion fare and one of the best-known. This benefit allows you to bring a companion an unlimited number of times with you free of airline charges, except taxes and fees. You can change your designated flying partner up to three times each calendar year.

How to earn it

To earn a Companion Pass, you’ll either have to fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 135,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year. If you meet this criteria, you’ll earn a Companion Pass for the following full calendar year, plus the remainder of the year in which you earned it. 

Qualifying points include those earned from welcome bonuses on any of the Southwest credit cards as well as spending on the cards, including spending with Southwest’s retail, auto rental, dining partners, and home and lifestyle partners. Points bought from Southwest or transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards or Marriott Bonvoy to your Southwest Rapid Rewards account do not count toward earning a pass.

Which credit cards offer it?

Insider’s tip

You can only own one consumer Southwest credit card at a time, but it’s possible to hold both a consumer Southwest card and a small business Southwest card. Those who can qualify to own both cards might be able to earn a Companion Pass just by earning the welcome bonuses on each card. Just be aware that it’s a lot of spending and if you already own several Chase credit cards, you may not be approved due to the issuer’s 5/24 rule.

Delta Air Lines Companion Pass

Eligible cardholders of several premium Delta SkyMiles credit cards receive a companion certificate each year on their card anniversary for someone to fly with them on an eligible round-trip domestic, Caribbean or Central American flight at no additional cost except taxes and fees, which are capped at $80 for round-trip domestic flights and $250 for round-trip international flights.

How to earn it

Owning an eligible card and paying the annual fee to renew the card each year will activate this perk. Delta SkyMiles® Reserve or Reserve Business American Express card members receive a companion certificate for a First Class, Delta Comfort+® or Main Cabin domestic, Caribbean or Central American round-trip flight each year after card renewal. Delta SkyMiles® Platinum or Platinum Business American Express card members receive a companion certificate for a Main Cabin domestic, Caribbean or Central American round-trip flight each year after card renewal. American Express is a CardRatings advertiser. Enrollment may be required and terms may apply for select benefits.

Which credit cards offer it?

Insider’s tip

Although you can’t use SkyMiles to book the first traveler’s fare and then apply the companion certificate for the second, you can use any Delta eCredits you may have in your account.

Alaska Airlines Famous Companion Fare

The Alaska Airlines Famous Companion Fare is a discount offered to Alaska Airlines credit card holders each year. The benefit allows you to bring a companion once annually round-trip in coach when you buy a coach ticket for $122 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $23) on Alaska flights booked at alaskaair.com. 

How to earn it

An annual spend requirement of $6,000 on an Alaska Airlines card is required in order to earn the Famous Companion Fare each year. Currently, both cards also offer a welcome bonus of miles plus a companion fare offer after spending $3,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening an account. Once earned, the fare discount code will be deposited in your Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan account and you can redeem it when you book flights for you and your travel companion.

Which credit cards offer it?

Insider’s tip

You can only use the Famous Companion Fare discount on paid flights. You can’t book an award flight and use the companion fare discount code for the second flyer.

American Airlines Companion Certificate

American Airlines has more than a dozen credit cards, but only four of them offer a companion certificate and all have steep spending requirements to earn it. The certificates cost $99 plus taxes and fees and are only good for economy travel in the contiguous United States, although residents of Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico may use it if their travel originates and ends in their home state.

How to earn it

The card_name requires $30,000 in annual spending to earn the certificate. The other three cards require at least $20,000 in spending on the card by the annual renewal date. In addition, all of the cards require you to keep the card open at least 45 days after your card’s renewal date to receive the certificate.

Which credit cards offer it?

  • AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
  • AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard® (not open to new applicants)
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  • AAdvantage® Aviator® World Elite Business Mastercard® (not open to new applicants)

Insider’s tip

The certificates have to be used within a year of their expiration date. This date might be different from your card anniversary date so make sure to pay close attention to your account to see both when the certificate has been deposited and what the expiration date is.

British Airways Travel Together Ticket

British Airways offers a unique twist with their companion fare. First, it’s only good for flights booked with Avios, the airline’s reward currency. And, you can either take someone with you on your eligible flight for just the cost of taxes and fees, or if you’re traveling solo, get a 50% reduction on the Avios required to book the flight.

How to earn it

Spend at least $30,000 from January 1 through December 31. Additionally, you can only add the Travel Together certificate to a booking made entirely with Avios. 

Which credit cards offer it?

Insider’s tip

In addition to British Airways flights, you can redeem your Travel Together ticket on Iberia and Aer Lingus flights. British Airways tends to have some of the highest carrier surcharges of any airline and those fees could add up to as much as the cost of purchasing a ticket outright, so it’s worth comparing the fares and total charges before booking.

Hawaiian Airlines Companion Discount

The generous 50% off discount certificate with Hawaiian Airlines is just a one-time thing when you open a co-branded credit card with the airline. However, flights from the East Coast to Hawaii typically cost well over $1,000 so this can be an extremely valuable perk for someone looking for a once-in-a-lifetime trip. The card also offers a $100 companion fare discount every year after the first card anniversary.

How to earn it

When you open an eligible Hawaiian Airlines credit card, you’ll receive a one-time 50% discount toward one published full coach roundtrip fare for a companion. The one-time 50% companion discount offer is good for 13 months from the time the account is opened.

Which credit cards offer it?

  • Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®
  • HawaiianAirlines® World Elite Business Mastercard®

Insider’s tip

Hawaiian Airlines’ partnership with JetBlue means there are plenty of ways to get to Hawaii and use that discount certificate. You can also choose to earn Hawaiian miles on your eligible JetBlue flight or TrueBlue miles on your eligible Hawaiian Airlines flights.

Miles & More Mastercard Companion Ticket

For those who fly Lufthansa at least once a year with a companion, the Miles & More Mastercard Companion Ticket makes getting the co-branded card a no-brainer. You’ll get a companion ticket every year that covers the entire economy fare, although you’ll still have to pay taxes and fees. 

How to earn it

Starting with the very first use of your Miles & More credit card and every year on your account anniversary you’ll get an economy pass companion ticket to fly the airline with the purchase of an eligible paid economy class fare.

Which credit cards offer it?

  • Miles & More® World Elite Mastercard®

Insider’s tip

Lufthansa is part of the Star Alliance network, which means if you’re looking to earn as many Lufthansa miles as possible, you can choose to earn Lufthansa miles on paid flights on any airline in the network, which in North America includes United and Air Canada. Just be aware that in order to use a Miles & More companion ticket it has to be paired with a paid Lufthansa ticket, you cannot use it on an award flight or a flight booked with a partner airline.

author
Adam Frankel
Cardratings Contributor

Adam B. Frankel is a freelance personal finance writer and portfolio manager. He and his wife began collecting credit card points and miles when they became parents and have leveraged their knowledge to explore the world with their family. When he's not managing money in the stock market, he teaches financial topics and other core concepts at local schools from elementary through high school.

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