American Express Platinum Domestic Companion Ticket Test

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Update : Amex is currently updating their offer on Platinum Card. The present features may not be updated and we will update them as soon as the new information becomes available.

I will be going to Atlanta at the end of May over the weekend with my friend Jim for a seminar. It also occurred to me that my American Express Platinum Card has a domestic airline companion ticket program that allowed me to get one free ticket. So I decided to see this works. This is my little story two days ago on how I saved money on two airline tickets :

I checked for flight availability from Philadelphia to Atlanta and it turns out that US Airways was the best choice. I then keyed in my preferred itinerary into US Airways’ website and the total cost came up to $292, with taxes, it was about $312.18 (if I recall correctly).

So I called American Express Platinum’s 1-800 number. I selected travel and then chose the Domestic Companion flight menu and was taken to a travel agent. The company that runs this program for Amex is API (can’t remember what it stands for).

I was told that the minimum cost of an airline ticket (without the taxes) is $299. Hence for the flight that I wanted, I still had to pay $299 even though it was quoted at $292. But there were other taxes and fees as well. Here is the breakdown :

$41.18 – tax per ticket (multiplied by two since I was getting a companion ticket)
$15.00 – ticketing cost per ticket (ditto)
$411.36 – total cost

Being who I am and that fact that I wanted to blog about this experience, I asked the agent what the $41.18 tax consist of. This was the breakdown he read from his cheat sheet :

$20.38 – US Airways Tax – (huh! kinda like the ‘bogus tax’ that cell phone operators charge?)
$6.80 – airport tax
$5.00 – fuel tax
$9.00 – federal tax

If I had bought two seperate tickets, it would have cost $624.36. Hence, both Jim and myself saved $106.50 each. Had Mrs Credit Card been my companion, we would have saved $213.00. Given that the annual fee of the card is $395, I guess that a couple more free companion flights would cover the annual cost (By the way, you can use the companion ticket feature four times in one calendar year).

This was a very pleasant experience for me. I must say this feature is impressive because I can choose my own flights, unlike some other reward programs that only give you the flights if they have not sold out their ‘allocation’! I will using definitely be using this feature again later this year. It really looks like the $395 annual fee will be covered by my next trip with Mrs Credit Card.

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36 Responses to “American Express Platinum Domestic Companion Ticket Test”

  1. Ray Says:

    I have an AMEX Gold card, and thinking about the Platinum card. Annual fee is high though! Have you done an official review of the card yet? Sounds like great feedback so far on this domestic ticket program, do u know if they can do it w/ jet blue?

  2. Mr Credit Card Says:

    I will do an official review soon. I will doing a few more test for their concierge service etc. You will see one soon from someone who actually uses it. So far, I found the concierge service ok – but service could be much faster. But from this example, if you make use of the companion ticket just two times (depending on your savings and cost of tickets), you would have covered the annual fee easily.

    Re : JetBlue – Not too sure, but I will make the call and find out.

  3. Bob Says:

    Still trying to figure out if I should switch from the gold to Platinum. If the airfares offered by their service are the same price as I would pay through the airline, the companion ticket for free makes it worth the steep ($450 annual fee). Anxious to hear from others who have used the program.

  4. David Says:

    Used the Domestic Companion Ticket option for a recent short trip. This benefit TOTALLY makes it worth the insanely high membership fees. Here’s my experience:

    I called the folks Airline Promotions South when I was ready to book. I already knew what fares I could get from the airline directly. They actually asked me what airline I preferred for the market I was travelling, and didn’t flinch when I asked for specific flights — which they got me without trouble.

    My fare was less than $299, so they charged me $299 for the first ticket, plus all taxes and the booking fee for each ticket. My total came out to $403.24 after a $106.36 discount. (This wasn’t an amazing savings trip, but a good test since both people traveling are Plat card holders and have 7 more companion tix left between us this year.)

    The rep would only add my FF # and told me that the companion ticket couldn’t earn miles.. which I didn’t believe…. When I looked up the confirmation code on the airline, it showed both tickets purchased with the same fare basis. It showed the $509.60 paid to them by APS. All that matters to the airline for the credit to issue is the fare basis showing as a paid fare. I added the FF # for 2nd traveler online.

    The mileage credited. The airline also extended upgrades based on status to both travelers, etc. (which they wouldn’t do if it were a non-revenue seat for them).

    This is the only such program I’ve ever seen that works better than I would expect, at least based on my first experience with it.

  5. Al C Says:

    I am glad to see someone actually got to use this benefit, because I was not so lucky. I tried to use the Domestic Companion Ticket offer soon after they started promoting it, and the agency could not find anything available to fit my itinerary, even after I had gone directly to Delta’s and United’s website and found many available options. The rep assured me nothing was available. I assumed it was just an benefit that was too good to be true, and that there must be a hidden list of restrictions and blackout dates in order to use this benefit. I just cancelled my Platinum Card and went back to the Gold. Although this Companion benefit did sound like a great program, I didn’t want to pay $450 again to renew, just to find out next time I called for the Companion ticket, that nothing was available.
    I think this benefit would be greatly improved if AMEX would allow online booking using this discount. Then I’d feel I have more control of what flights I am searching for, instead of trusting the travel agent who tells me nothing is available.

    Also, on a recent trip to Europe (Greece and Turkey) I was surprised to find that a number of restaurants and stores would not accept my Amex Platinum card. One merchant finally admitted to me that they don’t like to accept Amex because it charges them higher fees than Visa/MC. I don’t know if the Platinum Card had any extra negative effect on them (or if it looked too unfamilar to them?). I never had this experience with my Gold Card or other Visa/MC during my travels. The final straw that convinced me was when I received a notice that the annual fee was going up to $450. Which for me was not worth any of the so-called benefits. When I called to cancel and downgrade back to Gold, the Amex representative offered to give me a $80 credit and 8000 rewards points if I stayed, seeing that I actually did charge a lot to my card. It was a nice effort, however even with the $80 discount, I still didn’t see much return from their high fees. Personally, I now think that having the Gold Amex with Rewards is a better deal. Yes you still have to pay a premium fee for a premium branded Gold card, but you get a lot of the same benefits you see in the Platinum card (at least the benefits that are actually useful). I would be curious to see more reviews of this card by Mr Credit Card after having used it for a few more months or a year, to see if he thinks its worth the hefty price.

  6. Ann Says:

    I recently used the free companion airfare program to book a flight from DC-Denver. I was able to find nonstop flights for $320 roundtrip on my own, but when I called the AmEx vendor to book, the best they could find was $370 WITH a stop each direction. The guy I talked to explained that they’re only able to access a subset of all flights — they can’t just look at everything that’s available; the airline controls how many seats can be sold at a “deep discount”. Not sure whether that’s true or not, but he did admit that not every flight had eligible seats and said that for popular weekends like labor day or christmas, you should book at least 6 months in advance because they might only have 2-4 seats on a given flight.

    Still, we saved about $200, so I can’t complain too much… but it’s definitely not as simple as they make it seem.

  7. Don Says:

    This program is hit and miss. First — Amex tells me you must book a week in advance. So, I called to book a flight from Newark NJ to SFO a week in advance. They tell me there are no “companion fares” avaliable. Ask to book out of Allentown, PA, LaGuardia, JFK or Philly. The same story — “no companion fares avaliable.” If you are a business traveller who can not book months in advance, you can draw your own conclusions.

  8. Jay Says:

    Comment: Mr. Credit Card said “P.S – this card is by invitation only and you have to first the American Express® Preferred Rewards Gold Card.”

    Discrepancy: The platinum card is not by invitation only & you do not need to be a preferred reqards gold cardmember to apply for one. You just have to have the credit score, income, and willingness to pay the $395 annual fee.

    See: https://www201.americanexpress.com/cards/Applyfservlet?csi=17/12987/b/10/2679733083/267180043713/0/n&mgmID=undefined

    The Centurion (Black) card is by invitation only and is not advertised. It now has a $5k initiation fee & a $2500 annual fee (up from $1000 even for the grandfathered accounts). Not to mention the fact that you have to spend $400k (up from $250k) on the platinum card to get it.

  9. misha Says:

    Do they not offer the Domestic Companion program anymore? I had been scoping it for a while and just went to check it out again only to find it missing from the Platinum card benefits and FAQ pages. Anyone know whats up?

  10. Nancy Says:

    Having tried to use frequent flier miles and free vouchers on numerous occasions without success, I was very skeptical of the Companion program. I am a professional woman whose husband recently retired (check out his blog – “The Trailing Spouse: http://www.tallahassee.com/special/blogs/everhart/). I thought this sounded like a very good program for us. Since getting the card in June, we have used it for three trips with absolutely no hassle. Each time the flights offered have been within the times I wanted with reasonable layovers. I’m going to try to book a multi-city ticket with a companion fare next week, so we’ll see how that goes. Another great benefit of the card is the ability to use the airport Club Rooms for Delta, Northwest, Continental and American Airlines for no extra charge. This has been a pleasant perk. I love it!

  11. Daniel Says:

    I have actually used their concierge service. They are very polite and try to be useful, but they failed to get me concert tickets in a pretty big venue in Brazil. The source of the problem was that I was unable to use my US card on the local box office site. After almost a week I managed to find someone down there who would by them for me, but the concierge service was unable to do such a simple thing, in spite of the fact that they have representation in that country and that the tickets are available for sale online. Kind of disappointing. I don’t know what they are really good for.

  12. Mike B Says:

    My experience is just the opposite. I have twice tried to use domestic companion tickets (with flexible dates) and both times was told their “allocation” was used up and their were no seats available. I started with preferrre dates, airline and flights but could not get any seat in a week on any airline.

  13. David Comora Says:

    Interesting to hear some people actually get tickets. I’ve tried a few times and dates were blacked out. Then I thought I got smart and found non-blocked out dates and tried to book 3 months in advance on a flight that I saw was pretty empty…about 75% empty…Called and after about 15 minutes of waiting was told there were not tickets available on the two flights I had selected (round trip). I asked about other flights on those dates and the agent fumbled a little and finally said, nothing was available on the dates that I wanted. I asked what dates were available and she was not able to tell me. I asked to speak her supervisor and was put on hold for another 5 minutes. Finally, she returned to tell me her supervisor was busy and would call me back. Hmmmm. So far, I’m not so impressed with this companion ticket thing.

  14. Angel Says:

    I’m trying to work out an issue and have lost the number to API…I would really appreciate if anyone would provide their toll free number. Thanks in advance

  15. Mike Says:

    I just received an email from amex that offers a free airline companion ticket (up to $599 value) and 2 issues of Travel & Leisure magazine for a $2.99 processing fee. Of course, if I don’t cancel the magazine, they will charge $$ for the subscription. Is this the same companion ticket being talked about on this page? Is the companion ticket a good deal or is it restricted so much that it’s not worth the hassle? I’m just leery about things that seem too good to be true.

  16. crh Says:

    I, too, have been having issues using this benefit. I was told by the rep on the phone that there were no blackout dates, no restrictions, etc. Of course, now that I’m trying to book my flights, there is nothing available, when I can see clearly online that there are seats. I will not be renewing the card. never did get the companion ticket for the magazine either.

  17. Heath Says:

    This companion ticket benefit is grosley misrepresented. They will NOT give a companion ticket for JetBlue (Jet Blue for search engines), you must book at least 14 (fourteen) days in advance ((Even though the website says 7)), they only have a limited availibility. I am extremely disapointed. So far the Platinum card has done absolutely nothing for me. I regret paying the fee for the last five years. I wonder why you cannot simply find it on their website? The Platinum card is bullshit. This is false advertising. Restrictions are not clearly identified.

    1. What is the Domestic Companion Airfare Program?

    With the Domestic Companion Airfare Program1, you can bring a companion with you on U.S. flights-anywhere in the U.S., on six major U.S. carriers. Purchase a domestic coach airfare for yourself from $299 with your Platinum Card® and your companion receives complimentary airfare. You can request up to four complimentary companion airfares per year. An exciting addition to your existing International Airline Program, the new Domestic Companion Airfare Program now makes it possible to travel throughout the U.S. together.

    Reservations for the Domestic Companion Airfare Program must be made by calling our partner, Airline Promotions South, Inc. (“API”) at 866-354-8386.

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    2. What do I need to do when I am ready to book travel to receive my complimentary airfare?

    Once you are ready to book travel, call 866-354-8386 to be connected with an API travel agent who can help you book your air travel. You will be asked to confirm your Card information, and then an API agent will assist you with your booking. You will need to book your travel with one of API’s agents by phone Monday – Friday 8:00am – 8:00pm ET or Saturday 9:00am-2:00pm ET.

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    3. What are the specific requirements in order to use this program?

    Airfares must meet the following requirements:

    - Roundtrip (multi-city, open jaw, and one-way trips do not apply)
    - Domestic travel within most major airports in the 48 states, as well as travel between the 48 continental United States and both Anchorage, AK and Honolulu, HI
    - Coach class
    - Booked at least seven (7) days in advance
    - Saturday night or a two-night midweek stay
    - $299 minimum fare if within the 48 United States, else $899 minimum fare for travel between most major airports in the 48 states and Honolulu or Anchorage. (Note: $699 minimum fare for fares between Honolulu and one of the following airports: LAX, LAS, PHX, SEA, SFO)

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    4. On what airlines can I book travel? Am I able to request a specific airline?

    Six of the major U.S. carriers are available through this program. You can request a specific airline; however your requested airline may not be available for complimentary travel and you may be required to fly on another carrier. API agents will work with you to find the best available option given your preference and airline availability.

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    5. If I purchase the tickets myself online or directly with the airlines, will American Express provide a refund or credit for my companion’s airfare?

    No. In order to receive your complimentary airfare, travel must be booked with one of API’s travel agents by phone Monday – Friday 8:00am ET – 8:00pm, Saturday 9:00am-2:00pm ET. We are unable to provide credits or refunds if you book your travel through another provider.

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    6. What happens if my plans have changed and I need to change my itinerary or booking after it has been ticketed? What if I need to cancel my reservation?

    If you have any changes, please call API within their operating hours for assistance with changing your itinerary. If you are calling outside of API’s hours of operation, you can call the airline for which your reservation has been booked directly. Note that change fees may apply and are the sole responsibility of the Card member.

    If you need to cancel your reservation, note that the tickets are non-refundable. However, you will be able to change your ticket for up to 365 days after the ticketing dates. To do so, please call API within their operating hours for assistance in changing your itinerary. Note that change fees may apply and are the sole responsibility of the Card member.

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    7. What are the blackout dates for this benefit?

    Blackout dates for 2008 are: 1/1-1/4, 2/15-2/18, 3/18-25, 5/23, 5/24, 5/26, 7/3-7/7, 8/29-8/30, 9/1, 11/25-11/30 and 12/18-12/31. Blackout dates may vary from year to year.

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    8. Am I responsible for ticketing fees, taxes and other passenger facility charges?

    Yes, the Card member is responsible for all taxes, passenger facility charges, and any other surcharges imposed by the airlines. Only the base fare is covered by this program.

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    9. Will my elite status still be honored by the airline (i.e., accelerated mileage, free upgrades, priority line, etc.)?

    While we are not able to confirm or book upgrades or ensure frequent flier mile accrual, in most cases, the airlines will honor upgrades and provide mileage accruals just as if you had booked through any other provider. For example, if you have elite status on an airline and have upgrades available in your account, the airline will likely honor your upgrades. However, we cannot guarantee upgrades and frequent flyer miles accruals on any bookings made with this program. Please contact the airline with any specific questions or concerns.

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    10. Can I book multiple fares at once, using this benefit? For example, can I utilize 2 of my 4 usages in one booking?

    The Platinum Card member must be one of the travelers. If one of your traveling companions has a Platinum Card, API can book four tickets and have one of the usages count against his or her annual usage allotment. Please have the additional Card member available to confirm usage against his/her allotment.

    If you would like to book two different itineraries for yourself on the same call, in which you are one of the travelers on both itineraries, you may certainly do so.

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    11. Do the four annual usages renew on the calendar year, or when I pay my annual fee?

    The four annual usages are based on the calendar year.

  18. John Wall Says:

    I’ve used the program once and saved a couple hundred dollars (the price was higher than the cheapest I could find, but I still saved money). The problem was it took over 30 minutes to get to an operator.

    I’m trying to book another now and I haven’t been able to get through at all. Their systems were down yesterday and now answer today….

  19. Karen Says:

    Does anyone know the six airlines that the Companion Tickets are eligible for? I’m assuming that it’s probably Delta, Continental, Northwest since those are part of the President’s club partnership. What are the others?

    Thanks.

  20. Dom Says:

    US, AA, DL, CO, NW, UA

  21. Ryan Says:

    They are experiencing ‘Technical Difficulties’… sigh…

  22. Bina Says:

    How many times can you use it with the gold american express?

    Also, do all platinum american express get 4 free companion tickets?

    And, is that right that you can use this for other airlines besides Delta?

    Also, is there another credit card that offers free International companion ticket?

    thank you for the info in advance

  23. Jeff Says:

    I had a code for $150.00 off the first years membership. Lost it. Ouch. Does anyone have it? Also, if the 4 r/t companion are for the calendar year, does that mean I must use them all by 12/31/2008 or does itr start all over again on January 1st, 2009, meaning I really can use it EIGHT times if I join today.

  24. bina Says:

    Anyone not using their companion ticket and want to give it away… let me konw.. we can work out something!

  25. Rich Says:

    I am a Business Centurion card holder. I called for a domestic ticket, EWR-RSW, and they found one for me and friend for $693. Since we are going on a golf trip, I didn’t want to put it on my Business card, so I asked the operator if we could put it on my friends Platinum card. She said no because Centurion members can get more seats than the Platinum ones can and that our reservation wouldn’t be available if we did it on a Platinum card. She said that there’s more “loss” for a Centurion than platinum (don’t know what that means). Anyone have any idea about this and potentially enlighten me further?

  26. Matt Says:

    American Express Platinum is doing away with the companion fare program as of November 15, 2008. My friend, also a card holder received a letter. I did not. It is posted on their website, but you have to dig for it. My wife and I got this card in July for $450, plus the $150 or $175 added card. We should have been allowed 8 companion fares. Funny how they can unilaterally take away the benefit of the bargain in this instance. This is a complete breach of contract and they deserve to be sued. What did we get for $600? – A ticket service no better than what you can do for yourself on ticketmaster, a flower ordering service – wow, gauranteed hotel upgrades that never work, and one companion fare of the eight we should have been gauranteed. If they wanted to phase out the program – fine, but to completely cut it when many people did not have the opportunity to use it for a full year is a complete breach of contract and borders on fraudulent activity.

  27. Greg Says:

    Matt, actually, it’s not a breach of contract. Our contracts with Amex says that they can change the benefits at will. By applying and keeping the card, we agreed to that risk. Sometimes our risks pay off, other times they don’t. As cardholders, we have a choice–to agree to that term or to use another card.

    I am not happy about it, especially since I just got my Platinum two months ago, primarily for that benefit. I plan to revert to the Gold Card in 10 months.

    After much research, I found the Merrill Lynch + card to be a better bargain based on my benefit usage. Because of how that program works, you should keep at least one premium card for the first year since the benefits kick in for the next year.

  28. Matt Says:

    Greg, I understand cardholder agreements and that the creditors always reserve the right to amend or change any terms of the agreement. For the ordinary credit card, I am OK with that (e.g. a change in interest rates, fee changes, etc.), but when a card advertises and represents that for a fee of $450 / year you will be allowed to use 4 companion tickets, then decides to pull the rug out from under you a few months later, I have a real problem with that. In my opinion, the companion fare program was a material term of the deal, if not the most material. Would your position be different if AmEx knew they were going to abandon the program when you signed up for your card? My hunch is that they did. Thanks for the Merrill Lynch suggestion, I’ll check it out.

  29. Henry Says:

    I just got off the phone with AMEX Platinum on the removal of the Domestic Companion Program. They said that only 20% of its cardmembers were actually using this program and that they were going to replace it with something that more people would use. I called their rep out on this as it was complete BS. It’s a nice story to tell but if this REALLY was the case then they should have had the replacement program ready to go. So when we received the letter cancelling the companion program we would have known that we were getting someting “better”. To be perfectly honest with you all, this companion program was my only justification for paying the card fee. When I called to cancel, they had the nerve to tell me that the card would pay for itself and used the following example: “if you were injured while travelling and had to be air lifted somewhere the card would pay for the cost”. I laughed and said that I was willing to take that chance…

  30. Al Says:

    So, question for others, as I am too about to call and cancel my Amex Platinum given cancellation of this perk that “few” of us (I sure did) use… For things I’ve already bought using the card and have the warranty doubled, etc., if I cancel and need to get the item repaired, will they cover it, or tell me I’m out of luck since I am no longer a cardholder?

    thanks…

  31. JB Says:

    I got two invitation letters from mail for the platinum card for 50,000 Membership Rewards Points (equivalent of $500?) after the 1st purchase. Since platinum cut it companion ticket program, is it worthy to join?

  32. Brian Gallagher Says:

    Just sent off for companion ticket in regard to receiving trial offer of travel and leisure. I would be interested in any other experiences people have had?

  33. Venky Says:

    Hi

    I was sold the upgrade to American Express Platinum and bought it mainly on Domestic Companion air ticket. When I tried to use it a few days back, I was told it was discontinued last November. I do not remember to have received any mail to that effect.

    I feel cheated as the agent who talked to me sold me mainly on the companion air tickets to pay off for the card fees.

    Does any one know of any class action law suit in this regard? If not, I would like invite all the affected members to take American Express to court on this.

    Your thoughts?

  34. MrDee Says:

    Hello all,
    has anyone on this site used the international companion ticket and how was the expreience.

  35. D Duke Says:

    Yes, my husband and I used it when I needed to travel to Asia on business. I love it and we got an $8k complimentary business class ticket to Tokyo on Japan Airlines. We have used it on a few occasions and the service was great and well worth the fee.

  36. Marcia Says:

    In reference to the Travel & Leisure offer for companion tickets. I tried it with no success. I was NEVER able to find any flights that were not “unavailable”.

    In the end, I tried major city to major city (Chicago to New York) everyday of the week for a month … just as a test … and nothing was ever available.

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