|by Jason Steele|
Every now and then you will see a “free companion ticket” offer by a credit card company. Skeptical consumers will likely find these offers too good to be true. Let’s examine three of the most popular “free companion ticket” offers to see if they hold any real value.
American Express Platinum
The Amex Platinum has lots of great features, yet it carries a hefty $450 a year annual fee. Many people try to justify this fee by thinking of the savings they could realize by taking advantage of the international business class companion ticket that is included with your card. Most are in for disappointment when they find out that the companion ticket is only good for “qualifying fares”. These fares are typically fully refundable tickets that are often double or triple the price of standard discounted business class airfare.
Are these certificates entirely useless? Not necessarily. If you are lucky enough to work for a company that will reimburse you for your business class airfare, then this would be a great way to bring along a companion with you. Not only does your company have to pay for your ticket to make this work, but they have to be willing to pay for a refundable fare. If you are asked to fly at the last minute, refundable tickets might be the only ones available. For the rest of us, there is simply no point in paying double for a ticket so that you can get one more for free.
Magazine Subscriptions That Come With “Free Companion Tickets”
As a benefit to my readers, I subscribed to Travel + Leisure magazine in order to receive the “free companion ticket”. There were a million restrictions, but what the offer boiled down to was that you called their travel agent, and they quoted you airfares that were almost exactly double what the airline’s websites offered for the exact same same flight. At least with the Amex offer, you ended up with two refundable airline tickets that you can change without penalty. With this offer, you simply had to pay double for your “free companion ticket”, making the certificate not worth the paper it was written on, if you ask me.
Amex Delta Gold, Platinum, and Reserve Cards
American Express and Delta have been offering domestic companion certificates with most of their credit cards for some time. With the Gold Delta card, there is a $99 charge, but the companion certificate is free withe Platinum and Reserve cards. For the Reserve Card, the certificate is good for travel in domestic First Class. I know several people with various Delta cards that report some success with these certificates. There are no fare class restrictions that force you to tickets that cost twice as much as what you can otherwise find. Some of the biggest drawbacks include the fact that the companion is not eligible for mileage or complimentary upgrades, a problem for travelers with Medallion status. Another quirk is that if the traveler who purchases the ticket cannot make the flight, the companion ticket is invalid. Overall, this is a fairly valuable certificate, especially when used with last minute travel, or travel to expensive domestic destinations.
When something appears too good to be true, it probably is. That said, there are some great deals out there for companion certificates. The burden is on you for looking up the terms and conditions in writing before committing to a credit card offer and it’s annual fee.