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What are American Express companion tickets and how do they work?

Companion tickets are among the most desirable perks for travel rewards cardholders. But what exactly is a companion ticket, and how can you receive this amazing benefit through American Express? The short answer is that companion tickets are flight vouchers that are free, or almost free, for cardholders purchasing a ticket and wishing to fly with a travel partner. And you can access this benefit if you hold one of several elite American Express travel rewards cards.

For a look at some of the other benefits you can get with great travel rewards cards, check out our list of the best credit cards for international travel. Otherwise, read on to see how your American Express card membership can qualify you for this free ticket to ride.

What is a companion ticket?

A companion ticket–sometimes also referred to as a companion certificate, companion pass, companion fare, or companion voucher–is a complimentary flight for your travel partner, that you can redeem when booking your own flight. This is often awarded for membership loyalty or for reaching a specific threshold of flights booked or dollars spent using your travel rewards card.

As an educational resource from American Express explains, “Some airline credit cards reward members with a companion pass for spending a minimum amount on eligible purchases. For example, you might earn a companion pass after an annual spend of $30,000, redeemable for any class of service.”

In most cases, this companion ticket will be free with the purchase of a single ticket, excluding applicable taxes and fees. According to American Express, these fees may not exceed $80 total, not counting luggage and other flight services or restrictions. In short, when you do qualify for a companion ticket, the benefit is a nearly free flight. 

So how exactly can you qualify for a companion ticket?

How to get a companion ticket through American Express

There are two travel rewards cards available through American Express that offer companion tickets. Both offer this ticket as a reward for annual card account renewal.

If you are interested in this perk, you may wish to consider the following options:

The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

You can earn up to 40,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases using your new card in the first 6 months. You’ll get a $0 introductory fee for the first year and a $99 annual fee after that.

Learn more.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

You can earn up to 50,000 Bonus Miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases using your new card in the first 6 months. You’ll pay a $250 annual fee.

Learn more.

In addition to these perks, both cards entitle you to a single companion ticket for every year that you renew your card. In other words, you can think of that free flight as a bonus for paying your annual fee. At a rate of $99 to $250 per year, that’s generally not a bad deal.

Limitations May Apply

So that’s the good news. But it’s important to read the fine print here. When you do, you’ll see that “all fare rules, restrictions, advance purchase requirements, and availability are per rule of primary ticket fare purchased. Seats are only available in L,U,T,X,V classes of service and may not be available on all flights or markets.”

So what does all that mean?

According to a breakdown from, there are a number of conditions you must adhere to if you wish to redeem that companion ticket with an American Express travel card. Among them, you must:

  • Book your ticket in the business class, premium economy, or the first class cabin. This means that you will be purchasing a costlier ticket in order to access this benefit;
  • Book your flight directly through the American Express Travel Service. You will not be able to access this benefit when using a travel agent, booking service, or online price comparison tool, which means you might be foregoing the affordability and flexibility that come with these options.
  • Book your flight only with one of the participating airlines. As the article from explains, redeeming your annual AmEx companion tickets requires you to “book with one of the ‘over 20 participating airlines,’ which means you might not get to fly on your preferred carrier. Both American Airlines and United Airlines are missing from that list, so if you were hoping to net some Advantage miles on your long flight, you might be sorely disappointed.”

One other common limitation that the article warns about is a restriction which requires that all purchased tickets qualifying for a companion ticket must be refundable tickets. This class of ticket, notes the article, is uniquely expensive among flight options. This means that, in order to take advantage of your “complimentary” companion ticket, you will be required to spend yet more to get that initial ticket.

When you add these restrictions together, you will be purchasing a far more expensive single fare ticket than you might perhaps have done otherwise. These costs could cut significantly into what you might have saved by redeeming that “complimentary” ticket.

The combination of these restrictions simply suggests that you’ll need to evaluate the companion ticket offer carefully before deciding whether or not this perk justifies the cost of a specific travel rewards card.

Is the companion ticket with American Express actually worth it?

The companion ticket can be well worth it if your travel plans happen to fall within the parameters set forth above. If you already planned to travel in the first class cabin for instance, and you already intended to purchase a refundable ticket on Delta airlines, then the companion ticket benefit will be well worth it for you.

With all of that said, the companion ticket is just one of numerous rewards and benefits that come with the The Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card or the The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card. You’ll also enjoy perks like 15% off when booking Award Travel on Delta using your travel miles, free bag checking, TSA precheck entry, and more. 

In other words, when you calculate the value of the companion ticket that comes with your annual card membership renewal, you’ll want to take these other benefits into consideration as well.

You may find that, taken together, these benefits are well worth it, even if you must adhere to a wide range of specific conditions in order to take advantage of your companion ticket benefit.

Learn more, and see how you can redeem your American Express companion ticket by visiting the website for Delta airlines.


Curious about some of the other cool travel perks out there? Check out our article on the best Chase Card for travel to learn more.