It is always fun to share a running event with a friend or family member. Even though my wife doesn’t run marathons, I really enjoy seeing her waiting at the finish line! 🙂 It always seems to help me kick it up a notch. I also enjoy running marathons with friends. The problem is the cost of tickets in price and miles. Is there a way you can travel with a companion for cheap? You bet!
Traveling with a companion for cheap
There are some different ways that you can get a companion ticket for cheap. While there are a couple of options for international tickets, I am not including them here due to the fact that they are not exactly cheap – from high taxes and surcharges to high required fares for the primary ticket. Here are three domestic options for you consideration:
Delta Airlines Companion Ticket
Thanks to the Delta/American Express relationship, two of the personal Delta Amex co-branded cards offer an annual companion ticket. It used to be all three cards offered it but they dropped the perk from their entry card, the Gold card, late last year. Let’s take a look at these two cards and what the companion ticket does.
First of all, I am not saying “free” ticket because you are responsible for the taxes and fees associated with the ticket (normally around $20) and you only get them annually (so you will have already paid two annual fees before you get your first ticket). Both of these cards have many features, especially sign-up bonuses, that make the first year’s fee worth it, so it is better to think of the second year’s fee as being the one for the companion ticket.
Platinum Delta Skymiles Card from American Express
This card offers 15,000 Skymiles and 5,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) after your first purchase with the card. The $150 annual fee will be on your first billing statement (it is not waived for the first year). This card has threshold spending bonuses – for spending $25,000 in a calendar year, you will received a miles boost of 10,000 MQMs and 10,000 Skymiles and you will receive the same amount again if you spend another $25,000 in the same calendar year. Along with these mile boost benefits, you will also receive access to Delta’s Pay-with-Miles feature (where you can use miles to pay down the cost of a ticket at a rate of 1 cent per mile), access to the Skymiles Marketplace (where you can get some of the best rental car deals), the free piece of baggage for up to 9 people in your reservation, and the priority boarding. These are all great benefits in and of themselves!
Then you have what I believe is one of the best perks of the Platinum Delta Amex card – the companion ticket. There are some restrictions as to how you can use this companion ticket. They are:
- Eligible on Delta, Delta Connection carrier and Delta Shuttle flights only
- Companion certificate is valid for one round-trip Economy Class companion ticket with the purchase of certain adult round-trip fares on published routings within the 48 contiguous United States.
- Redemption is available only on delta.com.
- Both passengers must be booked at the same time, in the same class of service and in the same record.
- Seats are only available in L, U, T, classes of service and may not be available on all flights or markets.
- Stopovers, open jaws, and circle trips are not permitted.
- Primary ticket will accrue miles. Companion ticket will not accrue miles.
While that seems like a lot of restrictions, it is not that bad! I have successfully used many of these tickets over the years and I save a lot of money each and every time. They work best for tickets purchased more than 21 days out from the trip. You can save hundreds of dollars with this certificate.
Platinum Delta Skymiles American Express – Application Link
Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express
This is the higher fee version of the Platinum Delta card. Instead of $150 a year, the fee is $450 a year. This card offers all of the benefits of the Platinum card as well as offering the additional perks:
- 10,000 MQMs after first purchase (instead of the 5,000 MQMs above)
- Threshold bonuses of 15,000 MQMs and 15,000 Skymiles after spending $30,000 in a calendar year and the amount when you hit $60,000 in the same year
- Delta Skyclub access for free
If you are a frequent Delta flyer, getting this card could make more sense than the Platinum Delta card. In addition to those perks, it also comes with a companion ticket that works with domestic first class. That’s right, you can get a free first class companion ticket annually if you hold this card. That right there can make the difference in fee worth it. The terms are the same as above.
Delta Reserve American Express Card – Application Link
Southwest Airlines Companion Pass
This is one of the best deals in the travel industry. If you earn 110,000 Rapid Reward points in one calendar year, you will earn the Companion Pass which allows you to designate a companion (and change it up to three times) to fly with you for free on either award tickets or revenue tickets! And this lasts for all the year that it was earned and the next year!
Technically, the bonus points earned from the Southwest credit cards do not count towards the 110,000 points required for the Companion Pass, but they do! This means that if you sign-up for 2 of the Southwest credit cards (while they are at the 50,000 point bonus for the next few days), you will have 100,000 points toward that companion pass. Since you have to spend $2,000 on each card to get that bonus, you will have 4,000 more points towards the pass (credit card spending does count towards your pass). Even better, you do not need to trade those points for the Companion Pass. The 110,000 points count as a type of tier to attain in order to receive the pass. So, after applying for two cards and meeting the spending requirements, you will be sitting at 104,000 points – a mere $6,000 of credit card spending away for the Companion Pass!
Benefits of the Southwest Companion Pass are:
- You can add the companion for free (plus the around $10 fee) at any point before departure (does not have to be done at the time of the original purchase)
- As long as their is one seat left, the companion can get it
- No limit to how many times it can be used
- Up to 4 different companions can use it
Southwest Airlines Personal Premier Card – 50,000 Points after $2,000 Spend in 3 months –application link (I do not receive a commission)
Southwest Airlines Personal Plus Card – 50,000 Points after $2,000 Spend in 3 months – application link (I do not receive a commission)
US Airways Companion Tickets
If you hold the US Airways credit card, you will receive two companion tickets annually. These tickets must be used on the same reservation but they allow two people to travel with you for $99 each (plus taxes). This is great if you have two running buddies that would like to accompany you on a marathon trip. The bad part about these tickets is that you have to phone it in to ticket it and then submit the actual certificate that they sent you on your renewal anniversary. The primary ticket has to have a base cost of $250 or more – in other words, after taxes, the primary ticket will cost at least $280. After that, the two companions can fly for about $127 each. This is more than the Delta companion tickets, but you do get two companions plus, everyone earns miles (unlike with Delta – only the primary traveler receives miles for the trip). This is a good perk if you have a circumstance where it would work out well. Otherwise, I would go with the Delta certificate or the Southwest Companion Pass.
US Airways Premier World Mastercard – Application Link (I do receive a commission if you use this link)
As you can see, it is pretty easy to pick up a companion ticket for cheap each year. It could make a nice tradition that you and a fellow running friend make of picking a different race each year and splitting the cost of the primary ticket so you can go for cheaper. For example, from NYC to Los Angeles/San Francisco, the tickets are around $350 normally. With the companion ticket, the cost for two tickets lands at around $400 (for the Delta companion ticket with the Platinum Amex Delta card). If both of you split it, you are both getting to the West Coast for only $200 – now that’s a deal!
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