I’m updating this post to note that as of September 1, 2019, you need to use your Alaska Credit Card when paying for the ticket you book with a companion fare. More details below.
There are various airline credit cards that offer some sort of a companion ticket for spending a certain amount.
To me the single most valuable companion ticket is the one offered by Alaska Airlines, so in this post I wanted to look at that in more detail, as it’s something that’s offered with both the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Credit Card and Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card.
You can potentially get both of these cards (for example, I have both), and earn multiple certificates per year.
How to earn an Alaska companion fare
There are two credit cards that offer Alaska companion fares.
Both the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Credit Card and Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card offer a $121 companion fare annually. You receive a companion ticket as part of the welcome bonus, and also on your account anniversary every year.
This is the reason I hold onto both cards, as there’s no spend requirement to earn the companion fare on your account anniversary. It just automatically posts.
The basics of the Alaska companion fare
The companion fare will automatically be deposited into your Mileage Plan account shortly after you complete the minimum spend on the card, and otherwise shortly after your account anniversary in subsequent years. The terms state that it could take up to two billing cycles, but in my experience it’s much faster than that.
When it comes to redeeming the Alaska companion fare:
- The companion fare is only valid for tickets booked in economy, though all economy fare classes are included; you can travel throughout Alaska’s route network, including on international flights
- Tickets booked with the Alaska companion fare are upgradeable, both for the primary passenger and companion (this includes using complimentary elite upgrades, Gold Guest upgrades, instant upgrade fares, etc.)
- Both passengers booked with the Alaska companion fare earn miles for their tickets
- The companion fare is valid for a year from when it’s issued, though that’s only the book-by date, while you can travel on a subsequent date
- You’re allowed to use your companion fare code for two other people, but if you do, you need to use a credit card in your name to pay for the ticket
- Both passengers need to be booked in the same itinerary, travel on the same flights, and be ticketed at the same time
- The companion fare is valid for roundtrip, one-way, and multi-city travel
- The Alaska companion fare isn’t valid for award travel, or for travel that includes segments on any airlines other than Alaska or their regional subsidiaries
- As of September 1, 2019, you’ll need to pay with your Alaska Credit Card to use your companion ticket, though fortunately the card offers triple miles on Alaska purchases, so it’s not a bad card to use anyway
How to book a ticket with the Alaska companion fare
The process of booking a ticket with the Alaska companion fare is really easy. Just log into your Mileage Plan account, and then on the left side scroll down to the area that says “Discount and companion fare codes,” and click “Valid.”
There you’ll see a section that should list all of your valid codes along with their expiration dates, so if you see one there, just click the “SHOP” button.
That will bring you to the booking page, where there will be an automatically generated code placed in the “Discount or companion fare code” box.
Like I said above, you can use this for a one-way ticket, like from Tampa to Seattle…
Or you can use it for a roundtrip ticket, like from Los Angeles to Liberia, Costa Rica, which is Alaska’s furthest international destination.
You can even use this to book a multi-city trip, like flying from Boston to Maui via San Diego, with a stopover there.
How to upgrade Alaska companion fare ticket
The Alaska companion fare is limited to economy tickets, though the good news is that these tickets are upgradeable to first class. There are a few ways to go about this:
- Alaska MVP, MVP Gold, and MVP Gold 75K members are eligible for complimentary space available upgrades for themselves and a companion, and those upgrades start clearing at 48, 72, and 120 hours, respectively; note that Saver fares, booked in the “X” fare class, are excluded
- MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K members receive four Gold Guest Upgrades per year, each of which can be used to confirm a one-way upgrade at the time of booking, subject to upgrade availability; note that tickets booked in G, T, R, or X, fare classes aren’t eligible
- Elite members receive complimentary upgrades at the time of booking when booking certain fare classes and when there is confirmable upgrade availability; MVP members get complimentary upgrades on Y, S, and Z fares, MVP Gold members get complimentary upgrades on Y, S, B, M, and Z fares, and MVP Gold 75K members get complimentary upgrades on Y, S, B, M, H, and Z fares
- All Mileage Plan members can upgrade on a space available basis for 15,000 miles one-way, though need to book a ticket in the Y, S, B, M, or H, fare classes
The new credit card restriction (as of September 1, 2019)
As noted above, one thing changing about the companion fare is that as of September 1, 2019, you’ll have to pay for your ticket with the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Credit Card or Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card. Previously you could use any credit card when booking a ticket using this.
The good news is that the Alaska cards offer 3x miles per dollar spent on Alaska Airlines purchases, so that’s a respectable return. So what are the downsides to this policy?
- You can’t use a card that might have good travel insurance
- You can’t use a card that offers up to 5x points on airfare purchases
- You can’t use the companion certificate after you cancel your card
Personally I don’t view this as a huge deal. I keep the cards long term since I value these on an ongoing basis. I’m basically forgoing 2x points per dollar spent, though on a per point basis I value Alaska miles more than ThankYou points, so to me it’s not that bad.
A lot of airline credit cards offer companion tickets that come with all kinds of restrictions that make them virtually useless. That’s why I find Alaska’s companion tickets to be the most valuable out there, given that the companion is basically treated like any other paying passenger.
This is also a reason that I find Alaska credit cards to be worth holding onto long term, and why I’m excited to have recently picked up the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Credit Card, in addition to the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card I’ve had for a few years.
What has your experience been with Alaska’s companion tickets?