Is The Delta Amex Companion Certificate Worth It?

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Through September 19, 2018, there are increased welcome bonuses on some of the popular Delta Amex co-branded credit cards. These include the following:

I know many people are trying to decide whether the Gold or Platinum version of the card is better for them, and I explained part of my thought process in deciding between these cards in this post.

Benefits of the Platinum Card over the Gold Card

Long term there are some benefits to the Platinum Card over the Gold Card, including that the card lets you earn Medallion Qualifying Miles towards status.

However, one of the other best perks of both the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express and Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Card from American Express is that they offer a free domestic main cabin companion certificate upon your account renewal every year. There are some terms associated with this, though this can easily get you outsized value compared to the $195 annual fee.

When do you get the Delta companion certificate?

You’ll receive the Delta companion certificate on the month of your cardmember anniversary, and it will be valid for 12 months when it’s issued. Note that you don’t receive this when you first apply for the card, but rather only starting with your first anniversary (and on every subsequent anniversary).

What are the restrictions on the Delta companion certificate?

Here are the basic restrictions to be aware of when redeeming a Delta companion certificate issued through the Platinum version of the card:

  • It’s valid for roundtrip travel within the 48 contiguous United States
  • Residents of Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, or the USVI with SkyMiles accounts registered in those regions can use the certificate for travel from their home territory to the 48 contiguous United States
  • You have to pay the government taxes for the second traveler on the reservation
  • Companion certificates are only valid for travel in the L, U, T, X, and V fare classes
  • You can’t combine a companion certificate with eCoupons
  • Travel has to be completed by the expiration date of the certificate
  • You have to pay for the ticket using a Delta Amex card
  • In the event you need to change your ticket, you’ll pay a $200 per person change fee

Can you earn miles for and upgrade Delta companion tickets?

When redeeming the Delta companion certificate, only the primary traveler earns miles, while the person traveling on the companion certificate doesn’t. So this is great for someone who is an elite member, who travels with a family member who is a less frequent traveler.

Passengers traveling on Delta companion certificates are eligible for complimentary upgrades to both first class and Comfort+ based on the status of the higher tiered member. However, these tickets are not eligible for mileage upgrades, Global upgrades, or Regional upgrades.


You can receive a complimentary first class upgrade when redeeming a companion certificate

How useful is the Delta companion certificate really?

This certificate has the potential to be quite valuable. The biggest restriction here is on fare classes — the companion certificate is only valid on L, U, T, X, and V fare classes. This covers most of Delta’s cheaper economy fare classes, and excludes most of Delta’s more expensive fare classes.

Given how expensive domestic airfare often is nowadays, essentially paying $195 plus tax to take a companion along is a great deal.

Let’s look at an example. Let’s say I wanted to fly from New York to Seattle roundtrip around Thanksgiving, for travel November 21 through November 27, 2018. The fare that’s readily available is also one that’s eligible for a companion certificate.

The ticket for one passenger would cost $425.40, and then you could add a second passenger for just $28.40 in taxes and fees. That’s a heck of a deal.

That’s just one example, but there are lots of example where this works out. Nowadays a vast majority of non-basic economy fares are $195+, so you’d come out ahead using this certificate.

Bottom line

There are some restrictions to be aware of with the companion certificate offered by the Platinum Delta Personal Amex and Platinum Delta Business Amex. For example, only select economy fares are eligible, and the companion doesn’t earn miles.

Even so, basically getting a companion to fly with you for ~$230 (when you factor in the $195 annual fee on the card plus standard $28.40 in taxes) is a heck of a deal for anyone who flies Delta with any regularity.

This can be especially useful if you’re a Delta elite member, since you can earn miles and get upgrades on these tickets. Your companion would also be eligible for upgrades, but just wouldn’t earn miles.

If you’ve used a Delta companion certificate, what was your experience like?

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Comments

  1. I have the reserve and have always had a pretty easy time using the certificate. In the past I’ve used it for LAX-DCA. Before they launched the non-stop we used to fly through JFK to hop on Delta One. Cost was usually between $800 – $1100 pp, which isn’t bad. We would have paid for two individual tickets anyway, so…

  2. Lucky, great article! Since you seem to be the foremost AA expert among major bloggers, could you PLEASE write a similar one covering the two types of AA companion certs (Citi AAdvantage Business and Barclaycard Silver Aviator)? I’m interested in these, and would like to know how valuable they actually are in practice. And specifically, even if you don’t write the separate article, could you at least answer this question for me? Do you know if the AA companion certs can be upgraded with miles on domestic AA routes. For example, if I book a round trip AA ticket from JFK to LAX in regular economy (not basic of course), can I pay the $75 fee plus 15,000 miles to upgrade each leg to first class? With Alaska you can, with Delta you can’t… I’ve always wondered about AA. Thanks so much!

  3. Fun fact – the certificate posts in the month your annual fee comes due, not upon paying the fee. So you can use it and then cancel the card, if you so desire

  4. There’s really not much difficulty in using the cert, DL’s online interface searches inventory very well. The cert should cover the annual fee cost of the card.

  5. I am have used the companion pass twice as of this coming weekend for trips to Austin & Savannah, and have had great experience redeeming it thus far. My 3rd pass will come to me next month in fact.

    If there is any down side to using it, the fare class restrictions can be an issue as at times your flight options may be limited (like 1 early 6AM return on a Sunday) but if you check back often I have found more options usually open up. The first bag free with the card is also a nice perk if needed.

  6. One additional note – The terms on the Delta site also indicate that your airfare / companion pass redemption purchase must also be made with your given Delta Amex card.

  7. I tried to use the companion certificate this year to no avail. It’s too restrictive: no open jaws or stopovers allowed. It can only be used to travel from A to B, and then back to A. That’s it. I wanted to fly from DC to LA, drive North Rt. US1 to San Francisco, and from there fly back to DC. Not possible with the companion certificate.

  8. Honestly don’t understand why anyone would do this when they could use Alaska’s companion pass … $75 annual fee and no additional charge the first year for a member. How is Delta’s better? Ben, maybe do a post comparing the two. As far as I know, AS’s companion pass doesn’t have any fare class restrictions, either. Obviously, network matters. But otherwise?

  9. @Marco Thanks for the additional warnings on the restrictions, although personally I don’t consider that to be overly restrictive, it seems like a fair restriction. Most typical travelers could still find a use for the companion cert and save $400 to $500 on it using a normal transcon redemption.

  10. @ Sean — Well there’s no reason you can’t have both. 😉 Keep in mind that the AS companion certificate still charges you $119+ in addition to the $75 annual fee, so in the end you pay roughly the same. Otherwise the AS certificate is a bit better since you earn miles for the second passenger, can use it anywhere they fly, etc. The big difference is that DL has a larger network domestically, as you note.

  11. @Sean Exactly, why not have both? And while you’re at it, get the Alaska business card and have 3? Or get the 2 Alaska cards, 2 Delta cards, and 2 AA cards and have all 6…. and then use 2 player mode to get 12… cheap transcon travel is awesome!

  12. “Residents of Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, or the USVI with SkyMiles accounts registered in those regions can use the certificate for travel from their home territory to the 48 contiguous United States”
    !!!!!!
    I live in Hawaiʻi and since Southwest doesn’t fly here, I haven’t had a reason to get the Rapid Rewards credit card so this Delta Airlines credit card is more enticing to get.

  13. Having used both the Alaska companion certificate and the Delta one, my experience has been great with each of them. Saved a lot of money on a holiday weekend flight to Vegas with the Delta certificate. The one drawback for me is that the companion does not earn miles for the flights (unlike with the Alaska cert) — but it’s a small price to pay!

  14. @Lucky – thanks for the response. You mention the companion fee; it’s important to clarify that if someone gets the LTO (now whole year offer, really) that it’s an actual BOGO with the annual fee. $75 AF + tax (of the ticket) instead of usual 75$ fee and 99$+tax companion fare. So at least, the first year, it’s head over heels better?

  15. @Sean That is correct, the Alaska companion cert is head over heals better for the first year at least. Additionally, you can earn miles for the 2nd passenger as Lucky mentioned, you can use wallet funds to pay all tickets/fees (great for Flexperks and Merrill+ redemptions), and you can use miles to upgrade to first class if you choose, none of which you can do with Delta (I don’t think). However, even if you have both the personal and business Alaska cards, some people fly more than twice a year and would benefit from additional companion certs. I agree the AS companion cert is hands down the best, but a case can definitely be made for the delta companion certs.

    @Lucky did you see my question above regarding the AA companion certs? Those are also very intriguing to me as well, and I think a case can also be made for how valuable they are.

  16. Does the primary traveler have to be the cardholder? For example, could I book my wife and child if the card is in my name?

    Thanks

  17. @Marco
    With Delta competing with Alaska on the west coast, one way fares are incredibly cheap between any of the west coast cities.

  18. @michael c…….Yes you can, as I just did it for my wife and daughter to go to New York in December. That is another good aspect of their certificate.

  19. @Calvin, I live in Hawaii and have been using the DL companion certificate for years. It MUCH easier than it used to be when you had to make the reservation by phone and go to the airport to have the ticket issued.
    @Michael, no the primary card holder does not have to travel. The primary cardholder just has to make the reservation. I have done this for my family to travel within the 48 states when I can’t use it myself.

    The only downside to the companion tickets being eligible for upgrades is that in the past you could pay to upgrade both seats to Extra-Comfort once they were booked, even though there was no chance of a First Class upgrade, you could guarantee yourself extra-comfort.

  20. There are actually several restrictions that would be helpful to point out (which have tripped me up in the past). If there is a connection, I believe both legs have to be the SAME fare class (not just within the six or so that qualify), which makes it very difficult to find flights if you need to connect anywhere (I didn’t read this in the terms, but it’s what an agent told me when I was seeing no availability despite knowing they were all in the eligible classes). Even for direct flights, both flights need to be eligible and you can’t book one way, so that can be difficult depending on the airport.

    This pass can still be a great deal for $195. It’s even better if you are already traveling for business and expensing a costly flight and can use it to bring a companion along.

  21. I tried the Delta AMEX Plat several years ago, and was never able to use the companion cert. It had to be booked by phone, was too restrictive for the dates and places we were trying to use it and on one occasion, the agent said she couldn’t find any availability for flights for the next 120
    days. That took us completely out of the need to get a cruise booked to get away for the winter. I dropped it.

  22. At least in the past the problem is that you could purchase two tickets for less than the one fare and using the companion certificate. At least, these days you can use the certificate and compare pricing online because in the past it was quite difficult to redeem.

  23. I’ve had both the personal Platinum DL AMEX and the business Platinum DL AMEX for probably at least ten years. I think I’ve neglected to use one or both of the companion certs in at least half of those years, often due to lack of availability (includes crazy/incompatible times too, like 6am weekend returns) or just forgetfulness. That said, when it works, it’s great. One thing I don’t believe the article mentioned is that unless the rules have changed, YOU don’t have to be traveling on the reservation. In years past, I’ve used it for employees traveling together, family members, etc. I’ve also given it away to family and friends a few times, which is greatly appreciated by couples and families.

  24. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of where you’re going as to which pass is the best. Used mine for a flight to Key West in February. Peak season there, so expensive flights. Also, Delta flies in straight from Atlanta….no stopping in MIA. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve been delayed in MIA waiting for a flight to KW.

  25. The absolute best part of this companion certificate is that it is THE ONLY ONE that I am aware of where you personally don’t have to be flying. I bring in people to perform in Montana and I can fly the cellist and her cello — two seats — or two other random orchestra people who happen to live in the same city, using my Delta companion ticket. (Every year, my Alaska companion ticket goes to waste because I never fly with anyone, and I can’t use it for my orchestra or singers. And Southwest of course doesn’t even fly to Montana.) And yes, there are more restrictions than you’d think on that Delta ticket. Our itineraries can get pretty complicated, like flying someone from Duluth or Albany to Helena — often 3 legs each way — and when I’ve tried to use the companion ticket for that itinerary, it’s not allowed. Not sure if it’s a price point, or a number of legs issue, but not all the flights work.

  26. These have recently gotten less valuable for Hawaii residents. As recently as last month I was able to use this for a round trip from the mainland TO hawaii, so I could bring family to visit. Suddenly now they are only allowing flights that originate in Hawaii. (This may have been in the t&c’s previously but it was not enforced.)

  27. This will be the fourth year that I have used my companion ticket and I am very pleased. So pleased that my wife now has a card/companion ticket. Double the pleasure. The only down fall that I have ran into is that sometimes I’ll look for a flight from (example) Louisville to Salt Lake City on a specific date. I’ll look and it will not be an option and then I’ll look again days or weeks later and it’ll have a flight available. Sometimes you just have to be patient.

  28. In my situation, the companion “pass” doesn’t seem to be as lucrative as I hoped it would be. I went to book a normal RT from HNL to DTW @ $950ea. At the payment section, I discovered you have to let it be known that you’ll be using a companion pass in the flight search. So I started over, this time having selected the pass, and the same exact flights (class, times, etc) cost an additional $400ea. Kind of shady if you ask me.

  29. I believe one of the other limitations is that the tickets must be purchased up to 14 days in advance. That’s a show stopper for me.

  30. Are you guys sure we have to keep the platinum card open after the certificate is issued? Can I cancel after issue and use my spouse gold delta card to pay for ticket?

  31. With a Delta companion cert, can I pay to upgrade both seats to comfort or first? I’d like to fly first class all the way. So this might save me a little money.

    buy one, get one just to get us in main cabin, then pay to upgrade. Will that work?

    Thanks for the cool info.

  32. I just upgraded my card from gold to platinum SkyMiles. Do I have to wait a year for this certificate even though I’ve had the gold card for several years now?

  33. @ Bobby — You do have to wait for a year from your first anniversary of having the Platinum Card.

  34. It would also be helpful if you included an analysis for the Delta Reserve card and the First Class certificate!

  35. The restrictions that are in place virtually make it impossible to use. DL restricts low fare classes but also restricts high classes. This means that when fares are high they would rather sell tickets for revenue only. It is work making this work and I often could get two tickets on AA for less that one plus companion on DL.
    I once almost had it ready to work but it involved an open jaw between MIA and FLL. Everybody considers MIA and FLL as serving the same area, mush as JFK and FLL. That would be everybody but Delta, when they can be mean.

  36. “Around” Thanksgiving … coming back the Tuesday after … of course it’s available 🙂

    If you wanted to travel Wednesday-Sunday of Thanksgiving, forget it.

    I still think the companion cert is worth it but it’s a little misleading to pretend you can use it easily over peak peak travel periods.

    But as others have mentioned, the cardholder doesn’t actually have to travel on the cert (and doesn’t have to be the “primary” traveler, the one who earns miles, when using the cert even if they are flying on it), which can open up some nice flexibility too.

  37. The big annoyance with these is that some routes simply don’t have an I fare filed (for the reserve card companion ticket in first class) or if they do some of the feeder flights book in P which is not eligible. I don’t think that was the intent of the cert but there’s no way around it.

    The plat economy companion tix are worth a lot more now that they are upgradable.

  38. By the way, my experience as of July 2018 is that you do NOT need to pay with the Delta Amex. You can pay with ANY Amex. I closed my Delta Amex after certificate posted. I will say the booking FAILED if I logged in to my Delta account and navigated to my wallet to pull the certificate, but SUCCEEDED if I started the booking from delta.com/redeem.

    Obviously that could change at any time, but I was very pleased to be able to use the cert even without the DL Amex.

  39. I cringe whenever I see someone holding the Gold Skymiles AMEX card…for only $100 more in AF you get the companion cert. These are very easy to use as well.

  40. In my case I was never able to use it. Every time there is a chance for me to fly with my wife the travel fares needed are never available. I simply ignore this perk.

  41. @kerry
    The card holder does not need to be one of the passengers on the Alaska pass. You can give them to anyone you want.

  42. Sean wrote:

    “Obviously, network matters. But otherwise?”

    But network is such a big issue!
    I can get exactly 3 places on Alaska Airways from MSP.
    -Seattle
    -Portland
    -LA.

    that’s it.

    Alaska is a great airline… if you live on the West Coast.
    Similar to Jet Blue being amazing… if you live in Boston.

    I wouldn’t know, because it’s extremely hard to use either of them to get anywhere to/from MSP.

  43. It would have been helpful to include the details on the Reserve Card too, since I think it is just a few extra fare buckets in the premium cabin classes. That would have made this a complete resource.

  44. I don’t understand all the people who have trouble using this benefit. It would be interesting to learn which airports they are attempting to use. I’ve never had any trouble at all, and Delta isn’t exactly a hub in Phoenix. We have the Platinum and Delta Reserve Amex cards and save the certificates for more expensive out-of-the-way destinations where the second trip would otherwise cost $400 or more in coach and first class over $1,000 roundtrip. These are trip we otherwise might not take.

  45. The cardholder does not have to be a traveler for the Delta certificate, but you do have to make the reservation (or at least I did when I used it for family a couple years ago).

    I used mine last year to fly HNL-LAS (with a stop in LAX) around Thanksgiving and got upgraded to Comfort + or First Class on each leg. In addition we ended up having to change our return due to illness and they waved all the change fees & I am “only” Gold Medallion.

  46. reply to PHX Flyer
    I have often tried to use the benefit flying JFK/LGA to MIA or to FLL. The tickets are sometimes as low as $200 and while it would be a waste, I tried and the benefit was not available. In April tickets approach $6-800 RT and the benefit is never available.
    I was able to piece together flights that would work into FLL and out of MIA and they refused as this would be an open-jaw. In airline lingo MIA/FLL are considered the same, much as JFK/LGA/EWR, that rule is only when it benefits the airline.

  47. I have tried multiple times – as far as 11 months out and have never been able to find any flights using certificates and we have the in both my husband and my accounts so it is very annoying after having paid $195 fee. Will not be keeping this card going forward.

  48. You might want to mention that Delta places a limit on the number of companion tickets used on any particular flight. I was shut out twice from using the companion ticket on flights to Savannah. Apparently, the number of companion tickets used on that flight was the limit and I couldn’t use mine.

  49. Downgraded my Delta platinum b/c the very is too restrictive. Could not even get a PDX-JFK RT in the middle of July with 5 months lead time. Have had some success in past but overall was able to use less than 50% of the time over ~8 years. Shame on me for not getting rid of it sooner

    AS is a real companion fare. If the seat exists it’s a go. That simple.

  50. “Honestly don’t understand why anyone would do this when they could use Alaska’s companion pass”

    Because, if my experience is anything to go by, the flights that Alaska makes available for the companion fare suck rocks :-/ Crazy-long layovers, flights leaving at the crack o’ dawn or midnight, and everything routes through Seattle. And don’t even think about trying to upgrade to First — it’ll cost you a boatload of cash plus extra miles.

    And Delta … I got all the way through the booking process, after FINALLY finding the flights I wanted, only to discover that you can’t use Delta gift cards in conjunction with the companion fare AND you have to book a round-trip flight. I ended having to start over so I could book two one-way flights for myself and my daughter (so, four tickets total), so as not to waste all of those Delta gift cards. Good times!

  51. @ Duane…. So I can hold the Alaska card and I don’t have to be the paid ticket holder or the named companion ticket holder? My wife and son could be on the flight? Also, the Alaska Airline certificate can be used to Hawaii or Alaska? Or anywhere Alaska metal flies – correct?

  52. @ David L — Yep! If you’re not flying you’re just supposed to pay with your BoA card (according to the terms, no system limitations though).

  53. @David L…yes, yes, and yes.
    My husband and I are booked on a trip to Hawaii in February using my mom’s Alaska companion pass. She didn’t even have to make the reservation. She just gave me the code and I entered it when booking the ticket.

  54. I have the Amex Delta platinum sky miles card. How do I access companion certificate? I’ve had this card since 2016

  55. I got my first companion certificate this June and used it with no problem. Fiance and I flew roundtrip, PHL-PDX with a connection in MSP. The cash price for the ticket was about $600 for main cabin, so it saved us a good chunk of change, plus we got $100 worth of free checked bags (both of us checked a bag each way). I booked our flight for August, so about two months out, and had no trouble finding availability.

    I also consider the real “cost” of the companion pass to be $100, not $195, because that’s the difference between the Gold and Platinum cards, and the Gold just gets you free checked bags. So I consider the free bags to be “cost” about $95 (I get at least $100 of value out of that perk) and the companion certificate to “cost” me about $100. So the math more than works out for me.

    I’ve also never flown Alaska in my entire life, because despite hearing how wonderful it is, I’m located on the East Coast, where it’s completely irrelevant to me. I might pick up their card with its companion pass for a tentative vacation to Alaska in the next couple years, though. (p.s. Lucky, have you done a similar post about the rules and value of the Alaska certificate?)

  56. I had the card for close to 20 years a never used the certificate. Aside from the fact that my wife is not a great traveler, having to buy a relatively expensive ticket for myself when I had 1M+ skymiles seemed silly.

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