Live in Hawaii to maximize value from Delta companion certificates (and 10 other tips)

Delta SkyMiles Cards Zoom

Both the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card and the Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express offer a free companion certificate each year upon renewal.  This means that once per year you can buy a round trip flight for two people and pay for just one (plus taxes and fees, capped at $75, for the other).  Here are the tips you need to know to get the most value from your certificates…

  • Live in Hawaii (or an island, or Alaska) and visit the mainland with a friend.  Companion tickets are valid only for round trip flights within the 48 contiguous United States.  But, there is an exception for those who live in the US, but outside of the contiguous 48 states: “Residents of Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico or the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) must originate from there to the 48 contiguous United States and have an address on their SkyMiles account in Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico or the USVI”.
  • Buy tickets early.  Companion Tickets are only valid for economy discount fare classes L, U, T, X, V and, for the Reserve card only, first-class fare classes A, and I.   If you wait too long before booking your tickets, you may not find two available seats in those fare classes.
  • Snag the exit row.  If you have elite status, you’ll be disappointed to discover that companion tickets do not qualify for elite upgrades, not even to Comfort Plus.  Fortunately, with your elite status you’ll still be able to select preferred coach seating, including better legroom exit row seats.
    April 6 2017 Update: Companion Tickets are now upgradeable to both Comfort+ and First Class!
  • Assign the primary ticket to the person chasing status.  Only the primary passenger earns redeemable miles, medallion qualifying miles, and medallion qualifying dollars.  The companion gets nothing but a free flight… and pretzels.
  • Splurge for first class.  This tip applies only to Delta Reserve card holders, since the Platinum companion pass can’t be used to book first class.  When tickets are particularly expensive across the board (during holiday travel, for example), you may find that first class tickets are only moderately more expensive than coach.  In those cases, you can use the certificates to get two first class tickets for less than two coach tickets would have cost without the companion certificate.
  • Complete travel within 1 year.  Certificates expire 1 year after they are issued.  And to use a certificate, it is not enough to book a flight before it expires: you must fly, and complete the round trip, before it expires.
  • Take the bird in the hand.  Imagine that you have an opportunity to use a companion certificate for a $300 flight.  You may be tempted to pass up that opportunity and wait for a flight that costs much more.  But, if you do so, you risk letting the certificate go entirely unused before it expires.  Unless you are certain that you’ll have later better opportunities, I’d recommend taking advantage of the small opportunity you have now rather than waiting and hoping for a better opportunity in the future.
  • Be generous and book others.  Just because a companion certificate is in your Delta account does not mean that you have to fly to use it.  You can book the tickets for anyone.  If you have a soon-to-expire certificate that you can’t use, let others know.  Most people with plans to fly two people on Delta will be thrilled for the chance get one ticket nearly free.
  • Earn 5X and companion fee reimbursements.  A strange quirk of the Delta companion ticket is that you have to pay with an American Express card, but I’ve found (despite terms that say otherwise) that you do not have to pay with a Delta American Express card.  Any Amex card will do.  So, if you have a personal Platinum card which earns 5X for airfare, you might as well use that!  One great side benefit I’ve found is that the taxes and fees for the second passenger count towards the Platinum card’s annual $200 in airline fee credits.
  • Earn 3X.  If you don’t have an Amex card that earns 5X for airfare, how about earning 3X?  The Premier Rewards Gold card, for example, earns 3X for airfare.  Also both the Business Gold Rewards card and the Simply Cash Plus Business Credit Card have airfare as an optional 3X category.
  • Pay with Membership Rewards points for great value.  If you have a Platinum Business card, you may be able to use Membership Rewards points to reimburse the primary passenger ticket and get 50% of your points back.  I’ve recently done this twice with Delta Companion Tickets!  For details, see: The Amex Business Platinum awesome 1 time exception.

Do you have any tips for using Delta companion tickets?  Please comment below.

Hawaii Maui

Maximize value from your Delta Companion Certificates by living in Hawaii. You were looking for an excuse anyway, right?

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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    • 0 affiliate links in the post. The links in the post go to pages that give more info about each card. I’ve previously linked to my Best Offers page in the past for more info, but there was no easy way to take the reader directly to the card in question. By having a separate page for each card, readers don’t have to search for info. I do this now regardless of whether I have affiliate links for each card.

  1. They are getting very stingy with availability. I am trying to book JFK – SEA for 3 possible weekends in October. Though no seats are booked on some flights (only basing on seat map which I know is not 100% accurate) They have zero L,U,T,X,V tixx available……ridiculous.

    • Wow, that surprises me given how far in advance you’re trying to book! I wonder if they haven’t yet opened up discount fares but will later. You might be able to get a hint of that by attempting flights not as far in advance to see whether there’s a pattern of when the LUTXV seats appear.

      Another option: I can’t promise anything, but one friend of mine had success calling in when it looked like nothing was available online. Might be worth a shot.

  2. Can someone else other than myself (the card member) be the primary? Meaning, can I have my brother and his wife use these tickets?

  3. nice picture, it shows one of my favorite beaches in Maui, Ulua….Who needs to travel for vacation if you live in Hawaii? the Marriott nearby just got renovated and now has some nice pools including some water slides.

  4. Last thanksgiving a (soon to be lost) first class companion was the only companion fare available to get our kids home. Worked out to be less than economy fare, and made them a little bit happy.

  5. What if you upgrade your delta gold card to one of these. Do you get the companion pass upon upgrade or upon renewal a year later?

    • Yes. Actually, it’s possible that you would get the companion pass as soon as your next renewal happens. I haven’t tested this idea, but say you’ve had the Gold card for a couple of years and the next annual fee is going to be due in about 2 months. If you then upgrade, it’s possible that you’ll get the companion pass in 2 months time.

      Has anyone else tried this? Curious what others have found?

  6. Just doing some math on this. In order to get the companion pass for the Platinum, you have to
    Pay $195 first year
    Pay $195 second year
    Get companion pass which is capped at $75 and can only be redeemed for economy.
    Total: $195+$195+$75 = $465

    So, you’re paying $465 for a companion pass if companion pass is the target for applying?

    • I wouldn’t do the math that way. The first year annual fee is more than covered by the signup bonus (which often comes with both miles and a $100 statement credit that is very easy to get).

      So, the question is whether to keep the card after the first year for $195 per year. For those who need a Delta card for free checked bags, this card is $100 more than the Delta Gold card, so the cost of keeping the card for that group is $100 per year. For those who don’t need card perks, the cost is the full $195. Taxes and fees for the companion ticket are more typically around $40. $75 is just the most it can be.

  7. Aloha and Mahalo (thank you) for your recent article on Hawaii travel perks for companions. Its not often we get deals

    Unfortunately for us “lucky to live” in Hawaii, get totally hammered on airline tickets. Tickets are expensive and upgrades to premium economy, business class or 1st are equally costly and nearly prohibitive.

    Amazing but true the cost for locals to travel interisland is $130 r/t on sale. FYI, for all intents and purposes we have only Hawaiian Air to service interisland travel. Most of us know we are being overcharged to finance Hawaiian Air expansion to Asia and soon Europe.

    You can fly from YVR, SEA, SFO, LAX to Asia Business Class often for less than $2000 but from Hawaii its $3500-$5000 or more.

    Europe? Forget about it…great fares and deals all the time but if you live in Hawaii, we have to pay the R/T to get from Hawaii to the departure city. More often than NOT that airfare exceeds USA to Europe portion.

    HNL to LAS is economy is mostly $500-$600 or so. To Las Vegas, add another $150 if you want to fly non-stop.

    If an when you get the time, more articles about how Hawaii residents get the shaft will bring more publicity to our plight. That would be good.

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