A great perk that isn’t going away soon

The Westin Ka'anapli in Maui -- one of many great Alaska Airlines destinations

Yesterday morning, Greg wrote about some of the great credit card perks that may be living on a limited amount of time and this morning he wrote about why it might make sense to get and keep a US Bank Altitude Reserve card. Of course, the biggest reason in my book to get and keep it is for 3X mobile payments — a perk that I called too generous when I called the Altitude Reserve DOA. From that generous new benefit to the 5X of the Ink cards to the $250 credit per user on the CNB Crystal Visa Infinite, there are many great benefits that might not last forever. However, one of my favorite credit card benefits looks to be around for the foreseeable future: The Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Companion Fare.

discount and companion fare codes

One of the annual benefits of the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card (and the business version of the card) is a companion fare. For years, the companion fare has worked like this: You pay the fare for passenger #1 and add a companion to the itinerary for $99 + taxes (starting at $22). While that might not be an amazing value on a simple round trip, the advantage of this benefit has been that you could build a pretty complicated itinerary — and both travelers earn full miles.

Alaska companion fare one way

Not a bad deal necessarily, but far from the best you can do with this valuable benefit.

What has been a great benefit has only gotten better with the addition of Virgin America and the ability to mix and match Virgin and Alaska flights on a companion itinerary. The fact that they integrated Virgin flights into the benefit in the first quarter of this year was a clear indication that Alaska had no intention to end this benefit any time soon. As if that wasn’t good enough, they upped the ante by dropping the price: this week, Alaska updated their offer on the Visa Signature and dropped the companion fare from $99 + taxes to $0 + taxes.

Alaska companion fare -

Why is this a big deal? Here’s an example companion fare itinerary that I just built on Alaska Air:

Alaska companion fare example 2

 

If the font is difficult to read, that itinerary includes the following:

New York-Dallas-Seattle-Anchorage (stop), Anchorage-Portland-Honolulu (stop), Honolulu-Seattle-Portland-Oakland (stop), Cabo San Lucas-Los Angeles-San Francisco-New York

Now, that’s obviously a lot of flying. Those clearly aren’t the most direct flights and that itinerary is far from ideal for most people. However, it prices out at a total of $1,276.70 for 2 passengers — and my companion fare is $99 — so a new cardholder would pay about a hundred bucks less  ($1,177.70 for 2 passengers). You can add up the miles — that’s 15,801 miles flown. One of the nice things about Alaska Airlines is that travelers still earn 1 redeemable mile per mile flown. That means that both the primary traveler and companion will earn 15,801 miles (31,602 total for 2 people). If either traveler has any elite status, he or she will earn additional bonuses. For example, as an MVP Gold Member, I would earn an additional 100% of miles flown — another 15,801 miles — meaning that my wife and I would earn 47,403 total Alaska miles on that itinerary (she has no status). If she also had MVP Gold status, we would be up to almost 63,000 Alaska miles on that route! For sure, those miles will not be as useful in two separate accounts as they would be in a single account — but that’s still a nice haul that would complement our existing mileage balances.

If we have to go back to Hawaii to see this guy and pick up some Alaska miles, we won't be too disappointed.

If we have to go back to Hawaii to see this guy and pick up some Alaska miles, we won’t be too disappointed.

The routing rules for the companion fare are best learned by playing with the multi-city tool. Alaska allows 4 parts to a multi-city itinerary. You can only go east and west one time each (roughly). For example, you could fly from New York to Hawaii (west) and then Hawaii to Chicago (east). However, Alaska only flies west from Chicago, and you will have already gone west — so Chicago would have to be your end point in that scenario. However, if you flew from Boston to Hawaii (west) and then Hawaii to Los Angeles to Dallas to New York (east), that would theoretically be fine (I didn’t try to price this out). Or you could fly Boston to Hawaii (west), stopover and fly home some other way — and then later in the year include a flight from Cabo San Lucas to Seattle (stop) and then Seattle to Fort Lauderdale (east) — that’s also more or less one time west and one time east and should theoretically work. I plan to put together a similar itinerary spread over several months — using Southwest Airlines to fill in some of the gaps between cities and several segments on Alaska to earn a haul of miles for a reasonable price.

Alaska Airlines publishes a decent list of Frequently Asked Questions on their site and Scott Mackenzie of Travel Codex has written a short guide on maximizing your companion fare for the Alaska Airlines blog. If you’re considering an Alaska Airlines card, now is a great time. The companion fare is one of my favorite credit card benefits at $99 – at $0, it’s even better….and it appears it isn’t going away any time soon. The direct link (not an affiliate link) to the card offer including both a $100 statement credit and the $0 companion fare is on our Best Offers page.

About Nick Reyes

Nick Reyes is a (fairly) regular guy with an animalistic passion for maximizing the value of miles and money to travel the world in comfort and style. There is little in life that he loves more than finding a fantastic deal and helping you shop smarter & harder to achieve your travel dreams.

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Pingbacks

  1. […] Of course, Delta isn’t the only airline that offers companion tickets.  For a full list of companion ticket options please see: Complete Guide to Travel Companion Tickets.  One of the best alternative options (if they fly from your local airport) is the Alaska Airlines companion certificate.  Please see details here: A great perk that isn’t going away soon. […]

Comments

  1. This sounds like a great benefit to have. Does the companion perk kick in on flights paid with miles as well?

    • Unfortunately no, only paid flights, and it doesn’t stack with any other flight discount or coupon codes. You CAN pay with wallet funds and/or gift cards though.

    • As they said, no, it doesn’t. You have to pay for the first ticket. The good news is that you can upgrade — if you have guest upgrades, you can use those. If you have status, you can request a complimentary upgrade still. And I didn’t hunt for the best prices — you can surely get better value by hunting for the best prices and/or a longer itinerary.

  2. First world problem….I allowed 2 AS companion certs to expire because the Southwest Companion Pass met all our travel needs. (But I ran into someone who wanted to take a family of 4 from Chicago to Hawaii over Christmas….fares were running $1500/person. I told him to apply for two AS cards – one for him, one for his wife. It can be an incredible money saver in the right circumstances.)

  3. Alaska Airlines is my goto Airline. I am MVP Gold this year and hope to hit 75K this year. I love the companion fare. For your Canadian readers MBNA offers the co-branded Alaska Airlines Mastercard with all the same perks (less the no foreign currency conversion fees) as the Bank of America Alaska Airlines Signature VISA card. I have the Banf of America VISA as well as two MBNA Mastercard Accounts. Additionally, my partner has a MBNA Mastercard as well so we get four companion fares each year. They have tremendous flexibility and can have an open jaw. We did BLI-SEA-PHX (open) SAN-OGG-BLI. As a MVP Gold Elite it is nice to get immediate upgrades if available for both travelers even if the companion does not have staus. I just booked an itinerary upcoming is a few weeks. YLW-SEA-SAN-BOS-SEA-PSP-SFO-SEA-YLW and found available upgrade space (M class) on all but the SAN-BOS leg (K class, eligible for upgrade 72 hours prior to departure and complimentary upgrade to Premium). The total for two passengers flying first class on all but one segment was approx $2000. M class earns an extra 25% Elite Qualifying Mileage plan miles in addition to the 100% bonus redemable miles.

    • It is, but as an elite member, if you book certain economy class fares (i.e. not the cheapest economy class fares), you can instantly upgrade to first class. Search for fares. When it displays results and you can select your flights, on the left side there is a section that says “upgrade type”. You can select, for example, MVP Gold. It will then display a column of economy class fares that are instantly upgradeable to first class for someone with that elite status. The fare itself is an economy fare, and therefore you can use it with the companion certificate. But by booking that particular fare class, an elite member can instantly confirm an upgrade to first. It’s obviously not the cheapest economy fare possible – but sometimes it is the same price or not much more than the cheapest fare left on a particular flight.

    • You can also upgrade these tickets with miles too to first class. I’ve done that a few times now. Use the companion and then upgrade our tickets with miles. It’s been a cheap first class ticket to Hawaii for us 🙂

      • I tried doing that as well as I had enough miles for the 15,000 per person it would take to upgrade. At no point during the check out did it give me to opportunity to cash in my miles or choose a first class seat, only allowed for economy. Am I doing something wrong? It shows a blue F box by the flight when I select the mileage upgrade option.

        • You won’t get a chance to choose a first class seat until after booking. You’re essentially booking a coach seat that gets “instantly” upgraded to first (but you have to buy that coach seat first in order to have something to upgrade).

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