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Update: The American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles (Personal), American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles (Business), and American Express Platinum Delta credit card offers in this post are no longer available, but check the Hot Deals for the latest offers!
Until September 8, 2014, the sign-up bonus on the American Express Gold Delta SkyMiles (personal and business) and American Express Platinum Delta SkyMiles card has increased to 50,000 miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card in the 1st 3 months.
One unique perk of the American Express Platinum Delta SkyMiles card is the coach class companion certificate you get each year on your card anniversary. I’ve written that this certificate can more than pay for the $195 annual fee on the card (which is NOT waived for the 1st year). So for folks who are able to use it, the companion certificate could be a very good deal.
But is it easy to use? And will you always get a better deal? Let’s find out.
How Does the Platinum Companion Certificate Work?
Link: American Express Platinum Delta SkyMiles Card
If you have the Platinum Delta SkyMiles card, you’ll be issued 1 round-trip, coach class companion certificate each year on your card anniversary. You can use this certificate to bring a companion for free (plus taxes and fees) on eligible domestic Delta flights.
But there are a lot of rules to follow:
- You can only use the companion certificate on Delta, Delta Connection, or Delta Shuttle flights within the continental US (not Alaska or Hawaii)
- If you’re a resident of Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the US Virgin Islands, you can use the companion certificate, but only to fly from home to the continental US and back
- Usually you’ll need to buy your tickets at least 14 days in advance with a minimum 3 night stay
- Taxes and fees on the companion ticket vary from ~$29 to ~$69
- You must book seats in fare class L, U, or T (discount coach class) only
- You and your companion must fly the exact same itinerary
- Companion certificates can be transferred (i.e.: you can book for other folks) but once the tickets are issued, they can’t be transferred
- If you cancel a companion itinerary, you won’t get the certificate back
- You’ll earn miles on the paid ticket, but not the companion ticket
- Companion tickets are NOT eligible for upgrades
- You must use your Platinum Delta SkyMiles card to pay for the tickets
To redeem a companion certificate, log into your Delta SkyMiles account. The certificate should be deposited to your account in the month of your card anniversary.
Alternately, you can book these flights over the phone. But you’ll need your companion certificate number to give to the agent.
Is This a Good Deal?
There are pages and pages of discussion over on FlyerTalk regarding the use of these certificates. Some folks love them, have had no problems finding available flights and have saved lots of money.
Often, the best deal is when you have no choice but to book last-minute, expensive tickets (such as for a funeral or family emergency). The companion certificate can cut the price for 2 people almost in half, which can be significant on this kind of travel.
But others complain that it’s nearly impossible to find available seats. Even if seats in fare class L, U, or T are available, when they try to book they’re told that there are no companion certificate eligible fares available within those classes, even though the seats are for sale.
I can see how that might be frustrating! So I did some dummy searches to see for myself.
1. Austin to New York Round-Trip, September 2014
I checked Delta for flights from Austin to New York round-trip from September 8, 2014, to September 12, 2014. I chose those dates because I wanted to see what was available on short notice.
The cheapest tickets were in V fare class, which is NOT eligible for companion certificate travel. But the flights are non-stop.
These tickets cost ~$266 per person round-trip including taxes. So for 2 people, you’d pay ~$532.
The lowest companion certificate eligible fare (L, U, or T class) was significantly higher and less convenient. Both connect through either Minneapolis or Atlanta and the departure times are very early in the morning, which some folks don’t like!
These tickets costs ~$473 per person round-trip.
But because it’s companion fare eligible, you’d only pay for the taxes and fees on the 2nd ticket. So for 2 people, you’d pay ~$548 (~$473 for regular ticket plus ~$75 taxes on companion ticket). That’s more than you would pay for 2 regular priced tickets in V class!
So in this case, using the companion certificate is NOT a good deal. You’ll save money if you just buy 2 paid tickets, and you’ll earn mileage on both tickets, too. Remember, you do NOT earn miles on companion tickets.
2. Atlanta to Seattle, New Year’s Eve 2015
I checked for tickets from Atlanta to Seattle over New Year’s (a very busy travel time, but still several months away).
The cheapest tickets were actually in eligible fare classes (L and T).
A round-trip ticket costs ~$702 per person.
However, as long as there are still companion certificate eligible seats available in these fare classes (just because the fare class is available doesn’t mean there are bookable companion seats), you’ll be able to save some money.
If you bought 2 paid tickets, it would cost ~$1,404 (~$702 per person x 2 people).
But if you used your companion certificate, you’d only pay ~$702 plus the taxes and fees on the companion ticket (~$75). So in total you’d pay ~$777 for yourself and your companion. That’s a savings of ~$627, which is a fantastic deal!
So in this case, it’s definitely worth it to use the companion certificate!
Note: Folks on FlyerTalk also report that each segment of the trip must be in the same fare class for the companion ticket to be bookable.
For example, if you wanted to fly from Austin to Atlanta to Buffalo, you could not use a companion certificate if the Austin to Atlanta leg was in U fare class and the Atlanta to Buffalo leg was in T or L fare class. However, the fare class on the return trip can be different (as long as it’s L, U, or T).
You could save lots of money with the companion certificate that comes with the American Express Platinum Delta SkyMiles card.
Each year on your card anniversary, you get a certificate for a round-trip, coach class companion ticket. Your companion can fly with you on a paid ticket and only pay taxes and fees.
In some cases, you’ll end up paying more if you use the companion certificate (and won’t earn miles on the companion ticket), so it’s not always a good deal.
But often you’ll save money, as long as there are seats available in eligible fare classes. And the savings can more than make up for the annual fee on the card.
Have you used a Delta companion certificate? How hard was it to use? Please let me know about your experiences in the comments!