In my most recent post, I wrote about the Delta Platinum Amex, which was offering a targeted 70,000-mile signup bonus.While the latest 70,000-mile offer has expired, Delta has historically rolled out promotional offers like thisa few timesper year. For those of you patient Y2Cers willing to sit back and wait till the next promotion, it’s worth diving into the key value driver for the Delta Platinum Amex is the annual Companion Certificate you receive each card anniversary. In this post, I’ll describe what you can and can’t use the Companion Certificate for. In Part II of this two-post series, I’ll walk you through the process of booking flights with the Companion Certificate.
Companion Certificate Restrictions
My biggest concern when signing up for the Delta Platinum Amex was whether I’d actually be able to use the Companion Certificate, or whether the various terms, conditions, and fees would obliterate the value. I’m happy to report that so far the Companion Certificate has performed exactly as expected, and that I more than made the annual fees and additional charges back with my first redemption.
The Companion Certificate only works if you’re flying with company. If you’re flying solo, you won’t be able to use your Companion Certificate. The way the Companion Certificate works is you pay full fare for your ticket, and then your travel companion gets that a ticket on that exact same Delta itinerary free, plus fees/taxes (see #7 below).
You can only fly a round-trip itinerary. No one-way, no multi-city, no open jaw; just A to B and back again.
You can only fly domestically within the Lower 48. Unless you’re a resident of Alaska, Hawaii, the US Virgin Islands, or Puerto Rico (with your SkyMiles account address set accordingly), travel must be entirely with the contiguous U.S. If you are a resident of AK/HI/VI/PR, then your travel must originate in your home state/territory. So no JFK-HNL-JFK just because you changed your home address to Oahu.
You can only book in certain economy classes. Companion Certificate tickets can only be purchased in L, U, T, X, and V fare classes. That means you can’t use them for Delta Comfort+ (W) or First/Business Class (F, J, et al- though the Platinum’s fancier cousin, the Reserve, does allow you to purchase a first class companion ticket), nor can you use them for Delta’s barebone Basic Economy (E) tickets. If you’re booking close to your travel date, this fare class restriction may make it hard to find affordable tickets.
You don’t get it the first year. Companion Certificates are only issued on your first card anniversary (i.e., after you’ve held the Delta Platinum Amex for one year). That means you’ll have paid two annually fees (hopefully minus the $100 Delta purchase credit, so a grand total of $290) and had whole year to forget before your Companion Certificate quietly shows up in your Delta account.
Y2C tip: make a calendar reminder for your card anniversary so you know to expect your new Companion Certificate.
You must complete travel by the Companion Certificate’s expiration date. My card anniversary is in late May, and my Companion Certificate is valid through July of the next year. In other words, each Companion Certificate is good for approximately 14 months. However, unlike other vouchers/certificates that only need to be redeemed before their expiration date, the entire Companion Certificate itinerary must be completed by the expiration date.
Y2C tip: plan what itinerary you’ll use the Companion Certificate for (typically your most expensive domestic round-trip) and purchase it sooner than later to avoid losing your Companion certificate.
You still have to pay taxes/fees on the companion ticket. Delta says your companion ticket fees will be no more than $75, which almost scared me off. But you can get a pretty accurate indication of how much your fees would be by finding your desired itinerary on ITA Matrix, scrolling down to the fare breakdown, and adding up the three categories labeled US September 11th Security Fee (AY), US Passenger Facility Charge (XF), and US Flight Segment Tax (ZP).
You have to use your Delta Platinum Amex to buy your flights. While you may prefer to use another credit card to earn more points or enjoy certain travel benefits, Companion Certificates must be redeemed with the associated Delta Platinum Amex.
Your companion won’t earn miles. While you’ll earn Delta SkyMiles on the first fare, the fare bought with the Companion Certificate will not earn miles.
You’re not eligible for upgrades. Even if you have Delta 360 status you and your companion won’t be eligible for upgrades from Delta’s Main Cabin.
Despite all these restrictions, one nice feature is that the Companion Certificate-holder doesn’t have to be traveling on the itinerary, so you can use the Companion Certificate to send two of your favorite people on a discounted trip or fly them out to visit you!
The Delta Companion Certificate definitely has a few restrictions that may make it unsuitable depending on you travel patterns (e.g., solo travelers, first class fliers, multi-city hoppers). But if you and a travel companion fly round-trip at least once per year on a decently expensive Delta route, then these restrictions may be well worth it for the discounted second ticket. In my next post, I’ll walk you through the actual Companion Certificate redemption process.