If you're a frequent Delta flyer, odds are you've got a co-branded Delta credit card in your wallet. And while the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card is a popular choice, two cards with higher fees are worth considering for one big reason: an annual Delta companion ticket.
Think of these Delta companion certificates as a buy-one, get-one benefit each year. Play it right, and you can get plenty of value out of these benefits. But for many flyers with these certificates in their wallets, it's gotten harder to put them to use recently, running searches that turn up blank when trying to apply a companion certificate.
We're here to help. And luckily, Delta has made it a bit easier by introducing a new price calendar feature when searching for flights using your Delta companion certificate.
Whether you've already got a Delta companion ticket in your account or you're eyeing the latest Delta credit card offers, we'll give you some hints on how to make sure you use them wisely.
- What is a Delta Companion Certificate?
- How Does the Delta Companion Ticket Work?
- Tips to Use & Maximize Your Delta Companion Ticket
- All About the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card
- All About the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card
- Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Delta Companion Certificate?
What's a Delta companion certificate? Well, it's one of the best benefits from any Delta credit card.
The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card gets you an annual companion certificate to use on economy fares within the continental U.S. That means Hawaii and Alaska are off limits.
You'll get this perk after your first full year with two top-of-the-line Delta credit cards. That means you'll need to wait a year after opening one of these cards – then renew it again – to get a companion ticket.
How Does the Delta Companion Ticket Work?
You won't get your companion ticket right off the bat when you open a new Platinum or Reserve card account. It starts once you've held either the Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card or the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card for a full year.
Exactly what you can get depends on which card you've got.
- The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card‘s companion certificate is good for one main cabin, roundtrip fare in the continental U.S.
- The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card‘s the companion ticket can also be used for Comfort Plus and domestic first-class airfare.
And remember: These Delta companion tickets are a use-it-or-lose-it benefit! Pay close attention to the expiration date on your certificate, and be sure to use it beforehand. It's not enough to book before it expires – you have to actually take the trip before it lapses.
And one final important restriction to keep in mind: You have to charge the first fare (and the taxes and fees of the second) to an American Express card. It doesn't necessarily need to be the Delta Platinum or Reserve SkyMiles card. However, using a Visa, MasterCard, or any other credit card will not work.
Simple enough, right? But all this doesn't mean that you can buy any roundtrip ticket and use your Delta companion certificate to bring a buddy for free…
Which Fares Qualify?
While it can still an incredible benefit, there are some serious strings attached to these Delta companion tickets that can make the right fares harder to find and book. You have to find a specific type of fare class in order to apply a Delta companion certificate.
While you may only see first class, Comfort Plus, and economy seats when you walk on a Delta plane, airlines sell an alphabet's worth of different ticket types called fare classes – each with their own rules, restrictions, and price. And only a handful of the two-dozen-plus fares are eligible to use these Delta companion certificates:
- With the Delta Platinum Card, you can only book fare classes L, U, T, X, and V in the main cabin.
- On the Delta Reserve, you can book all those fares plus fare classes I, Z, and W – first class and Comfort Plus tickets.
Feeling lost? Read up on how fare classes work.
Depending on where you live and when you're flying, these restrictions can make it more difficult to get a lot out of the companion pass. Delta Basic Economy fares are off-limits, and many of the fares that do qualify are often some of Delta's cheaper tickets.
And that's the problem many Delta flyers with these companion certificates are running into now. With airfare on the rise lately, Delta isn't selling nearly as many of these fare classes that make the cut – especially over the summer. That's why many travelers are searching for flights to use their companion tickets and coming up empty.
But don't worry. We've got plenty of tips to help you find a way to make it work. Keep reading…
How to Use a Delta Companion Pass
Once you've earned a companion certificate, you'll get an email from American Express informing you that the certificate is now available. Log in at Delta.com, and you'll find it's been automatically placed in your Delta profile wallet under “Certificates, eCredits & Vouchers.”
Clicking on the certificate in your profile will allow you to begin the booking and redemption process. Unlike the Southwest Companion Pass, there is no need to designate your travel companion ahead of time!
Once you've found it, make sure your companion certificate applies, and voila – a nearly free plane ticket! You'll pay just the government-imposed taxes and fees in addition to the price of the first fare. The final amount will vary based on your destination.
That said, there are a few other quirks to keep in mind…
Can You Use a Delta Companion Certificate Booking with SkyMiles?
Delta does not allow travelers to use a stash of Delta SkyMiles to book the first ticket when applying a Delta companion certificate. It has to be a paid fare, and you have to pay with an American Express card.
But Can You Use Delta eCredits, Too?
This is one of the best developments we've seen recently. Sometime in the last several months, Delta added the ability to apply Delta eCredits to the paid ticket even when redeeming a companion fare.
After years of canceling flights through the pandemic and many extensions to make these eCredits last through 2024, we know plenty of Delta flyers have credits sitting around in their accounts. Using a companion certificate and eCredits together can help make your flights even cheaper – it's the ultimate two birds, one stone.
To do so, just select your companion certificate as normal, then begin your search and select your flights. Once you make it to the checkout screen, select “Use eCredits” and Delta will allow you to pull in credits to offset the cost of your paid fare.
Delta allows you to apply up to four eCredits online during these transactions, though you might be able to use even more at once by calling Delta to book your tickets instead.
So long as there's a balance left over – and because you're paying your companion's taxes and fees, there will be – just finish up by paying with an Amex card and you're set!
Can Someone Else Use a Companion Certificate?
Yes … usually.
Nearly all Delta companion certificates that come through Delta's SkyMiles credit cards are fully transferrable. So while a cardholder may always prefer to use the perk that they're paying for, that's not always possible. Fortunately, there's no requirement on these certificates that the cardholder booking the flights actually takes the trip.
Tips to Use & Maximize Your Delta Companion Ticket
What's the best way to use a Delta companion ticket? We're glad you asked.
In theory, these Delta companion certificates are worth their weight in gold. It's a BOGO ticket, and an easy way to offset the annual fee on
But in practice, redeeming these certificates has become a chore over the last few years. We've heard from countless frustrated travelers who have tried and tried and tried to find flights to use this perk only to come up empty-handed every time.
You're not alone. Here's some advice on how to find the fares that work, then squeeze all the juice out of your Delta companion ticket when you can.
A Next-Level Tip to Find the Right Fares
How on earth can you find those L, U, T, X, and V fares you need to use these certificates? Are you supposed to just search route after route on Delta until you finally come up with a result?
There's a tool that can easily help you zero in on flights that work: It's called ITA Matrix. I'll show you exactly how it can help in this situation.
Think of ITA Matrix like Google Flights on steroids … and then some. While it's a fairly advanced platform, it has a ton of powerful features that you won't find on Google Flights or other sites. Most importantly, it allows you to search for specific fare classes … including the ones you need in order to find flights to use your Delta companion certificate.
Let's say I'm trying to use my companion certificate for a few nights in New York City toward the end of summer, but all my searches through Delta are coming up blank. Using some of ITA Matrix's advanced controls, I can tell it to show me exactly when the eligible flights are available.
First, head to ITA Matrix and plug in the basics of your trip. It helps immensely if you're flexible, so I'd recommend selecting “See calendar of lowest fares” rather than inputting exact dates.
Now it's time to tell ITA Matrix we only want to see flights that can be booked with a Delta companion ticket. ITA Matrix allows you to search only for specific fare classes. Just click “Advanced controls,” and then copy and paste the following bits of code in the outbound and return extension code fields.
- Platinum cardholders booking economy fares, enter f bc=L|bc=U|bc=T|bc=X|bc=V
- Got the Reserve Card and want to make sure you're flying first or Delta Comfort Plus? Enter f bc=I|bc=Z|bc=W
In this case, I'm searching only for the main cabin economy fares that can be booked with a Platinum Card companion certificate by telling ITA Matrix to only show fares with the booking codes L, U, T, X, or V.
It may take a minute or so, but eventually ITA Matrix will pull up a calendar with results. Click airlines and narrow down your results to only show Delta flights.
Sure enough, it looks like there are a few dates in late August and early September that might work. The $298 flight departing Wednesday, Sept. 7 and returning Saturday, Sept. 10 is in fare class X … and that should do the trick to use my companion certificate.
So from there, I head over to my Delta account, select my companion certificate, enter those dates, and hit search. Sure enough, it did the trick!
While you'll still need to be flexible, there's perhaps no better way to cut through the painstaking trial-and-error process of trying to find flights to use your Delta companion ticket than this.
Be Flexible & Plan Ahead
The closer you get to departure, the harder it's going to get to find flights that qualify for these companion certificates.
If you're searching for a flight just a month or less in advance, your odds of finding flights that work are fairly slim. That's especially true now, as sky-high travel demand and higher airfare have made it all-but-impossible to find the fare classes that are eligible.
We can't tell you exactly how far in advance you need to search to break through: It's unpredictable. But you'll definitely have better odds of making it work by searching at least three to six months out.
Just remember: You have to book and take the trip before your companion certificate expires.
Book the Most Expensive Ticket You Can!
Start thinking big to make the most out of your Delta companion ticket.
Any round-trip, main cabin (or first class, if you have the Delta Reserve Card) flight within the lower 48 U.S. states will qualify – as long as it falls into one of the fare classes above. And some will be better options than others to maximize the value of your certificate.
Cross-country routes and even some short-haul flights consistently tend to be the most expensive. But airfare dips and skyrockets so wildly, that can be hard to predict.
Here's the bottom line: Make sure you book a flight that costs $250 (see rates & fees) or more per ticket if you hold the Delta Platinum Card. And if you hold the Reserve card, that number is $550 (see rates & fees). That's the key to making the annual fee on either the Platinum or Reserve Delta SkyMiles card worth it. Regardless of any other benefits the cards provide, this one can cover the entire cost of your annual fee.
We've regularly been able to get $300 or far more in value out of the companion certificate. And that's before factoring in the value from free checked bags for everyone on the itinerary! You can use the benefit for any travel in the continental U.S. so there are endless redemption options that will maximize the value of the ticket.
Pair it with an International Fare Deal
Consider using your Delta companion ticket to lower the costs of an international getaway.
Last year, we featured an on flights to Santiago, Chile (SCL) from a handful of U.S. airports starting at only $324 round-trip which was bookable all the way through February 2023 through our Thrifty Traveler Premium service.
That's a fantastic deal – nearly $600 off most flights to Chile. But if your home airport isn't getting those cheap prices, the cost of getting there on specific days could make the deal look less attractive. Enter the Delta companion certificate.
Using your Delta companion ticket to book positioning flights is a smart move. It means you can book that cheap international ticket from a different city, then use your companion certificate to fly from your hometown to catch that international flight for less.
All About the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card
The Platinum Delta SkyMiles card by American Express is one of several options for Delta cards, but it's among our favorites. That's due in large part to this companion certificate, which can easily net you $300 or more in value every single year. You'll get the benefit after your first full year with the card. But there are other perks to the card, too.
It starts with a SkyMiles bonus. You can currently earn 50,000 SkyMiles & 5,000 MQMs after spending $3,000 in the first six months.
The card earns 3x SkyMiles per dollar spent at both hotels and on Delta purchases. It also earns 2x SkyMiles per dollar spent at both restaurants and U.S. supermarkets. You'll also get a $100 credit for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck once every four years. Membership in both programs is good for five years.
Long layover on your international journey? The Platinum Delta SkyMiles card can get you into the Delta SkyClub for $39 per person. If you don’t already have a card that includes lounge access, this is a great way to access the Delta SkyClub.
The Platinum Delta SkyMiles card will also get you free checked baggage for anyone on your itinerary. And you'll never pay pesky foreign transaction fees.
The card does have an annual fee of $250 (see rates & fees), but it can easily be offset with the companion ticket it provides.
Click Here to learn more about the Platinum Delta SkyMiles Card from American Express.
All About the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card
The Delta SkyMiles Reserve card by American Express is the top-tier card in the Delta co-branded credit card portfolio.
That's due in large part to this companion certificate. Unlike the companion certificate from the Platinum card, it can be used for both Comfort Plus and domestic first-class tickets. You'll get the benefit after your first full year with the card.
There's also a welcome bonus: You can now earn 50,000 SkyMiles & 10,000 MQMs after spending $5,000 within the first six months.
The card earns 3x SkyMiles per dollar spent on Delta purchases. You'll also get a $100 credit for either Global Entry or TSA PreCheck once every four years. Membership in both programs is good for five years.
Long layover on your international journey? The Delta SkyMiles Reserve card gets you complimentary access to the Delta Sky Club. You'll also be able to access Amex's incredible Centurion Lounges and Escape Lounges so long as you book your flight with the Reserve card.
With an annual fee of $550 (see rates & fees), it certainly isn't for everybody.
Click Here to learn more about the Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any other Delta Companion ticket rules?
While we've already covered almost everything you need to know, there are some subtle items to note about the Delta Companion Pass.
- It's only eligible on Delta, Delta Connection carrier and Delta Shuttle flights – which excludes all other Delta-designated codeshare flights and flights on partner airlines.
- Delta Companion Certificate is valid for one round-trip Main Cabin companion ticket with the purchase of certain adult round-trip fares on published routings within the continental United States.
- Companion tickets cannot be used on tickets with fees of more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments).
- Companion Certificate and Delta eCredits can be combined in the same transaction.
- Delta Companion Certificates are for new purchases only – they can't be applied to the cost of previously issued tickets.
Can I give my Delta companion ticket to someone else?
Wondering how to transfer a Delta Companion Certificate? You don't need to.
If you've got a companion ticket you aren't using, you can book the reservation for someone else using a certificate, and that ticket is assigned to them and their companion.
However, once the tickets have been issued, a Delta Companion Certificate can't be transferred.
But understanding the ins and outs of these Delta companion tickets is critical to coming out ahead – and there's no question that they've gotten much harder to use lately. Fortunately, there are still smart ways to put them to use in 2023.