One of the perks American Express Business Platinum credit card members receive is a complimentary companion flight ticket a few times a year. The complimentary ticket allows one person to pay for a full-priced ticket and then reserve another ticket for the same flight for free; a buy one, get one deal.
Is the complimentary ticket worth its time in filling out the appropriate paperwork to receive one? Is it really a buy-one-get-one free offer? Let’s examine the costs and benefits of being an American Express Business Platinum member and booking flights with the Companion Ticket.
Costs and Benefits of being an American Express Business Platinum Member
I’m personally not an AMEX Business Platinum member myself. However, a very close associate has been a member for years. She owns her own small business, which qualifies her to receive this type of membership. Every year, she pays an annual fee of $450. The annual fee allows her to take advantage of some membership benefits, many travel related, such as:
- Rewards Points that can be used for travel, shopping or transferred to other point programs
- Bonus points with select offers
- Flight deals with Companion Ticket offers
- Hotel and lodging discounts and upgrades
- Airport Club access
- $50,000 per year in purchase protection
How the American Express Business Platinum Companion Tickets Work
Companion tickets are granted through magazine subscriptions affiliated with AMEX. A few times a year, an AMEX Platinum member will receive an offer for a trial subscription to Food and Wine magazine or Travel and Leisure. With the trial subscription, a complimentary ticket offer is attached.
Once the subscription paperwork is signed and mailed in with the ticket offer box checked off, an initial $2.99 to $3.99 is charged on the member’s AMEX card. Within a couple of weeks, the member receives their complimentary companion ticket and the first copy of their subscription. Once the ticket is received, the member can choose to cancel their magazine subscription to avoid further charges. Usually, the full subscription price is about $30, which will again be charged to the member’s card if the subscription isn’t canceled.
The Companion Ticket has a “travel completion” date, which expires a year after the offer was requested. In order to redeem the travel coupon, the trip must be booked through CompanionBooking.com.
Flights are categorized by zones 1 through 7. Zone 1 flights originate in the New England states and the states in the northeast. Zone 6 flights originate in California and zone 7 flights all depart from Florida.
AMEX Companion Ticket Price Comparison
In order to verify the supp0sed savings, I did a little research comparing Companion Ticket prices to prices I found on Travelocity and/or the CompanionBooking.com preferred airline. When price comparing, I first selected flights that were departing 30 days from the current date, and for the best price, departing on a Thursday and returning on the following Thursday. Price comparison results are described below:
Burbank, Calif. to Salt Lake City, Utah
CompanionBooking.com search results found a Southwest flight matching both departure and arrival dates, with one-stop each way. For two tickets, including Companion Booking savings, the total cost was $467.60. Not bad for two tickets. However, searching Southwest Airlines directly, I found the same flights for the same dates for $30 more. The Southwest tickets were Web Fares only, which is a huge savings over their standard fares. Had these fares not been available, the cost would have been quite a bit more.
Total savings using Companion Booking: $30.00. Not exactly a full-priced fare.
A few more of my city searches booking 30 days in advance showed a savings of roughly $30 using a Companion Ticket. I decided to research a flight only 14 days from the current date (the minimum booking time for Companion Ticket offers) to see if that is where a Companion Ticket would truly pay for a full-priced ticket.
Chicago, Ill. to Denver, Colo.
CompanionBooking.com search results found non-stop flights using two different airlines for departure and return: American Airlines to Denver and Continental Airlines back to Chicago for a total of $586.80 for both tickets. Using Travelocity, these same flights would cost $656.70.
Total savings using Companion Booking: $69.90.
Finally, I compared a transcontinental flight.
Los Angeles, Calif. to New York, N.Y.
Comparing CompanionBooking.com and Travelocity, each with one-stop along the way, CompanionBooking.com was a better deal at $785.60 compared to Travelocity’s same flight priced at $945.45.
Total savings using Companion Booking: $159.85.
Do Companion Tickets From American Express Business Platinum Credit Card Really Save Money?
My travel comparison concluded that using a Companion Voucher does save money on travel for two, but it doesn’t exactly equate to a buy one ticket get the next ticket for free. Another factor to consider is if the magazine subscription that was ordered when the travel voucher was requested isn’t canceled, then the average $30 savings is canceled out.
I wouldn’t write-off the Companion Ticket altogether, but I would factor in the time it takes to fill out the paperwork and remember to cancel the magazine subscriptions. For some, the voucher could be a great deal. For others, they would simply break even.
This is a guest post from Little House in the Valley, who is currently working toward owning her own little house in the valley. On her journey toward home ownership, she is learning to be financial savvy through budgeting her money and living frugally. With each new savings tip or idea, she shares how she accomplished her goal. Follow her on Twitter at LittleHouse2009