The Complete Guide to the Alaska Airlines Companion Fare
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The annual Companion Fare available through the Alaska co-branded credit cards is one of the best perks of any branded airline credit card. It lets you book one economy fare starting at $122 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $23) on the same itinerary.
The Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card's Companion Fare comes with a significant caveat: New cardholders must spend at least $6,000 annually on the card to earn a Companion Fare on their card anniversary. Meanwhile business owners with the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card earn the perk automatically when the cardholder renews.
Either way, the Alaska Airlines Companion Fare can easily offset either card’s annual fee. It can also help reduce the cost of family travel, especially during the holidays. And, with some creativity, it can provide hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars in value.
In this article, we’ll walk through what you need to know about the Alaska Companion Fare, as well as some simple ways to maximize its value.
» Learn more: Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan: Your complete guide
Alaska Companion Fare basics
Consumer Alaska cardholders who had the card before Jan. 18, 2023, will continue to receive the Companion Fare automatically each year. However, new applicants who apply for the card on or after Jan. 18, 2023, will need to spend $6,000 per year to qualify for the Companion Fare on their next anniversary.
Note that new applicants will also receive a Companion Fare when they sign up for the card and qualify for the welcome bonus, which is currently: Get 70,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $122 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $23) with this offer. To qualify, make $3,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.
Given the major changes in perks on the consumer card, we couldn't help but wonder: Is the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card still worth the annual fee? Find out.
To find your Companion Fare, look in the “Discount and companion fare codes” section of your Alaska Mileage Plan account.
Here are some things to keep in mind about the Alaska Companion Fare:
Fare class eligibility: The Companion Fare is only valid for economy tickets.
Upgrades: Tickets purchased with a Companion Fare are eligible for upgrades to first class. This can be done using miles, elite + companion upgrades, guest upgrades or paid upgrades that may be offered at check-in.
Who must fly: Even if you hold the Companion Pass offer, you do not have to be the passenger on the flight; however, the flight must be purchased using a credit card that has the Companion Fare holder’s name.
Award travel: The Companion Fare isn’t eligible for award travel and can only be used for flights paid for in cash.
Only Alaska flights: Companion Fare is valid only on Alaska Airlines flights. The Companion Fare is not valid on any partner or Oneworld flights.
Expiration date: The expiration date of your Companion Fare will be indicated and you must redeem your code by 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time of that date. However, once ticketed, the travel can be completed after the fare has expired, in fact you have up to 12 months from the date the certificate was issued.
» Learn more: The best airline credit cards right now
How to use the Alaska Companion Fare
To use your Companion Fare, log into your Alaska Airlines MileagePlan account. Once you’re logged in, in the top right corner where you see “Hi Name,” click the down arrow. You'll then see an option titled “Discount and companion fare codes," which you will need to select.
On that page, you’ll see all of your available discount and companion fare codes.
To use a code, click the “Shop” button.
If you already know your code, you can go directly to the flight search tool and simply enter it into the “Discount or companion fare code” field. Then search for a flight for two, as you usually would.
After you input your travel cities and dates, and click on the “find flights” option, you’ll want to pay attention to search results that are Companion Fare eligible. That means you’ll want to look for that little red symbol (as shown below) next to the flight price.
The Companion Fare amount is indicated by that alien symbol that Alaska claims is the letter “e.” Why “e,” and why so weirdly depicted? We don’t know just yet.
In this case, the one-way flight costs $539 and the Companion Fare is $77. If your itinerary has multiple flights, the $99 Companion Fare will be spread across the different legs of the trips, so don’t be confused if it seems lower than you expect on a given leg. The total, including the taxes and fees, will be displayed once you have made your flight selections and added it to your cart.
At the checkout, you will always see the $99 Companion Fare amount displayed.
This fare is a great example of how the Companion Fare can save money. For example, a ticket for one passenger costs $1,093. If you didn’t have the companion pass, you’d pay double that – $2,186 – plus $181 in taxes and fees. In total, you would spend $2,367 for those two tickets.
However, with the Companion Pass, you’re only paying $99 for that second ticket, plus the applicable taxes, for a total price of $1,373. The Companion Fare is saving you $994 on this trip, which is significant.
Using the Alaska Companion Fare is fairly straightforward. Getting the most value from it requires more knowhow. Keep reading for advice on how to maximize your Alaska Companion Fare.
5 best uses of the Alaska Companion Fare
1. Use the Companion Fare for expensive itineraries
This is the most basic principle behind using the Companion Fare, but it bears repeating: Employing your code on a $200 one-way flight will only save you about $80. Using it on a flight like in the example above will save you nearly a thousand dollars.
To maximize the Companion Fare, the cost of the companion ticket needs to exceed $217 because the Companion Fare cost starts at $122 ($99 plus at least $23 in taxes) and the minimum annual fee on the Alaska credit cards is $95.
Unfortunately, the fare can only be used on flights operated by Alaska Airlines — no partner flights or segments are allowed. And since Alaska has very limited international options, you can’t book an around-the-world dream vacation with the Companion Fare. That said, you can use it for some notoriously pricey destinations like Hawaii, or for smaller destinations, like Sun Valley, Idaho.
2. Use the Companion Fare on round-trip, one-way or open jaw flights
This is where things get interesting (if you’re a nerd like us). The official language on the Companion Fare states that it can only be used for round-trip travel, but that leaves plenty of wiggle room.
For example, “open jaw” itineraries are generally allowed. What does that mean? You can fly back from another airport than you flew into. For example, you could fly from Seattle to Boston and then back from Baltimore to Seattle.
And that’s not all. Using Alaska’s “multi-city” search tool, you can string together multiple stops on the same “round-trip” itinerary.
This itinerary starts in New York, stops in Seattle, continues to Maui, then Los Angeles, and back to New York, all over the course of two weeks. These two tickets cost $1,418 without the Companion Fare.
With a Companion Fare, this $1,418 trip would only cost $892.69 ($624.31 + $99 + $84.69 + $84.69), reflecting a savings of $525.
We told you it would get interesting.
Companion Fare rules for multi-city trips
Aside from the basic rules of the Companion Fare, there are a few limitations to keep travel within (understandable) bounds.
First, you’re limited by the four available fields in the multi-city search tool. That caps the number of “stops” you can make in your itinerary.
Second, the stops have to make “sense” geographically. You can’t double back in the direction of a previous city in the itinerary or take disconnected legs in the wrong direction. Sound confusing? It is, to be honest.
Alaska doesn’t explain these rules anywhere, so the best method for learning them is spending some time with the multi-city search tool. When you search for an invalid itinerary with the Companion Fare code, you’ll get this error:
Play around to figure out what works and doesn’t for your destinations.
3. Fly during expensive times, like the holidays
The Alaska Companion Fare is ideal for holiday travel, when prices are sky-high and you’re more likely to fly with a partner.
For example, a round-trip flight from New York to Missoula, Montana, in the week of Christmas cost a whopping $988 when we searched. That comes to $1,976 for a two-person itinerary without the Companion Fare, or $1,140 with it — a $836 difference.
Family travel in the summer, when fares can be substantially higher, is another good use of the Companion Fare.
4. Bring your family to you
One great feature of the Companion Fare is that you don’t have to fly on any of the purchased tickets yourself. You just have to book it using your Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card.
That means you can fly your friends or family to meet you, instead of the other way around. Or you can give two flights as a gift to someone you know. You don’t even have to tell the recipients how much money you saved.
5. Get multiple companion passes
Traveling with a large family or taking several Alaska flights with a companion each year? Consider opening more than one Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card in your household. Or, if you have a small business, check out the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card.
You’ll have to pay the annual fee for each card, but that could pale in comparison to the savings from multiple Companion Fares.
Let’s say for example, you and your spouse each have the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card, so you each have a Companion Fare code. Maybe you have two kids or maybe you want to go on a trip with another couple, in either scenario, you can each use your Companion Fare to book a ticket for the other people you’re flying with and really save.
Final thoughts on the Alaska Companion Fare
As great as the Companion Fare is, you might be tempted to find the absolute most expensive itinerary in order “maximize” its value. A multi-stop itinerary on the week of Thanksgiving is likely to meet this criteria, and be an absolutely miserable experience.
The Companion Fare is a great tool to help reduce the cost of your travel plans. And remember: You still have to pay the full cost of half of the itinerary. A $1,500 companion fare ticket might save you about $1,400, but … it still costs $1,500 for the full price ticket.
» Learn more: Other airline credit cards that offer companion tickets
Whether you use Alaska’s Companion Fare to defray the cost of a family trip, stage a multi-city dream itinerary, or just take a normal round-trip ticket, the savings are almost sure the exceed the Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card’s or the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card’s annual fees.
The real trick is remembering to use it.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card