The Barclays AA co-branded cards come with a unique benefit that can be earned through big-spend, a companion certificate for travel on AA.
This benefit is currently available on the Barclays AA Aviator Silver and Business cards, and starting this week (May 1) it will become available on the popular Barclays AA Aviator Red card (the one that’s pitched incessantly on every AA flight that you take these days).
When we first looked for information on Barclays AA Companion Certificates, we couldn’t find a good article that stated anything beyond the highest-level information about them. Calls to Barclays and American Airlines were equally unhelpful – no one would tell us critical information such as what would be the blackout dates if we spent enough money to earn a Certificate. This was extremely frustrating.
Given the dearth of available information and the fact that many more people are about to be able to earn a Companion Certificate, we wanted to publish an informative guide about Barclays AA Companion Certificates.
What Are the Basics?
In short, a Barclays AA Companion Certificate allows a companion to fly round-trip for $99 plus taxes and fees, when the primary traveler pays a published fare. On the Companion Certificate for the Barclays AA Aviator Silver card, the Companion Certificate covers 2 companions at $99 plus taxes and fees. Travel must be in economy class, within the 48 contiguous US states (with an exception for residents of Alaska & Hawaii, who can originate in their home state and travel to/from anywhere in the 48 contiguous US states). The cardholder must be the primary traveler on the certificate.
How Do You Earn a Companion Certificate?
You earn a Companion Certificate by spending a threshold amount during your cardholder year. Then, you must keep your card account open for at least 45 days after your anniversary date. The 45-day requirement ensures that you have to pay the next year’s annual fee on the card in order to receive your Companion Certificate.
Beginning May 1, 2019, the Companion Certificate earning requirements on the various Barclays AA cards are:
- Silver: Certificate for up to 2 companions when you spend $20,000
- Note: The spend requirement was previously $30k; changing to $20k
- Red: Certificate for 1 companion when you spend $20,000
- Note: This is new as of 5/1/2019
- Business: Certificate for 1 companion when you spend $30,000
How Much Does the Companion Fare Actually Cost?
The Companion fare is advertised as $99 plus taxes and fees. The Barclays disclosure materials say that taxes and fees will be $21.60 to $43.20.
In our experiences using Companion Certificates, each companion ticket has cost a total of $135.03 (that is, the taxes and fees each time have been $36.03).
What Are Other Limitations on the Companion Certificates?
We previously discussed that Barclays Companion Certificates can only be used for travel within the 48 contiguous US states, in economy class (with exceptions for Alaska & Hawaii residents), and the cardholder must be the primary traveler. There are several other limitations and quirks to the Certificates that can be important:
Blackout Dates: Perhaps the most important limitation on the Certificates is the group of blackout dates. The date limitations cover some key holiday travel periods as well as most students’ Spring Break times. There are 56 blackout dates for 2019 and 55 blackout dates for 2020, so the limitations are not insubstantial. Here is the complete list of blackout dates for each year:
- 2019: Jan 1-3; Feb 15-19; Mar 8-11; Mar 15-18; Mar 22-25; May 24-28; Jun 28-30; Jul 1-7; Nov 27-30; Dec 1-2; Dec 14-23; Dec 27-31
- 2020: Jan 1-3; Feb 14-18; Mar 6-9; Mar 13-16; Mar 20-23; May 22-26; Jun 30; Jul 1-6; Nov 25-30; Dec 12-23; Dec 27-31
Booking in Advance: You must book your flights using a Companion Certificate at least 14 days before your departure date.
Expiration Date: A Certificate is good for approximately 1 year after issuance. All travel using a Certificate must be completed by the expiration date.
Fare Class: Companion Certificate reservations must be booked in one of the following economy fare classes: L, M, N, Q, S, V, G or O.
- This is pretty broad and will cover almost all potential itineraries, but note that it does exclude the very highest-level economy fare classes, Y, H and K.
- In addition, note that Basic Economy fares are excluded (fare class B).
Payment: You must pay for all tickets using a Companion Certificate with the credit card on which the Companion Certificate was earned.
No Miles-Earning for Companion: According to the terms of the Certificate, Companions will not earn AA redeemable miles or other elite credits for their flights.
- This was not true in our experience. Our companions have earned redeemable AAdvantage miles as well as Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) and Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs).
- On our most recent Companion Certificate flight in May 2019, earning was calculated using the $99 fare. $49.50 of the fare was applied to each direction of travel, which rounded to 50 EQDs. Redeemable miles were based on a $50 fare, which meant that Philly as an Executive Platinum earned 550 redeemable miles each way (1,100 total), and Middle Age Miles daughter KB as a non-elite earned 250 redeemable miles (500 total). Each of the companions also earned EQMs based on the trip distance.
- Previously, in September 2018, the companions also earned EQMs, EQDs and redeemable miles. On that occasion, earning was calculated under the “Earning when ticket/fare details are unavailable” chart, which you can access by going to this AA web page and scrolling down. However, on that trip we had some special circumstances where the check-in agent adjusted our reservations at check-in, so I do not believe this was representative. I believe that you can actually expect earning as described in the paragraph above discussing our May 2019 trip.
No Upgrades: According to the express terms, no upgrades are allowed on tickets issued using the Certificate.
- This was not entirely true in our experience. The reservations originally conformed to this limitation – not eligible. However, at the airport check-in desk, we asked to be added to the upgrade list, and the agent was able to do this (with a fair bit of effort). And on one of the flights, all 3 people were upgraded – myself as the primary certificate holder (Exec Plat), Philly as a companion (Exec Plat), and my Dad as a companion (no elite status). Again, we may have simply found a very helpful agent who was able to grant us a one-off exception.
No Replacement if Ticket is Canceled: If you make a reservation using the Certificate and then have to cancel your flight, your Certificate will not be replaced and is thus lost.
What’s the Timeline on Receiving Your Companion Certificate?
The official terms and conditions for Companion Certificates say that you’ll receive the Certificate 8-10 weeks after you’ve met all the conditions for earning the Certificate. And remember, the conditions are that you’ve spent the threshold amount during your cardholder year, plus kept your card account open for at least 45 days after your anniversary date. So, it technically could be as long as 16.5 weeks after your anniversary date before you receive your Certificate.
We recently earned a new Companion Certificate through spend on a Barclays AA Aviator Silver card. Here’s the relevant timeline for receiving the Companion Certificate, which was generally consistent with our previous experiences:
- Card Anniversary Date: 1/27/2019
- Annual Fee (AF) Posted: 1/31/2019
- Statement Close w/AF: 2/10/2019
- Date We Paid AF: 3/7/2019
- 45 Days after Card Anniversary Date: 3/13/2019
- Received email re Companion Certificate: 4/3/2019
- Received physical Companion Certificate in the US mail: sometime between 4/4 and 4/13/2019 (we were out of town, so unsure of the exact date)
- Note that the email regarding the Companion Certificate contains a link where you can print it, so you don’t actually have to wait for the physical Companion Certificate to arrive in the US mail before you can use it.
Note that we received the email regarding the Companion Certificate exactly 3 weeks after we’d met all the conditions (that is, 3 weeks after the date that was 45 days after our card anniversary). Also note that we received the Companion Certificate a little more than 2 months after our card anniversary date.
For what it’s worth, the expiration date on our Certificate was 3/31/2020, so we actually had slightly less than 1 year to use it.
What Does the Email Regarding the Companion Certificate Look Like?
Our email came from “AAdvantage Aviator Silver World Elite Mastercard” and it was entitled, “Congratulations! You’ve earned a Companion Certificate.”
Here’s what it looked like:
A couple of things to note here:
- One, the email has a link to a “Learn how to redeem” Youtube video, which you can access through this link:
- Two, the email has a link where you can Print Your Companion Certificate
What Does the Physical Companion Certificate Look Like?
The physical Companion Certificate that you receive in the US mail consists of one double-sided piece of legal-sized paper. It looks like this:
Front of Companion Certificate:
Back of Companion Certificate:
Envelope containing Companion Certificate:
How Do You Book Flights Using a Companion Certificate?
Once again, the Companion Certificate is a bit tricky. You don’t just ring up the regular AA reservation line, and you can’t book your tickets online. And remember, you must book your tickets at least 14 days before the departure date.
The Companion Certificate booking process looks like this:
- Call AA Meeting Services at 800-433-1790
- Be sure to have all the information you need handy – flight numbers, passenger names and AAdvantage numbers, the STAR File number from your Companion Certificate, and your Barclays AA credit card
- The AA Meeting Services desk is only open during certain hours:
- Monday-Friday: 7:00 am until 11:00 pm Central time
- Saturday-Sunday: 7:00 am until 8:00 pm Central time
- Make your booking with AA Meeting Services over the phone
- At this point you’ll be able to see a “Pending” ticket in your online AA account
- Sign and date your Companion Certificate
- Mail your Companion Certificate to the address provided by the AA Meeting Services agent
- The address that we used most recently was: American Airlines, 5031 Commerce Park Circle, Department 108, Pensacola, FL 32505
- The agent will ask you to:
- Write your departure date underneath your return address on the outside of your mailing envelope
- Include your record locator along with your Certificate (you can use a Post-It note or write it directly on the Certificate; we also wrote our record locator underneath our return address on the envelope)
- Mail the Certificate right away
AA needs to receive your Certificate in the mail at least 7 days before your departure date, so it’s important to get it in the mail immediately (especially if you’re booking close to the 14-day cutoff). If AA doesn’t receive your Certificate in time, your tickets will not be issued.
Once AA does receive your ticket, they will process it. In your online AA account, the status will change from “Pending” to “Ticketed.” And at that time, you’ll see the charge for your tickets on your Barclays AA credit card.
As we mentioned earlier, Barclays has posted a Youtube video on Redeeming Your American Airlines Companion Certificate, which you can access here.
If you can use the Barclays AA Companion Certificates well, they can be quite valuable. Last year, I used my Companion Certificate to get myself, Philly and my Dad between DFW and South Bend, Indiana (SBN) for a Notre Dame football game. As you might expect, it’s not cheap to fly directly into SBN on a ND football weekend. Using the Companion Certificate allowed us to save about $1,000 compared to if we’d purchased 3 individual tickets. That was outstanding value for our Certificate, although, that said, it was a near-perfect use.
With any luck, this guide will help you get similar great value out of your Companion Certificates, and you’ll be on your way to a fun destination in the US!
Do you have further information, tips or tricks about the Barclays AA Companion Certificates? If so, please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments!
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