1/29/18

#MileageMonday: The Southwest Companion Pass



Smart Money Squad, welcome back to another edition of #MileageMonday! In last week’s post, we broke down the Chase Ultimate Rewards program & the many ways you can utilize UR points to travel the world for free. The Chase UR program has been very kind to Kayleigh & I, enabling us to take countless trips ranging from the tropical islands to the house of Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney World!

Chase credit card sign-up bonuses are typically considered some of the best in the business because of their fantastic travel partnerships & flexibility in how you use the points. While the Chase-branded cards are highly touted (I have three of them in my wallet today), that’s not what I’m here to discuss today. Today, we’ll talk about how you can earn one of the most coveted possessions in the entire travel galaxy: the Southwest Companion Pass!

What is the Southwest Companion Pass?

When I try to tell my friends & family that I can take them on a Southwest flight for free, they usually ask me what the catch is. “Do you work for Southwest, Ty?” is a phrase I hear at least a few times every month. The truth is I don’t work for Southwest & am merely passionate about their product, all because of this wonderful enabler called the companion pass.

The reason I get so excited about this airline is this fact: the Companion Pass allows you to add a companion on your flight for only the cost of the taxes & fees associated with flying that leg. You heard that right: if I was flying a $500 flight to LAX from Columbus, I could add Kayleigh to the flight for only the taxes and fees (typically $5.60 for a one-way domestic flight). Buy one, get one free…flights?

One more thing-once you earn the Companion Pass, the pass is good for the full calendar year you earn it PLUS THE ENTIRE NEXT YEAR. That’s right-if I earned this pass in January 2018, I’d have the pass all the way through December 2019. Tons of value here to exploit!

Now the question I’m sure you are asking…HOW DO I SIGN UP!?!?

How do I earn the Southwest Companion Pass?

The Southwest Companion Pass is a status earned with Southwest Airlines after accruing 110,000 qualifying points or flying 100 one-leg flights in a calendar year. WHEW! That sounds like an awful lot of flights & certainly a lot of points. To put that in perspective, that’s the equivalent of spending roughly $18,000 on Southwest Wanna-Get-Away fare flights (their cheapest option) in a calendar year. I don’t know about you, but my 24-year-old budget does not allow for me to spend $18,000 on flights in 10 years, let alone one year.

Here’s the handy-dandy tracker Southwest provides for you to monitor your earnings progress:



Southwest allows you to earn points towards the Companion Pass in a few ways. You can earn Rapid Rewards (Southwest points) through:
  •         Rapid Rewards points earned through the Chase Southwest credit cards
  •         Rapid Rewards dining & travel partners
  •         Special Rapid Rewards offers (think 1-800 Flowers, wine cases, etc. promotions)

Looks like I have a long way to go! Luckily, we don’t need to spend $18,000 or spend half of 2018 in airports trying to earn the Companion Pass. This is where our “travel hacking” mindset comes in-we’ll utilize this technique to get us all the way to 110,000 points, no flights required!

Chase Southwest Credit Cards

Chase offers three separate credit card products for Southwest, all of which are helpful in getting you to the magical 110,000 points required to earn the Companion Pass.  Their sign-up bonuses vary depending on the time you sign up, but typically you can expect two of the three bonuses to at least add up to 100,000 RR points. Keep in mind that all of these cards are subject to Chase’s dreaded 5/24 rule, meaning that you will not be approved if you’ve received 5 credit cards in the last 24 months. 

These cards include:

1.       Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card-You can currently earn 50,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first three months from account opening. You’ll also get 3,000 RR points on the anniversary date of your cardmember signup, plus 2 RR points/$1 spent on every Southwest purchase. This card comes with a mandatory $69 annual fee, which will be charged on your first credit card statement. There’s no way around that-you’ll have to bite the bullet knowing you’re getting tons of value once you have the pass.

2.       Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card-This card currently offers the same 50,000 point signup bonus after spending $2,000 in the first three months from account opening.  The anniversary bonus is 6,000 RR points instead of 3,000 & the card has no foreign transaction fees, which can be helpful if you are travelling abroad & don’t wish to be upcharged for spending your hard-earned cash. However, the annual fee on this card is slightly higher at $99 and is charged on your first statement as well.

3.       Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card-The business version of the Premier card offers the highest sign-up bonus of the three cards at 60,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months from account opening. The benefits are essentially the same as the Premier & the annual fee remains the same ($99). For those of you that don’t have a true business and would feel weird about signing up for a business card, I would ask you this: Do you do ANYTHING outside of your normal job to make money? Mow lawns? Shovel snow? In my case, umpire? Boom-you’ve got a thriving business that you can use for this card. Simply apply as a sole proprietor & you’re well on your way.

As you can see, getting approved for two of the three credit cards above will either fully get you to the 110,000 (Business + Premier/Plus=115,000 points after reaching bonuses) or nearly there (Premier + Plus=104,000 points after reaching bonuses). If you opt for the slightly cheaper 2nd route with the Southwest Premier & Plus cards, you’ll have to make up the 6,000 points another way. 

If you have flights planned, you can fly the remaining 6,000 points worth & earn your companion pass. Manufactured spending, a topic we discussed in our original “Vacation Like a Baller” post, is the method I would use to make up the additional $6,000 you would need to spend to reach the Companion Pass status.

Again, you don’t need to take additional steps if you opt for the Southwest Business + either Plus/Premier card route. You’ll pay $168/$198 in annual fees ($99 + $69/$99) but will come out the other end with 113,000 Rapid Rewards flights and a Companion Pass to boot. That companion pass alone has saved Kayleigh and I THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS in flights over the past few years, something I’ll miss dearly as my pass expired at the end of 2017.

How Do I Use The Southwest Companion Pass?

Now that we’ve earned the Companion Pass, you’ll be eager to put that bad boy to use! Before we start, it’s important to note that you have to designate your companion before you start using the pass. You can only change this companion three times a calendar year, so make sure you choose wisely when picking the person you’ll be traveling with most often on Southwest. Once you designate your companion & you decide you want to change, you can call Southwest customer service at 1-800-435-9792 and they’ll be happy to change the companion for you.

The first step to booking your companion on a flight is obviously…booking your own flight! One of the best parts of this pass is that it doesn’t matter what type of flight you book on Southwest. You can use points or pay cash for the flight and select any one of their flight options (Wanna Get Away, Anytime, Business Select)-they all work for the companion. Once you’ve successfully booked, you can go to your main account page. There, you will find this option listed under your trip:


(Photo credit to milecards.com)

Just select the add companion option and go through the booking process for your designated partner-in-crime! You'll be able to get the same ticket you just booked for the price of taxes and fees, typically a measly $5.60. It’s that easy-and it feels amazing saving hundreds/flight with the click of a button.

Final Thoughts

 The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most coveted travel resources out there, and for good reason: it provides some of the best value to savvy travelers on the market. If you can follow our tips and tricks to earn this pass, you will be the envy of all of your friends and family. As you plan that casual weekend trip to Chicago with your significant other or head to Vegas with the buddies, the Southwest Companion Pass becomes your ace in the hole.

While I probably won’t have the pleasure of having this status anytime soon because I won’t be under Chase’s 5/24 rule, I’m happy to pass the savings onto the Smart Money Squad. I hope you enjoyed this week’s #MileageMonday and as always, feel free to ask questions! I’m here to help you meet your travel goals, any way I can.

Cheers,
Ty

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