Soutwest Airlines isn’t fancy, but thanks to the companion pass it’s easily our domestic airline of choice. In my opinion the Southwest companion pass is hands down the best deal in domestic travel, and it’s about time I wrote about how we leveraged two credit card applications for almost two years of free travel. I know this already has been extensively featured on other points and miles blogs (and I encourage you to read up before going after it for yourself since this is the bare-bones outline), but I want to make sure all my friends and family who only follow this blog understand this option, which is our primary strategy for free domestic travel.
Southwest companion passes are earned when a person flies 100 qualifying one-way flights in a year, or reaches 110,000 qualifying points. Fortunately for travel hackers and credit card churners, points earned from the Southwest Visa cards from Chase currently count toward the 110,000 points. Southwest regularly runs sign up bonuses of 50,000 points on both their personal and business cards, after spending $2,000. Since they offer four different products, the ‘Plus’ and ‘Premier’ versions of the personal and business cards, you need to sign up for two out of the four different cards, complete the spend, and earn an additional 6,000 points within a calendar year to earn a companion pass.
Once you reach 110,000 points in a single calendar year, you are awarded a companion pass, which is valid for the remainder of the current year and the entire next year. Since Caleb earned his companion pass in March of this year, I am able to travel for free (except for the taxes) with him for the rest of 2014 and all of 2015. We have already used it several times, saving hundreds and hundreds of dollars and more than making up for the $99 annual fees on the two credit cards. Right now is a great time to think about getting a couple of Southwest cards but it would be wise if you waited to hit the minimum spend until after the first of the year so that your pass would be good for most of 2015 and all of 2016.
Thanks to the 104,000 points earned from the credit card sign ups, (50,000 from each bonus and 2,000 points each from hitting the minimum spend), you only really need to come up with 6,000 extra points to earn your own companion pass.
Here’s how you check how many points you have: Log-in to your account at southwest.com and click on ‘My Account,’ then ‘My Rapid Rewards.’
Once you have the 110,000 points in your account, you should receive an email that you have been awarded a companion pass. It should also appear when you log in to your account, and it’s easy to register your companion. You can change the name on the account up to three times.
One of the things I love about the Companion Pass is we can use points from my account to book Caleb’s ticket, then go back and add me as the companion for free. You can refer to this post by Million Mile Secrets for step-by-step instructions and screenshots for adding your companion.
Companions must travel with the main traveler, although once my parents did technically get away with it when my dad was unable to fly at the last minute and my mom flew on the companion ticket anyway, rather than re-booking her ticket which would have been pretty expensive a few days out.