As many of you know, the Southwest Companion Pass is one of the best deals for domestic travel and for air travel to the Caribbean. And, with the Southwest 50,000 point offer back in action, I thought it made sense to explain what the Southwest Companion Pass is and how you can earn it. There are so many best travel rewards cards out there, you have to check them all out!
Yes, you read that right. The Southwest card is back with the 50,000 point offer we all know and love. For a limited time, you’ll earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on your card within three months.
What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
The Southwest Companion Pass is an airline status you can achieve that allows your “companion” to fly for free during the year you earn it, plus the following calendar year. The most important thing to know about the pass is that your companion flies free whether you pay for your own flight in cash or points. In other words, I can pay for my own flight with Southwest Rapid Rewards® points but still add my companion for free. In that sense, it’s works like a BOGO (buy-one-get-one), but without you having to pay for the first flight to begin with.
How to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass
To earn the Southwest Companion Pass, you have to:
- Fly 100 one-way flights within one calendar year, or
- Earn 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards® points within one calendar year
Since I’m guessing you have no desire to fly 100 one-way flights, your best option is to earn 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards® points in one calendar year. Here’s how you can do it:
Limited Time Offer: Earn 50,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on your card within 90 days. If you’ve been waiting for a public offer for 50,000 points, your wait is over!
- Sign up for two versions of the Southwest credit card during a 50,000 point sign-up bonus promotion. Southwest offers four co-branded credit cards through Chase – the Personal Premier and Plus versions, and the Business Premier and Plus versions. Since you’ll need to spend $2,000 on each card to earn the sign-up bonus, and you earn at least 1 point per dollar spent on all purchases, each card will net you at least 52,000 Rapid Rewards® points.
- Earn an additional 6,000 points through spending. Two cards will net you a total of 104,000 points, which will leave you 6,000 points short. To rack up those points, you’ll need to spend an additional $6,000 on one of the cards, or earn extra bonus points through the Southwest shopping or travel portals until you reach the threshold. Meanwhile, you can also transfer points form the Marriott program, although the transfer rate is not ideal. For example, 20,000 Marriott points = 5,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards® points.
How We’ve Used the Southwest Companion Pass
Once you earn 110,000 points in one calendar year, you’ll have the Southwest Companion Pass for the rest of that year, plus the following calendar year. So if you were to earn it in March of 2016, for example, you would have the pass until December 2017. Pretty sweet.
My husband both have the Southwest Companion Pass on our respective accounts, which has allowed us to name a kid as each of our companions. Here’s how we have used it:
- When I booked our trip to Jamaica for Spring Break this year, I only had to fork over the points for two flights – that was a 50,000 point savings!
- When I booked our winter break trip to Florida for later this year, I only had to fork over the points for two flights – that was a 50,000 point savings!
- When I booked our Spring break trip to Jamaica for 2016, I only had to fork over the points for three flights – that was a 25,000 point savings! (Sadly, my Companion Pass expires in December.)
Using the Companion Pass to Save Money and Points
Even if you don’t have kids, the Southwest Companion Pass can save you both money and airline miles. Let’s imagine you’re heading to California for a weekend getaway, for example. If your spouse were to earn the Southwest Companion pass, they could pay for their flight in airline miles and add you as their “companion.” Meanwhile, all you would be on the hook for is the $5.60 per leg in government-mandated taxes and fees. For two round-trip flights, that adds up to $22.40.
If you were staying in the Bay Area, you could get yourself there for a little over $20 and shop around for deals on hotels in the San Francisco area. With the cost of airfare out of the equation, you could even stay in a nicer place than you would otherwise, or just slum it and pocket the difference. Hint: That’s what I would do.
The Southwest Companion Pass: What You Should Know
While the Southwest Companion Pass is an epic deal, there are still some tips, tricks, and caveats you should be aware of. Here are some of the main things to consider before you attempt to earn this status:
- The annual fee on the Southwest cards is not waived. If you sign up for two of the Southwest cards in order to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, you’ll be on the hook for two annual fees. The fee for both of the Premier versions is $99, and the fee for the Plus versions is $69. It’s still totally worth it, but you should definitely keep that in mind
- The Southwest cards aren’t your best option for everyday spending. Since the Southwest credit cards only offer 1 point/$1 spent on all purchases besides Southwest airfare, this isn’t a card you’ll want to use everyday.
- You can only change your companion three times. While you might be tempted to change your companion on a whim, it doesn’t really work that way. Each time you earn the pass, your companion can only be changed three times. The lesson: Choose carefully.
- The pass works whether you pay in cash or points. Even though you can use the pass with rewards airfare as well as a paid fare, it’s important to consider both options at times. When flights are cheap, you might want to consider paying for your flight out of pocket, then adding your companion. I’ve done that before when we found flights to Orlando for less than $100 one-way.
- Transfers from Chase Ultimate Rewards Points do not count. My favorite rewards program, the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program, allows you to transfer points to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio. So, if you’re looking to earn more Rapid Rewards® points, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card is a great way to do it. However, it’s important to note that the points you transfer do not count towards the Southwest Companion Pass. Got it?
The Bottom Line
If you fly within the United States more than a few times per year, the Southwest Companion Pass is a must-have. And as a travel enthusiast, this is the only airline status I actually care about earning.
So, if you’re looking for ways to save on domestic airfare, you might want to consider taking the steps required to earn the Southwest Companion Pass for yourself. Just make sure to send me a postcard. (Kidding.)
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