We’ve already shared the many reasons the Southwest card is a great card for travel, but honestly one of the best ones is that the points you earn from the signup bonus get you nearly halfway to the balance you need for the Southwest Companion pass—and at a strategic time of the year.
Here’s the Southwest Companion Pass brief:
- You earn 110,000 Southwest points in a calendar year
- Southwest then allows you to designate a companion who can fly with you for nearly free (you just pay the taxes)
- When you buy or use miles to get Southwest tickets, you pay for only one ticket and your companion flies free.
- The pass is good for the rest of the year in which you qualify and the full calendar year following (get it now and it’s good through 2018)
Yes, it is as good and as simple as it sounds. And is it worth it?
We asked some people in our community who are active Southwest Companion Pass flyers just how valuable the pass has been to them, and if they’d share some tips on they got it and how they’ve made it work.
Today, meet Christian and Annabelle from SweptTogether. they’ve been using a Southwest Companion Pass since May 2016, and calculate that they’ve already racked up $3,800 in free flights with much more travel to come including using their pass to fly to their destination wedding in Belize this fall! “Is it worth it?” we asked? You better Belize it! (yeah, bad pun, but seriously awesome travel benefits!)
We asked them how they qualified for their pass and how to max out it benefits:
Q. How did you get the 110,000 points to qualify your Companion pass
A: My fiancé Christian signed up for both the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus and Southwest Premier cards through Chase, which each came with a bonus of 50k points after hitting a minimum spend of $2,000/card. We paid $4,000 worth of student debt with the two credit cards, $2,000 to each card, and then paid off the balances. That got us the two 50k bonus points (100k total) plus 4,000 points from charging on the card to reach the minimum. (Editor Note: This does not reflect the current offer on the Southwest RapidRewards Credit Card from Chase. Please see airline card offers for the most current bonus). In addition, Christian travels for work and, knowing that we were shooting for the Companion Pass, he started traveling exclusively on Southwest when visiting clients. He accumulated the last 6,000 points by flying, which put us at the 110,000 points we needed to qualify for the Companion Pass. So it was a combination of credit card bonus, spending, and actual flight miles.
Q. Where are you most excited to go with your companion pass and who are you going to take?
A: Since getting the Companion Pass, we’ve used it 14 times, to travel to 7 different states. We’ve mostly used it to visit each other’s family, and also to accompany each other on work trips. Christian has the companion pass and I fly as his companion. We haven’t changed that at any point (nor do we plan to-although you do have the option to change your companion up to three times).
I’m most excited to use the Companion Pass to travel to Belize, which is where we’re planning our wedding this fall. Neither of us have been to Belize before, and although we’ve traveled internationally together a few times, this will be the first country that’s new to both of us. We are companions for life so we are obviously each other’s companion on Southwest flights!
Q. Do you have an example of how this saved you a bunch of money of a flight?
A: Since we have the Companion Pass and had already accumulated 110,000 Rapid Rewards points, we’ve essentially not had to pay for a flight since May 2016! We’ve used up almost all our points, but we’ve been able to travel so much more than we would have without it. As an example of how much we save, we decided last minute (two weeks out) to take a location-scouting trip to Belize before we booked a wedding venue. It would have cost us about $1,400; however, because we had points and the Companion Pass, it cost 36,000 points plus the required government fees of about $160.
Q. Is there anything you learned in the process of getting the pass that you could share to help someone who is trying to get it for 2017/2018?
A: We gave our friends this advice last year and they are about to reap its benefits: in order to maximize the time you have the Companion Pass:
- Earn as many Southwest points as possibly in the beginning of the year
- Open the two Chase cards so your signup bonus posts as early in the year as possible (you can do this as early as November and accumulate just short of the required $2,000 minimum spend for each card to ensure your signup bonus posts in January)
- You will then have the 110,000 points in late January (but likely February) and you will be able to use the Companion Pass until December of the following year
We’re planning a similar strategy at the end of 2017, but I will be the one applying for the cards and Christian will be my companion. (*Editor Note: Ultimate Rewards points transferred to Southwest do not count toward your companion fare qualification)
Q. Do you have any idea of how much money you’ve saved (or project you will save) by having the companion pass?
A. The Companion Pass alone has saved us 50% per flight we’ve taken on Southwest, even without taking into consideration the use of points. So, assuming flights have been around $250 per person (roundtrip) and we’ve taken 8 flights on Southwest saving us a total of about $4,000 so far since we used points to book our flights. Of course, it cost us $99 for each card (annual fee) so the total savings is about $3,800 in the last seven months. Plus, we still have a year to use the card and book even more travel! While we don’t have an exact number for the savings we’ve incurred, the increased access to travel that the Companion Pass has given us is priceless.
Q. Do you have a favorite thing about Southwest?
A: I had never flown Southwest prior to Christian getting the companion pass. We used to be Elite members on United and, while the experience is different on United vs Southwest, we both feel that the ability to fly for “free” justifies the switch to Southwest and the Companion Pass. While we got economy plus seating, free checked bags and priority boarding on United, we started “hacking the system” with Southwest which makes the boarding process smoother.
Since we fly together and middle seats tend to go last, one of us will pay for Early Bird Check-in while the other checks in normally 24 hours before. The person with Early Bird takes our larger carry-on bag (we typically only travel with one bag between us) and snags a window seat with overhead bin space, then the second person can simply walk on and grab the adjacent middle seat without any stress.
We’ve also noticed that, on average, Southwest flights tend to be cheaper both in dollars and in points. At United, for example, the cheapest one-way flight using points is 12,500 whereas on Southwest, we’ve gotten away with using up a minuscule 5,000 points. Now, we fly exclusively on Southwest for domestic travel.
Wow! Apply for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus credit card and grab a buddy: It’s time to fly!