Imagine traveling around the world with your wife/husband/best friend and only buying one (fairly cheap) Southwest ticket. You can go anywhere Southwest will take you and never buy a second ticket. A BOGO (buy one get one) from here to Las Angeles. A BOGO from there to D.C.. BOGO from D.C. to home. BOGOs everywhere! This is the scenario that my wife and I are in until December of next year. I haven’t cheated or hacked into the Southwest website. I simply found out about the Southwest Companion Pass.
The Southwest companion pass allows you to designate a travel companion and travel with that person for the remainder of this year + one full year without having to purchase a second ticket (you do have to pay taxes and fees). That means that if you qualify for the pass today you will have that BOGO card for the remainder of this year and all of next year.
But there is a catch, in order to get this deal you have to do one of two things, earn 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points or fly 100 qualifying one-way flights.
This may seem daunting but if you are willing to ignore the stigma associated with credit cards you can save hundreds or thousands of dollars a year on flights. Chase offers two credit cards, each offering 40,000-60,000 (depending on when you look) Southwest reward’s points as a sign up bonuses. If you get both cards you can get more or close to 110,000 point without any excess spending.
*update (5 April 2018) Chase no longer allows members to apply for both cards. If you want to use this strategy, you will have to apply for the chase Southwest business card. The biggest problem with that is that military members cannot get the business card’s annual fee waived. (Still a good option for the compassion pass benefits)
**UPDATE** Chase has updated the Southwest Cards but ideas is still the same
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card Fee: $69 ($0 for military)
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card Fee: $99 ($0 for military)
Both cards offer pretty nice sign on bonuses and will waive the annual fee for military (you can read about your SCRA/MLA benefits on my post about credit cards). I signed my wife up for both cards, offering 50,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months. This means that after 2 months we had 104,000 points (only 6,000 more to go). We used the cards to rent cars and get hotels for my wife through the Southwest site for her business trips getting her another 3,000 points (only 3,000 points to go). For the last 3,000 points we just used our general monthly spending, including rent, food, and entertainment. Boom 110,000 points. You may have to look for some special offers, I know my friend used a 1,000 bonus on flowers to finish off his 110,000 points.
The best part about the companion pass is the fact that once you get 110,000 points in a year, you get the pass and have 110,000 points to use. You do not have to worry about buying 2 tickets for the next few hundred days so those 110,000 points go a long way! My wife and I recently received the card and have already saved a few hundred dollars. Additionally, we now have the freedom to travel frivolously if we choose.
It is true that this benefit will run out in 2019 for my wife and me but I do not plan on losing the benefit for long. I will apply for the cards at the end of 2019 and earn the benefit for 2020-2021, cancelling my wife’s cards in the process. Then at the end of the 2021, my wife will apply. Then I will apply. Then … you get it. BOGO flights for the forseeable future or until they revoke/change the rules.
There are a few things you need to be aware of before you begin your quest for the companion pass.
- The 110,000 points must be obtained in the same calendar year. Those 109,000 points you got December of last year do not apply.
- It is about points earned, not current value. If you earned 109,999 points this year and use them all on flights and then buy a $1 soda you will still get the pass. Even though your Southwest account shows 1 point, you still earned 110,000 points this year.
- You cannot transfer most points from another Chase card to your Southwest account to reach the 110,000, even if they were earned this year.
- Married/a Couple/a Friend? Only one of you should get both cards to link them to your individual Southwest account. There is no need for both of you to get both cards.
- There is also a Chase Southwest business credit card. There is no reason to get this card for those in the military because Chase does not waive fees for business cards.
There are not many downsides to the companion pass but I’ll try to outline what I think some people may not appreciate.
- Unless you fly Southwest a lot you will never get enough points/flights unless you use the credit cards. Some people have misplaced feelings about credit cards or view them as evil which will make it difficult, if not impossible, for them to get the companion pass.
- If you have already received 4+ credit cards in the last 2 years Chase will not allow you to get both of the Southwest cards. Chase follows a 5/24 rule, meaning that they will only approve credit cards for you if you have received fewer than 5 credit cards in the last 24 months.
- If you are not married and do not have anyone to travel with on a regular basis, the companion pass does not offer much benefit.