18 flights and counting … with southwest card signups

I have written before about the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass, and I am sure I will write about it again.  It is, quite simply, my favorite travel freebie on earth.  Sadly, my current Companion Pass is expiring soon, so I wanted to pay it its much-deserved final respects. Imagine owning a certificate that says “Hey, your name, every time you fly with us through the end of the following calendar year, whether you pay cash or use points, you can bring your favorite travel partner along with you for free.”
Today, I wanted to share some personal uses with it (and with Southwest points in general) to help you see just how much travel you can squeeze out of this amazing currency.

Fellow Reader … meet my good friend. I just know you two will hit it off.

​I have signed up for three different Southwest credit cards: once in late 2013 and two in the Spring of 2014.  I made sure to wait each time until the signup bonus was 50,000 points (rather than the normal 25,000 points).  My one “mistake”?  Only signing up for one card in 2013.  I will explain why that was not the right plan further down in the article. I also promise that I will explain how to actually get the pass shortly, but let’s take a look at what I was able to achieve with the pass and the 156,000 points I racked up with the credit card signups (because you can too!).  All of the trips below originated in Atlanta and are round trip unless otherwise noted.  Also, as a reminder, Marci flew for free each time using our Companion Pass.
  • October 2014: Marci and I had a weekend getaway to New Orleans (18,819 points required for my flight, 0 points required for Marci)
  • March 2015: Marci and I had a weekend getaway to Las Vegas (25,265 points required for my flight, 0 points required for Marci)
  • April 2015: Our family of four took a Spring Break trip to Clearwater, FL (using Tampa as our gateway airport) (34,968 points total for the kids and me, 0 points required for Marci)
  • June 2015: Our family of four took a Summer vacation to Washington, DC (35,124 points total for the kids and me, 0 points required for Marci)
  • October 2015: Marci and I had a weekend getaway to New York (12,164 points required for my flight, 0 points required for Marci)
  • October 2015: Our family of four flew to New Jersey to visit family (18,540 points for the kids and me, 0 points required for Marci, though this trip was only one way as we used Delta miles for the other direction)

Add it up, and you get 144,880 points for a total of 14 round trip flights and 4 one way flights!  And I still have points left over!  Also, the Companion Pass saved me a staggering 85,792 points on Marci’s flights!  Are you ready to climb aboard Southwest now?​

Now, as promised, let’s see how you can actually earn the Southwest Companion Pass.  You will need to  accumulate 110,000 Southwest points within a calendar year.  If you do, the pass is yours and it is valid for the remainder of the year in which you earn it AND the following year!  Your next question is probably “how do I earn Southwest points?”  Glad you asked.  You can earn them by:
You can earn Southwest points by actually flying Southwest or through their partners

What is critical to point out is that points transferred directly from your Chase Ultimate Rewards account DO NOT count toward the Companion Pass.  So, points earned by signing up for the Freedom, Sapphire Preferred,  and/or Ink cards can be transferred to your Southwest account, but they will NOT count toward the Companion Pass.  You can transfer them to Marriott or Hyatt and then transfer them to Southwest, but the ratios may not be to your liking. Now, notice that I said I applied for two Southwest credit cards in May of 2014.  How did I do this?  I applied for both the personal card and business card on the same day.  Each card came with the same 50,000 point bonus.  So, after getting those two cards and meeting the spend on them ($2000 per card), I had 104,000 points toward the Southwest Companion Pass…without ever stepping foot on a Southwest flight!  So, all I needed was 6,000 more points.  I could have achieved this by simply putting $6,000 more in spend on one of the two cards, but I had a hefty Marriot points balance, so I simply transferred enough Marriott points to get me over the 110,000 point threshold.  A few days later, I received an email with the subject heading “You’ve earned a Companion Pass!” Now, why did I say earlier that applying for only one card in 2013 was a mistake?  Because it only took me up to 52,000 points, leaving me far short of the 110,000 I needed for the Companion Pass.  In 2014, I made sure not to repeat that mistake.  52,000 Southwest points is great, but 104,000 puts you on the cusp of the Companion Pass, which doubles the value of your points. So, are there any caveats I should ​point out?  Yes, there are.

  • Getting the business card scares some people who do not own a company.  In truth, anyone can apply for a business card, even if your “business” is selling items on eBay, babysitting, dog walking, you name it.  You simply apply as a sole proprietor and use your social security number rather than an Employer Identification Number (EIN).  If you are just not comfortable applying for a business card, then you can apply for two different personal cards (Plus and Premier) at different times of the same calendar year.  Just be sure to apply when the bonus is 50,000 points rather than 25,000.
  • Every Southwest card comes with an annual fee of either $69 or $99, and the fee is not waived the first year.  If you are getting the Companion Pass, I honestly don’t see how you can complain about it.  If you are not getting the Companion Pass, well, 50,000 Southwest points should be easily worth $700, so stop complaining!
  • Getting approved for two cards on the same day from the same bank can be a challenge.  Don’t be afraid to call the Chase reconsideration line if you are rejected at first.

I cannot tell you how much I love Southwest Airlines’ Rapid Rewards program.  If you are a frequent business traveler who lives for upgrades to first class, then this might not be the best airline for you.  If you are more into occasional leisure travel, especially with family within the US, then I absolutely recommend you do some research on Southwest.  They are very hard to beat. So, what do you think?  Is the Companion Pass really all that and a bag of chips?  Leave us a comment.  And if you enjoyed this post, please share it, tweet it, or email it to your friends and family!

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