Southwest Companion Pass: Mile High Goodness

Flying Southwest

Flying Southwest

How would you like to take someone with you, for free, on every single Southwest flight you take for the next couple of years? It’s like a perpetual coupon for 50% off every Southwest flight. Sound too good to be true? That’s what I thought initially, until I researched it. Amy and I are flying proof it is legitimate and a great way to fly domestically.

Let me show you how.

What is this Southwest Companion Pass?

The Southwest Companion Pass allows a ticketed passenger to take a companion along with them for free, regardless of how they booked that ticket. You can book using Southwest Points or pay for the airfare outright. Either way, you get to take your previously named companion along with you for just the price of taxes & fees (currently about $5.60 per domestic flight). It’s very similar to the Alaska Airlines Companion Fare you get with the Alaska Airlines Visa, and a lot of people confuse the Companion Fare (one-time use) with the Companion Pass. The Companion Pass is good for the year you qualify in thru the entire following year.

It is, in my opinion, simply the best deal in the friendly skies. We have already used our Companion Pass half a dozen times since qualifying earlier this year, easily saving us $1500+ in airfare.

This sounds great! How do I get my very own Companion Pass?

The Companion Pass is awarded to a frequent flyer accumulating 110,000 Southwest Points in a calendar year. Sounds like a lot of flying, doesn’t it? Well there’s a very easy way to get the pass without butt in seat time. You simply wait for Southwest to release one of it’s increased award offers for it’s Southwest Visa cards, apply for 2 of the cards with at least 50,000 bonus sign-up points each, complete the spend and voila…Companion Pass! The key is to be patient and wait for those 50,000 bonus point increased offers and jump on them.

Here’s how we did it.

Late last year, I saw Southwest increase the sign-up bonus for all 4 of it’s branded Visa cards to 50,000 points each with an initial spend of $3,000 per card. I signed up for one of the personal cards and one of the business cards, both in my name. Chase approved one card immediately, and put the second application into a manual review. A short call to the Chase approval line, and a slight re-arranging of some of my Chase credit (check out this post on Million Mile Secrets for some Chase approval tips), got the second card approved within 15 minutes and I was off and running.

Once I had the cards in hand in November, I decided to time my spend to complete in early January to get nearly 2 years worth of use out of the Companion Pass. Remember, you get the privilege of the pass for the year you qualify for it in, along with the following year. I easily completed the spend within the first week of January, saving some purchases for after January 1st. I finished off the additional $4,000 in spend between the 2 cards with a few strategic purchases through the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal (more on that below), getting me to the 110,000 point qualification level. I had the Companion Pass after the credit card statement close date on both cards the first few days of February.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s needed to qualify for the Companion Pass using the 2 credit card method I used above:

50,000 Points – Visa #1 Sign-up Bonus
3,000 Points – Visa #1 Minimum Spend ($3,000 min spend)
50,000 Points – Visa #2 Sign-up Bonus
3,000 Points – Visa #2 Minimum Spend ($3,000 min spend)
4,000 Points – $4,000 Add’l Spend
= 110,000 Points – Total = Southwest Companion Pass

Now whenever we book a flight on Southwest, I book my fare, choosing to pay with points or cash. About 5 minutes after I complete my booking, I log into my Southwest Rapid Rewards account, go the reservation, and click “Add Companion”. I pay the fees for Amy and her reservation appears in her account within minutes. Every time I complete the process I feel like I need to pinch myself. It’s THAT good.

An easy way to boost your initial spend.

I’ve picked up some tips for how to complete the spend with even less cash outlay. The key is to take advantage of the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal. I’ve ready about, and tested myself, purchases made through the Shopping Portal. The Portal is simply a place you click thru when you’re going to make a purchase at a partner site. Sites like Newegg, Lenovo, Bose, Best Buy, and Office Depot are included on the list and oftentimes Southwest will offer a multiplier on points for purchases made at these sites simply by clicking through the Rewards Portal first.

The interesting thing about this is the points, based on my experience earlier this year, applied towards the qualification points needed for the Companion Pass! That means if you’re in the market for, say, a new Apple laptop, you could score an extra 1,000 points or more on a $1,000 purchase. This decreases the amount of that $4,000 addintional spend to get the remaining 4,000 points.

I seriously cannot get over what a great deal this is. We’ve been using the Companion Pass pretty regularly and just booked 3 flights using points from our initial bank of bonus points and Amy it and points from our initial bank of bonus points. Every time I add Amy as a companion, I just shake my head in awe at how cool this thing is. Watch for those increased bonus offers on the Southwest Visa cards and consider adding this to your travel arsenal.

Any questions, add them to the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them.

5 Lesser Known Things To Do In San Diego

Photo by Ai Long via

Photo by Ai Long via

San Diego has to be one of those near perfect places to visit pretty much any time of the year. The weather is fairly consistent all year long, and it seems like the sun is always shining. It’s also very easy for those of us on the West Coast to get to within a few hours, making this a perfect place for a long weekend getaway.

Once you’re there, it may be tempting to hit all of the popular spots, which is absolutely fine. However you may also [Read more…]

Sights And Tastes Of Moscow, Russia

Photo by Maria via

Photo by Maria via

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’m hoping to talk Amy into a trip to St. Petersburg, Russia in the not-so-distant future (St. Petersburg, Russia: The Venice Of The North). A second place I’d like to visit during the same trip is Moscow. Similar to St. Petersburg, Moscow offers more than we will likely be able to take in during a single trip. I’m starting to put together a list of things I’d like to do while in Moscow, along with places I’m hearing and reading are worth trying. This is a starter list for our trip planning and hopefully something to whet your appetite a bit. [Read more…]

Making The Most Of An Adventure To Rome, Italy

Rome Italy Flag

Photo by Rachel via

Rome is a city that has been on our list for a long long time. This year, we’re finally taking the plunge and heading to Italy, with Rome being on both ends of the trip. We’re looking forward to making the most of one of the oldest cities in the world, and hoping to take it all in. This will serve as a starter guide for planning our trip, and possibly give you some things to think about when planning your own trip to Rome.

How To Get There

The hardest part about any trip outside the United States (or whatever your home country happens to be) is finding flights. Rome happens to be a pretty easy place to get to with direct flights from all over the U.S. on multiple airlines. In our case, we had fairly specific dates we wanted to travel, along with Delta miles I wanted to use. I had read about Alitalia Magnifica Business Class on (read the post here: Alitalia Flight Review) and have been wanting to try their product. We booked an [Read more…]

Portland: Everything You Didn’t Even Know You Wanted!

Portland Sign

If you’ve read much on, you’re probably aware that we’re from Portland, Oregon. It’s not much of a surprise, then, to hear that we love this city. It has a ton to offer, most notably world-class food, great craft beer, some of the best craft coffee you’ll find anywhere, and plenty to keep you busy outside. I’ve often told people there is no better place on earth than Portland on a sunny day.

Today we want to give you a little taste of this fabulous city through a starter guide for planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest. [Read more…]

St. Petersburg, Russia: The Venice Of The North

The Hermitage Museum St. Petersburg

Photo by Scuba Mami via

For a long time now, I’ve wanted to visit Russia. Specifically, Moscow and St. Petersburg. My wife doesn’t really share my fascination with Russia, nor remotely share my wanting to visit the country, but that hasn’t deterred me from dreaming about walking the streets of these cities. I’m not really sure where this desire came from, maybe from reading some of the early Tom Clancy novels or classic 80s movies.

Typically, in a travel blog, you’d read about trips we’ve already taken. However, I’ve been thinking more and more about a trip to Russia, trying to come up with an angle to talk Amy into a stop there, so I thought I’d write about some pre-trip planning to St. Petersburg. This will give you a little info about one of the stops I’d like to make, as well as serve as a shell for a planning guide if I’m actually able to pull this off. [Read more…]

How To Get To the Front of the Plane

Sitting in the front of the plane

Who doesn’t love sitting up front when you fly? Yeah, every single one of us.  One of the best things about collecting miles and points is you have the option to take advantage of the best class of service when you want to.  You get to enjoy the best of the best, all without spending a dime.

Something I recently discovered is there are a lot of opportunities for purchasing business and first class tickets for little more (sometimes even less!) than economy tickets.  I’m not talking about crazy expensive, fully refundable, overpriced economy fares, but normal priced ones we would all consider if we needed to fly somewhere on our own dime.

Amy and I recently took advantage of one of these opportunities, booking first class on Delta for both of us for $25 less than economy on the cheapest airline we could find (at the time it was Southwest).  We took advantage of a companion coupon we had on Delta.

One of the key resources that has gotten me thinking outside the box when it comes to purchased, as well as award airfare, is First Class Flyer.  This monthly newsletter details lots of ways to purchase cheap business and first class airfare, along with ways to maximize your miles and point redemptions for the best seats on the plane.

In the spirit of the holidays, we are going to give away THREE 12-week subscriptions to First Class Flyer.  One of the coolest things is you’ll have access to the entire archive of past FCF newsletters during the 3 months.  If you put in some reading time, you’ll learn a TON about getting to the front of the plane.

To enter, all you need to do is (Do one or all, each one will get you an entry)

Giveaway closes on Saturday, December 20th at midnight (pacific time)  and winner will be announced Sunday. CLOSED

Simple Trick To Keep Points From Expiring

simple travel trick

When you start to get serious about collecting miles, points and other digital currency to help you achieve your travel goals, you end up with lots of accounts spread all over the place. Keeping your miles and points in a single location such as becomes increasingly important to help you track and manage your various account balances.

You will find over time you will collect points that go unused. Some of those, especially points banked with airlines, will expire after a period of inactivity (typically when you haven’t gotten any miles for a set period of time like 1 year).

We all know the shopping thru an airline shopping portal is a no brainer way to bank extra miles for purchases you’re already going to make.  Did you know know that a simple way to keep miles from expiring, especially airline miles, is to use the airline’s shopping portal to make a small purchase. This will bank a few miles into your account and extend the expiration date of your current miles.

I recently used this trick to keep a few thousand United miles from expiring. I no longer have a United Airlines branded credit card, and can’t remember the last time I flew on United. My miles were showing an expiration date of May 2015. Keeping a few thousand miles active is not worth a mileage run or anything crazy, however, those of us who collect miles and points, leaving even a few hundred on the table can be enough to keep you up at night.

I simply logged into my United MileagePlus account, clicked through the shopping port to an online merchant I was already going to purchase something from, and voila, miles expiration date was extended to May 2016!

Here’s the general process that should apply to any airline with a shopping portal:

  1. Log into your frequent flyer account.
  2. From your frequent flyer account, you’re looking for the Shopping Portal (this can be named different things on different sites, for instance Southwest calls it Rapid Rewards Shopping).  You can also look for an “Earn Miles” link.  See the example from United’s site below.
  3. Once on the Shopping Portal, find a merchant to purchase from, click thru to the merchant’s site, make your purchase and bank the miles!

Here’s where United’s link is:

United Airlines Shopping Portal

Clicking on the “Earn Award Miles” link takes you to the following page:

United Airlines Shopping Portal

By clicking on the MilesPlus Shopping link, you will be taken to the United MileagePlus Shopping Portal.  Click thru to a merchant, make a purchase and earn extra miles as well as extending the expiration date of your miles.

Here is a list of some of the more popular airline shopping portals:

Alaska – Mileage Plan Shopping

American – AAdvantage eShopping

Delta – SkyMiles Shopping

Hawaiian – Hawaiian Airlines eMarket

JetBlue – ShopTrue

Southwest – Rapid Rewards Shopping

United – MileagePlus Shopping

US Airways – Dividend Miles Storefront

Virgin Atlantic – ShopsAway