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.

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