Earning the Southwest Companion Pass
Not long ago, the only travel hacking I’d ever done was pretty straightforward. I’d use my credit card as I normally would and, after accumulating anywhere from 40,000 to 100,000 miles and/or points, would earn a free trip pretty much anywhere in the world.
Recently, though, traveling just got a whole lot better because my husband and I are now proud owners of a Southwest Companion Pass.
What’s the big deal about the Southwest Companion Pass?
I wondered that, too, and it wasn’t until late last year that I even heard of the thing. But once I started learning more and more about it, I gotta say – it’s pretty awesome.
So the big deal about earning a Companion Pass from Southwest is you’re allowed to designate one other person to fly with you for free for up to two years. Two years! That’s the potential for a helluva lot of travel savings.
How did we earn the Pass?
The way we earned our pass was by accumulating 110,000 points. That sounds like a lot of points, and it is. But it was much more doable because we didn’t have to accumulate the points by flying on a ton of Southwest flights, but by getting credit cards that offer great bonuses (but of course this is only recommended when it’s possible to pay off the credit cards in full each month – cheap travel is great but definitely not worth going into debt for!).
At the end of last year (December 2015), we applied for both a personal and a business card from Southwest during a time when each card offered 50,000 points when you spent a $2,000 on each card within the first three months. Meeting the spending minimum wasn’t too bad because we had three months to do it and we also strategically timed some of our bigger purchases so that we could use one of these two cards.
The trickier part was watching when we made the purchases. Because with the Companion Pass you need to earn the 110,000 points all in the same calendar year. So if we wanted all of our combined $4,000 minimum spend to count towards the 110,000 points, we needed to wait to make our purchases in 2016 (instead of spending some of that in 2015 when we first got the cards).
The timing is important because as soon as you meet your minimum spend on a card, the bonus points are triggered. So had we met the $2,000 minimum spend in 2015 we would have triggered the release of the 50,000 bonus points in that same year – 2015. This would’ve meant those 50,000 points would not have counted towards the 110,000 needed for a companion pass in 2016 (because we wanted to earn the pass in 2016 so we would be able to use it through December 31, 2017).
Once we met the minimum spend of $4,000 ($2k on each card) and had the 100,000 bonus point applied (50K per card), we were sitting at 104,000 points. This meant we still had to get 6,000 points. While we technically had the rest of the year to earn those points, the sooner we earned them, the sooner we could start using the pass. So we were incentivized to hurry up.
Normally earning 6,000 points would be really hard for us because we just don’t buy all that much stuff. And that’s the reason why we’ve never tried to get the pass before. But this year my husband started traveling a lot for work and this helped us in two ways:
- his company let him use his own credit cards for booking all the hotels and flights, and
- any miles flown on Southwest flights counted towards the total and helped us reach the goal faster.
While there are other ways to earn points (through partners, etc.), we just spent as we normally would (well, “normally” now that his company is reimbursing for travel expenses) and were able to pass the 110,000 mark in early April. While some people get their passes much earlier in the year, I’m super happy that we will now have 1 year and 7 months to enjoy our Companion Pass where I’ll be able to basically fly free with T anywhere he’s going on Southwest.
First Flight Booked!
A couple of days after being notified that we had successfully earned the Companion Pass, I went online and booked our very first flight together to Austin – it was super easy.
I logged into T’s account, searched for flights (initially using 2 passengers for the criteria to ensure there were enough seats), and then booked his flight first (we paid cash for this one, but you can use points, too). Then I went to view his new trip details, found the link to add a companion to the same flight and booked my ticket, too. For free! (Well, technically the ticket itself was indeed free, but I did still have to pay taxes and fees which totaled just $11.20).
Recommended Reading for Additional Details
I relied heavily on other people’s write-ups on how to get the Southwest Companion Pass and am thankful for these bloggers’ articles on the subject. For more details I highly recommend checking them out:
- How to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass for Almost Two Years by The Points Guy
- How to Earn a Southwest Companion Pass Without Spending $110,000 by Wallet Hacks
- How to Fly (Almost) Free for Two Years on Southwest by Million Mile Secrets
- The Southwest Companion Pass: What It Is, Why It’s Awesome, and How To Get It! by Extra Pack of Peanuts
And here are some helpful details about the Companion Pass (from Southwest’s Terms & Conditions):
- How to Earn – A Member who earns 110,000 Companion Pass Qualifying Points through Rapid Rewards Partners or who flies 100 qualifying one-way flights booked through Southwest Airlines per calendar year will qualify for a Companion Pass.
- Eligible Flights – Both the Member and the Companion must be booked on the same flights and dates.
- Use for Up to 2 Years – Companion Pass qualification will be based on a calendar year. Once Companion Pass status is earned, the Member can begin using his/her Companion Pass immediately once he/she has designated a Companion. The Member will maintain Companion Pass status for the remainder of the calendar year in which the status was earned and for the entire calendar year immediately following.
- Designated Companions Can Change – The Member may change his/her designated Companion … up to three (3) times each calendar year.
- Easy to Use – Companion Pass travel has no blackout dates or seat restrictions.
How Many Flights Will We Be Able to Squeeze in?
I’ve been super happy with the pass and can’t wait to see how many trips we’ll be able to take from now until December 31, 2017 (and even happier with all the money we’ll save!). That’s a lot of time so we’ll see!
If you have any questions about the pass, feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to help!