My favorite two words in all of travel: Companion Pass.
Being able to take a companion with you on a flight for only taxes and fees is a powerful way to travel. Unlike other companion passes, the Southwest Companion Pass is nearly unlimited. You can use it as much as you’d like for the duration of your status. Assuming two people are flying, this effectively doubles the redemption rate on all points flights and cuts your cash bookings nearly in half.
Two years ago I earned my pass by redeeming 360,000 Marriott points for their Category 9 Travel Package that gave me 120,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points — enough to earn the Southwest Companion Pass — and 7 nights for free which we redeemed at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on the Big Island in March. Unfortunately, this method of acquiring a Companion Pass was terminated in March of 2017.
I began making plans then to lower my wife’s credit card applications so she was under 5/24 in order to be able to apply for multiple Southwest Credit Cards in order to hit the required 110,000 points for Companion Pass Status during 2019.
Why plan two years ahead for a Southwest Companion Pass? It is the best deal in all of the points and miles hobby in my opinion. Over the next two years my family and I will be able to gain almost $4,400 dollars of value by adding two new credit cards and paying $168 in annual fees.
Value of the Companion Pass
110,000 Miles Bonus Earned Through Sign Up Bonuses = $1,540
10,000 Miles Earned Through Meeting Minimum Spending = $140
Points Saved through Companion Pass Usage (2017-2018, see below) = $2,721
Total Value: $4,401
Estimated Value of 1 Southwest Rapid Rewards point is $0.014
Basis of Value for Usage
Over the years, I’ve noticed a lot of people estimate what they perceive the value of the companion pass to be, but never gave real world numbers. Therefore, I decided to use my family’s data and include only flights where a companion pass was used during 2017/2018 to ultimately determine the value of the companion pass. Like everything, this is just one data point, but you can see that even if you fly on Southwest once every few months that this offers incredible value.
I broke it down by date, point of origin/destination, one way or round trip, and most importantly the cost in points per seat.
15,696 points – March 2017 – Cancun/Chicago – Roundtrip
21,187 points – June 2017 – Orlando/Chicago – Roundtrip
24,362 points – October 2017 – Washington, D.C./Chicago – Roundtrip
12,372 points – November 2017 – Buffalo/Chicago – One Way
28,156 points – November 2017 – Cancun/Chicago – Roundtrip
21,716 points – January 2018 – Nashville/Cleveland – Roundtrip
10,908 points – March 2018 – Memphis/Chicago – One way
11,052 points – March 2018 – Chicago/San Francisco – One way
11,052 points – March 2018 – San Francisco/Nashville – One way
17,719 points – April 2018 – Memphis/Rochester – Roundtrip
22,156 points – October 2018 – Orlando/Memphis – Roundtrip
- 18 legs flown or the equivalent of 9 round trip flights
- 18,107 miles traveled
- 194,376 points saved = $2,721 dollars saved
The Southwest Terms of Service outline that, “Companion Pass qualification will be based on a calendar year…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.” Thereby meaning that if you time earning your Companion Pass at the beginning of the year you could effectively use it for 23 months versus 13 if it is earned in December. That is a whole lot more time flying for free.
Another reason to get the Companion Pass now: Hawaii. Earlier this year, Southwest announced service to four different islands: Honolulu, HI (Oahu); Kahului, HI (Maui); Kona, HI (Island of Hawaii); Lihue, HI (Kauai). We’re still waiting to see a Luv plane cross the Pacific, but given that they plan to start service sometime in 2019, earning the Companion Pass during next year that would provide nearly two years of Hawaiian opportunity.
How to Earn the Companion Pass for 2019 & 2020
The conventional way to earn the this pass is to fly 100 one-way flights on Southwest in the calendar year. Another way to earn the pass, if you are able to meet high levels of spending, is to put $110,000 worth of spending on anyone of their credit cards (excluding Southwest flights and their hotel/rental card partners). The way I’m going about it this time I outlined in a previous post: introductory bonuses on Southwest’s fleet of credit cards. By combining the signup bonus of a Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card and the Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card (click show more at the bottom of the page) I will be able to hit the 110,000 point threshold by the end of January and getting the maximum of 23 months of usage.
Under 5/24 Strategy
1) Apply for the Chase Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card (click show more at the bottom of the page). It has a 60,000 point offer for 3k in spending. If you don’t have an actual business you can use any hobby you make money at and your social security number to signup for a business card. When applying get the business card first as even though you have to be under 5/24 to qualify it doesn’t count towards new cards. This is important if you are at 5/24 as you will still be able to make this work, but ONLY if you apply for the business card first.
If you want more points/can clear minimum spending fast:
2a) Apply for any of the Southwest personal cards that will also give you 60,000 points with 40,000 points coming after 1k spending within 3 months. Then you would get 20k more points after spending 12k over 12 months.
If you want a faster clear/lower minimum spend.
2b) Apply for a Southwest personal card via an airport/flight link. These links will give you 50,000 points, but only requires a 2k spend. Here is the poster and brochure I found during my flight last month:
In addition to the in flight offer there are several airports that contain 50,000 point Southwest kiosks. These kiosks give you the same 50,000 point offer, but you do not need to be in a Southwest flight to access them. Rather you just need to be past security.
3) After Jan. 1, meet the minimum spending requirements as designated above.
4) Name your companion and enjoying have a stockpile of 135k (a route) or 115k (b route) points to spend for yourself or others. Use those to book your flights for $5.60 domestically each way and then bring your companion with you for $5.60 as well.
The Southwest Companion Pass is my favorite perk in the points and miles business due to the ability to use it as often as you want for up to two years. The fact that I am able to sign up for two credit cards that will net me ~$4,400 worth of value over the next two years seems ludicrous.
Once you have the pass, check out this post on how to easily add a companion to your existing Southwest reservation (both points and revenue bookings).