Point based reward travel can be life changing. If you know how to play the game, the credit card rewards can create a way for you to take your dream vacation, essentially, for free. When deciding which cards to use, you’ll need to pay specific attention to their reward programs, but the most important factor is how they work with their partners.
WHAT IS A COMPANION PASS?
For the past 4 years, my wife and I have had a Southwest Airlines companion pass. This allows you to book any ticket and add on another ticket for the cost of taxes and fees. That means you can travel anywhere in the US for $11.70. The companion pass applies to both paid tickets and reward travel tickets. So if you find a flight to Las Vegas from Dallas Love Field for a total of 9000 points, it’s actually only 4500 points per person. That’s a pretty powerful rewards program.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
You’re able designate anyone your wish to be your companion, however you can only change your companion 3 times per year. If you do change, any upcoming reservation that you have with your former companion will be cancelled. Also, it takes up to three weeks to process your change, so unfortunately, you aren’t able to head to Miami with your spouse one weekend and swap your companion to take your brother to Chicago the next, but it’s still the most valuable reward in all of travel. Also, companions cannot use the pass on their own, this is always a two-person transaction.
One of the best parts about Southwest Airlines is that it’s incredibly user friendly, in every way. First and foremost, there are no baggage fees up to two bags per person. Second, there are no change fees. This allows reward members to jump at every opportunity to book reward travel when Southwest has a sale.
When your tickets are 100% refundable up to the day of travel, you’re able to have multiple trips in the pipeline. Another tip is to book multiple arrival and departure times if you aren’t sure what works best yet, but you wanted to make sure you got in on the sale. Southwest Airline sales are some of the best in the industry and having the ability to book multiple flights and cancel them later is remarkable.
Also, companion passes are good for the remainder of the calendar year in which you have earned your pass, as well as the following year.
SOUTHWEST AIRLINES REWARD PROGRAM
Southwest has also just rolled out their new rewards platform. The new user interface makes changes even easier. If you have booked a flight and you go in to change your reservation, you now have a column that shows the point differences between each flight. Math sucks and this has taken all of that pesky math out of the process. That may seem like a small thing, but it’s a huge time saver.
USING YOUR COMPANION PASS
In order to use your companion pass, after you book you flight, visit the “my trips” section of the site and click on “add companion.” It’s literally that easy once you have one. Getting one, however, it the tricky part.
EARNING REWARD POINTS
There are two ways to earn a Southwest Airlines companion pass. First is to fly 100 qualifying one-way flights within a calendar year, and the second is to earn 110,000 qualifying points within a calendar year. Qualifying points are earned by making purchases through Southwest Airlines, the occasional partnerships that will pop up (these are the “switch your electricity to these people and we’ll give you 5000 points” type offers), or making purchases on one of their co-branded credit cards that they have through Chase bank.
WHICH REWARDS CARD SHOULD YOU USE?
The best way to take advantage of this program, without a doubt, is the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier credit card from Chase. This card offers 2 points for every dollar spent with Southwest and their travel partners (primarily hotels and rental car companies) and one point for every dollar spent elsewhere. Every year cardholders get an anniversary bonus of 6000 points and the annual fee is $99, but the sign up bonus is the key to this card.
There are multiple sign up offers available for this card, but for the most part, it’s never less than 40,000 points once you hit your minimum spend of $2000. The most common bonus is 50,000 points, but currently, there are some 60,000 point offers out there. So, let’s get down to it. Here’s how you get a Southwest Airlines companion pass:
QUALIFY FOR A COMPANION PASS
In order to earn your pass, you need to earn 110,000 points. If you sign up for a personal Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier card with a 50,000 bonus, once you hit your minimum spend of $2000, you’re almost have way there. You have 52,000 points in your account. Now, you go find one of the top sign up bonuses (and they’re out there) and you apply for a Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier business card with a 60,000 point bonus. Once you hit your minimum spend of $20I 00, you now have a Rapid Rewards account with 114,000 points in it. You’ve just earned a companion pass.
EARN REWARDS WITH YOUR BUSINESS
So, let’s chat about the business card. Everyone has a business. Do you sell anything on Ebay? Business. Etsy? Business. Does your kiddo want to start a lemonade stand? Business. Yes, I’m being a little facetious, but the fact is that the way that we live today, there are so many independent contractors in so many different industries, that anyone and everyone can “start a business.” Maybe your business is going to be a travel blog based on all the travel you’re about to do.
You’ll need to apply for your business card a minimum of 30 days after your personal card. Also, you can’t have opened more than five credit cards within the last 24 months. If you are denied a business card, call the reconsideration line. Explain why you need the card and tell them that you’re looking to split your personal and your business expenses on the two cards and that is why you’ve applied for two cards. Also, be willing to “move credit” from one card to another. The focus of your call is explaining why you need this business card. If you can do that, and you meet the other requirements, you’ll get your pass.
The best part about this is that you also have 114,000 points to use in conjunction with your companion pass. That’s a ton of travel, for two people, based on hitting, essentially, a $4000 minimum spend and you’ll have it for almost 2 whole years.
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