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The Southwest Companion Pass is treated by some as the holy grail of travel. The 2-for-1 deal is honestly one of the best travel deals out there. I’m not going to deny that.
But I have realized that it isn’t for everyone. After trying to come up with ways to earn it, and even starting to put spend on my wife’s Southwest card last year toward it, I ditched that plan. I’m over trying to earn the pass. Here’s why:
Having a large family dilutes the deal
If you are a couple, then any 2-for-1 deal is incredibly attractive. Even if you’re a single-child family, you’re still getting 3-for-2. Things start to look much less attractive with a four-person family, unless you’re able to get two companion passes.
With three kids, having a single companion pass isn’t that appealing. I’d rather focus my points earning elsewhere. Since I am waaaay over 5/24, and I recently had my wife start applying for card again (after taking a break for a while), neither of us would be able to pick up the cards needed until well over a year from now. She might be able to get the companion pass in 2019, and me in 2020. Yeah….I’m not going to try to plan that far ahead right now.
Is it worth leaving off other credit card applications in order to earn the pass via sign-up bonuses? Not to me. We earned a passel of points in 2017, and I wouldn’t give those up for a companion pass. If issuers keep getting more strict with approvals, though, I may rethink this plan.
Card spend is just too high
Last year I tried to concoct a plan where I would use manufactured spending, gift card reselling, and normal spend to reach $110,000 in spend on the card for a companion pass. But this proved to be a sufficient barrier to entry that I gave up a couple weeks after starting. We’d have to average $2115 per week on the card. Not really worth doing.
Via the manufactured spending route, there would be a cost. MS is also a pain where I live. It’s doable, but a pain. I’ve pretty much given it up. I used to have a fairly good system down where I could go through $2,000 per week of OneVanilla Visa cards from CVS, cashed out at the USPS. But that route has since died. The cost of the MS, plus the hassle, plus the fact that I didn’t know what our 2018 travel plans would include, killed the plan soon after it launched.
I’m sure there are plenty of people who could figure out a way to put $110,000 on a card in a year. I am not one of them.
I like having options besides flying Southwest
If we had earned the Companion Pass in 2017, especially if we had earned it at a cost, I would have felt compelled to use it enough to make it worth it in 2018. Right now, I’m glad I didn’t. We have a lot of other miles and points, and it is nice to feel like we can use whatever I want.
I enjoy flying Southwest over most other domestic carriers, but there is a barrier to entry to jumping on one of their planes: distance. We can fly United locally, or Alaska and American if we drive 3.5 hours. Flying Southwest means driving a solid 5 hours, something I wouldn’t want to do for every trip.
I’m sure the Southwest Companion pass is the best thing ever for some families. It’s definitely a great deal. But it is one that simply doesn’t fit our family’s needs and I am over it for the time being.
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I agree that it may not the best option for families and it’s diluted as you have larger traveling parties….but to be honest, you could say that about literally any 2 for 1, or half off deal that’s limited to one person. Companion pass is still by far the best deal in travel (IMO), especially for those who fly domestically often
coming from the NYC area, I’ve flown on AA, UA, and JetBlue. SW has not come up in normal search as the lowest fare/optimal routing.
Ian, we earned a SW companion pass last year and used it for a family trip to Orlando. We have 4 kids. I am sure that there are some smarter ways to earn and use points for larger families, but as a family of 6, traveling is always expensive and any little bit helps. That’s how I viewed trying for the companion pass. Also, because of school and kids sports, we always travel during the busiest times of the year so flights always cost more. With that said, I wasn’t choosing between that and other cards, though. We only have a handful of cards so far. Our biggest issue is always being too large a family for most hotel rooms. That’s the issue I’d love to solve in our travel.
I have a post coming on best hotel chains for large families. There is no silver bullet for this, but knowing generally where to look should at least help. I’ve booked 3 hotel rooms for parties of 6 people in the past several months.
That’s good to hear. Most travel hacking sites or articles never focus on large family travel or they give lazy advice.
You don’t have to spend 110k to get the pass. You have to earn 110k points. You get 50k signup points typically for each card, so if you get the personal and business, you’re most of the way there. No manufactured spending necessary.
I do know this route is an option. However, at this point, one of us would have to wait 18 months to be eligible under the 5/24 rule. Not sure it is worth it, given all the other cards we could get in the meantime and the other factors I’ve described.
If we both waited and got 2 companion passes, now we’d be talking.
I see a lot of what you are saying.
I have 5 kids so the deal is less appealing to me. I was still thinking of doing it and having my husband do it too. But what got me was thinking about my travel goals. The places that I want to go to the most are not places that Southwest flies. My biggest goals are getting the whole family to China, Japan, and Africa.
You realize that a family and a couple save the exact same amount of money via the companion pass, right? If your wife’s ticket would have cost $400, you saved $400. If my wife’s ticket would have cost $400, I save $400. The addition of extra people has no bearing on this math.
Yes, your savings are the same, however, your cost to generate those savings are very different. In your example, a couple has to spend $400 to save $400. A family of 6, like mine, would have to spend $2000 to save $400. Not nearly the same math problem.
I bought into the whole “companion pass is the best thing ever” 3 or 4 years ago. We managed to use it as a couple to go to Belize for 50% off the points and saved 17% going to DC as a family, but ended up letting about 30,000 points expire when we couldn’t find another opportunity to use them and didn’t realize that redemptions didn’t reset the expiry clock.