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So we’ve talked a bit before about the Southwest Companion Pass, and why it’s one of the best travel hacking deals out there. Earning it takes some time, as you have to get 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points in one calendar year. Once you do, you earn the Companion Pass, which means that any time you travel during that time, your companion travels FREE (well, they have to pay the $5 9/11 fee, but nothing else). It doesn’t matter if you book with miles or points – your companion comes along for free.
In the old (pre-credit-card-explosion) days, this was probably difficult if not impossible, unless you were a serious Southwest traveler. Now, with a bit of help from Manufactured Spending, it doesn’t end up being that hard. I signed up for 2 Southwest credit cards which earned 50,000 points each (I believe those offers are no longer valid). Then the combination of spending money on those credit cards, shopping portals, and a few other point earning endeavors, and I got my 110,000 points late in May.
If you’re really good, you should aim to earn your Companion Pass in January, which would give you a full 2 years of companion travel, but that takes a lot of dedication and coordination. I feel good getting a solid 18 months out of it.
How to check how close you are to earning the Companion Pass?
My first question was how do I check how close I am to reaching the companion pass. Southwest’s website is not very intuitive in my opinion. Googling Southwest companion pass takes you to a Southwest.com site talking about the Companion Pass, but with nowhere to check how close you are. A bit more googling around found the following link
Once I found that link, that was much clearer! I don’t even know how to get to this page from the rest of the Southwest site, so if anybody knows, please leave a comment
Okay so that’s good – and once you earn our companion pass, you get an email with a link to add your companion. I believe you can change who your companion is 3 times during the life of the pass, but to do that, you have to call in.
Using your companion pass
I also felt like the documentation on USING your companion pass was not very good. First off, you have to book your own travel first. So make the regular booking (whether with dollars or points).
In my situation, we are booking a family vacation to Reno, so I booked my travel first. I didn’t have enough Rapid Rewards points in my account, so I had to transfer some in from my Chase Ultimate Rewards balance. The points transferred immediately (some transfers don’t but these did), and then I picked the flights that I wanted (the price had even gone down since the last time I checked!)
And now for the cost of $40 and 146,857 points, we are off to Lake Tahoe this summer! That’s about 18,300 points per ticket, so you can see the value of Southwest and the Companion Pass. Compare that to the 25,000 points per ticket (200,000 points total!) that it would take on most of the domestic airlines. That’s over 50,000 points that we saved compared to using an airline like American or United.