EDIT: As of May 1, 2017, the bonuses on the cards have been reduced down to 40k points (even through referrals). There are still “targeted mailers” going around for 50k, which are basically just personalized invites sent through the mail. Some people have applied using the 40k link and then emailed Chase to see if they would match the 50k offer and have been successful, but it’s risky. If you desperately need the Companion Pass now you can still apply and request the match, but I would wait until November/December of this year so that you can earn your Companion Pass for a full 24 months of 2018/2019. You also can apply for one personal (40k) and one business card (60k) and get there that way.
The Southwest Companion Pass is single-handedly the coolest and most lucrative benefit for a young couple wanting to get into the credit card points game. Over the past year it has given Mary and I over $2500 in value – including flights to San Francisco, Las Vegas, San Diego, New York, Panama City Beach, etc. – which is why we recommend it so highly!
Here are the basics: The Southwest Companion Pass is a “pass” or benefit that Southwest gives to members that allows you to bring a designated companion, typically a spouse or friend, on any SW flight for free (you only pay government taxes or airport fees). The benefit is valid during the remainder of the calendar year in which you earn it and all of the following year (i.e. earn in April 2017 and it lasts until Dec 31, 2018). This is NOT a single-use benefit, but a benefit that can be used as many times as you want during that time-frame. Whether the flight is paid for with points or with cash, or even if someone else pays for it for you, you can add your “companion” to your reservation.
So how can you earn it? Southwest awards the Companion Pass to anyone who earns 110,000 points or takes 100 one-way flights in a calendar year. Sounds pretty impossible for the average college-aged person or couple who can barely afford a single flight, right? WRONG! The caveat to this is what type of points count for the companion pass. These are the ONLY points that count towards companion pass:
- Points earned from flights
- Points earned from the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal
- Points earned from the credit card
Now since this is a blog about credit cards I assume you know where I’m going next – the bonuses on these Southwest credit cards qualify for the companion pass. Isn’t that so cool? By getting two credit cards, you can get a benefit that allows someone else to fly for free with you as much as you want, making travel half-price for couples or friends.
The cards that you can choose from are the 1) Southwest Plus, 2) Southwest Premier, or 3) Southwest Business Premier. I think the two easiest ones are Southwest Plus and Southwest Premier, so I’ll cover those in-depth here. The business premier can sometimes offer 60k point bonuses, so if you have any sort of side-business you might want to check that out as well!
The Southwest Plus offers
50k SW points after $2,000 in credit card spend 40k SW points after $1000 in credit card spend (as of May 2017) and charges a $69 annual fee that is not waived in Year 1. Since you earn 1 point per dollar spent on every purchase (or 2 on SW flights), your all-in SW point total after this card will be ~52k SW points. To apply for the card, you can use our referral link here or use a non-referral link here. The bonus is the same either way for you, we just get 5k SW points if you use our referral! Always appreciated.
The Southwest Premier offers
50k SW points after $2,000 in credit card spend 40k SW points after $1000 in credit card spend (as of May 2017) and charges a $99 annual fee that is not waived in Year 1. This card also offers 1 point per dollar, so your all-in total after getting both personal cards is 82k SW points – not quite enough. When the bonuses are 50k, this gets you to 104k of the 110k – almost there! To apply for the SW Premier, you can use our link here or a non-referral link here.
The Southwest Premier Business offers 60k SW points after $3,000 in credit card spend, and charges a $99 annual fee that is not waived in Year 1. Business cards with Chase are tough to get, so unless you have good credit and no recent applications, it’s going to be harder to get approved for this. If you do this AND one of the personal cards, you should be at 104k of the 110k required for the Companion Pass. You can apply here (there are no referral links for this card).
Annual fees scare people, and that’s a good thing normally. However, let’s do some quick math to show that in this situation you are getting a Donald Trump-esque HUGE return on your money.
- Pay $168 ($99 + $69) in annual fees for the first year (can cancel after the first year if you want).
- Get $3800 worth of travel on Southwest. 110k points with a valuation of 1.6-1.8 cents per point = ~$1900. That amount x2 with companion pass = $3800.
Any time you tell me to pay $168 and get $3800 in return, I’ll happily take that deal! The other awesome thing is that, even after using all of your points, you still can use the Companion Pass on any paid flight. So $3,800 is really just a minimum – the sky is the limit (bad dad-joke alert!)
In order to get the remaining 6k SW points you need to hit the 110k, you have a couple options:
- Spend another $6,000 organically
- Manufacture Spend the rest – post coming soon on the mechanics of manufactured spending
- Take a few paid flights on Southwest
- Buy things for friends/family through the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal
So, where will you go with your 110k points and your Companion Pass? For an idea of all possible destinations you could use SW to get to, look up their route map here. In addition to basically every major U.S. city, some of the cool international options are Belize, Costa Rica, Bahamas, Aruba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and more. Let us know how you use it and where you go, and we would be happy to feature you on the blog!