Best deal in U.S. Travel: Southwest Companion Pass

Best deal in U.S. Travel: Southwest Companion Pass

What is a Southwest Companion Pass?

The Southwest Companion Pass is a benefit that gets added to your account after earning 110,000 Southwest miles in a single calendar year. Once you earn it, you can name a traveler that can accompany you on ANY Southwest flight for only the cost of taxes & fees, which for U.S. domestic flights are only $5.60 each way. That companion can fly with you an unlimited number of times for the rest of that year, PLUS the whole next year. On top of that, you can change your companion 3 times each year.


 

I don’t fly that much. How in the world would I earn 110,000 Southwest miles in a year?

You’re not alone. Most people don’t fly enough to earn that many miles, BUT miles you earn from Southwest partners (renting a car through Southwest’s website or shopping online using the Southwest Shopping Portal, for example) and, most importantly, Chase Southwest credit cards and their sign-up bonuses count towards your Pass qualification.

There are currently 3 Southwest branded credit cards offered by Chase. As part of a recent change, Chase will not approve you for a personal (non-business) card if you already have one.


Chase Rapid Rewards Premier
40,000 mile sign-up bonus after spending $1,000 in the first three months of having the card
$99 annual fee that is not waived the first year, but gets you a yearly 6,000 mile anniversary bonus
– NO foreign transaction fees.

Chase Rapid Rewards Plus
40,000 mile sign-up bonus after spending $1,000 in the first three months of having the card
$69 annual fee that is not waived the first year, but gets you a yearly 3,000 mile anniversary bonus

Chase Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card
60,000 mile sign-up bonus after spending $3,000 in the first three months of having the card
$99 annual fee that is not waived the first year, but gets you a yearly 6,000 mile anniversary bonus
– NO foreign transaction fees.

*Note: Using the links above provides me with a referral bonus that doesn’t affect your approval chances or bonus in any way. You don’t have to use my links, but I’m very grateful when you choose to.

The cards earn you 1 mile/$1 spent anywhere and 2 miles/$1 if spent on Southwest. This means you can get one personal Southwest card and the Southwest business card to net yourself a minimum of 104,000 miles for just hitting the sign-up bonuses. You’d still need to spend or fly your way through the last 6,000 miles.


A few other things to keep in mind:

The 110,000 miles you earn are yours to keep and use. You don’t “trade them in” for the Pass.

All of the Southwest cards are subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule, meaning you will not be approved for one if you have opened 5 or more personal credit cards within the previous 24 months.

You may think you won’t qualify for a business credit card, but remember that side-jobs such as consulting, coaching, training, tutoring, etc. are all legitimate businesses, even if you normally report your expenses and income as personal.

Unlike most other airline programs, Southwest’s price for a flight in miles is directly tied to the base cash fare of the flight. In other words, when the cash price of a flight goes up, the price in miles goes up accordingly. With current valuations of Southwest miles, 110,000 miles can get you anywhere from ~$1400 to ~$2000 worth of flights.

– New offers pop up somewhat frequently and it’s quite common to see 50,000/$2,000 offers for the personal cards, so if you’re not in a rush, it’s probably better to wait for one of those to appear.

– There are some earned miles that don’t count towards Companion Pass qualification. From Southwest’s Terms & Conditions: Purchased points, points transferred between Members, points converted from hotel and car loyalty programs, and e-Rewards, e-Miles, Valued Opinions, and Diners Club, points earned from Rapid Rewards program enrollment, tier bonus points, flight bonus points, and Partner bonus points (excluding bonus points earned on the Rapid Rewards Credit Cards from Chase) do not qualify as Companion Pass qualifying points.

There are certainly reasons to pass on this deal, such as if you typically fly alone or don’t live near an airport that Southwest flies to. If you CAN make use of it, though, the Companion Pass is the best deal in domestic U.S. air travel. Good luck and hope to see you on a plane!


 

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