Ahhhhh, fall -- the time of the year for cooler temperatures, colorful foliage, hoodies, boots, scarves, and PSL from Starbucks (pumpkin spice lattes, for those of you not in the know)! Fall for me is also about planning trips to see family/friends over Thanksgiving/Christmas or escaping to a much warmer, preferably beachy, climate!
Fall is also the time of the year when Southwest Airlines (SW), like clockwork, starts to put out their 50,000 point Southwest Chase credit card offers (link)! This is the prime time to position yourself to get the Southwest Companion Pass!
What is it?
For the past two and a half years, whenever my wife and I have traveled within the continental U.S., we have predominantly flown on SW. This is due to the fact that for the past two and the half years, we have had what SW calls their Companion Pass. What is a Companion Pass, you may ask? SW states on their webpage:
"Your spouse, your best friend, or maybe your mother. Whomever you choose, your Companion can fly with you when you have Companion Pass status. Simply fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 110,000 Qualifying Points in one calendar year."
So this benefit essentially allows you to designate a "companion" wherever, whenever, you fly. For example, we have some flights booked out to California for the end of October for our annual family reunion, with my side of the family. Currently, Rachel is the one who has qualified for the Companion Pass, and I have been designated her companion. We first booked Rachel's flights, and then simply tagged me on the companion. We used points (obviously) to book the flight, but regardless of whether you pay with cash/credit card or book with points, the companion (in this case, me), will always fly "free", only paying the government taxes and fees! Another way to look at it, is everywhere we fly together, we are always getting BOGO - buy one get one free!
Southwest's Program Terms & Conditions, also states:
"Companion Pass qualification will be based on a calendar year. Once Companion Pass status is earned, the Member can begin using his/her Companion Pass immediately once he/she has designated a Companion. The Member will maintain Companion Pass status for the remainder of the calendar year in which the status was earned and for the entire calendar year immediately following."
To break this down further, let's say you qualify for the Companion Pass today, in the month of September, you will not only maintain this pass through the end of 2015, you will also retain that status all the way through December 2016! Wow, what a bargain!
Lastly, the program terms state that you are allowed to change your "companion" up to 3 times each calendar year you hold the pass! So you broke up with your boyfriend and found someone new, hooray, in he slides as your new companion! You want to take your mom somewhere she's never been, but you/she can't afford it... BAM, Companion Pass, $11.20 for taxes & fees and you're good to go! SW has also recently added flights Belize, Aruba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and Cancun, which gives even more incentive to fly with them!
How To Get The Companion Pass
Obtaining the SW Companion Pass is actually pretty tricky. I have had numerous friends and family ask me about it, and then went about trying to obtain the pass on their own, without my expertise, only to fail at obtaining it or maximizing its benefits! There is a certain time of year that you want to obtain the pass, to maximize its full benefits. But, there is also a certain amount of spending you need to do to get those points posted towards the 110,000 Qualifying Points! If you are a big every day and every month spender, it's possible to do. But like many average American households, it is hard to do so if you're on a budget, and only do a set amount of spending per month. With my knowledge and tricks of the trade, we were able to meet the spending requirements and obtain the 110,000 Qualifying Points in 2 days!
How We've Benefitted From It
Since first obtaining the pass in 2013, we have flown to Boston for a friend's wedding and as a positioning flight for our trip to Europe, Philadelphia for another wedding, Buffalo for yet another wedding, Las Vegas for a professional conference, Rachel went to NYC for a bachelorette party, Puerto Rico for a vacation with some of our best friends, California to visit family, Orange County, California for another wedding (yes, these past two years have been full of weddings) and time with family, I went to Las Vegas again myself for another conference, and then back to California to see family once more and as a positioning flight for our Asia trip. WHEW! That's a lot of flights, isn't it? And all of these flights were redeemed with the 110,000 points that we accrued in obtaining the Companion Pass!
If I were to conservatively price each of those flights at approximately $300 per roundtrip, all of those flights would have cost approximately $3,900 for the both of us! I track our finances through YNAB (You Need A Budget - this could be a blog post in the future), so I know exactly how much we've spent total on government taxes & fees for those flights. You ready for it? Drumroll... $179.80. Insane! That is almost a 95% discount on flights!
As you can see, it has been a joy having the Companion Pass and flying with SW these past two and a half years! It has afforded us the opportunity to see many parts of the States, allowed us to celebrate new marriages, vacation with friends, and spend quality time with family on the other side of the country. We are looking forward to continuing to have the SW Companion Pass for many years to come!
If you want to avoid the pitfalls others have experienced in trying to obtain the Companion Pass, let me walk you through, step-by-step, on how to obtain the 110,000 Qualifying Points required to achieve Companion Pass status in the shortest amount of time possible! This will get you on your way flying SW BOGO free style, indefinitely, along with learning how to earn tons of points, maximize your redemptions, and travel for free! If you're interested, click HERE!
If you're interested in the card, but not the SW Companion Pass, you can get it and the 50,000 point bonus HERE.
*Final chance, ends Monday 9/14: The Starwood Preferred Guest AMEX card increased 30,000 point offer. Click HERE to sign up!
Any questions? Email me or comment below!
(Banner photo credit: Felipe Garcia / Flickr)