Southwest Companion Pass
Application Link – Southwest Airlines Personal Premier Card – 50,000 points after spending $2K in 3 months (I do not receive a commission)
One of the best perks in the airline frequent flyer programs is the Southwest Companion Pass. When received, it allows the one who earned it to bring along one companion for free (plus $2.50 per segment) – whether the primary traveler is flying on points or cash! The companion can be added to the reservation at anytime, it does not have to be done at the time of booking or with the primary traveler. As long as their is a seat on the plane, the companion gets to fly.
Now that Airtran and Southwest have almost completed their operational integration (complete integration is scheduled for late 2014), that opens up many destinations and possibilities! Not only are there plenty of destinations to choose from, but the planes and Southwest experience are not bad at all. Sure, if you only are ever willing to travel in business/first class, you will not enjoy Southwest (one cabin). But if you are more concerned about getting to your destination cheap, they are definitely one of the best options!
Just Under the Wire!
Today, my wife received an e-mail that she has earned the Southwest Companion Pass! Considering that all point earning had to be done before December 31, 2013 for the points earned this year to count, you can say she just made it under the wire. Obviously, this is the worst time to earn this pass. The reason is that the pass is good for the current year and the next year since you are actually earning it for the next program year. That means, if she had earned it all in January of 2014, it would have counted for all of 2014 and 2015! Instead, her companion pass is only good for the remainder of 2013 (one week) and all of 2014.
Why did we plan it like this then? To be honest, it was not planned. We had applied for two Chase Southwest cards this year when they were at 50,000 point levels each. It was done months apart. We did it for some trips and also (don’t kill me!) Amazon gift cards (Rapid Reward points are worth 1 cent per point towards a variety of vendors). We went with the Amazon gift cards because we were both doing one more big application spree before moving to Europe for a while and that was one of the only Chase cards that she had left to apply for. Plus, we knew the $500 in supplies from Amazon would come in very handy for our move! You could say her earning the companion pass was pretty much accidental – she received 50,000 points from each card (total 100,000) and the points for the minimum spending (total 4,000) which left her only 6,000 points away from the 110,000 points necessary for the pass. Since we will be back in the US for a little while next year, we pushed ahead to finish it out.
Earning the Southwest Companion Pass
To obtain that companion pass, you need to earn 110,000 Rapid Reward points in one calendar year. Note: these points are not redeemed for the pass – it is simply the level you must reach to receive the pass. In other words, as long as you get 110,000 Rapid Reward points, you are able to have the companion pass and still use those 110,000 points for travel. This makes those points shoot up to a value of almost $4,000 if redeemed for Wanna Get Away fares (until the coming devaluation in March)! The way to get qualifying points is to either fly or earn credit card points (by card bonuses or spending).
Unfortunately, points that are transferred into Southwest do not count for the companion pass. This means that you cannot transfer your Ultimate Reward points to Southwest (which transfers at 1:1) to get closer to the required 110,000 points for the pass. These points can be earned by Chase Southwest credit card bonuses (4 cards total available), by flying, or by spending on the Chase Southwest credit card (any one of the 4).
Currently, the bonuses for the Southwest cards are at 25,000 points each (with one exception, see below). I would not apply for any of them right now (when they are at 25,000). Based on past experiences, we should see a bump early in the year (especially with the devaluation coming, Southwest will want people to be applying for the cards to draw more customers) to the 50,000 level. I would wait until that happens. The bonus of 50,000 per card normally stays there for about 4-6 weeks. You can either apply for one business and one personal card on the same day (which will require a phone call to Chase on one of them for approval) or apply for one at the beginning of the bonus and one just before it ends. After that, just spend $6,000 over the required minimum spend on each card and you have your companion pass!
However, the personal premier Southwest credit card is currently offer 50,000 points after spending $2,000 in 3 months. I would definitely jump on this if you desire to earn the companion pass in 2014! Applying for it now will leave you in good shape to apply whenever the other cards also receive the bump (since you will have more than 31 days between applications). Here is the link. (I do not receive a commission for this link)
Southwest, hurry up and integrate AirTran’s international routes (the Caribbean) into your system! Right now, flights that are purchased at Airtran are not eligible for the Companion Pass. We are trying to plan a short Caribbean getaway next year and would love to use the pass for that! Otherwise, we hope we have sometime to use it while we are home!