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My Easy Path to a Free Companion
The Southwest Companion Pass is pretty well known among travel hackers. Despite their recent devaluations, Southwest remains a fantastic value if you can get your hand on one of these passes. Thankfully getting one is now easier than ever.
The Companion Pass
For those who are new to miles/points, the Southwest Companion Pass is gained when you earn 110,000 Rapid Rewards points in your account during a calendar year. When that happens, you get a pass which allows your companion to travel for free with you on both cash and points bookings. (You just pay their taxes.)
The pass is good for the rest of the calendar in which you qualify and the entire next year. So passes earned this year, are good through the end of 2016! Does this sound a little too good to be true? Well it sort of does, but it really is one of the best deals around and it is far from a secret.
Ways to Earn the Companion Pass
There are a few ways to earn the points that count towards the companion pass:
- Paid flights (yawn)
- Credit card earnings
- Shopping portal earnings
- Transferring points from some other programs (Note: Ultimate Rewards transfers don’t count.)
As you can probably tell from the list, the easiest way to get a pass is via credit card bonuses. (Although some advanced hobbyists easily get Companion Passes via the Southwest portal.) Since the Southwest credit cards often have 50,000 point sign-up bonuses, it has been pretty easy in the past to get 100,000 points.
For example, you could get the personal Premier and business Premier cards at the same time. Each of these cards has a $2k spending requirement for the bonus, so you would only be 6,000 points shy of the pass after getting the bonuses. This is how my wife got her pass last year.
Of course to fill in those extra 6,000 points you could simply MS or use the cards for purchases. You could also shop through the Southwest shopping portal or transfer Marriott points over. Well thankfully you don’t have to do those things anymore.
The 110K Credit Card Combo
Historically the highest bonus on the Southwest cards has been 50,000 Rapid Rewards points. Thankfully now, the Business Premier card has a 60K link. I wrote about it a few months ago and you can find the direct link in my original article.
By combining the 60K Business Premier card with a 50K personal card, you already have the 110K needed for the Companion Pass as soon as you get the bonus! (You actually end up with 115K after meeting the spending requirements.) That is exactly what I did. I got both of the cards recently, met the spending requirements and obtained my companion pass.
Personal Plus or Premier
You might notice that there are two versions of the Southwest personal credit card. (Although the Plus card isn’t advertised on the Chase site.) The main difference between these cards is the annual fee (which is not waived the first year) and anniversary points.
The Plus (direct link) has a lower $69 annual fee and gives 3,000 anniversary points while the Premier (direct link) has a $99 annual fee and 6,000 anniversary points. I personally went for the Plus since I have a ton of Southwest points now and prefer to save on the annual fee. (Note: The Premier also has no foreign transaction fee and earns 1,500 qualifying points for each $10k in spend.)
Chase Churning Rules
I feel it is important to note the recent developments regarding Chase and credit card churners. Recently they have been denying applications for some cards to people who have had 5 or more applications in the last two years. The Southwest cards are not part of that, but it is something to keep in mind. You can find out more information here.
For me, getting the Southwest Companion Pass was as easy as applying for two credit cards and meeting minimum spending requirements. Now my wife and I both have a pass so we can book four seats for the price of two, which is an incredible value in my opinion!