Flying for free sounds like a dream. There are whole websites that are dedicated to the art of hacking loyalty points to fly for free or to get free upgrades. Some people have a natural ability to hack points to their best advantage. I am not that person. Airline points are like calculus to me. It generally goes right over my head. So how, then, did an airline points dummy like me manage to fly Southwest for free nearly two years? Not only did I fly for free, but Ryan flew for free anytime he traveled with me.  Let me introduce you to a lovely thing called the Southwest Companion Pass. This pass was the most straight forward airline point hacking that I was actually able to understand so I jumped right at the chance to snatch it up.

What is the Southwest Companion Pass?

The Companion Pass is a perk for Southwest Rapid Rewards members that allows them to designate 1 person as their chosen companion to fly free anytime the Rapid Rewards member flies for at least 1 year. Say what? This means that anytime I fly and Ryan flies with me on Southwest he flies for free, not including taxes/fees/extras like early bird.

What criteria do I need to meet to qualify for a Southwest Companion Pass?

In order to qualify for a Companion pass you need to either earn 110,000 qualifying points from flights or partners or take 100 qualifying one-way flights during a calendar year (Jan 1-Dec 31). Once you meet the criteria, you receive the Companion Pass for the rest of the calendar year in which you earned it PLUS the entire next calendar year. They even send you a card that they recommend your companion brings along with them. You can find more details on Southwest’s website.

How I Qualified for the Southwest Companion Pass

In order to earn points the traditional way, you need to fly a lot.  But I qualified for the Companion pass after only flying twice on Southwest.  What is this sorcery you may ask? Well it’s pretty straightforward. I signed up for both the Premier and Plus Southwest credit cards during their promotional periods. They typically have promotions where if you spend $2,000 you will earn 25,000 Rapids Rewards points.  Sometimes they bump it up to 40,000, 50,000, and sometimes even 60,000 points. I signed up for the Premier card during a flight home from Chicago after Thanksgiving, when Southwest was advertising earning 50,000 points after spending $2,000 on the card within the first 3 months of ownership.

In in January the following year I used the phone number listed on Hartley Brody’s Adventure Blog to call to see if Chase was running the same promotion on the Plus card since the same promo did not show up anywhere online.  Sure enough they were running the promo at the time that I called. It felt a little sketchy at first, using a random 800 number I found off a blog post on the internet, then giving the person on the phone all my information including Social Security number.  A recipe for identity theft no doubt, but it was legit.  I qualified for the Plus card with the same 50,000 rapid rewards promotion and received my credit card within a week.  That phone number has since been deactivated. It seems that Chase is now trying to get people to sign up online exclusively.

So now that I had two credit cards that would give me a total of 100,000 qualifying points towards a Companion Pass, I was left with only 10,000 points I needed to earn in order to qualify for the pass. We simply shifted all our spending to the Premier credit card. And luckily (or not so luckily) we could is it to pay our taxes to the tax man. Et voila, I qualified for Companion pass in March of 2016. Which meant I not only had over 110,000 Rapid Rewards points to use towards flying on Southwest, but Ryan could fly for free whenever I flew for the rest of 2016 AND all of 2017!

NOTE: The Premier Card has an annual fee of $99 and the Plus card has an annual fee $69 of $89. It’s well worth the annual fee as we basically paid for it and more after our first flight taking advantage of our Companion Pass to Albany. The Premier Card also waives all foreign transaction fees so that alone usually pays for the annual fee for that card.

Tips for maximizing your time with the Companion Pass

Timing. Is. Everything. The year that your earn the points is the year you qualify for the Companion Pass. If you sign up for the cards in the last two months of the calendar year, then your first billing cycle will fall within the first couple months of the next calendar year. I earned 50,000 Points in January of 2016 with my Premier card and 50,000 points on my Plus Card in March of 2016. The other 10,000 points were earned between January and March of 2016 as well. This is how I got nearly two years of flying for free on Southwest for myself and a companion. I had so many Rapid Rewards points I just purchased my flights with points.
One thing I learned is that we need to plan out our trips better to get an even better value out of the pass.  We didn’t end up taking a flight until July of 2016 that allowed us to use the Companion Pass. All the trips we took with it have been very last minute trips, so that results in more expensive points used because a lot of times the Wanna Getaway flights are sold out. I highly recommend planning in advance and committing to trips well in advance.  This is a weekend getaway’s best friend.
Keep in mind that Chase limits how many credit cards you can apply to at a time.  I’ve read the it is 1 personal credit card and one business card within a 90 day time frame. Check out The Points Guy for some more details.

How to add take advantage of the Companion Pass benefit

It’s important that you book your flight first. Once you’ve confirmed and purchased your itinerary, Southwest will add the option in your online Rapid Rewards account to add your companion to the same itinerary, this ensures that they can fly the same exact flights and ultimately use the Companion Pass.  You CANNOT purchase tickets for both yourself and companion at the same time as Southwest does not give you the option to designate that you have a Companion Pass.

Interested in trying to get a companion pass?

Earn 40,000 bonus points with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card. I can be rewarded too if you apply here and are approved for the card. Learn More.
At the time of this posting you can also earn 40,000 points on the Plus card rather sign up for the card online sign up here. (I won’t receive any reward with this link)

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