Ok show of hands; who has heard of the Southwest companion pass? If you are a travel nerd you're well aware of what it is and probably have already clicked away from this page and are cursing my name for being so basic. For these people I respectfully owe you a noogie but most people probably haven't heard about it so let's get into it.
I first heard about the Southwest companion pass when my wife who was flying monthly on Southwest received a flyer in the mail about the program. The letter detailed that if she took 100 one way flights or earned 110,000 Southwest points she would qualify for the Southwest companion pass. We threw the letter away taking it for junk mail knowing that 100 one way flights was not going to happen. Then I started working in the credit card space and I quickly learned that the Southwest companion pass was one the fundamental credit card travel hacks.
Remember how I said to qualify for the companion pass my wife needed 100 one way flights or earn 110,000 Southwest points? Well when "points" are involved there is typically a credit card hack to help you get to the minimum. Before we get into the details of the hack you might want to know what the Southwest companion pass is. The Southwest companion pass allows the pass holder to have their companion fly for free - essentially buy one and get one free. You need to designate who your companion is but this name can be updated three times. Pretty cool way for people that want to travel around America to save a few bucks.
How can you earn 110,000 Southwest points. If you signed up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and earned the 100k sign up bonus and you also read this article you might think you can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest and with a little extra spending you will have hit the minimum and qualify for the pass. However this is not possible because Chase points while they can be transferred to your Southwest account at 1:1 ratio- Chase points transferred to your Southwest account cannot be used to help you get the companion pass.
So in order to get the companion pass you are going to need to signup for two credit cards- two Southwest Credit cards. Please note your "companion" can't sign up for one of these cards and transfer the points to you. This is not allowed so you need to sign up for the following two cards.
The first card is the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card which offers a 50k sign up bonus. The card carries a $69 annual fee.
The other card you will need to sign up for is the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card this card offers a 60k sign up bonus.
So here is some math:
50k+60k signup bonuses get is to the 110k companion pass threshold.
However here are costs if you want earn these points.
Yearly fees of $69 and $99 respectively $168 in yearly credit card fees.
You will also need to hit a minimum spend before you will be awarded the points which is $2k in 3 months and $3k in 3 months for the Business card. To maximize value remember that
"Rapid Rewards Companion Pass qualification will be based on the calendar year. Once it is earned, you will begin enjoying the benefits immediately after designating a companion. You will maintain your Companion Pass for the remainder of the calendar year in which you qualified and the entire calendar year immediately following the year in which you qualified."
So if you hit your min spend in January 2017 the companion pass will expire Dec 31 2018, so to get maximum value and space out your spending as much as possible get the Rewards Premier Card in August then apply for the Business card in November do your best to hit the min spend before January is over, transfer your points and apply for the companion pass. This way you will get the maximum amount of time to enjoy the companion pass
One other cost you will want to consider is that the 110,000 points you trade in for the companion pass is worth $1,837 (110,000 Southwest Points X 1.67 cents per point).
So the companion pass will cost you $168 in yearly fees + $1,837 in points + you pay the tax for the "free flight" .....death and taxes am I right?! With this all said if you have the travel bug and want to take weekend trips to see the US or just want to go to Vegas a lot get the companion pass!
TCCS: Yes the oddly shaped fellow hunched over his keyboard wearing the Kylo Ren mask
Oddly shaped fellow: "Umm I am not a business so how can I get the business card?"
TCCS- Pretty much anyone can qualify for a business card simply add your Social Security Number in where it asks for your Business ID number.