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This should come as no surprise for anyone that is a parent but this year has presented some unique challenges to my travel calendar as my wife and I welcomed a new addition to the family…our babygirl.
Prior to this year, I could book a vacation with my wife and the only consideration would be my wife’s calendar. In the rare instances that I was traveling solo (e.g. work, conferences, etc.), I would return within 24-48 hours so this would rarely affect our family calendar.
However, with an infant (and I assume a child of any age), travel becomes a bit more complicated.
Recently, I booked a BUSINESS CLASS TRIP TO HAWAII for our family. However, I enjoy a little adventure so I purposely did not book a return flight home (sshhh, don’t tell my wife.)
ONE-WAY TICKET TO HAWAII…GOOD OR BAD DECISION?
Over the past few years, it’s been rumored that Southwest Airlines would begin flying to Hawaii but it has never come to fruition. However, in the last few months of 2018, Southwest Airlines officially announced that they would begin flying to Hawaii by the end of 2018.
Understanding that I had booked one-way tickets for the whole family to go to Hawaii later in the 2019, I had three options:
- Pay cash for a one-way ticket from Hawaii back home
- Search for award tickets and redeem miles to return home
- Obtain the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass (SWACP) and hope that Southwest eventually does fly to Hawaii
I was cautiously optimistic Southwest would begin flying to Hawaii this year so I decided to pursue #3 (with #2 as my backup).
SO WHAT IS THE SOUTHWEST COMPANION PASS?
The Southwest Companion Pass (SWACP) has been touted as the “best deal available in the travel world” and a “much coveted perk for air travel aficionados.” I’ve never had it but who doesn’t want to be an air travel aficionado? 😉
So why is this perk highly coveted? Because owning the pass is, essentially, a 2-for-1 deal on every Southwest flight you book. You read that correctly…BOGO! Every time you buy a flight (or redeem points for a flight), you can choose another person (the companion) to fly with you for free and there is no limit to the amount of flights that you can use it on. The only limitation is….your vacation time.
HOW TO EARN THE COMPANION PASS?
To qualify for the SWACP, you need to complete one of the following:
- Fly 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year; or
- Earn 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year. (Note: You can obtain these points 3 ways: earn points through revenue flights; earn points on the Southwest credit cards; earn points from Rapid Rewards partners.)
Exploring option #1: 100 one-way flights is A LOT of flying. #hardpass
Exploring option #2: 110,000 is A LOT of points to accumulate….UNLESS YOU KNOW THE FAST-TRACK OPTION!
THE FAST TRACK OPTION
Chase Bank offers various Southwest Airlines credit cards.
Personal Credit Cards
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. An extra 3,000 bonus points at your cardmember anniversary. Annual fee: $69
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. An extra 6,000 bonus points at your cardmember anniversary. Annual fee: $99
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. 7,500 anniversary points each year. $75 Southwest annual travel credit. Annual fee: $149
Business Credit Cards
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card: Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. 9,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary. Annual fee: $199
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. 9,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary. Annual Fee: $99
If you’re doing the math…80,000 points from one credit card is approximately 75% of the way towards the SWACP.
Here’s an added bonus…once you earn the SWACP, it is valid for the remainder of that calendar year AND for the entire following year. That means if you can earn 110,000 points in January of a given year, you will have the SWACP for almost 2 full years.
There is one caveat to this equation. As of January 2019, you cannot get a second personal credit card if:
- You are a current Southwest consumer credit cardholder; or
- You have earned a new cardmember bonus on a Southwest consumer credit card in the last 24 months
However, you can get one personal card and one business card to help reach the 110k point baseline for the companion pass.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING!
The key here is that you need the points to post in January; you do not necessarily need to do all of the spending in January.
So in a nutshell, your spending would look like this:
- Apply for one personal AND one business card in November or December
- Complete the minimum spend after your December statement closes so the bonus posts in January
- …earn a shiny new Companion Pass to go along with the New Year!
What better way to celebrate? Maybe your resolution could even be to travel more with your favorite friend or family member!
WHERE DOES SOUTHWEST AIRLINES FLY?
Where do you do you want to go….Aruba? Mexico City? Cabo San Lucas? Costa Rica? Turks and Caicos? Or, simply, to visit family in another state?
I can understand why most people in the travel community consider this a jewel.
Just think about it for a second: every time you book a ticket, your companion flies for free. The only fees you have to pay are the mandatory Southwest taxes ($5.60 per flight segment within the USA). And even with a connection, you’ll only pay $11.20 for your companion to fly across the country with you. That’s AMAZING!
In my case, these next two years can be even more lucrative. I will select my wife as my companion and children (under the age of 2) fly for free as a lap child.
For me, that’s technically, a 3-for-1 flying from Hawaii.
CHA-CHING! I hear the savings adding up already!
PRO TIP: Southwest has many fare sales throughout the year. Often, their flights can be as low as $39 during a sale. It’s hard to beat $39 (or using some of the 110,000 points you’ve accumulated).
So, is the Southwest Companion Pass as awesome as they say? I have no idea but I have it for the next two years so I’ll be reporting on our progress and financial savings often.
Does anyone else have the Southwest Companion Pass? What has been your experience?