Hey there fellow Adventurers! In an effort to inform, plus give a shameless plug 🙂 I thought I would share with you how I have been able to fly for (almost) free and even have some free hotel stays since early 2019! (Bear with…this is actually REALLY REALLY good info, but it takes a minute to get through the options and the logistics). And before I forget, once you read through this and decide to apply for a Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Card, do me a favor and click this link to do so!
First, though, what is the Southwest Companion pass? This is travel gold, quite frankly. If you earn the coveted companion pass you can take a pal (and can change who that person is 3 times a year) with you on any trip for free (excluding 9/11 taxes of 11 dollars per person/round trip). The best part is you can take them with you on literally any trip you book (unless there are no seats left), whether you paid OR USED POINTS. Normally the companion pass is good for the remainder of the year in which you earned it, and the entirety of the year following. If you earn it quickly in year one then you could have nearly 24 months of this perk. But if you earn it late in the year, you could have it for only 13ish months, or less. The normal way to earn it is to spend enough to earn 125,000 points on a Chase SW Credit Card. If you never hit any point multipliers, that’s $125,000. You can also fly 110 legs of flights as well. I am not rich, so this is method is not for me. The other way you can earn a companion pass with Southwest is through various credit card offers and this is what I am talking about!
There are two ways to secure a companion pass using credit card offers. 1) There is an off chance (but it has happened twice in the last three years now) that ONE personal Chase Southwest Card will drop with an abbreviated companion pass (just the year it’s earned in) and 2) the “traditional” way using a personal card STACKED with a business card. You cannot stack two personal cards, but one business card, and one personal card, and two business cards together work.
Option 1 is currently not available but it was a couple months ago! When it is, here is how it is done! In 2019 (and they did it again this year, I might add) Chase and Southwest put out an offer to apply for one of their Rewards Cards. Basically the deal was: apply, get approved, and then spend x amount of dollars in a 2 or 3 month time frame, and get anywhere from 40-65,000 Southwest Points AND a companion pass. The Southwest Companion pass is unique in that it is good for AS MANY TRIPS AS YOU WANT on Southwest during the timeframe earned. Usually, a companion pass is good for the remainder of the year you earn it AND all of the following year. But the Sidekick’s deal was the first time they offered it with such ease and it was only good for that one year it was earned in. In other words, try to earn this companion pass as fast and early as you can! If you earn it in your first month having the card (definitely possible with a 2k spending requirement) remember that it will not hit until that billing cycle is complete. So, in other words, if this card is available in January, you apply for the card immediately, and then spend your required amount by Feb. 1st, then you will not see your point and companion pass bonuses until Marchish. But keep an eye out. This offer is not heavily advertised, and it is not available for long, when it is, which is why you should really keeps your eyes open for it. FYI, there is a small annual fee for these cards. Most of the time the lower 69 dollar annual fee card is all you need. Do not run a balance and pay interest though!
It is June 2021 now, and looking at the Chase Southwest Cards available, one can get a companion pass the same way I did RIGHT NOW. Step one is similar to what I already wrote. The personal cards available right now all pay out a bonus of 65,000 including the card with a $69 annual fee. The current spending requirement is actually 1000 less than mine was, at 2k spending in your first 3 months. Charge your rent, utility bills, car insurance, whatever, and knock it out. Once you have hit that mark, you will have 67,000 points minimum (65 plus the 2 you earn from your spending).
I will pause real quick right here and point out something. Even if you cannot get approved for the business card required for step 2, those 67,000 points are nothing to sneeze at. If you do your flights smart, and have good flight patterns, you can easily get round trip tickets for 18k or even better, which means that basically you could take 3 to 4 round trips by yourself, or even take someone with you for one or maybe two of those trips.
Moving on to Step 2. If you have business income or can swing getting approved for that business card some way then this is vital. Currently there are two business card offers. One is 80k points, a 200 dollar annual fee (boo), and a spending requirement of 5 grand in 3 months (tougher, but not as difficult as you might think at first). The other one is the one I have, which is currently a 60k bonus, 100 dollar annual fee and only 3k spending in 3 months. When I did this one it was 75K bonus points for the 100 dollar card, but had to spend 5k in 3 months. I gave that card to the sidekick and she did most of the spending and then paid it off – only, of course, do that with someone trusted! So for what is offered now, if you do the 67,000 points on a personal card and stack it with the 63,000 points on the cheaper business card, for a grand total of 168 dollars in annual fees you and a friend can fly probably 5-10 round trip flights for a 22 dollars total in 9/11 fees. If you continue using those cards as your daily rewards points card you can EASILY bump that closer to 10-15 round trip flights WITH A COMPANION!
So where did I go in these 3 years? Tampa is the home airport, so all of these flights were from there. In 2019, using the Sidekick’s companion pass and points we flew to San Francisco, Denver, New York City, and Grand Cayman. Over the past two years, using my companion pass and points we have flown to Baltimore, Denver, Phoenix, Las Vegas; planned flight to Bozeman, Cincinnati, Portland, ME. In addition I flew solo to Louisville and Cleveland. And on top of all of that we used a mix of both of our points for hotels in Arizona and Utah! A little bit ago I sat down and did a rough estimate of how much monetary benefit I had received from this and it was in the 5 THOUSAND DOLLAR range, and that was before figuring in the next 3 trips! Oh, and as of this writing, I STILL have over 15,000 points left, and of course 6 months before the pass expires!
Just some general final thoughts! If you live in an area that is NOT served by Southwest this is probably not the best arrangement for you, but if you do, YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY GO FOR IT. If you really watch flight sales, and always check that low fare calendar, you can really get some mileage out of this amazing travel perk! Also, just as footnote, getting use of your points for hotels and car rentals is possible. It is tedious, but possible! However, be warned that the value of points to hotel and even more so to car rentals is not nearly as good as it is for flights. PAY YOUR BALANCE EACH MONTH and do not go spend crazy, just pay for stuff you normally do anyway and you will probably meet the bonuses. The goal is low cost travel, but no interest and definitely no extra spending! Make sure your credit score is sufficient for this as well. One last thing, and this is IMPORTANT! Chase has a 5/24 rule, meaning that you cannot be approved for more than 5 cards from ANY bank within a 24 month period. To get two of these Chase cards you can have opened a max of 3 cards in the previous 24 months!
But what’s next you might say? Well, 2022 and 2023 are probably going to be different in terms of volume of air travel for me. I plan to cancel both of these Chase Southwest Cards next year, before the next round of annual fees hit because I plan on looking into an Alaskan Air card. That card has some good bonus perks, as well, including Alaskan Airlines own “companion pass” which is not very useful, but it’s something if you only travel once with them. And then once all the Chase Southwest clear, you can supposedly do it again! Here’s to hoping Southwest doesn’t end the program!
If you have any questions drop a comment, and here is that link again for the referral! (please and thank you ;))