How to Get The Best Deal in Family Travel: Southwest Companion Pass

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I don’t usually like throwing around the word “best” when describing deals and destinations because everyone’s travel needs and wants are so different, but honestly this deal may truly deserve the “best deal in family travel” rating…at least for those in the US who live near an airport serviced by Southwest.

I’ve written about it before, but I think it is time for a refresher on the “best deal in family travel”, the Southwest Companion Pass.  The way this works is one person in the family qualifies for the pass and then someone else (AKA their companion) gets to travel for free with them on any Southwest flight for the life of the pass.  All they pay is the Sept. 11th fee of around $5 per flight.  It doesn’t matter if the pass holder is flying on dollars or points, they can still bring their companion along.  There are some deals and companion certificates out there with different carriers where you can bring companions on a certain flight either for free or at a reduced cost, but no deal even comes close to being able to bring someone on every flight for free for over a year!

Companion Pass mommy points

Normally the only people who would earn a Companion Pass are those who do a very significant amount of travel on Southwest in a calendar year.  However, there is currently another way to get it that is much easier and more accessible to almost all of us.  You need 110,000 Companion Pass qualifying points in a calendar year to earn the pass.  A somewhat off-label benefit of getting one of the four Southwest credit cards listed below is that the points have been counting toward the 110,000 you need to get the pass.

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Personal Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Business Card

The Companion Pass is good for the year you earn it in, plus all of the following year.  That means if you got the pass right now, it would be good for the remaining five months in 2013 and all of 2014.  Because of this, some like to time it so that they get the pass as early in a year as possible thus maximizing it for almost two full years.  I know some families where the mom and dad both are companion pass holders and thus they can then have both kids fly with them “for free”.  I even know a family where the dad had the pass and the wife (his companion) and two twins (under the age of two) would all fly for free thanks to that one pass, and the rules allowing children under two to travel as lap infants.

When you have and use a companion pass while redeeming Southwest points, you are essentially doubling their value and making them the most valuable type of points for domestic US travel.  A Southwest point is normally worth close to 1.8 cents each when you take into account taxes and fees, but if that point is being used to get two flights instead of just one, it is essentially now worth about 3.6 cents.

You can transfer points into Southwest from Ultimate Rewards via cards like Ink Plus® Business Card or Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, but those points will not be Companion Pass qualifying.  However, those points will be worth a ton when you are redeeming them for flights for you + 1 using the Companion Pass, if you start to run low on all the points that will come with getting the Southwest cards in the first place.  You can change your designated companion up to three times within the validity period of the pass, so you can adjust accordingly if only certain members of your family are going with you on a given trip.

If anyone knows of a better deal in family travel, please let me know.  Otherwise, I think this deal is currently in the #1 overall spot.  The points from the credit card sign-up have been counting toward the Companion Pass for some time now, but that is always subject to change at any time.  I’d love to hear your experience with the companion pass if you have it, and if you have any questions, please feel free to ask!

Disclaimer: I do receive commission if you are approved for some of the credit cards mentioned in this post.  As always, your support is very much appreciated.

Comments

  1. So far my wife and I have used our companion passes to fly our family of four to New Orleans, Orlando, San Diego twice, San Francisco twice, LAX for staging to an Avios redemption on AA to Maui, and we still have Washington DC and Puerto Rico booked for the fall. If you are reasonably spontaneous and can travel on short notice, “Wanna Get Away” fares can make WN points go a LOOONNNGGG way. Without a doubt, the Southwest companion pass is the best deal currently running for families.

  2. Andy, awesome! They really do go a long way and glad you agree this is the best deal running for family travel!
    Chuck, that will be awesome. 😉

  3. We are a family of 3. My husband has the companion pass with our daughter as his companion. Most of the time, he buys his ticket to keep earning points, hers is free and we use points for my ticket.
    Looking forward to getting to Hawaii and Puerto Rico using this method!

  4. We hit the 110k a few weeks ago and the companion pass option immediately popped up online. Within a week we had the lovely package in the mail. What a steal. So far we’ve booked Orlando and Chicago for 3 of us, and still have 65k pts remaining. So figure we will get about 15 free flights from this. Just a heads up that when you go to book, you have to add the companion after, so book the flight without the companion, and then wait at least a few minutes and log out and back in, and then you will see that trip listed and the option to add companion. A little confusing at first, but no big deal.

  5. I can’t wait for my wife to fully retire so we can take advantage of the Companion Pass and fly Southwest to, well, wherever they will take us!

  6. Combine the CP with the flexibility of booking with Southwest points (fully refundable with no fee) and you have unmatched flexibility to travel spontaneously. 🙂

  7. I’ve had the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Personal and Business card for several years now. I wonder if I am eligible for the sign-up bonuses by applying for the Premier Personal and Business cards.

  8. The CP has been so helpful this summer! Currently, SW has double points to/from Denver and Milwaukee AND double points for using a SW branded credit card. I have done some mini “mileage runs” I have earned enough points to earn A-List status and I’m considering one more round trip to Denver to push past the A-List preferred! I’m earning like 11K points EACH WAY and my girlfriend flies on these flights with me, for free 🙂 For the next year and a half, I will have 200K southwest miles to cash in and my girlfriend will fly for free! It’s so awesome.

  9. Potentially dumb question… but I earned over 110,000 points this year and have yet to receive the pass. Will it come in the mail? Or….what?

    We’re so excited about this…hoping it’s on its way.

  10. I received my first business card (Ink Bold) from Chase in April. Do you think there’s a chance of me getting a Southwest business card so soon after my Ink? My business is very small, with just a few $100 in profit so far this year.

  11. I applied for and received the Chase SW Visa (50000 pts). Then got the Chase SW Business card (50000 pts). Then got my wife a Chase SW Visa (50000 pts). All in 2012. I had the additional 10000 pts before the 2nd card arrived. We had the benefit of the CP most of 2012 and all of 2013. by using the points for my flights and her flying free we estimate we saved over $4000 in 2012. In 2013 without the points for my flights we still saved about $2500 at least. We’ve been flying a lot the last four years to watch our son play college football. We canceled the cards in Dec. of 2012. We’re hoping we’ll be able to turn the trick again in 2014 for another 2 years of CP. Hope SW doesn’t put the lid on this one!

  12. I’m so new to all of this I don’t fully understand how all of the point systems work. I am interested in earning points and getting flights with Southwest as they travel from my home airport to most of the places I would go. So I would have to earn 110,000 points and then I automatically qualify for a companion pass??

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