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For years, I have been saying the “best deal in family travel” is the Southwest Companion Pass. 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.
The ability to earn the Southwest Companion Pass very quickly and easily isn’t new, but it is time for a refresher on the “best deal in family travel” because a couple of stars have aligned to make this not only the “best deal in family travel”, but also the best time of the year to work on earning the Companion Pass. The way the Companion Pass works is one person in the family qualifies for it 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 $5.60 per flight. It doesn’t matter if the pass holder is flying on dollars or points, they can still bring their companion along for no fee other than the taxes. There are other 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 up to two years!
Easily Earn the Southwest Companion Pass:
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 (Jan 1 – Dec 31) to earn the Companion Pass, and the sign-up bonus from the co-branded Southwest credit cards count. Are your wheels turning yet?
Southwest Credit Cards Offering 50,000 Bonus Points Worth $700+ Each:
The sign-up bonus from the Southwest credit cards counts toward the Companion Pass, and right now all four versions of the card are available with 50,000 sign-up bonus points! The points themselves are worth around 1.4 cents each, so 50,000 points are worth around $700 toward Wanna Get Away fares on Southwest regardless of any Companion Pass. That alone is huge in my book.
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Personal Credit Card: Get 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account ($99 annual fee)
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card: Get 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account ($99 annual fee)
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Personal Card: Get 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account ($69 annual fee)
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Business Card: Get 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account ($69 annual fee)
The reason now is the very best time to go for the pass (aside from having all of the cards at the 50,000 point level), is that the Companion Pass is good for the year you earn it in, plus all of the following year. That means if you earned the pass right at the beginning of 2015, it would be good for that whole year plus all of 2016. Pretty amazing, huh?! To add a cherry on top of a cherry, this even works for the new international Southwest destinations like the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Aruba.
The best play here is to get a card at the 50,000 point level, but do not hit the spending requirement until early 2015. Let me repeat that, you do not want the bonus points to post in 2014, because if they do they will count toward earning the pass this year, not next year. Be very, very careful with this timing. You then need to get all the way to 110,000 points as soon as possible to earn the pass.
Keep in mind that the terms state that the new cardmember bonus offer is not available to either current cardmembers of this credit card, or previous cardmembers of this credit card who received a new cardmember bonus for this credit card within the last 24 months. However, all four versions of the card are considered different card products.
Fly Your Family Around for Less with the Companion Pass + Lots of Southwest Points:
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 via just paying taxes. 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 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 1.4 cents each toward Wanna Get Away fares, but if that point is being used to get two flights instead of just one, it is essentially now worth about 2.8 cents.
You can transfer points into Southwest from Ultimate Rewards via cards the 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 and now is the best time to start on your Companion Pass for 2015 and 2016 thanks to all four Southwest card offering bonuses at the 50,000 point level. I’d love to hear your experience with the companion pass if you have the Companion Pass, and if you have any questions, please feel free to ask!
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.