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By: Matt Brown
This year was the first time I’ve ever had the Companion Pass from Southwest Airlines. Even though the year isn’t over, with no more planned Southwest travel for the rest of 2018, I wanted to tally things up and walk through how we saved almost $2,500 with our Southwest Companion Pass.
Yes, you read that correctly. We saved almost $2,500 on flights! Read on to learn how we did it and how we’re going to be able to do it again in 2019.
What Is the Companion Pass
Southwest Rapid Rewards has consistently been ranked highly by travelers who enjoy the simplicity of the program. If there’s an empty seat on the plane, you can either pay in cash or use miles. It’s that simple.
But another perk that makes Southwest Rapid Rewards fantastic is the Companion Pass. It is often heralded as the single best domestic frequent flier perk on the market.
You can bring a designated companion on any Southwest flight for just the taxes and fees. On domestic flights, your companion’s ticket is just $5.60 each way. This is the best part of the Companion Pass – it works for any flight, regardless of whether you pay cash for your ticket or use Rapid Rewards points.
Aside from a few simple and basic rules, there are very few limitations surrounding the Companion Pass and using it. So it provides tremendous value for users year after year, and surprisingly isn’t super difficult to earn!
How I Earned the Companion Pass
You may find this hard to believe, but before I earned my Companion Pass, I had only booked one round-trip on Southwest in my entire life. So, if you’ve heard of this perk before, but thought it was only attainable for Southwest elite fliers, you couldn’t be more wrong.
I earned the Companion Pass by strategically timing when I opened 2 Southwest credit cards – the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card. That’s it. That’s the big secret to making this easy.
By opening these cards and meeting the minimum spend requirements between the 2 cards, I earned 114,000 Rapid Rewards points. Just like that, I’d earned the required 110,000 Rapid Rewards points to earn the Companion Pass.
Remember: All 110,000 points must be earned in the same calendar year. If you earn some in 2018 and some in 2019, this will NOT earn you the Companion Pass.
You can also earn it the hard way of flying 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year, but that is way harder and way more expensive, so I suggest taking the easy way!
To really get the most out of the Companion Pass, you’ll want to be strategic with your timing. I opened the cards in late December 2017 when the welcome bonuses were at their peak.
However, I specifically waited to meet the minimum spend on both cards until early January 2018. My statements then each closed on January 8, 2018, and two days later Southwest emailed me to congratulate me on earning the Companion Pass.
What makes this timing important is that since the Companion Pass is good for the remaining year plus the following year, it means that we have the Companion Pass valid thru 2019.
That’s 24 months!
If I had met the minimum spend and earned the 110,000 points in December (or anytime in 2017), I would have only had the Companion Pass thru 2018. So, that timing is really really important to pay attention to as it means a huge difference in the length of time you can have the Companion Pass and the value you can extract out of it.
How We Used The Companion Pass
With the 114,000 Rapid Rewards points in hand, but more importantly the golden ticket – my Companion Pass, it was time to start booking some flights.
Check out what we were able to do in 2018 on Southwest with the combination of the Rapid Rewards points plus the Companion Pass:
Trip 1: Weekend Getaway To The Bahamas
Clear blue water, sun and rum. That’s all we were looking for when we took a quick hop from our home Southwest airport and headed to the Bahamas for a nice long weekend getaway. We had been wanting to check out the new Baha Mar property in Nassau as it was a great way to use some Hyatt points. Since Southwest flies to Nassau, it seemed like the proper way to kickoff using our Companion Pass and use some of our Rapid Rewards points stash.
My ticket was 23,346 points + $115.94. My wife’s ticket was just $115.94 in taxes and fees. Even with the higher taxes and fees (mostly charged by the Bahamas), we still ended up saving $470 in airfare via Rapid Rewards points and utilizing the Companion Pass. Not bad for Trip #1.
Trip 2: Bourbon Tasting In Kentucky
We decided somewhat last minute to visit our good friends in Kentucky a few weeks before they were moving away. We weren’t super pumped about making an 8-hour drive each way for a 3-day weekend. But, we also weren’t about to spend about $1,000 on last-minute airfare — Southwest was showing $504.79 per ticket 6 days before we were scheduled to depart.
Fortunately, we could utilize our Companion Pass. My ticket was 33,653 Rapid Rewards points + $11.20 in taxes and fees, and my wife got to fly for just $11.20. We used a lot of Rapid Rewards points, but we saved over $1,000 and, fortunately, didn’t have to make the long drive!
Trip 3: Wedding In The Mile High City
The first trip we booked as soon as our Companion Pass posted in January was to Denver, Colorado for a wedding. Since Southwest is a single-cabin operator, I initially wasn’t super excited about flying cross-country in regular economy — I’ve become quite spoiled since getting in the points+miles game!
When I found out that Southwest flew a nonstop from Raleigh (RDU) to Denver(DEN), I was more excited about the flight. It worked out well as we got a new 737-800 for the flight, so it was more than comfortable for the 4-hour hop to Denver.
My ticket was 29,637 Rapid Rewards points + $11.20, and my wife’s was again, just $11.20. You’ll start to see a trend here. 😉
Cash fares were $441.96 each, so we saved about $880.
Trip 4: Weekend In The Windy City
When we were trying to decide on a destination to meet my brother and sister-in-law for a long weekend, I’ll be completely honest – I was solely using the Southwest Route Map to decide.
We ended up settling on Chicago as we hadn’t been in a number of years and it couldn’t have been more fun. Although, it was 95 degrees and almost no breeze the entire time we were there – so much for the “Windy City.” But nonstop flights on Southwest for the quick 1:45 flights to Midway certainly made it easy.
My ticket was 23,695 Rapid Rewards points + $11.20. My wife’s was…you guessed it – $11.20. Cash fares for the same flights would’ve been $355.42 each, so we saved $670, and could reallocate that money towards our deep dish pizza budget for the weekend.
Trip 5: Wildfires in Sun Valley
One of our good friends moved from our hometown to Sun Valley, Idaho about 3 years ago. We had been saying for years that we would come out and visit, but every time we looked up flights, there were really only flights with multiple connections or super high cash and award costs.
Well, after almost 3 years, it was time to get off our horse and get out to Sun Valley. Fortunately, Southwest flew to nearby Boise so, even though we had to make a 2-hour drive to Sun Valley, it was going to be another win with the Companion Pass. Even the massive wildfires that started in the Sun Valley area just 3-4 days before we arrived couldn’t ruin the trip!
My ticket cost 32,027 Rapid Rewards points + $11.20. And the trend continues – my wife’s ticket cost just $11.20. Cash fares for the same flights on this trip were $480.05, so we saved just shy of $1,000 on tickets for the second time with the Companion Pass.
Trip 6: Back To The Bahamas
We had so much fun in the Bahamas in May, that we were ready to head back. But, we’re the kind of people who usually don’t like going to the same places multiple times! So, when we decided to go to the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas, it wasn’t a surprise that Southwest didn’t fly to this tiny little island.
Due to flight time scheduling and logistics, we were only able to utilize Southwest for our flight home from Fort Lauderdale.
My ticket cost a whopping 9,853 Rapid Rewards points + $11.20. My wife’s ticket was still only $11.20. The cash fares for this short hop were a very reasonable $147.79, but we were much happier to utilize Rapid Rewards points to purchase my ticket. We saved ~$300 on these flights, which helped offset our cash fares on BahamasAir from Fort Lauderdale to Eleuthera.
Trip 7: Disney World
My wife has been wanting to go to Disney World for a number of years and I hadn’t been since I was about 14 years old. So, we booked a trip and convinced our neighbors to take their 3 kids and join us. The fact that Southwest has a nonstop flight to Orlando made it even easier to convince me to go!
My ticket cost 12,470 Rapid Rewards points + $11.20. My wife’s was another $11.20. Cash fares for this trip were super cheap at only $191.11 per person. In total, we saved just under $400, covering a good portion of our Disney World tickets!
2018 Companion Pass Totals
|Destination||Rapid Rewards Cost||Taxes & Fees for Companion||Cash Cost per Ticket (per person)|
|Fort Lauderdale, Florida (1-way)||9,853||$11.20||$147.79|
|TOTALS||164,951 Rapid Rewards Points||$183.14||$2,471.31 (per person)|
You may notice that I only earned 114,000 Rapid Reward points through the signup bonuses, but spent 164,951 this year. Once I had exhausted all of the 114,000 Rapid Rewards points from the bonuses, I simply transferred some Chase Ultimate Rewards points to top off my Southwest account whenever needed.
As you can see outlined in the chart above, we saved $2,471.31 in 2018 by using Rapid Rewards points plus another $2,471.31 with the Companion Pass, for a grand total of $4,942.62 in savings on flights with Southwest.
The fact that this only took strategically applying for 2 credit cards and $168 in annual fees plus a few Ultimate Rewards points — is still astounding to me! If this doesn’t convince you to get the Companion Pass, then I don’t know what will.
Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.