By: Julie Szpira
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The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most valuable credit card perks out there.
With two credit card sign-ups and a little extra spending, you can accrue the 110,000 Rapid Rewards points required to earn the Companion Pass, which allows you to designate a companion to fly with you for free (except for taxes and fees) for the duration of your Companion Pass validity.
Due to the value provided by the Companion Pass, the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards (Plus, Premier and Business versions) are often ranked high in our “Top Cards” list. If you qualify for the Southwest cards based on the Chase 5/24 rule, these cards and the Companion Pass should be on your radar.
However, when we have readers asking advice on what card to get next, we have many that completely nix the idea of getting Southwest cards.
There are a few reasons why some people think the getting the Companion Pass now wouldn’t be good for them:
- They are planning an international trip and Southwest doesn’t fly to their destination
- They don’t travel that often
- They usually travel alone
- They don’t like that they can’t choose a seat in advance
- They want to wait until the end of the year so they can get the Companion Pass for 24 months
With that said, Southwest Rapid Rewards points and the associated Companion Pass are most valuable for those traveling with their designated companion to a final destination that Southwest Airlines serves.
However, your Southwest Rapid Rewards points can be used in other ways to reduce the cost of travel.
Use Southwest Airlines for Positioning Flights
When looking at a map of Southwest’s destinations, overseas locations are noticeably absent.
Southwest will fly you to many destinations in North America, but they can’t get you to Europe or Asia
If you are planning a honeymoon to Thailand, it might seem like a waste to get the Southwest Companion Pass, as you can’t use Southwest Rapid Rewards points to fly to Bangkok.
Some airline routing rules prevent connecting flights or flights that utilize more than one airline partner, so using Southwest for positioning flights can help you get from your home airport to your gateway airport.
For example, you can use Rapid Rewards points to fly from the East Coast to position to the West Coast to take advantage of economy class round-trip flights to Hawaii for 25,000 British Airways Avios.
When booking international itineraries, premium cabin award space might only be available from an airport that is different than your home city.
Recently, 10xTravel founder Bryce Conway booked a trip to Rome, Italy in Lufthansa business class. As Lufthansa does not fly to Bryce’s hometown of Columbus, Ohio, he had to book a flight to Washington D.C. to take advantage of a Lufthansa Miles & More Mileage Bargain award and catch his Lufthansa flight across the pond.
He used 3,500 Southwest Rapid Rewards points and his companion pass to book the short trip from Ohio to D.C.
Having a stash of Southwest Rapid Rewards points and using them for positioning flights gives you more flexibility for your departure city. That can be advantageous when you are trying to find availability for premium cabin awards.
Use Southwest Airlines To Take More Trips
A common response when I tell people about 10xTravel and how they can use our free tools to learn how to travel for free is, “Well, I just don’t travel that much, so it’s not really worth it for me.”
In talking to many readers and fellow travelers, I’ve discovered that it’s not that people don’t want to travel, it’s just that they don’t have the means to travel.
Once people accumulate a bunch of points, those that “never really travel much” are suddenly booking getaways to Miami and long weekends in Europe (and making their friends very jealous!).
A January trip to Mexico sure beats a Chicago winter!
Once you earn the Companion Pass, you will have the ability to take someone with you for free (with the exception of having to minor pay taxes and fees) on all of your Southwest flights, and you will have 110,000 Rapid Rewards points in your account.
Use Southwest Rapid Rewards Points to Travel Alone
Taking a friend on a trip using the Companion Pass is an incredibly valuable perk, however, solo travelers can use the 110,000 Rapid Rewards points earned to travel alone.
If you find that most of your travel is completed solo, opening two Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards and earning the Companion Pass can still be a great idea.
Southwest Rapid Rewards points can be used to book trips for a single person, you don’t have to always travel with a companion!
You might generally travel alone, but in the event you travel with a friend, you can add them as your companion and save on airfare. This can work out in your favor, as you can offer to “pay” for their flight if they pay for the rental car/hotel/meals.
Then you can travel with a friend, sharing the travel experience, and not have to pay much out-of-pocket.
Southwest Does Not Let Me Choose My Seat!
I joke that Southwest’s seating options are basically the “public bus of the skies,” and functions in a “first-come, first-served” manner.
Not being able to choose your seat in advance might be stressful for those traveling in groups or with their families.
Thankfully, Southwest Airlines offers a couple different options to increase the chances that you can sit next to your travel companions.
Check-in begins at 24 hours prior to departure. If I am flying Southwest Airlines, I set an alarm on my phone for 24 hours and 5 minutes before departure so, at exactly 24 hours, I have my information filled out on the check-in page and I can just click one button to secure the earliest boarding position.
Since check-in time matters, I fill in my information so when check-in opens, I’m prepared!
Another option is EarlyBird Check-In® which can be purchased for $15. It provides the convenience of automatic check-in prior to the standard check-in 24 hours in advance. For those that are concerned about securing seating together, using the EarlyBird option can be a great way to save money traveling Southwest, while still ensuring group seating.
For adults traveling with children under the age of six, Southwest allows for “family pre-boarding,” which means that families with small children are allowed to board between the “A” group and the “B” group.
As the “A” boarding group is issued 60 boarding positions, and the planes that Southwest operates hold 143-175 passengers, family boarding occurs when only 35-50% of the plane is full, allowing many options for families to sit together.
Not being able to choose your seat in advance might deter you from flying Southwest, but it shouldn’t! Southwest offers 31-33 inches of seat pitch, free checked bags, and some of the friendliest flight crews in the US.
I’m Going to Sign Up for the Southwest Cards At The End of the Year!
Once you earn 110,000 Rapid Rewards points in a single calendar year, your Companion Pass is valid for the remainder of the calendar year in which it was earned plus the entire following calendar year.
We recommend applying for the Southwest credit cards near the end of the calendar year, so you can meet minimum spend in January/February of the following year.
Meeting minimum spending and earning your bonus points in January/February would grant you the companion pass for almost a full 24 months!
However, it’s still early in 2018 and applying for two Southwest credit cards to get the Companion Pass for 20 months is still a great deal.
Waiting to apply for the Southwest cards until the end of the year holds you captive to Chase’s 5/24 rule for another 9 months. During that time period, you will have to forgo opening personal cards from other banks, which means you could miss out on great bonuses from American Express or Citi.
I suggest not waiting to get the Companion Pass, as rules are always changing in the points and miles world. In fact, last August, we saw Chase suddenly prohibit customers from holding more than one Sapphire product. This means that those with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card aren’t eligible to open the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card—though they can product change to the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card.
Prior to January 1, 2017, the Southwest Companion Pass was able to be earned through Southwest Rapid Rewards points earned through the Marriott Hotel+Air packages. However, Southwest Airlines decided to update their terms and conditions to state that Rapid Rewards points earned from hotel transfers would no longer count.
Earning the Companion Pass now will allow you to start enjoying the freedom of traveling for (almost) free!
The Southwest Companion Pass can provide a huge value to couples, families and even solo travelers.
The 110,000 Rapid Rewards points accrued through two Southwest Credit Card sign-up bonuses and credit card spending can be used to help you fly to international destinations, or reduce the cost for a Disney vacation in Florida.
In the end, earning the Companion Pass will allow you to take a companion with you on your travels, so you can share your love of travel with your friends and family. It doesn’t get much better than that.