You want to fly for free? And bring a friend for free, too? Knowledge is power, girl, and I’m about to hook you up!
A Companion Pass will allow a guest of your choice fly with you for free, unlimited times until the Companion Pass expires. You can change the named companion up to three times per year.
After earning a Companion Pass, it’s good until the end of that year plus one additional year.
Starting on January 1, 2023, the Companion Pass requires 135,000 points earned within a single year. Let’s say you made it to 100,000 points by December 31. Well, you won’t lose those points. They roll over to the next year and never expire. But… at that point, you’ll need to earn 135,000 new points (bringing you to 235,000 total) within the following calendar year to earn the Companion Pass.
You can earn double or triple points on some purchases, but most points are earned on a 1-to-1 ratio. For example, when you spend $1,000 with a Southwest Rapid Rewards card, you will earn 1,000 points at the end of the 30-day billing cycle.
You don’t need to spend $135,000 to earn a Companion Pass. Most people hit that point requirement with sign-on bonuses for getting a new Southwest credit card(s). These bonuses range anywhere from 40,000 to 100,000 points per new credit card sign-up.
Because the new sign-on bonuses require a minimum spend within a certain number of months, I only recommend that people try for these bonuses if they already have big purchases in mind that will meet that requirement.
Bottom line on whether this travel hack will be worth pursuing
This travel hack is ideal if you are someone with a side hustle to easily qualify for the business card and have some planned expenses that will meet the minimum required spend.
If you don’t get the business credit card, the minimum spend requirements may be easier to hit with certain promotions on the personal credit card (like the 100,000 sign-up bonus after spending $12,000 in 12 months) if you’re in a relationship. That way, they can add your significant other as an authorized user on your account and send them a duplicate card, allowing you and your boo to tag-team the minimum spend to earn your sign-up bonuses without running up debt buying things you didn’t really need in the first place.
The ideal timing of the Companion Pass
If you’ve always wanted to get a Southwest Airlines Companion Pass, this might be the best time to start thinking about getting a Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Visa card. Why? Because if you activate a credit card in early December, your billing period starts today and ends 30 days from now (but we’ll say 28 days to be extra conservative). Any purchases you were already gonna make for Christmas shopping, utilities, property taxes, etc. can go toward your minimum spend to earn a generous sign-up bonus.
Those sign-up bonuses vary throughout the year, but are usually 50,000 points or more. The important thing to know about the timing is this: they’ll drop into your account at the end of the billing period when you hit the minimum spend.
So, let’s say you hit the minimum spend within the first month of opening your card(s). If you started in December of any given year, that first billing period will end in early January, so any sign-up bonuses will be applied at the beginning of the new year, which is ideal.
Good question. So glad you asked! A Southwest Companion Pass is good until the end of the calendar year in which you earn 135,000 points PLUS one additional year. That means, if you play your cards right (pun intended), you could make use of that Companion Pass for almost two full years!
Credit card vs. cash spending
This is true.
We do spend more when we use a credit card, because there’s less psychological pain when we swipe or tap a credit card vs doling out cash. But if you are the type of responsible credit card user who pays off your balance every month, consider this…
The 2021 Netflix series “Money, Explained” included an episode on credit cards. And around the 10:32 mark of the episode, they explain how merchants will charge more for their products and services to offset the cost they pay in credit card transaction fees. As a result, anyone paying in cash or debit card is ultimately paying more because they’re not getting any perks for that extra 1.3% to 3.5% that merchants are adding to their prices. The Netflix episode cited a 2010 consumer spending study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston:
“On average, each … [credit] card-using household receives $1,133 from cash users every year.”
So, if you want to use an envelope system with cash to develop better spending habits, that’s cool. But as soon as you feel like you’ve reigned in your spending habits, don’t subsidize other people’s credit card rewards. Get those points for yourself, girl!
And if you want the psychological benefit of spending with present day dollars that a debit card provides, there’s a way you can create those same boundaries for yourself. Just get the Chase app and pay off your balance in full every 1-2 days so all your purchases feel more like you’re spending with a debit card. Done!
Be credit wise
Disclaimer #1: the Rapid Rewards credit card, like most credit cards, does not have a favorable interest rate if you are not paying off your balance at the end of the month. According to one of the card’s disclosures, the interest rate (for any unpaid balances) is 15.99% to 22.99%. Only use these travel hacking tips to get a free Companion Pass if you are responsible with your credit card usage, pay off your balance every month, and ideally, are using the card for things you would’ve been buying anyway (utility bills, groceries, and property taxes, just to name a couple “totes obvi” examples).
Disclaimer #2: be prepared for a temporary dip in your credit score. This will bounce back within a few months, but it’s important that you don’t get these new credit cards right before a big purchase, like a new home.
Well, they’re my top choice for flying because of their low prices, easy booking and cancellations, no baggage fees, and no cancellation fees. Nuff said.
Earlier this year, Southwest started offering flights to four different Hawaiian Islands for around 30,000 points round-trip (the equivalent of $300). This used to cost over $1,000 to fly to the more remote islands, like Kauai and Big Island. Because of the easy process to book, change, or cancel flights with Southwest, I quickly booked a surprise birthday trip for my friend Dan. And because you can change the person who’s named as your companion up to three times a year simply by calling Southwest, I made Dan my companion for the Companion Pass.
In the past, our round-trip airfare to Kona would’ve cost $2,000 for the two of us. But with all the new flights going direct to the Hawaiian Islands, prices have dropped as low as $300 round-trip. And with the Companion Pass, this one trip to Kona was only $5 each way in airport fees and 30,000 points for my flights (pretty much free) and $5 each way in airport fees for my bestie’s flights by using my Companion Pass.
I’m not the only one loving this perk
Last week on the ChooseFI podcast (EP 353), the hosts interviewed Lyn, the travel rewards guru behind the site Families Fly Free. It was encouraging to hear that Lyn is also a big fan of Southwest Airlines in general for the following reasons:
- Best value for points
- No cancellation or change fees
- Buy extra points when needed and book flights in points (not dollars) since the cancellation process is so easy and the points never expire
- BONUS HACK: Rebook your same flight if the price goes down and the extra points will go back onto your points balance
Are you a good candidate for the Southwest Rapid Rewards card(s)?
You have a good chance of being approved and also using your cards wisely if you meet Lyn’s following criteria:
- You want to have a good credit score in the low 700s or higher
- Be out of debt
- Have good spending habits with credit cards in general to pay them off in full every month
Here’s a couple options for how to get your 135,000 points (so you earn the Companion Pass)
OPTION A: Open a single personal card
In 2021, there was a promotion which Chase might renew or retool in 2023. In short, you got 50,000 points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open, plus an additional 50,000 points after spending $12,000 total on purchases in the first 12 months of account opening.
- PRO: I like this option since you have plenty of time to meet your two minimum spends. This type of promotion might be a good option for couples who want to add both people’s name on the card as authorized users so they can tag-team the minimum spend requirements.
- CON: After that minimum spend, you’ll only be at 112,000 points. That means you still need to spend another $33,000 just to hit 135,000 points for the Companion Pass, for a total of $35,000 spent in total. No bueno.
OPTION B: Open a personal card and a business card
This is the travel hack most frequently cited by travel experts.
- PRO: If you have a side hustle with expenses you were already planning to budget for, you can reach your Companion Pass with lowest total spend on the cards… 80,000 (biz card sign-up) + 5,000 (min spend on biz card) + 50,000 (personal card sign-up) + 1,000 (min spend on personal card) = 136,000. Because you now have more than 135,000, you have earned the Companion Pass, and better yet, with a minimum spend of only $6,000!
- CON: Requires having a side hustle of some kind. Also, having two cards means more annual fees to pay if you keep the cards open. This will be anywhere from $69 to $199 per year per card.
- TIP: You can use your SSN for the business card and, according Lyn’s interview with ChooseFI, you’ll have some flexibility on what qualifies as a business or future business venture. After reaching the minimum spend on the Southwest cards to get to 135,000 and earn the Companion Pass, Lyn recommends in her interview on ChooseFI to use another card with higher cash-back rewards for everyday spending.
Here’s the highlights on how to get ‘er done with Option B:
Open two tabs on your web browser using the link below.
Choose one of the Southwest business cards for the first tab (the higher option awards 80,000 points after a $5,000 minimum spend within the first 3 months).
Choose one of the Southwest personal cards for the second tab (because we’re nearing the start of a new year, the sign-up bonus is lower at 50,000 points after a $1,000 minimum spend within the first 3 months).
Apply for both cards at roughly the same time so it counts as a single hit to your credit score (which will rebound after a few months). To play it safe, you may want to apply for the business card first before the personal card to be sure you get both so you know you’ll be able to get to 135,000 or more in sign-up points.
Here’s my plan to meet my $5,000 minimum spend on a Southwest business credit card. I have a condo that’s not my primary residence being used exclusively as a short-term rental, so there’s a good amount of expenses that I might as well charge to a credit card to get the Companion Pass. The $5,000 minimum spend needs to happen within 3 months and I don’t want to be forced to spend money on something I wouldn’t normally buy, so I had to be strategic to pull together what those expenses would be.
Below is a link where you get your usual 40,000+ sign-up bonuses per card and I’ll get 10,000 bonus points for the referral, too. So, if you were already planning to get a Southwest Visa card and don’t mind clicking the link below, I would greatly appreciate it!
If you’re worried about some of the fine print to qualify for a Companion Pass, here are some questions I was able to get answered about the Southwest Rapid Rewards card after speaking to a Chase rep over the phone:
Q: Can I get second card mailed out to me for my spouse so we can both work together to accrue our points?
A: Yes. They add an authorized user on the account, they’ll be sent a second card and all points will go toward the original Rapid Reward account.
Q: If my spouse gets his own card, can the sign-on bonus points be applied toward my Rapid Rewards number?
A: No, each card is tied to its own Rapid Rewards number.
Q: When are the billing cycles if I wanted to get a new card for my holiday spending and have my purchases and my new card sign-on bonus count toward the new year?
A: If you sign up today and a card is activated today, that will be the start of the 30-day billing period.
Q: What types of businesses would qualify for a Chase business credit card?
A: If it’s a registered business with a DBA (doing business as), then it will probably qualify.
Q: After 24 months, can I cancel my cards and get a new sign-up bonus for both a personal and a business Southwest Rapid Rewards card?
A: Yes, you can.
BONUS: How I love to fly with Southwest and TSA Pre-Check
Anytime I fly domestic, this is what I do to make travel a breeze!
I set a calendar reminder to check in to my Southwest flight 24 hours before its departure. This gives me the best chance of me (and my companion) being in an early boarding group to have our pick of the best seats on the plane.
I always make sure to only bring 2 carry-on bags: a small suitcase that fits in the overhead and a personal item bag that can fit under the seat in front of me. This means I can skip the check-in desk and head right to the security line with my boarding pass on the Southwest app. Note: if travelling with a companion, they will also need the Southwest app or else, they’ll need to use a kiosk to print out their boarding pass.
To make the security line as painless as possible, I love having TSA pre-check. The pre-check line is usually shorter, and it moves faster because you don’t have to remove your shoes, take laptops out of their bags, or any of that stress. It rocks.
Lyn’s site, familiesflyfree.com, has a $125/year membership fee for her travel tips. But I’m sharing all of these travel hacks with you for free, so consider this post an early Christmas present to you, from your financial BFF, HOMO Money.
And here’s a few quick reminders on these Southwest Rapid Rewards:
If you earn a Companion Pass, you can change your designated companion up to three times a calendar year with just a quick call to Southwest.
The 125,000+ points you earned throughout the year can be used to book your flights and your companion’s flights (which need to match your flight itinerary) require no additional points. You will pay $5 per person for each flight, but that’s so minor it’s hardly worth mentioning.
After it’s been 24 months or more since earning a sign-on bonus, you can cancel a Chase card and get a new version of that same card and the sign-up points that come with it. But note, you need to wait 30 days after cancelling before applying for the same card. If you’re in a relationship, you may want to alternate between which spouse has the Rapid Rewards account registered in their name.
Rinse and repeat.
After much deliberation, I decided NOT to get a business card for my Airbnb. The $3,000 minimum spend within 3 months was a lot more than I usually spend between supplies, laundry, and cleanings. I’ve decided to hold off until my Airbnb has a need for a major purchase (like new carpet, furniture, etc.) to warrant the minimum spend.
However, if you’re almost there and need some help hitting your minimum spend, check out the new HOMOmoney Etsy store, y’all! Hot off the presses!
Whether you “spend” this December somewhere with snow, or tropical (like the Big Island of Hawaii), Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!