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Over $5,500 in Free Airfare with the Southwest Companion Pass
While crazy around-the-world adventures and business class flights to South America and Bali are reasons enough to get travel credit cards and earn credit card points, most of us probably travel more often within the United States. And that’s why the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is so valuable.
I’ve written about how the Companion Pass could be the best airline perk in the business. With the pass, a person’s designated “companion” flies for free whenever flying Southwest Airlines with the Companion Pass holder. So essentially, it’s buy one, get one free airfare on Southwest Airlines. Since we earned the pass (via two credit card sign-up bonuses) in February 2018, we’ll be paying 1/2 off for all Southwest Airlines flights for both 2018 and 2019. It’s a ridiculously good deal and one that we’ve utilized to the fullest this year.
Earning and Using the Pass
Travelers can obtain the Companion Pass by earning 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year. Those points can be accumulated either by actually flying Southwest Airlines A LOT or by credit card sign-up bonuses and spending. The companion also flies for free when redeeming those 110,000 Rapid Rewards points, so as I broke down in a previous post, the initial points alone were worth almost $3,000 in free airfare.
That in itself is a fantastic value for two credit card sign-ups. And well, we were just getting started. Since all Southwest Airlines flights are bought one, get one free for us until 2020, we have a lot of incentive to travel as much as we can. Now that it’s December, I figured it’d be interesting to see just how much we’ve saved with the Companion Pass in 2018.
Below are all the Companion Pass flights we took in 2018:
- Washington, DC (DCA) to/from Chicago: $743.96
- Baltimore to/from Los Angeles: 27,186 Rapid Rewards points
- Baltimore to Kansas City: 6,342 Rapid Rewards points
- St. Louis to Baltimore: 8,552 Rapid Rewards points
- Baltimore to/from Atlanta: 16,969 Rapid Rewards points
- Baltimore to/from Detroit: $347.96
- Baltimore to Milwaukee: 9,345 Rapid Rewards points
- Milwaukee to Baltimore: $142.99
- Baltimore to/from Grand Rapids, MI: $441.78
- Baltimore to/from Minneapolis: 18,176 Rapid Rewards points
- Baltimore to/from Detroit: 13,234 Rapid Rewards points
- Baltimore to/from Detroit: 22,211 Rapid Rewards points
- Los Angeles to Baltimore (last leg of Bali trip): $585.98
- Baltimore to/from Phoenix: $373.96
Grand Total (all 2018 flights):
122,015 Rapid Rewards points (plus $145.60 in security fees)
$2,636.63 in paid flights (plus $56 in security fees for companion)
Cost without Companion Pass:
Cost with Companion Pass
Total Value of 2018 Companion Pass:
Saving more than $5,500 is not bad for two well-timed credit card sign-ups. And the best part? We still have an entire year to utilize the Companion Pass for many more buy one, get one free flight. It’s the award that keeps awarding. We have already booked three roundtrip flights in 2019, with many more to follow. Taryn and I won’t have nearly as much in free travel since we already used all of the 110,000 Rapid Rewards points from the sign-up bonuses. But still… it’s hard to pass on essentially 50% off airfare for two calendar years.
Companion Pass = More Flexibility
You’ll see in our breakdown that we paid a few very expensive airfares. One was because we had to fly back the Sunday after Thanksgiving, another was flying home for a surprise birthday party, and another sadly was for a funeral. We’re typically quite price-sensitive when it comes to booking flights; we’ll typically fly out later at night or early the next morning if it means saving $50/each on airfare. But with the Companion Pass, we’ve been more apt to fly our preferred dates and times since we’re only actually paying for one airfare.
For example, that Los Angeles flight after Thanksgiving would have been completely out of the cards had we been paying for two airfares, throwing our entire Bali trip into question. But only actually paying for one airfare made our piecemeal itinerary a possibility. Oddly enough, even with the Companion Pass, that one-way airfare from L.A. to Baltimore cost more than the rest of our entire Bali vacation.
More Reasons to Travel
The Companion Pass has also incentivized us to travel even more (as if we needed any more reason to travel). Visiting friends and family back home in Michigan is much more of a possibility when traveling there is half as expensive. And that means being able to surprise a family member for their birthday. Or seeing a new baby. Or visiting seven new MLB baseball stadiums in one summer (and a few more already in the works for next year!). As much as I love flying in lay-flat seats in business class, the Companion Pass may be the best and most practical airline award we’ve earned through credit card points.
Want to learn more about the Companion Pass? Now is the perfect time of year to start working towards earning the pass for both 2019 and 2020. Check out our previous blog post explaining how exactly we did it.
The bad news? Chase bank changed the rules on the credit card sign-up bonuses, so now you can only earn the Companion Pass (via credit card sign-ups) if you are eligible for business credit card accounts.
But banks have a very loose definition of “businesses” eligible for business credit cards. Sell stuff on eBay/Etsy? That’s a business. Hosting a garage sale? That’s a business. Started a blog? Yup, that can qualify you for business credit cards, too. Feel free to reach out if you want to make a run at the Companion Pass for 2019 and have any questions!