At the FTU conference earlier this month, I listened to some frequent travelers express their love for the Southwest Airlines’ companion pass program.
My immediate thoughts were:
- Southwest Airlines? From only a few flights, my overall impression of the carrier is not great but, honestly, I do not have enough familiarity to put Southwest Airlines on my McCool Fools list. I have heard of people loving the quirkiness of Southwest Airlines culture—including my first travel interview subject Barbara Winter.
- Companion pass. At first, I thought what is the big deal about bringing a companion on a flight. Then I learned that the pass is for an entire calendar year.
OK, that gained my attention.
Some basics I learned about the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass program:
WHAT: fly 100 flights or earn 110,000 points (in a calendar year) and earn a companion pass
WHO: companion can be anyone: spouse, child, parent, friend
WHEN: companion pass is valid for the the rest of the year you qualify PLUS the following calendar year
WHY: um, free flights
WHERE: anywhere Southwest Airlines flies, all over the continental United States along with Mexico and Caribbean.
HOW MUCH: companion flights are free when booked at the same time as the Companion Pass holder’s flights. You only have to pay for security fees, about $12 for a round trip flight.
OFFICIAL INFO: Read more about the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass program here.
MCCOOL TRAVEL IPS:
- When to qualify. Since the pass is valid for the current year PLUS the following entire calendar year, try to qualify as early in the year as possible. For example, qualify now (December 27, 2014) and your pass will be valid until December 31, 2015 (a little over 12 months). Qualify next week (early January 2015) and the pass is valid until December 31, 2016 (almost 24 months).
- Points versus flights. 100 flights, even if you DO fly a lot will take some time. 110,000 points will also take some time. However, you can apply for new Southwest credit cards with 50,000 point sign up bonus. Several of the FTU speakers apply for the personal AND business cards, thus earning 100,000 (50,000 x 2) points. Stay tuned for my tip to earn those extra 10,000 points, without spending any extra money.
- Companions. The pass holder can change the companion three times in a calendar year. So, you can fly a bunch with your spouse, bring your child to/from college, resume trips with your spouse, take a friend to Mexico, etc.
Based on discussions with FTU speakers and A-list Preferred fliers, I have developed this process to qualify for a Southwest Airlines Companion Pass as quickly as possible, with no additional money spent.
- Sign up for a Rapid Rewards account, if you are not already a member. This is Southwest Airlines frequent flyer program.
- Apply for a personal Rapid Rewards credit card with a 50,000 point bonus.** Note that the links on Southwest.com promote 25,000 points. There are many places online with links to 50,000 point offers. Note that most of them receive referral fees when people apply. I DO NOT.
- Apply for a business Rapid Rewards credit card with a 50,000 point bonus.** Several FTU speakers recommend applying for personal AND business cards, saying people can justify their “business” as selling on eBay, blogging, home based business, startup, etc.
- Pay bills with Southwest credit cards.
- Transfer regular bill spending from other credit cards to your Southwest credit cards.
- If you typically have $2,500 in monthly bills, it will take you 4 months to earn those 110,000 points ($10,000 spent=10,000 points, plus 100,000 bonus points); $5,000=2 months.
- Set up a Target Prepaid REDcard account.
- Load money into the Target account from your Southwest credit cards; $5,000 maximum can be deposited per month.
- Anyone can be paid via the Target account. If the recipient does not accept electronic payments, then your account will send a paper check. I intend to use my account to pay bills not accepting credit cards, like mortgage and utilities.
- Or buy things for others. Volunteer to make expensive purchases for family and friends (on your Southwest credit cards) with them paying you back by loading funds into your Target account.
- Perhaps you can think of some other ninja strategies.
** Please note that I am not a financial expert and this is a suggested strategy if you have excellent credit ratings. Additionally, it is recommended that you pay off credit card balances when due and not carry over balances.
Do you know anyone with a Southwest Airlines Companion Pass?