Travel Rewards Credit Cards

May 21

Southwest Airlines and how to get the greatest airline perk ever

So maybe the title was just a bit of an exaggeration, but I’m still getting over seeing the Celtics getting screwed once again by the NBA lottery (Yes, I know, the sixth pick was mathematically the most likely.) and watching Cleveland get the first pick for the third time in four years.  Red, karma is still punishing you for lighting that cigar early in 1986.

First, about the program: Southwest Airlines’s Rapid Rewards (RR) program is a dollars-based program, meaning that you earn points based on how much you spend (Only the base fare, not the taxes and fees, count.), not on how many miles you fly.  You can also earn elite status based on your flying (More on this perk below.).  Southwest offers three types of fares for every flight and you earn more points per dollar for flying the expensive fares:

Business Select fares are the most expensive but get you all the goodies.  Priority security and boarding, fully refundable fares, a free drink onboard, etc.  These fares earn 12 points per dollar.

Anytime fares have fewer perks, but they cost less.  You still get refundable tickets, but you lose the extra “speed” items, including priority security and early boarding.  You’ll earn 10 points per dollar.

Wanna get away?  fares are the cheapest.  Refunded tickets only get you a credit and you’ll wait with the scrum to board.  These fares earn six points per dollar.

And now, the Golden ticket…

Although Southwest isn’t known for its perks, I consider the Southwest Companion Pass (CP) to be the single best perk in the airline business.

In a nutshell: You can nominate anyone to be your companion and, for the duration of the pass, that person will fly with you for free.  Yup, free (Well, you do have to pay the security fee.).  As long as you’re on the flight and there’s a seat available, it’s yours (or theirs, as the case may be).  You can only have one companion at a time, but that companion can be switched up to three times.  The pass lasts for the rest of the calendar year that you have it, plus the entire following year.  For example, if you earned the pass today, it would last the rest of 2014 and all of 2015.

To get the CP, you need to earn 110,000 RR points in a calendar year.  Ouch.  If you did it all by flying, you’d need to spend at least $9,000 on tickets, at the most expensive fares, to get there.  But there’s a workaround.  Southwest counts all points earned, including those from partners, toward your goal (with the exception of points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards).  And that includes credit card bonuses, which are huge.  Check out the offers here.  Four different offers, each offering 50,000 points to sign up.  That means that you can sign up for one personal card and one business card (They’re pretty flexible with the definition of “business.”) and get 100,000 points.  There is an annual fee (minimal compared to the CP’s value) and you do need to spend $2,000 on each card within three months of getting them, but that shouldn’t be too much trouble, since there are numerous ways to generate spend in a 90-day period. You can also earn points with their shopping partners or, heaven forbid, actually flying.

Here’s my suggestion: Order the cards in November or December but don’t finish your required spend until early 2015.  That way, you’ll get your 100,000 points in 2015 and have your companion pass for all of 2015 and 2016.  With the $2,000 in spend on each card, you’ll be at 104,000 points and only need 6,000 more points to get your CP.  If you have a spouse, they can do the same thing at the end of 2016 and you’ll get two more years of the pass!  How’s that for traveling for free?

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2 comments

1 ping

    • usednavyman on July 2, 2014 at 6:32 pm
    • Reply

    As of June 30, 2014 Southwest Airlines reduced there Bonus points to 25k for new credit card applicants.

    If you are interested email me at patomaha@yahoo.com and I will send you the promo info to still get the 50k.

    I have an offer from Southwest for the Plus Credit Card. You will get 50000 bonus points. The annual fee is $69.00. There is no blackout dates and you can use the points to book someone else a flight if you want. This offer is good till Sept 30, 2014.

      • usednavyman on September 2, 2014 at 11:15 pm
      • Reply

      I still have a couple of these offers available..

      Offer expires 9/30/14

  1. […] I’ve discussed in the past, the single best frequent flyer perk in existence is the Southwest Airlines companion pass (CP).  […]

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