One of the major challenges for families who move away from home (including military families) is living away from parents, siblings, and close relatives. It can be incredibly frustrating trying to figure out how you’re going to pay for a family vacation when you feel like you have to go home to visit family every year. And even worse is trying to choose between the two.
That is one of the major advantages of using credit card rewards, or travel hacking, to pay for airfare and other travel expenses. Travel hacking allows you to earn travel rewards for purchases you are already making. These travel rewards will reduce the costs of travel you are already paying for or allow you to add additional travel without significantly increasing your budget. And as far as travel rewards are concerned, the Southwest companion pass is the “holy grail” of travel hacking.
What is it, and how does it work?
The Southwest Companion Pass is a travel reward that allows you to bring a designated companion with you whenever you purchase a ticket, using either cash or points, by only paying the applicable taxes and fees (usually $5.60 each leg for domestic flights on southwest).
The companion pass can be earned by accumulating the requisite Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year. Right now, the number of Rapid Reward points you need to earn is 110,000.
*Now through Feb 11th, you can get a companion pass for the rest of 2019 plus 30,000 Rapid Rewards points if you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months after opening any of their personal credit cards.
The fastest way to do this is to open both a business card (60,000-point bonus) and a personal card (usually 40,000-point bonus) and complete the minimum spend in the same calendar year. This will earn you to at least 104,000 points. Then you’ll just need to add in the last 6,000 points either through spending or flying on southwest and you’ll have the pass through the end of the following calendar year.
I applied for, and received, a Southwest business card at the end of November 2018 and a Southwest personal card at the beginning of December 2018. I was very careful not to hit the minimum spend threshold until after January 1st 2019. The bonuses were added to my account in mid to late January. It is exciting to think that in about a month we will be able to use the companion pass through the end of next year!
Right now we are planning a trip home to see family in June/July. We intend to use the Companion pass, along with the Rapid Rewards points we earned through achieving the companion pass, for a free (besides taxes and fees) trip to Ohio to see our families. I’ll report back on how it works out and any challenges we run into with this plan!