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I don’t usually like throwing around the word “best” when describing deals and destinations because everyone’s travel needs and wants are so different, but honestly this deal may truly deserve the “best deal in family travel” rating…at least for those in the US who live near an airport serviced by Southwest.
I’ve written about it before, but I think it is time for a refresher on the “best deal in family travel”, the Southwest Companion Pass. The way this works is one person in the family qualifies for the pass and then someone else (AKA their companion) gets to travel for free with them on any Southwest flight for the life of the pass. All they pay is the Sept. 11th fee of around $5 per flight. It doesn’t matter if the pass holder is flying on dollars or points, they can still bring their companion along. There are some deals and companion certificates out there with different carriers where you can bring companions on a certain flight either for free or at a reduced cost, but no deal even comes close to being able to bring someone on every flight for free for over a year!
Normally the only people who would earn a Companion Pass are those who do a very significant amount of travel on Southwest in a calendar year. However, there is currently another way to get it that is much easier and more accessible to almost all of us. You need 110,000 Companion Pass qualifying points in a calendar year to earn the pass. A somewhat off-label benefit of getting one of the four Southwest credit cards listed below is that the points have been counting toward the 110,000 you need to get the pass.
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card – 50,000 points after spending $2,000 in 3 months ($99 annual fee, 6,000 annual bonus points)
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card – 50,000 points after spending $2,000 in 3 months ($99 annual fee, 6,000 annual bonus points)
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Personal Card – 50,000 points after spending $2,000 in 3 months ($69 annual fee, but also comes with 3,000 annual bonus points)
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Business Card – 50,000 points after spending $2,000 in 3 months ($69 annual fee, but also comes with 3,000 annual bonus points)
Currently all four cards are offering 50,000 points when you sign-up and spend $2,000 in the first three months. That means that getting one card and meeting the spending limit will result in you having at least 52,000 of the 110,000 points needed. Even if you don’t want to go for the Companion Pass, 50,000 points are worth at least $835 toward Wanna Get Away travel!
The Companion Pass is good for the year you earn it in, plus all of the following year. That means if you got the pass right now, it would be good for the remaining five months in 2013 and all of 2014. Because of this, some like to time it so that they get the pass as early in a year as possible thus maximizing it for almost two full years. I know some families where the mom and dad both are companion pass holders and thus they can then have both kids fly with them “for free”. I even know a family where the dad had the pass and the wife (his companion) and two twins (under the age of two) would all fly for free thanks to that one pass, and the rules allowing children under two to travel as lap infants.
When you have and use a companion pass while redeeming Southwest points, you are essentially doubling their value and making them the most valuable type of points for domestic US travel. A Southwest point is normally worth close to 1.8 cents each when you take into account taxes and fees, but if that point is being used to get two flights instead of just one, it is essentially now worth about 3.6 cents.
You can transfer points into Southwest from Ultimate Rewards via cards like Ink Plus® Business Card or Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, but those points will not be Companion Pass qualifying. However, those points will be worth a ton when you are redeeming them for flights for you + 1 using the Companion Pass, if you start to run low on all the points that will come with getting the Southwest cards in the first place. You can change your designated companion up to three times within the validity period of the pass, so you can adjust accordingly if only certain members of your family are going with you on a given trip.
If anyone knows of a better deal in family travel, please let me know. Otherwise, I think this deal is currently in the #1 overall spot. The points from the credit card sign-up have been counting toward the Companion Pass for some time now, but that is always subject to change at any time. I’d love to hear your experience with the companion pass if you have it, and if you have any questions, please feel free to ask!
Disclaimer: I do receive commission if you are approved for some of the credit cards mentioned in this post. As always, your support is very much appreciated.