How To Travel Free On Southwest for 2 Years

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Several programs offer perks that extend to friends and family.  Quite arguably the most valuable is the Companion Pass from Southwest Airlines.  There is no limit to the number of times this pass can be used, and it is valid for up to two years.  Upon a person earning the pass, they get to name a companion.  This companion can be changed up to three times in a calendar year.  The pass lasts from the time it was earned to the end of the next calendar year.  For example, a pass earned January 25th, 2014 would be valid for all travel up until January 1, 2016.

The pass allows your companion to fly (near) free with you every time that you get a seat.  They fly for the cost of security fees (~$10.)  So this is basically a buy one get one seat free for all Southwest/Airtran flights for up to two years.  A great deal – and no better tool for a pair of friends or a couple to explore the domestic US.  Even better, Southwest has recently introduced some international routes as well.

How do you get this pass?  Two ways:

  1. Fly 100 flights in a calendar year
  2. Earn 110,000 qualifying miles within a calendar year

It’s the latter that we’ll focus on here.  Logging into your Southwest account you’ll be able to see how many qualifying miles you’ve hit year to date thus far; qualifying miles can be obtained by

  • Flying
  • Spending money on the Southwest credit cards
  • Transferring points to Southwest from
    • Hyatt
    • Marriott
    • Choice Hotels
    • Best Western
    • Wyndham

Note that the following do not transfer

  • AMEX Membership Rewards
    • However, these can be transferred to Choice Hotel points and then to Southwest
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards
    • However, these can be transferred through several hotel programs then to Southwest

Using a combination of credit card sign up bonuses, spending, transfers, and/or outright buying miles (as most of the hotel programs allow one to do) the pass can be achieved many ways.  Even putting effort into near buying the card can certainly be worth it’s return on investment after only a couple of uses.

The most efficient path to achieving this card is to take advantage of the not infrequent 50k Southwest point credit card sign up offers.  Southwest offers Plus and Premier cards with minor differences to us here – of interest is that there are two levels, and both cards are offered as personal and as business.  See Can I get a business card?  One can get any combo of two cards; whether personal plus and business plus or whether personal plus and personal premier.  My understanding is auto-denials occur an application to two cards simultaneous – I had to call the appeal line to get the business card pushed through after the personal came.  I do however have a friend that applied for and received both personal cards with no extra effort.

So what’s the most efficient way to get this pass?  Particularly if you’re starting from zero, it’s worth waiting for and acquiring two of the 50k Southwest branded cards.  After current award spending requirements, that gets one 104k out of the 110k required.  I have created the Companion Pass Engine to go through current offers as well as an individual’s situation to advise the most efficient way possible to obtain the pass.  Try it out!

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