How the Southwest Companion Pass Changed My Life

Flash back three years ago — and see if this sounds like you or your family. Living on a modest income as self-employed business owners and renting our home, we rarely traveled.

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Travel throughout our year might look like: a road trip (if we had enough money saved) to someplace warmer than Indianapolis for Spring Break, a car trip to see family in Kentucky and Georgia, and every couple of years, a trip to Walt Disney World. We tried to save and scrimp to fly for that vacation, because it’s quite a haul from Indianapolis, and that was really the only time my kids had ever flown.

Only a few times since getting married and having kids (starting in 2004) had my husband and I taken a trip on our own: once to a family-owned condo in Colorado before our second child was born, once to Southern California for my 40th and once to New York City for my husband’s 40th.

Travel was not a regular part of our lives, and we thought that unless we had a big unexpected windfall, it probably never would be.

Can you relate?

Maroon Bells, Aspen

Maroon Bells, Aspen, Colorado 2016

Flash forward three years and boy have things changed! Since fall 2015, my family of four (I have two school-age boys) has traveled to: San Diego; Naples/Marco Island, Florida; Anaheim, California; Sonoma, California; Chicago (multiple times by car); New York City; Beaver Creek (twice), Denver, Telluride, Aspen and Colorado Springs, Colorado; Orlando and Utah’s National Parks by way of Las Vegas.

We currently have airline tickets booked for: Dublin, Ireland, from which we will fly to France and take a train into Italy; Denver from which we will drive to Beaver Creek, Estes Park and Telluride, Colorado; and San Diego for Comic Con! And that’s just through the summer…

Travel’s Impact on My Kids

Colorado hike

Hiking in Beaver Creek, Colorado, 2016

My children are now seasoned flyers and understand how to travel without being giant whiners (that’s an entirely different post!) and we have literally opened up the world to them! I think there is no better gift to give kids than travel. We want to inspire in them a love of adventure, of trying new things, of talking with people they don’t know and being uncomfortable with something different. I hope I have instilled in them the travel bug that they will carry with them throughout life.

Wrigley Field Chicago Cubs

First Cubs game thanks to SPG Moments, 2016

We’ve done all sorts of amazing things like hiked to a monstrous waterfall in Colorado, attended a Pearl Jam concert in Telluride, kayaked through sea caves in San Diego, zip-lined down Vail Mountain, jet-skied through the Everglades, watched a Cubs game at Wrigley Field in a luxury suite, visited the 9/11 Memorial & Museum and sat in second row seats at “School of Rock” in New York City, ridden umpteen rides at Walt Disney World, explored every detail of the Magical World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando, hiked gorgeous national and state parks in Utah, stayed in amazing hotels around the U.S., biked California Wine Country, and so much more!

School of Rock with SPG Moments

Second row seats for “School of Rock” on Broadway, 2016

I say all this not to brag, but to inspire you about what is possible with just a few simple steps. If I can do it as a busy mom and business owner, YOU CAN TOO!

Sea lions in La Jolla

Sea lions galore in La Jolla, California 2015

To say my family’s ability to travel has done a complete 180 would be an understatement. What changed?

It wasn’t my income, which is essentially the same as it was in 2015, and I don’t work for Southwest Airlines and get free flights :). Ninety percent of this is a result of ONE THING: the Southwest Companion Pass.

The Southwest Companion Pass

Southwest Companion Pass 2017

The Southwest Companion Pass has changed my life!

How did this ONE THING change my life? By providing my family with a means to fly almost entirely on Southwest Rapid Rewards points, the airline’s loyalty program. I have not calculated how much we have saved by paying with points instead of cash, but if flights are on average $400 round-trip, multiply that times four (for each of us) for $1600 and again by the six destinations we traveled in a year and that alone is $6400.

The Southwest Companion Pass is an amazing deal offered by Southwest Airlines that lets one person fly free with you after you accumulate 110,000 of their Rapid Rewards points from the time you earn it until the END OF THE FOLLOWING YEAR.

Sounds daunting to collect 110,000 points, doesn’t it? 

But, it’s not! There’s a simple way to quickly and EASILY earn these 110,000 points. Once you have those points one person ALWAYS flies FREE, meaning you don’t have to redeem points or pay cash for their ticket, AND you have 110,000 points to use to book FREE FLIGHTS for everyone else who is flying with you.

Over the course of a year, we stretched those points + 59,000 more we earned by applying for a third credit card (more about that in a minute) to get us to SIX DESTINATIONS for less than $100 PER FLIGHT for all four of us! And you could easily spend less than that; we added some cost by purchasing points early on in the process so we had enough to get to our first destination.

The Simplest Way to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass

Marco Island Marriott

Marco Island, Florida, 2016

My tagline is “the simple art of traveling nearly free,” because I like to keep things simple. No complicated math and checking every 10 minutes for award tickets to open up on other airlines for me! The Southwest Companion Pass is the simplest and easiest way to get you — and your family — to free travel FAST!

Read on for an abbreviated look at how to earn the Companion Pass, but go ahead and download my free guide that walks you through the process step-by-step to review later.

The Credit Card Method

travel credit cards

The quickest way to get the Southwest Companion Pass is to sign up for TWO of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Chase credit cards.

Now, if that just stopped you in your tracks because you don’t believe in credit cards… hold on a minute…

It takes a re-framing of credit cards.

Yes, you heard it right. YOU HAVE TO GET A NEW MINDSET ABOUT CREDIT CARDS.

Credit cards are not inherently bad. Sure, the companies really want you to overextend yourself, go into debt and pay them tons of interest, but who says you have to do that?! You’re smart! Don’t do it! Instead, maximize these cards to YOUR advantage to earn a HUGE RETURN: free travel!

Use the cards ONLY to purchase things you are going to buy anyway and pay them off every FEW DAYS. If you can’t pay it off in a few days (or 30 days MAX), don’t put it on the card. But, by putting your everyday expenses on the card, you can earn HUGE credit card bonus miles and points simply by meeting the minimum spend. And if you want to continue beyond the minimum spend to earn additional points and miles on your day-to-day expenses, you can.

Just don’t get yourself in debt or it’s no longer a good deal!

Southwest credit cards

OK, enough said. On to the nitty-gritty of how to earn the pass:

  1. Sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards program at Southwest.com.
  2. Sign up for two of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards credit cards — either one personal and one business; or two personal — when they are offering 40,000-60,000 point bonuses. NOTE: These cards charge between a $69 and $99 annual fee, which is where some of the $100 cost I quoted above comes in (the rest is a $5.60 per person per way mandatory government fee you must pay for every flight even if booking with miles or points). Here are your credit card options:
    • Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier
    • Southwest Rapid Rewards Business Premier
    • Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus
  3. Meet the minimum spend, which is typically $2000-$3000, within 3 months. You will earn an additional point per dollar spent on the cards, so that’s another 2000-3000 points ON TOP of the bonus points.
  4. Your credit card bonus points will show up in your Southwest Rapid Rewards account along with the 1 point per dollar spent for the minimum spend. You should now have close to — if not ALL of — the 110,000 points needed to earn the Southwest Companion Pass. This will depend on what the credit card bonuses were when you applied. Right now you can earn the pass in just TWO STEPS.
  5. If you have all your points, BOOM you’ll get an email from Southwest notifying you that you now hold Companion Pass status through the END OF NEXT YEAR. Now all you have to do is choose your Companion (which you can change 3 more times in 1 year by calling Southwest) in your Rapid Rewards account.
  6. If you don’t have all the points, you can continue to use the cards for your daily expenses until you reach the needed points, shop through the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal to earn up to 10X points for every dollar spent at online retailers, enroll in the Rapid Rewards Dining program to earn points just for eating out, and follow my posts on easy and cheap ways to earn LOTS of Rapid Rewards points like signing up for a $12 Wall Street Journal subscription and earning 700 qualifying Southwest points.

Pretty easy, right?

I walk you through the process step by step in my free guide, “The Step-by-Step Guide to Earning Your Southwest Companion Pass and Flying Free Around the U.S.” It’s totally FREE and a quick read, so download it today, so you can get started flying free!

You’ll also get tips in the guide on how to stretch your points as far as possible, how to apply for a third card (Chase Sapphire Preferred) to get another easy 59,000 points that can be used for Southwest flights, and receive a list of handy resources along with a timeline to follow for earning your pass.

Got it? Good!

Bottom Line

San Diego Hotel del Coronado at sunset

Hotel del Coronado, San Diego, 2015

Our lives have changed completely from a trip here or there, usually by car, to traveling 6-8 times every year. We work from home, so I realize that’s easier for us than others, but you can still make the most of the time off you DO HAVE by traveling FREE as much as possible. Oh, and here’s  7 ideas for how to immediately make more time to travel. Thank you Southwest Companion Pass! Now, go get yourself one 🙂

Happy travels!

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