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How Long Did The Southwest Companion Pass Last Us?

It’s been 1 year since we got the Southwest Companion Pass, and most of our points are gone. So in honor of the 50,000 point card being back, and using up over 100,000 Southwest points in the last year, I figured I’d talk about what we did with the Soutwest Companion Pass.

I should mention that timing the Southwest Companion Pass could be important. If you can get it at the beginning of a year, you can get it for a near full two years.

In order to get the Companion Pass, you have to “earn” 110,000 Southwest points in a calendar year. It’s totally easy if you get both the personal and business credit card when the bonus is at 50,000 points. You’re usually at 106,000 after the spend requirement, and doing $4,000 more on the card in a year isn’t that hard.

Once you do that, every flight you book (in cash or points) can have a companion added for free (well, taxes are $5.60 domestically). It is amazing. Basically all your Southwest flights are 2-for-1 for as much as two years – and Southwest flights are already pretty cheap.

However, we didn’t worry about “timing” it perfectly because we weren’t in the US much in the first half of 2014 and getting it in the second half of the year was the same as getting it the first half.

Plus, it only lasted us a year anyways. That might be short or long depending on your style. We fly a lot more than most people. However, we were able to keep our average flight cost around 6,500 points. How long it will last you is a total YMMV, but you can always go in your history and see what your average flight cost is.

The Data

123

Total points before flying = 110,606

Funny that our points posted on Sep 27, because the first flight was Sep 30.

But truth be told, I always book the companion ticket relatively last minute. Our plans change so much, that it’s easier for me to book that ticket later and not have to change two tickets when I do change the original one.

After all, the first ticket is the only price that matters. The Companion Ticket is just the same – not changing – taxes.

Here’s how we used the points:

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 11.57.21 AM

Remember, all this travel is for two people!

Costs in points:

  • LAS – DEN = 6,902
  • DEN – HOU = 4,493
  • LIT – MDW = 6,446
  • MDW – ATL = 8,075
  • ATL – CUN = 5,530
  • CUN – MCO = 7,000
  • TPA – MSY = 6,772
  • MSY – LGA = 5,665
  • CAK – DCA = 4,428
  • IAD – MBJ = 10,080
  • MBJ – MSY = 12,740
  • MSY – DAL = 1,623
  • DAL – DCA = 2,598
  • DCA – ATL = 7,156
  • ATL – PIT = 7,091
  • MDW – DCA = 4,877

16 flights over all, and neither the list nor the map includes connections. So our routing isn’t shown, but instead where we were actually going.

As you can see, we’re east coast people. Last time we had the Companion Pass, Dallas was the furthest west we actually went. I grew up in Virginia, Caroline in Ohio. All Caroline’s family is in Ohio, now mine are spread across the deep south.

Pictures from our Southwest Companion Pass travels

MBJ Jamaica (Hyatt)

Jamaica 2

Merida, Mexico

Merida

 

Carrie’s family lives in Amish country

ohio

 

But Wait, There’s More

Then the annual bonuses kicked in.

ab

While I don’t think the cards are worth keeping really, the annual bonus is a nice extra little bit. But I forget to mention that the annual fee is not waived the first year. This means we ended up paying $168 total in annual fees ($99 + $69).

Totals:

  • Total earned from credit cards = 119,606
  • Total spent = 101,576
  • 16 flights
  • Average flight = 6348.5
  • Still remaining = 18,030

In theory, 18,030 points is nearly 3 more flights based on my average. However, I actually have a few thousand more left, just because we had some left over from a little while ago.

Normally I don’t like cards that don’t waive the annual fee the first year (since there are so many other options that do), but $168 was totally worth the 119,606 points. This really is a fantastic value.

Again, this is all for two people!

How much would 16 flights normally cost two people?

Let’s see. We did 4 oneway flights to the Caribbean/Mexico and 12 domestic flights.

With United, AA or similar that would cost the following:

  • 12 domestic oneways x 12,500 x 2 people = 300,000 miles
  • 4 Caribbean/Mexico oneways x 17,500 x 2 people = 140,000 miles

Total cost in AA/UA miles would be 440,000 miles for 2 people

vs 101,576 Southwest points

That’s an incredible amount of value in 2 cards.

British Airways is a better mileage program for domestic and Caribbean flights, so I’ll compare what I would have done with Avios.

Same flights for 2 using BA Avios would be 260,000 Avios

vs 101,576 Southwest points

BA Avios is way better than the other programs and still more than twice as much as Southwest.

For a single person, it’s really comparable. But for two people, that is a lot of miles.

And remember, we have 18,000+ points left over. It’s just incredible.

 

Conclusion

The thing that hit me in regards to us getting the equivalent of 130,000 Avios per person, is just how little travel 130,000 Avios would get me elsewhere. A roundtrip to Europe could easily be 60,000+ Avios, or way more to Asia. It really gets us two international trips.

For 101,576 we went to Mexico, Jamaica and traveled around and saw our family all over the US. It really is a lot of travel.

Or you could think about it the other way, which is that it would have been 440,000 miles worth of travel with most of the big airline programs. That’s awesome.

Either way it’s awesome. The amount of travel, or the amount of value… it’s a fantastic deal.

Now, if you live close to all your family, maybe it’s not that big of a deal. Or maybe if you’re more interested in one big trip over lots of little domestic trips, maybe it’s not the right deal for you.

For example, Jamaica, Mexico, and Las Vegas are not that farflung. They are a little different, especially depending on where you go in Mexico, but it’s nothing compared to Indonesia, Vietnam, Kenya, etc…

There are so many places in the world that blow my mind when I’m there, and nowhere that Southwest goes is really on that list. And I don’t think they’ll open a non-stop to Fiji anytime soon.

Clearly it depends on your travel goals. Exotic and far away, or lots of domestic and small flights?

That being said, almost everyone who has the Companion Pass raves about it. It’s easy to use and completely hassle free.

And when I say hassle free, I mean it. If I want to change a flight or cancel it, I go online and click one button. Changes are completely free and instant. No “close-in” fees or bag fees. It’s a no-nonsense airline.

Southwest’s ease of using miles combined with the Companion Pass is nothing short of amazing. 16 flights and 18,000+ points left.

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21 Comments

  1. We haven’t done so well with ours. I was trying to get points to use for MCO to MSY, but Chase didn’t come through with the card fast enough. I am now looking for MCO to NYC, but there are no non-stops except into Long Island Islip, which is a long way from Manhattan, and SW is more expensive than pretty much everyone else even with the flights with stops. I have managed to book flights MCO-HOU-Belize-HOU, but now can’t get back to MCO without an overnight, so I don’t know if I will even keep the ones I have managed to book, so 6 months in, I don’t know if I will actually have used the companion pass and SW miles at all. Maybe better luck next year!

    Reply
  2. Drew, I know you like to travel for the cultural experience, so I get why domestic travel wouldn’t blow your mind, but for nature lovers, there’s a ton to see in this country. And I wouldn’t mind seeing some cities too (like New Orleans). Not to mention the Caribbean flights. Whenever I finally choose to get the Companion Pass, I’ll spend the next year+ just traveling around domestically.

    Reply
  3. your Mexico photo is excellent

    Reply
    • Agree. It’s enchanting.

      Reply
  4. Drew, can husband and wife pool points for Southwest? When I got my CP, I had both cards. I closed both when the anniversary bonus posted. I used the points so far to fly to San Diego, house hunting trip to Seattle, positioning flight to JFK before our summer trip to Europe last year, and a retirement party coming up in Dallas next November. I still have about 40K points left.

    I still want to get an Amex Business Platinum and a Chase UA card (assuming bonus hits 50K), or multiple Alaska cards before the year ends. That’s why I want to see if I can pool points with my wife, with me applying for 1, and my wife applying another.

    Reply
    • You can not pool points for the companion pass…one person has to earn all of them.

      Reply
    • You can’t pool points. But something to keep in mind is that if she earns the companion pass on her own you can book flights for her using your 40k miles you have leftover, and then use her CP to book your ticket. That way you’d have all 150k points (40k from you, 110k from her) to work with.

      Reply
  5. Hi Drew,

    Regarding the Companion Pass, you mention an easy way to get to the 110k goal, you recommend getting the personal and business credit card. I don’t have a business, is it still possible to obtain the business card?

    Otherwise, can two people get a personal card each and have the points accumulate to one account?

    Thank you for the help. Love your site!

    Reply
    • To answer your question – Yes you can get a business card even though you don’t have a business. Just google “business credit card without business” and you should see some results on how to fill out the app.

      Apart from that – Chase actually has two Personal cards – the Premier and the Plus with AFs $99 and $69, which, contrary to what the phone reps say are actually two DIFFERENT products and you may get bonuses for both.

      I haven’t had a CP in the past but am planning on getting one with the above mentioned strategy this year (Around December if the deal is still around).

      Reply
    • Hey Jason, when we got the CP we always saw recommendations of “one personal, one business,’ but being that we didn’t have a business, my husband just picked up two personal cards. Doesn’t work for everyone, but my husband was approved for both back-to-back (minutes apart).

      Reply
    • Thanks very much Vibhu and Anna for your help! I’ll probably look into getting the two personal cards in that case.

      Reply
    • You can get the CP with the personal Plus and Premier card bonuses, we did it in January of this year.

      Reply
  6. Didn’t you have to pay the annual fee a 2nd time to get the bonus points?

    Reply
  7. Agreed, the Companion Pass is life changing. We’ve had ours for 16 months. Here are our stats:

    One-Ways Flown: 100 (including a few we ‘bought’ for others)
    True Cost of All Flights: $13,558
    Cost We Paid: $505.12 + $168 (CC annual fees)
    Net benefit: $12,885

    Not the most scientific way to look at it, but it sure makes me smile! Obviously, this required more SW points than the 110k we generated for the CP. But all points were acquired via SW CCs, Ink, and Sapphire in normal spending or bonuses. Now, almost time to re-qualify for 2016-2017!

    Reply
    • Instead of saying “100 one-way trips,” it may have made more sense to break it down like this:

      12 Roundtrips for 2 people
      ~15 one ways for 2 people
      ~4 Individual tickets bought for framily (not related to CP directly, but the savings the CP provide gave us this ability)

      Reply
  8. My family of five have two SW Companion Passes. I’m so looking forward to traveling south this winter for quick weekend getaways. I love the flexibility with Southwest. One pass was earned with two cards, the other with just one card. 60,000 points was earned through a combination of shopping portals, reselling and regular spend.

    Reply
  9. Fun post, Drew, esp. as we’ve learned so much from you on this. We’re on our second round with the SW companion pass, always watching for new ways to stretch the value of the promotion even further. (For example, unlike Dulles, we gave often been surprised by the convenience and how cheap the points are on SW flights from Richmond via ATL or MCO…. perhaps thanks to competition from JetBlue)

    Last time around, when the original 110K haul “ran out,” I re-loaded with Chase UR points… great use imho of those points. (given that they get effectively “doubled” via the companion pass)

    This time around, we timed it better and got the companion pass for nearly full two years. We’ll be doing more of the Caribbean & LA options, with trips pending to Aruba, Punta Cana (DR), Cancun and Cabo San Lucas (via Denver)…. may do SJU & MBJ again — so much fun the first time.

    Thanks for the inspiration — and pointing us the right direction. For readers who don’t already have the current iteration of the 50K SW/Chase cards, I suggest they consider using one of your links. 😉

    Reply
    • Footnote about the no-nonsense observations…. I agree in part. Yes, it’s fantastic not to have to worry about change or cancellation fees. That’s great. That said, Southwest has a de-facto close-in fee system, whereby for most airports, they’ll double and triple the prices & points required for flights reserved less than two weeks away. (That’s rather new — and nasty, though I’ve noticed fares from big SW hubs like BWI and LAS can stay “cheap” right up to day of departure)

      While I’m at it, I’m also growing rather weary of the Southwest 737 “cattle cars”…. Yes, it’s great not to have assigned seats — er, it used to be. Three years ago, I could log on 24 hours before flight and have a good boarding position. But now, everybody “understands” that and more and more are paying the extra fees to get earlier boarding positions…. As such, by the time I get logged on, exactly 24 hours before departure, I end up sitting in back of plane…. or even in middle seats (grrr….)

      Oh, and I recently had reason to fly Delta (from CHO to LAS), and I was actually impressed at how much more comfortable Delta flights were than Southwest…. (leg room…. significantly better, even on the CRJ’s – and the food was surprisingly good too…. yes, I’m sick of Southwest’s chincy “because we like you” peanuts. — no, it’s because you’re too cheap.)

      first time in a decade I had anything nice to say about Delta. SWA take note.

      Reply
  10. My strategy for booking Southwest flights is different from Drew’s. I book with points when I need maximum flexibility (since points bookings are de facto refundable; revenue Wanna Get Away bookings are non-refundable (reusable with significant restrictions and gotchas)). I make revenue bookings when my plans are reasonably firm. In the past I’ve paid real cash for revenue bookings, but moving forward I’ll use US Bank Flexperks rewards (it’s easy to find Anytime fares that are near the top of the $400/20,000 points or $600/30,000 points buckets, then use Southwest’s “no change fee” policy to change them to what I really want) or Citi Thank You points (TYP) for Southwest revenue bookings. (I realize I’m not getting the 1.6 cents/point I could get using TYP to pay for revenue fares on American, but my travel patterns so heavily favor Southwest domestically and United/Star Alliance internationally that it’s worth it to me to get the 1.33/1.25 cents/point to book other carriers.)

    Reply
  11. I’m winding down my “second year” of the WN Companion Pass. Honestly, I didn’t use it as much as I thought I would. The problem is that my closest WN “hub” is 90 miles away, and I have an AA/US hub in my city. In that scenario, Avios always trumps WN for convenience.
    Also, while WN prices seem to be moderating a bit, the past 2 years have featured high WN fares. Since they don’t charge for a checked bag, they seem to charge more than the legacies most of the time. When a 1000 mile trip is costing nearly $200 each way (converted to points, I guess), the Companion Pass doesn’t seem like a fantastic deal.
    Finally, if you play the elite game well, the lack of benefits on WN — lounges, seat assignments, upgrades, pre-boarding, extra legroom, etc. — is a bit of a turn-off to more WN flying.

    That said, if you frequently fly as a couple, and you have convenient WN service in your hometown, the Companion Pass is tough to beat.

    Reply
  12. I think the SW CP is the 1st thing I tell people about when they express a mild interest in Churning, and I love seeing their jaws drop when you bring up the easiness of getting BOGO for 1.8 years.

    The only caveat is if you want to sit next to your companion, you have to check in EXACTLY when the PreCheck timeframe starts. Or risk having your SO sit 2 people away from you =P

    Reply

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We have spent the majority of our marriage traveling full time, living out of hotels.   All the while, we list our expenses publicly, budgeting $25,000 a year for our nomadic life while still staying in mostly 4 or 5 star hotels across ~20 countries a year.
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