The Southwest Companion Pass: Two Years of Buy One, Get One Free Airfare

Every single travel blogger has written about this, so I’ll point you here, here, and here if this post is incomplete.

How It Works

  1. Sign up for not one, but two new credits cards at the exact same time (open two browser windows and hit “Submit” at the same time).
  2. Meet the spend limits and earn 50,000 points per card.
  3. On your way to the spend limit ($2,000 per card), earn an additional 4,000 points, or one point per dollar.
  4. Pay additional wedding and living expenses for a maximum total of $6,000, thereby earning an additional 6,000 points.

Add it up: 50,000 + 50,000 + 4,000 + 6,000 = 110,000

In other words, of the 110,000 points you need for the companion pass, 100,000 come from credit card sign up bonuses.

The Companion Pass

Once you hit 110,000 miles in a calendar year OR travel blahbity blah number of segments (something like one segment every three days…who does that?) you’ll earn the coveted Companion Pass. With it, you can designate a travel companion (and may change this companion two or three times per year) who will get a free ticket (YES! Just pay the $10 security fee or whatever it is these days!). The pass is valid for the remainder of the current year and the entire following year, so you may want to hit that 110,000 mark in January to maximize the amount of time you have to use it.

Note that points generally post just after your billing statement closes, not after a purchase is made. So, if your statement closes Dec 15, your points will post in December. Points through Rapid Rewards Shopping (more on that later) could post the next day. Be careful!

Booking A Free Companion Ticket

You add the companion after you book your flight from your Itinerary page. There’s a great guide here.

How do I apply for the right credit cards?

Please know that both cards have to go in the same name (you can’t get one and have your fiance(e) get the other – use the same name and Rapid Rewards number on both cards).

If Chase wants to know why you’re asking for two cards, that’s an easy answer! You are planning a wedding and want to separate those expenses from your daily expenses.

My suggestion is to get the Plus and Premier cards. Yes, $69 and 99/yr fee. It’s worth it (and you’re going to cancel once you get the Companion Pass anyway, so you only have to deal with the fees once). If those links happen to give you trouble, hit up Bing.com (why not Google?) and scour the internet until you find both links. It’s incredibly important that you sign up for both on the same day, else you will not be able to get the two bonuses…and you will make it almost impossible to reach the Companion Pass target of 110,000 without a LOT of work.

10,000 points?! 

Yes. Proceed with caution! If you only get one point per dollar, that means $10,000 in expenses! If you miss a payment or carry a balance, you’ll very quickly wipe out the benefits this card has to offer. I am an advocate for NO debt. If you aren’t able to pay off these expenses, you’ll need to do the math and determine whether the interest payments make sense. I can’t decide that for you – my blanket answer is always no. Keep reading, though, to learn how to spend as close to $4,000 as possible in order to get 10,000 points…and, even better, how to do so without spending money you weren’t already planning to.

Here are a few ideas as to how you can hit those spend limits – which is effectively $4,000 to get the bonuses and as little as possible beyond that to get the Companion Pass.

Many of these require that you pay for something with your card, only to have a family member or friend pay you back. In normal circumstances, maybe that would make you uncomfortable. But, if you tell them what you’re doing, I suspect you’ll have their support (and envy!).

  1. Pay your venue deposit. They may request a check, but you should ask about charging it. If they require a 3% fee to run a credit card, that is your decision. Personally, if I have a $10,000 expense, 3% of that would be $300. I’d be done the spend requirements and that might be worth saving the trouble. Just be aware of how that affects when your points (and, therefore, Companion Pass) are going to post. And, do you have the cash to pay off the balance immediately?
  2. Pay off your wedding dress. If mom and dad are paying, are you comfortable asking them to let you charge it? If they understand your really smart plan for the next two years of travel, they’re more likely to say yes.
  3. Buy all of your bridesmaids’ dresses and cover the initial tux rental. Yep, insurance, too. 🙂 This could easily be a $500 expense, and they’re going to pay you back.
  4. BYOB! Does your venue allow you to provide the alcohol? More on that in a future post.
  5. Pay for your florist/coordinator/transportation/photographer/decorator/hair stylist in advance (or, at least the deposit since you may want to have some leverage in case of trouble).
  6. Buy American Express gift cards ($2,000 will run you less than $15 in fees) and hang on to that card until you need to spend it. In other words, convert your cash to gift cards via the credit cards for points.
  7. Buy your thank-you stationary or, if you want to use photographs and can’t order now, buy gift cards to where ever you intend to purchase.
  8. Pay normal living expenses, such as your rent, via Redcard or Amazon payments – especially if your landlord is hip.
  9. Buy all of those other thank you gifts (bridesmaids, parents, etc) in advance.
  10. I won’t recommend paying for your hotel, because I think that should be done via rewards, but you’re going to have to eat, drink, and entertain yourself on your trip. Buy gift cards to the restaurants you intend to visit or find out what gift cards the pool bar accepts…and stock up in advance!
  11. Stock up on other gift cards you know you’ll use, such as gas cards and grocery store cards.

Reducing the $10,000 to $4,000

You’ll have to spend $4,000 no matter what, because you have to meet the $2,000 requirement on each card. But, there are some clever ways to get the additional 6,000 points.

Remember that our goal is to spend $4,000 and earn 10,000 points (you got 100,000 from the bonuses and need 10,000 more for the Companion Pass). Hypothetically, if you spend $4,000 and earned three points per dollar, that would be 12,000 points, right?

Enter Shopping Portals.

Rapids Rewards Shopping is your gateway to more points for fewer dollars. Today, for example, you can get 6 points per dollar at Macy’s. That means if you spend $1,000, you’ll get 6,000 of those 10,000 points. Your remaining $3,000 in spend (to hit the two $2,000 limits) will earn you at least another 3,000 points…and it’s almost done! 110,000 points! (No, I don’t think you’re going to spend $1,000 at Macy’s…but what if you find your bridesmaids’ dresses? Tuxes? Gown? Mother of the bride dress? Be creative!)

Here is a snapshot of the current highest earning options from the portal. Anyone up for a year of DirecTV? Might be worth it!

Screenshot (44)

Reducing $4,000 to Nada

I post regularly about how you can buy stuff and get all of your money back, so just keep an eye on the blog. A few weeks ago, it was $44 worth of paper at Staples that you ended up profiting $10+ on. While I’m unlikely to strike gold and find $10,000 worth of free stuff, every little bit helps. Talk to your family and friends and see if they support the charge and pay back idea. Weddings are one of the most expensive events in a lifetime – get the absolute most you can in free travel and rewards!

Wait, what?

I’ve been doing this for a long time, so there’s a good chance I’ve left out a vital detail that seems obvious to me. Please leave your questions and comments so that I can improve on this entry!

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