The Southwest Companion Pass – The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Adam Travel 10 Comments

As you all know, we love to travel and I play the credit card game and I try to always use the best travel tools and best travel apps out there.. In the past year we went to Brazil on a single credit card sign-up, flew two people to Denver for $150, and have several hundred thousand points in the bank.

Most recently I wrote about the Southwest Companion pass. It’s universally considered the single best travel perk for those of us in the United States and it only becomes more valuable as SouthWest continues to expand its coverage to South America.

I just wanted to give quick update on how well that pass has worked out for us.

We had 115,000 points (roughly) upon receiving the pass. Since then we’ve been on or booked a number of trips. Southwest had a pretty great sale covering most of the summer and fall and we booked early.

Little Rock

We headed home for a 4 day weekend for a family wedding. I love to see family and friends, but for whatever reason it’s not cheap to get to and from LR to Houston (there’s also no direct flight, awful). They’re also weirdly expensive compared to most cities at that distance.

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St. Louis

Again, an exciting trip to see good friends (and of course a place to crash) in September. We used to visit St. Louis as a kid, but it’s been a long time. I’m looking forward to a Cardinals game, some brewery tours, and great food and friendship.

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Washington D.C.

We’re going to visit friends in D.C. (so a free place to stay) in late August. I’ve never been so I’m pretty excited to see the monuments, the history, and everything else D.C. has to offer.

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Belize

This is our only “real” vacation of the year and we’re catching it late (November). Everything above is 3-4 day weekend. Belize, one of the new Southwest destinations, is a 7 day vacation. We’ll be laying on the beach, enjoying drinks, snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, and exploring. Can’t wait.

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Cancun

I know this seems overly similar to the trip above, but this will be quite different. We plan on doing a B&B and exploring in Belize. Cancun will be for a destination wedding at an all-inclusive resort for some of our closest friends in Houston. Time to get that tan on in December, right before Christmas.

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Costa Rica

I know I’m really hammering on the Central and South American destinations, but we’re trying to take as much advantage of this Companion Pass as possible  in 2015-2016. SouthWest ran a huge sale on it’s new destinations literally this week (7/28). I jumped on the train and managed to book 2 flights for a grandtotal of 12,000 points. Were I to pay cash for that little trip, it would be about $1,200 out of pocket.

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Conclusion

We’ve got a busy fall ahead of us. I’m really excited about a lot of these trips, in addition to driving to Dallas and New Orleans for Arkansas football games in the fall.

The Southwest Companion Pass is the definition of a BIG WIN, which we talk about a lot here. Were it not for that pass, at least 2 of these trips wouldn’t be possible. We would be spending at least $4,000 (and probably closer to $5,000) just in flights, plus stays in Belize/Cancun, which would be way out of travel budget for the year considering we already took a trip to Denver.

Instead we’re getting essentially 2 freebies, since our flights and places to stay are covered in St. Louis and D.C and a very affordable vacation in Belize. The only luxury expense will be our Cancun trip since it’s all inclusive.

I know some in the frugal community hate credit cards, but if you pay them off this can’t be beat. It’s almost free money and can only be used for experiences. For all these flights, all I did was sign up for 2 cards, and spend money that was getting spent either way. Plus I still have 55,000 points (a few signs! That’s another 10 flights if I book on sales and Caitlin goes on all of them. I couldn’t be happier with how this one has turned out.

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Comments 10

  1. Mr. Modern Millennial

    I don’t think being frugal and having a cc have to be mutually exclusive. Like you write, as long as you do your due diligence and pay the balance off at/before the end of the month, everything works out alright. Granted, some cards like AMEX Plat have hefty annual fees. It can be hard to justify having those cards unless you get real crafty with the perks.

    1. Post
      Author
      Adam

      A few of mine have fees that we more than offset with perks, otherwise I keep a spreadsheet of all the cards and their renewal dates. I’ll call before and ask for it to be waived and otherwise I’ll cancel.

  2. Fervent Finance

    I guess I’m just out of the loop since I fly with Delta, but most round trip flights are around 20-25k points per person. You’re going to Costa Rica for only 12,000 points! Maybe I need to change airlines! Are your points “spent” for two tickets and RT? If so, that’s amazing. I’m still new to the whole travel rewards / CC game so bear with me.

    1. Post
      Author
      Adam

      The way it works is I book my ticket for whatever it is and then I just click add companion. So the 2nd person doesn’t go in to the math at all unless there are some tiny fees usually for out of the country. For Costa Rica it was 6,000 points each way for me, then I just added the significant other.

      The trick is to watch the SW sales. I booked all those domestic flights but the Little Rock one during a 3 day sale that dropped the price a lot. Same thing for the international.

      I also think now is a special time to go to the new SW international destinations because they’re literally opening the routes now (or in the next few months) and I think they’re building the business. I doubt 12,000 round trip lasts for Costa Rica.

      Here’s the link:
      https://www.southwest.com/html/promotions/international-sale-150728.html
      https://www.southwest.com/html/promotions/international-houston-sale-150727.html

      As you can see even cash sales right now are super cheap, around $100-150 each way.

  3. Abigail @ipickuppennies

    Whoo-ee that’s a lot of travel for a single signup. I’m shocked that Southwest lets you use so few points for each trip — even for just the one ticket. Most airlines give you a ticket at 25,000 points.

    I’ll definitely have to keep the card in mind.

    1. Post
      Author
      Adam

      Many SouthWest flights do cost 20,000 points or so, but Southwest runs periodic sales that can drop them well below that if your a bit flexible on your day/time. I booked the bulk of those tickets on only 2 days, during sales.

      I also think this is a uniquely great moment to book with them to their South American destinations. They’re currently launching across various new markets from Mexico to Costa Rica and I expect the low price point won’t last forever.

  4. Chef@ Fry The Financial Fish

    We were looking pretty hard at the South American specials offered by Southwest in February before the twins turned 2. However after with all the trouble we went through on our last trip we are thinking about going on a cruise instead where there is daycare and we can get a break. I have been interested in the companion pass for awhile but did not know much about the details. Your article is very useful.
    Thanks,
    Chef

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      Author
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