Very few topics get the attention afforded to the Southwest Companion Pass. You could spend a lifetime reading the 8 million web pages you’ll find about it if you search for it on Google.
I was one of the people reading these posts telling me how the Companion Pass was the be-all and end-all of travel savings. Having the pass lets you fly on Southwest for half price. You could take twice as many trips as you did before and not pay any more money. Or if you had Southwest Rapid Rewards points, you’d only be spending points for one ticket and the other one was free.
I fell for this and decided that I would do whatever I needed to get one of these passes. After six months of trying and some false starts, I finally had the pass and 14 months to use it.
While it did save me some points, I found out that I didn’t save all that much because we didn’t often fly with Southwest, even though I tried to use them for every trip.
My experience with the Southwest Companion Pass is actually one thing that convinced me to start writing Your Mileage May Vary. While it’s true that having the Southwest Companion Pass can possibly save you a ton of money, it’s also possible that you won’t really save that much. It all depends on how often you fly with Southwest. For a moderate traveler, you’re talking two, maybe three trips a year and that’s saying that Southwest flies to where you’re going with a convenient schedule.
In 2019, Chase did the unthinkable. They made the Companion Pass a reward for signing up for a Southwest co-brand credit card.
This tells me that Chase and Southwest knew that:
- The Companion Pass is a coveted item and people will jump at the chance to get one.
- Most people overestimate how much value they’ll get from the pass.
- Chase and Southwest are going to come out ahead by giving a companion pass instead of extra points.
Fortunately, they didn’t repeat this offer in early 2020, keeping them off the list of the worst timed promotion ever. In my mind, that still goes to the Starbucks Starland promo. However, rules in 2021 are different and people are starting to travel again and are really looking forward to traveling during the end of 2021 and 2022.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Chase and Southwest are once again, offering the Companion Pass as a sign-up bonus for their line of personal co-brand credit cards.
If you sign up for one of their cards and spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months, you’ll earn 30,000 Rapid Rewards points and a Companion Pass good until 2/28/2022.
Let’s realize that the power Companion Pass users have already locked in their pass for all of 2021 because Southwest has extended the pass for anyone who earned it in 2019 through the end of the year, because of the coronavirus. In addition, to be eligible for the Companion Pass sign-up bonus, you must not have received a Southwest bonus in the last 24 months AND be under 5/24. How many Southwest power users are still standing? That’s why this offer is for those people in the second group. Those who have heard about the pass but didn’t want to go through the trouble of trying to get one. They might not even know what a Companion Pass is. For those people, they’re going to use it a few times in 2021, if they’re lucky. For Chase and Southwest, this promotion raises a ton of buzz for the credit cards and they’ll probably end up breaking even or might even save some money if these new customers end up not using the pass as much as they think they are going to during the end of the year.
While this is the public offer for the Southwest personal cards, there are still two other offers out there. If you sign up for one of the Southwest personal cards with our referral link (for which we receive a bonus of Southwest points), you’ll earn up to 80,000 Rapid Rewards points.
- Earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.
- Plus, earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 9 months of account opening.
Instead of spending $5,000 in three months, you can spend $2,000 over the same time period and $10,000 over 9 months to earn 80,000 total points. Unless you’re going to redeem more than 40,000 points over the course of this year and fly with a companion on each flight, just getting the points instead of the pass might be a better deal. But there’s yet another option available.
If you have a business and can spend $25,000 in six months, you can sign up for the Southwest Performance Business card and earn over 125,000 points. That’s more than enough to earn a real Companion Pass which will be good through the end of 2022.
Why do people want the Companion Pass so badly that they’re willing to waste a credit card approval to get one? I guess it’s because it has a certain mystique. After all, it’s not easy to get and you can’t put a price on its value. You hear stories about how people save THOUSANDS of dollars a year because of the pass. While I don’t doubt these stories are true, there are plenty more people out there who did the work to get a companion pass and ended up using it two or three times and saved maybe $400.
I never talked about the Southwest Companion Pass being the holy grail of the travel universe because it’s not worth it for every traveler to go out of their way and try to get one. Your personal travel trends determine how much you can save and then you still have to consider if flying Southwest for all your trips makes sense. Will you pay more money for a flight on Southwest just because you’ll get a free companion ticket? What about taking a flight with less favorable times or with a connection? Are you willing to fly a less comfortable plane? These are decisions you’re going to have to make when using your pass, I guarantee it.
I hope that this post gives you some reason to pause whenever you read an article telling you about any “must-have” item. There’s no such thing. Look at what is being discussed and see if it fits into the way you like to travel. If it makes sense, go for it. If not, let it go with no regrets.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary