I’ll just go ahead and give you my plans. I used to be a little coy about all this incredible travel I’m able to do because I’ve spent the time to understand the frequent flyer programs and how to acquire points for them. More often than not, people just adopt a “well that’s good for him” attitude, but my secret desire is for them to join in the fun.
Last week, I was incredibly pleased to see that the Chase Southwest Plus, Premier, and Business cards with 50k point bonuses have returned. “Pleased” because 50k is, like, double the 25k they were offering… and “incredibly” because it means getting the coveted Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is going to be so easy for me.
Southwest offers a unique bonus to frequent flyers who either fly 100 segments in a calendar year, or earn 110,000 Rapid Reward points in a calendar year. They bestow a celestial Companion Pass… enabling the individual to invite a companion along for any flight they book with cash or points for the remainder of that year and the entirety of the next year. The companion pays nothing, save a $5 per segment fee.
There’s obviously no way I could possibly fly 100 segments in the first month of the year, and earning 110,000 Rapid Rewards from flights only is also not an option.
How to get 100,000 Rapid Rewards
What is an option though, is for me to apply for the Southwest Premier Card in October of this year. I’ll need to pay the $99 annual fee, and then I’ll have to complete the minimum spending requirement of $2000 in December of this year, so that my 50k bonus points hit in my Rapid Rewards account in January of 2014.
I’ll also apply for the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Card, pay the $99 annual fee, and plan my spending so that I complete the $2000 in December. That way I’ll have 100k Rapid Rewards in the first month of 2014.
How to get 10,000 more Rapid Rewards
I’ll need 10k more in order to get the companion pass. I could get those a few different ways – every $1 I spend on either card will give me a point, and I have some business expenses, but $10k in a month is hard for my budget alone.
It would be perfect if I could transfer some Ultimate Rewards, but doing that doesn’t give me companion pass qualifying points.
I could book some flights on SW and earn the points the old-fashioned way, but unless I pay big money for refundable anytime fares, it doesn’t earn me nearly enough.
I could transfer 30k Marriott points to Southwest at a 3:1 ratio and get my 10k, but I hate to use them like that because I’m going to need some free hotel nights for all these trips.
I could earn points through Southwest’s Shopping Portal, but then I’m just buying things I don’t want or need.
None of these options are super easy, but I do have one that’s going to work. A friend of ours is building a house. They will have tens of thousands of dollars in expenses over the next few months. In January, I’ll charge two of his invoices to my Southwest card, each for over $5000. Voila! 110k points and the companion pass is on its way!
Planning 23 Months of Vacations with the Southwest Companion Pass
Now this is where it starts to get exciting. All of this could change at any moment, especially if or when Airtran flights get taken into the Southwest system and we are able to fly to Mexico. I’d really like to sneak in a trip to Cabo San Lucas.
But just for the fun of it, I decided to layout a potential itinerary of the kind of trips I’d like to make over the next two years. I’m sure some would get put off, too, because of those dang “responsibilities,” but it doesn’t hurt to dream.
Here’s what I came up with:
|Month||Depart||Destination||Activity/WW Post||Estimated Points|
|Feb 2014||(SLC)||Orlando (MCO)||Orlando Area||15000|
|Mar 2014||(SLC)||Burbank (BUR)||Los Angeles||10000|
|Apr 2014||(SLC)||Virginia Beach (ORF)||Jefferson Tour||15000|
|May 2014||(SLC)||New York (EWN)||New York City||15000|
|Jun 2014||(SLC)||Branson (BKG)||Branson shows||12000|
|Jul 2014||(SLC)||Providence (PVD)||Rhode Island Area||15000|
|Aug 2014||(SLC)||Seattle (SEA)||Alaskan Cruise||9000|
|Sep 2014||(SLC)||Charlotte (CLT)||Carolinas||15000|
|Oct 2014||(SLC)||Manchester NH (MHT)||New England Fall Colors||15000|
|Nov 2014||(SLC)||Los Angeles (LAX)||Positioning for Thailand flight||9000|
|Dec 2014||(SLC)||Phoenix (PHX)||Dirtbiking with my brother||10000|
|Jan 2015||(SLC)||San Antonio (SAT)||San Antonio and Alamo||12000|
|Feb 2015||(SLC)||Las Vegas (LAS)||Las Vegas shows||9000|
|Mar 2015||(SLC)||Nashville (BNA)||Great Smoky Mountains||15000|
|Apr 2015||(SLC)||Boston (BOS)||Positioning for Ireland flight||18000|
|May 2015||(SLC)||Philadelphia (PHL)||American History Tour||15000|
|Jun 2015||(SLC)||Rochester (NY)||Niagara USA||15000|
|Jul 2015||(SLC)||San Francisco (SFO)||San Francisco Tour||9000|
|Aug 2015||(SLC)||Grand Rapids (GRR)||Michigan||12000|
|Sep 2015||(SLC)||Baltimore (BWI)||Washington DC||15000|
|Oct 2015||(SLC)||Boston (BOS)||New England Tour||18000|
|Nov 2015||(SLC)||Tampa (TPA)||Tampa Area||15000|
|Dec 2015||(SLC)||Denver (DEN)||Ski Trip||9000|
Yes, epic, isn’t it? You see that I don’t want all this domestic travel to hamstring my international travel plans, so on a couple of occasions I planned a domestic flight to make an international flight “cheaper” -pointswise. My estimates come from the lowest available redemption rates I can find on those routes, and I won’t always be able to find them that good. Assuming I did every one of these, I’d need to have a total of 302,000 Rapid Rewards points.
I already have about 2,000, and by the time I complete the Companion Pass requirements, I’ll have 110,000 more. I have more than 100k Ultimate Rewards points that I can transfer to Southwest, so I’ll just need to figure out how to get 90k more Southwest points and I’ll have 2 RT tickets a month for 23 months for nothing more than the $5 per segment fee. (And the $198 in annual fees… but really, we are talking about $6000 in flights here!)
I have the option of changing my companion 3 times during the life of the pass, so I’m imagining having my wife as companion for most of the time, but also taking some trips with my brother, my dad, or a friend.
I know how surreal this all sounds, but the reality is that it’s no more difficult than following a simple recipe. You just apply for the cards, meet the requirements, and start traveling!
Where would you go if you had a companion pass for 23 months? Is there someplace I’m missing?
Disclaimer: Sheldon and I don’t get any commission if you apply for the Southwest Cards with our links. We promote them because our interest is in showing you what incredible things you can do when you master the art of frequent flyer mile accumulation through responsible use of your credit purchases. We’re after having you as a loyal visitor and sharing your successes with us. That’s how we get paid.