Travel Hack Tuesday:  Free Southwest Travel for a Friend

Travel Hack Tuesday: Free Southwest Travel for a Friend

Posted on August 19, 2014

Today, I wanted to detail one of my favorite ''travel hacks" of all time, receiving the Southwest Companion Pass.  With Southwest now flying internationally in the Caribbean, the value of the Companion Pass continues to increase.  Essentially,  the companion pass allows you to take along a friend or loved one with you for free every time you travel Southwest Airlines. The best part is, they can still fly with you even if you're using points to fly!

The Companion Pass is earned by flying 100 one-way flights or earning 110,000 points from any combination of Southwest Airlines flights and Rapid Rewards Partners per calendar year.  The Companion Pass becomes active almost immediately after the requirements are met: it will be good for the entire calendar year in which it was earned, plus the year after.  So, there is a good argument to be made to earn the card as early in the year as possible.  Your companion must fly with you in order to fly for free.

Earning the Companion Pass

Tip for earning Southwest Companion Passes

Flickr / Bob B. Brown

The easiest way in the past (and the way I earned my Companion Pass) to quickly earn 110,000 points is by applying for both the personal and business Southwest Airlines credit cards. In the past, each of these cards has offered 50,000 points for spending $2,000 in 3 months.  Currently, each offer is 25,000, but an increase usually happens from time-to-time.

Under an ideal scenario, your spending on both cards would put you at 104,000 Southwest Miles, 6,000 miles short of the goal.  Here's where the real 'hacking' begins: while you could fly and earn 6,000 Southwest miles, a quicker way would be to transfer points from other miles programs.  And, better yet, you don't need to actually stay at the hotels to earn the points required!

You can buy 18,000 Choice hotel points for $198, and transfer them in for 5,400 Southwest Airline points, leaving you pretty darned close to 6,000.  600 more points can be earned on your credit card spending.  Other choices include transferring 25,000 Best Western points to 6,000 miles, 15,000 Hyatt points to 7,200 miles, 30,000 Marriott points to 10,000 miles, or 24,000 Wyndham points for 7,200 miles.

Southwest is a direct transfer partner with Chase Ultimate Rewards, but the transfers don’t count toward your Companion pass.  Therefore, you have to “launder” your points through another hotel partner of Chase, like Marriott or Hyatt, and transfer the points from those hotel programs to Southwest.   Not the best option, since the ratio of transfers isn’t great between the hotels and Southwest, but an option nonetheless.  You can transfer 20,000 Ultimate Rewards Points to 20,000 Hyatt points, then to 9,600 Southwest miles, or 30,000 Ultimate Rewards Points to 30,000 Marriott Points, then to 10,000 Southwest miles.

You could also buy some flowers from Teleflora, which gets you 1,000 Southwest miles per $30 order.

There are a lot of options out there, but it's pretty obvious that 50% off travel for potentially 2 full years for a couple is worth the hassle.

Let us know below if you were successful in receiving the Companion Pass!

(Cover photo: Flickr / Aero Icarus)