How I earned the Southwest Companion Pass – Part I

They say one of the most coveted travel perks out there is the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass.  When I learned of its existence, I was dead set on earning it and enjoying all the benefits from acquiring it.

In short, the Southwest Companion Pass allows you to bring along a travel companion for FREE every time you  book a seat.  It’s the ultimate Buy One Get One Free.  Since Mrs. Benjamins and I like to travel a lot, it seemed a worthwhile endeavor.

In order to achieve this wonderful perk, one must earn 110,000 Southwest points in one calendar year, allowing you to enjoy the benefits for the remainder of that year and the full year following.  You can learn more about the program on the Southwest Airlines web site.

The most points a common person can earn on Southwest flights would be 12 points per dollar (A-List and A-List preferred earn more, but for simplicity sake, we’ll use this figure for what would apply to most of us), so you you need to spend over $9,100 on flights in one year just to earn the reward!  Even if you could muster spending over $750/mo on plane tickets for 12 months, you’d have to spend the same every month the following year just to break even.  That might work if you travel a lot for work, but that’s not going to work for the average traveler.

Luckily, there’s a better way!

I wanted to hit 110,000 points as early in the year as possible to allow me to maximize my time getting free flights for my companion.  I set out to apply for the two Southwest branded credit cards, the Premier and the Plus, which were both giving out a signup bonus of 50k points, if you spent a certain amount in the first three months.  Mrs. Benjamins and I put every expense we can on credit cards, so I knew hitting the required spend would not be a problem.  Get two bonuses, accrue 10k more points and presto, you made it!

Step 1: Apply for the Southwest Premier card

You can apply for the card yourself by clicking right here. Earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.  Note: I will also receive a point bonus for sending you their way.  It’s a win-win!

I applied, and was immediately approved on October 7th, 2016.  The plan was to spend as much of the $2k as late in the year as possible, so that the spending points, along with the bonus would be credited to me in January of 2017.  It’s very important that you do not hit the spending limit before the end of the year, or you might wind up with 50k points in one year and 50k points the next year, essentially ruining your chances of obtaining the companion pass in this fashion.

That October, I spent a mere $157 on this card, charging our monthly Verizon Wireless bill before the billing cycle ended on the 24th.  The second month I spent a little more, about $950 or so.  At this time I was charged the $99 annual fee for the premier card.  No one likes paying fees, but this one seemed worth it (the fee does not count towards your $2k spending threshold).  In December, I spent another $550 or so, bringing my total spend to $1650.

I was very careful NOT to hit the $2k before my billing cycle ended on Dec. 24th.  It’s important to remember that you have three months to spend the required amount, not three billing cycles.   On December 31st, I used this card to make some end-of-year charitable donations, thereby hitting my spending goal, receiving the bonus and bringing my 2017 point accumulation total to around 51,800.

Read Part II here…

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