In addition to getting several free flights in 2016, I earned enough points and made enough credit card purchases to earn two special status levels with Southwest Airlines: A-List and Companion Pass.
Companion PassSouthwest Airlines' Companion Pass status is a level where the status earner can choose a person to fly for free with them on all flights for the following year. This status actually kicks in when you earn 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year. This means if you hit Companion Pass status on April 1, 2017, you have this status from that day through December 31, 2018! What an amazing benefit. This companion can be ANYONE- your spouse, your child, your best friend, etc.
Once you select your Companion pass designated person, you enter that person's information on your Southwest account online and register him/her as your traveling companion. To travel with this person, you have to book reservations for your companion on the same exact legs as you're on for every flight (you book yourself first then add the person- do it sooner than later so the flight doesn't sell out). That person still has to pay the $5.60 government fee for each one-way flight leg.
The fastest, easiest way to earn points is using the Chase Southwest Airlines Chase Rapid Rewards Credit Card for every purchase you can. Your purchases earn a Rapid Rewards point for every dollar spent.
Don't have the Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card?
Limited time promotion (click to apply)- Earn 40,000 bonus points with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card- when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.(This offer is subject to credit approval. Please read website for full conditions and details.)
The key to earning as many points as possible via the credit card is to use it for as many transactions as you feel comfortable. Think- online purchases, everyday purchases, gas, bill payments, medical expenses, etc. The important important thing is to not go into debt to earn free flights. I set aside the cash to pay for the purchases I make on my rewards credit card, and then pay it off each month. Going to debt for free travel defeats the purpose.
The current Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Card is black. If you have the older blue card and you cancelled it, you may be eligible for this new card and get the bonus points offer again, even if you already have in the past.
- Use the Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal (found on the Rapid Rewards website) to earn points via online purchases made through their portal.
- Use Rapid Rewards Dining to get points while dining out at restaurants.
- Set your hotel rewards programs to give you airline points instead of or in addition to hotel points.
- Fill out online surveys through companies like E-Rewards, E-miles and Valued Opinions to earn points.
- Use partner rental car companies, hotels and transportation shuttle services to earn rewards points.
(Looking for detailed, step-by-step instructions? There's a dedicated chapter to flying for free or cheap in my book- links to the right.)
So how do both you and your Companion Pass person fly for free? Easy! When you book your reservation, book it using the points you worked to earn. Then, add your Companion and book his/her reservation. (Note- when using points, you still have to pay for the $5.60 security fee).
A-List is a special status you hit when you earn 35,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or 25 one-way flights. These points are earned from qualifying points from flights and specific transactions.
Why hit A-List? We have special benefits like Priority Boarding; a Priority Lane at the ticket counter check-in; free same-day standby; a 25% bonus on all points earned from flights; and a dedicated A-list Member phone support line.
I think you're more likely to hit A-List from flights versus points. Here's how to better hit 25 one-way flights in a year, especially if you fly for work:
- Book all of your flights one-way instead of round-trip. The security fees are the same and you get two different confirmation numbers, but you can be sure each flight counts as a one-way.
- Are you carrying on all of your bags, and you have a connecting flight? Book four one-ways. For example: if you are flying from Boston to Los Angeles and you are traveling through Chicago, check out the flight legs and book each leg separately: Boston to Chicago, Chicago to Los Angeles; then to get home, Los Angeles to Chicago, and Chicago to home. Do this carefully to ensure you have enough time to get to your connecting flight. It is recommended to do this only if you are not checking bags. If you are checking bags, pick flights with at least a two-hour gap in between arrival time and departure time, as you will have to go redeem your bags at baggage claim and then check them into your new flight. You will also have to pay twice the airport security fees, but to me it's worth it.
- Research trips to see if you're better off flying than driving to get your rewards points. For example, I've found it often to be cheaper to fly to either Washington DCA Airport or Baltimore BWI airport and rent a car versus driving my own car down to the Baltimore/DC area for an event.