If you’ve looked into the points and miles game at all you’ve probably heard of the Southwest Companion Pass. By earning the signup bonus on just 2 Southwest co-branded credit cards you can receive 110,000 points and a pass that allows 1 person to travel with you for free for up to 2 years! That’s insane.
Travel hackers/bloggers have well-covered the rules and how-to’s on earning the Companion Pass. I won’t fill the internet with recycled words:
Instead I want to cover my own personal experience with the Companion Pass and detail just how much value we eked out of it.
Earning the Companion Pass
In October 2015 I signed up for two Southwest credit cards. I waited to meet the minimum spends until the very last days of December so my signup bonuses would hit when my statement closed on January 2nd. On January 4th 110,000 bonus miles posted to my account and the holy grail of travel rewards was ours.
I now had 110,000 points and any trip I booked (even award flights) my wife could tag along for free. Southwest award flights are revenue based, which means I didn’t need to wait for availability or anything. Points are worth about 1.5 cents each – my 110k points were good for $1,650 in flights for me, but you have to double that since my wife was coming for free also. So theoretically, I could get $3,300 in value for my two credit card signups.
Let’s see how that actually played out.
Tracking Companion Pass Value
You know I love tracking every dollar and points and miles gaming is no exception. Since I timed up the bonuses perfectly we secured the Companion Pass for 2 full years. My wife and I have a goal to visit all 50 states which means we went absolutely bonkers with weekend trips.
In the two years we had our Companion Pass we took 28 flights on Southwest and checked off 10 new states!
Value from Points
I received a 50,000 point bonus for each card signup. I also used the cards for spending, giving me a total of 117,446 points to use for free Southwest flights. Southwest awards are based on ticket prices, if there’s a seat available on the plane you can book it with points. The number of points required depends on the price of the ticket.
There isn’t an exact fixed value, but it’s a pretty tight range. Lower cost flights require proportionately fewer points. The best value I got was a $39 flight that cost 2,002 points, which works out to 1.95 cents per point. On the other end of the spectrum I redeemed 22,768 points for a $328 flight which is 1.44 cents per point.
On average I redeemed points for 1.58 cents each. My 117,446 points fetched me $1,856 in value.
I’m trying to be careful in saying “value” instead of “saved”. The flights we took were worth a lot of money, but we didn’t save anything by taking them. Having a Companion Pass definitely caused us to spend more money – we took more trips.
Southwest has since devalued their points, which is covered in this article. You can now reasonable expect to get about 1.28 cents per point.
Value from Companion Pass
My wife went with me on every Southwest trip booked, which means we got another $1,856 in value on my award flights.
With all of those trips I ran out of Southwest points in a hurry. The Companion Pass can be added to paid flights as well, and we added it on to $915 worth of paid flights. So bam, another $915.
Southwest is also a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards. Since I really don’t like paying for flights, I transferred Ultimate Rewards to use on Southwest flights. I moved over 85,000 UR which was redeemed for $1,343 in flights. I don’t count that as received from Southwest since the value actually came from other Chase credit card signups, however I do count the Companion Pass value of adding my wife, yet another $1,343.
The total value received from the Companion Pass was $4,114. Daaaaaang son.
Grand Grand Total of Southwest Credit Card Signups
My $1,856 in award redemptions plus the $4,114 from Companion Pass means we received $5,970 worth of flights for my two credit card signups. We did end up paying two year’s of annual fees on both cards, which totaled $396. That means net we received $5,574 of value!
Even when redeeming with points, you still have to pay the $5.60 airline security fee or whatever it is. I took that out of the value of the flights, so I feel like it’s already accounted for. For 28 flights x 2 people… we paid $313.60 in fees.
What I think of Southwest
Who Should Do This?
People who live near an airport serviced by Southwest, have at least 1 friend and want to travel domestically. It’s a dope deal. If you like not paying for flights, this is the ticket.