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My law school buddy, Ray, asked to write a piece about his experience getting $4,000 worth of flights for $257 with the Southwest Companion Pass. Of course, I said yes because I have never been able to personally review the best deal in travel hacking. I’ve added a section at the bottom about how you can get the Southwest Companion Pass today and copy what Ray and his wife have done. Take it away, Ray:

The Southwest Companion Pass is often called the best deal in travel, and after having it for 21 months through December 2015, I have to say: The Southwest Companion Pass is the best deal in travel. From April 2014 to December 2015, I took seven trips, six with my girlfriend-cum-fiancée-cum-wife, Lauren, and the airfare cost only $257.* That’s 13 tickets for an average cost of less than $20. The retail price was over $4,000! Here’s how I did it, and the trips I took.

Captura de pantalla 2016-02-14 a las 16.18.14

Getting the Pass

Since I live in Houston, I regularly travel on Southwest and earned a lot of extra points by traveling to Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio for work. Southwest gets dumped on by a lot of travel blogs because they don’t have any luxury or elite services. But that’s the wrong way to think about Southwest. Don’t think of Southwest as a bad airline for elite travelers, but as the greatest bus service in the world! Southwest is great for getting from point A to point B and even has wifi on most planes, allowing my wife and me to watch Astros games during the recent playoff run.

Earning the Southwest Companion Pass was one of the easiest travel hacks I’ve ever done. You need to earn 110,000 Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year and basically everything (except transfers from Ultimate Rewards counts toward that number.) Southwest has two personal credit cards and one business credit card. I simply signed up for both personal cards, the Southwest Plus card during a 50k bonus and the Southwest Premier card a month later. I made sure to hit the minimum spending requirements of $2,000 per card in early 2014. That gave me 104,000 points, and with another $6,000 in spending on one of the cards, I had the Companion Pass.** Now is a great time to sign up for the cards yourself, as you’ll have the pass for the rest of 2016 and all of 2017 as soon as you get to 110,000 Rapid Rewards earned.

Once I had the Companion Pass, check out what we were able to do.

The 2-for-1 Trips

The best part of the Companion Pass is that it works for any flight you’re on, whether you pay for ticket or use points. And since you just earned 110,000 points, that’s a lot of cheap travel coming your way. In fact, all of these trips, I booked my own ticket with points, and Lauren flew for just the taxes.

Trip 1: Outer Banks, North Carolina, 4 Segments, $10, 22,995 pts

I qualified for the Companion Pass on April 7, 2014, just in time to fly my then girlfriend and me to Norfolk, Virginia so we could spend a week in the Outer Banks. My entire extended family rented a giant house in Corolla, North Carolina, and we had a great week teaching my parents drinking games, playing poker, and consuming massive amounts of Fireball. It was also the first time Lauren got to spend a week with my entire family. Somehow that went okay.

My ticket was 22,995 points and $5. Hers was $5.

Trip 2: Ft. Lauderdale, 4 Segments, $22.40, 24,615 pts

In October we planned a quick trip to Ft. Lauderdale to see Lauren’s aunt, and after three years of dating, Lauren was expecting me to pop the question there. I surprised her a few days early, making this trip a celebratory vacation now that we were newly engaged. We spent a few days in Ft. Lauderdale, and then I got a swanky hotel in South Beach for our final night (also using points), which led to us eating at a drag brunch. Great trip.

Captura de pantalla 2016-02-14 a las 16.17.17

My ticket was 24,615 points and $11.20. Hers was $11.20.

Trip 3: Los Angeles, 2 Segments, $11.20, 30,598 pts

With wedding planning in full swing, I needed a quick break, and so headed off to Los Angeles to catch my buddy’s short film at a festival.  This was the only trip I took without Lauren, but if she wanted to come it would have only cost the $11.20 in taxes.  It was a one-day trip, but with points that’s no big deal.  For less than $12, I hit up a film festival, Hollywood night clubs, and Manhattan Beach in 36 hours.  A+++++++, WOULD BUY AGAIN.

Captura de pantalla 2016-02-14 a las 16.18.08

We Got Married!

No travel here, but with the wedding in the bag we spent the following weekend using up the remainder of my Southwest points and booked four trips over two months. Here we go!

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[Scott: And I was there with a pre-printed apology note for any trouble I might cause.]

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Trip 4: Washington, 4 Segments, $22.40, 20,564 points

After our wedding, we had to jet up to Washington to see one of my best friends get married. We landed very late, but still got some great food, went to a great wedding, and then spent Sunday sightseeing in the nation’s capital. Southwest flies into Reagan (DCA), which is the most convenient airport in the world. Our flight home was scheduled for the day when all of Southwest’s computers went down. We expected mayhem and got it, but somehow this still worked out in our favor. We got involuntarily bumped from our return flight, but I was able to book flights home on United for $1,300 and got compensated from Southwest for almost $2,000, netting about $700. Woot! Southwest basically paid me to take all these trips. Go Companion Pass!

Captura de pantalla 2016-02-14 a las 16.17.10

My ticket was 20,564 points and $11.20. Hers was $11.20.

Trip 5: Cancun, 4 Segments, $147, 26,238 points

Southwest has been adding a ton of international destinations in the last few years, so Lauren and I jumped at the opportunity to take a mini-moon to Cancun, which is one of the easiest cities to visit in Mexico. We booked an all-inclusive resort and spent the weekend surrounded by British and Russian nationals on “holiday” and had ourselves a wonderful weekend. From Houston, this was incredibly simple with a two-and-a-half hour flight each way and a nearly empty international terminal at Houston-Hobby. We were at the resort four hours after leaving the house and sailed through customs on the way home. Even better, Southwest and United are currently engaged in a price war over this route, so we’re likely to do this again. Weekends in Mexico for under $1000? Sign us up. We’ll definitely also be taking advantage of Southwest’s other international destinations, including Cabo San Lucas, Montego Bay, Belize City, and Nassau.

My ticket was 26,238 points and $73. Hers was $73. The only reason these flights were more expensive than the others was the exit tax from Mexico.

Trip 6: New York City, 4 Segments, $22.40, 15,614 points

My cousin got married this November, and so we were off to NYC. While Southwest originated in Texas and was for many years just the airline you took to Vegas, if you look at Southwest’s current routes you’ll see they now fly almost anywhere: from Portland, Maine to Seattle, Washington. I was surprised we could fly Southwest to Newark, but quickly booked it and had a wonderful weekend in New York, with all the same extended family Lauren met in the Outer Banks. Somehow both my parents and my aunt and uncle ended up featured in Humans of New York. (It’s pretty hilarious reading 4,000 comments about how your dad needs to wear socks with his shoes.) The wedding was gorgeous and we spent Sunday in Manhattan, catching the matinee of the amazing Hamilton musical and then walked around the Village, eating amazing Italian and finishing the night in Washington Square park as it showed off its solidarity with Paris.

Captura de pantalla 2016-02-14 a las 16.17.49

My ticket was 15,614 points and $11.20. Hers was $11.20.

Trip 7: Las Vegas, 4 Segments, $22.40, 32,595 points

Our final trip, we spent 31 hours in Vegas, which is more than enough time to do Vegas. We caught a Cirque show, and while we were barely breaking even, our final black jack session netted $600, making this trip both profitable and extremely fun.

My ticket was 32,595 points and $11.20. Hers was $11.20.

The End of the Companion Pass

My Companion Pass expired at the end of 2015, and I really miss it. Being able to take your wife on any trip, practically for free, is amazing, and the past two years saw us go from dating to married. It would have been entirely different without the Pass. It was an incredible set of trips and after going to seven cities the only thing I’m missing is Southwest Points. Had I paid cash for all these trips it would have cost at least $4,000, and I never would have booked one-night trips to LA or Vegas. But with the Companion Pass and enough points, Southwest is simply the greatest bus service in the world.

Thanks to Scott at MileValue for showing me how to make it happen and for helping us book our honeymoon with flat bed Business Class seats to Chile. Southwest doesn’t offer service to South America or lie flat beds, but for domestic and Central American travel, the Companion Pass can’t be beat.

*Plus the $69 and $99 annual fees on the Southwest personal cards.  Still, that’s 13 tickets for $425, or $32 a ticket.

**Note that, technically,the Companion Pass rules are ambiguous on whether credit card sign up bonuses count,but so far Southwest is still happy to give it out to flyers who qualify this way.

How You Can Do What Ray Did (by Scott)

Read this post in full, which explains step-by-step how to get the Companion Pass for $3,142 in free flights.

Right now the Premier Personal and Premier Business cards have 50,000 point public offers after spending $2,000 in the first three months. Just meeting both minimum spending requirements puts you well over 90% of the way to a Companion Pass for the rest of 2016 and 2017.

If you don’t have a business, though, you need to get the Premier Personal and Plus Personal cards. The Plus does not currently have a public 50,000 point offer. However, current cardholders can refer you to the offer and pick up some bonus points for themselves. Here is a MileValue reader who you can email for a referral to a 50k Plus offer: danbandersen2@yahoo.com. Feel free to leave your information in the comments if you can also refer people to a 50k Plus offer.

Who can top the value Ray and Lauren got from his Companion Pass?

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

Longtime reader Caveman is offering one lucky reader a $51 Southwest gift card.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 12.05.58 PM

Southwest gift cards are fully transferable and don’t expire. There are two ways to enter, and you can enter both ways. I’ll choose one winner from among the two types of entries next Friday and notify the winner via email.

  1. Comment on this post.
  2. Retweet this tweet.

Further reading about Southwest:

Thanks again, Caveman.

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

If you live at an airport served by Southwest, the Southwest Companion Pass is one of the best deals in travel. Every time you fly Southwest–whether on a cash or award ticket–your designated companion flies for free plus taxes: $5.60 one way in the United States and a little more internationally.

Here’s how to open two credit cards and get the Southwest Companion Pass for almost all of 2016 and 2017.

The Southwest Companion Pass previously allowed three changes to your designation of the companion. Now you get three changes per calendar year. That means you can designate seven companions during the life of the pass.

  1. Original companion
  2. Change #1 in first year
  3. Change #2 in first year
  4. Change #3 in first year
  5. Change #1 in second year
  6. Change #2 in second year
  7. Change #3 in second year

That could be seven different people or it could be two people that you alternate or any number in between. I could see getting a lot of value by having one main companion, but making a different friend be your companion three times for three trips.

  1. Original companion
  2. Friend #1
  3. Original companion
  4. Friend #2
  5. Original companion
  6. Friend #3
  7. Original companion

Keep in mind that “[a]ny reservation with the current Companion Pass would need to be cancelled before changing his/her designated Companion.  Requests may be made by calling 1-800-435-9792.  Allow 21 business days for processing and issuance of the Companion Pass card.”

I have updated the “Southwest Companion Pass Master Thread” with this change.

Hat Tip Doctor of Credit

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

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Southwest is currently offering 50k bonus point sign ups on its personal and business credit cards after spending $2,000 in three months. You can leverage the offers for $3,142 in free flights in 2016 and 2017.

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You can get both a personal and business card at once, and after meeting their minimum spending requirements, you will have 104,000 Rapid Rewards post to your account.

Southwest has a nearly fixed-value program in which you can get any Wanna Get Away? fare for 70 points for every dollar of the base fare. That means 104,000 points are worth $1,485 in free flights.

Earn another 6,000 Rapid Rewards with the cards or a few other ways–getting to 110k points total–and you will earn the best deal in all of travel hacking, a Southwest Companion Pass.

If you have the Southwest Companion pass, you can designate a companion who flies for just the taxes on every Southwest flight you fly. That’s $5.60 each way within the United States and a bit more on Southwest’s international routes. That’s every Southwest flight–including paid tickets and awards–for almost all of 2016 and 2017.

The free travel from the 110k Rapid Rewards and Companion Pass are worth around $3,142.

  • What is a Southwest Companion Pass?
  • How can you get one from two credit cards?
  • How can you time this to make your companion pass last 22 months?

There are two ways to earn the Southwest Companion Pass: fly 100 paid segments or open two credit cards and use one of several methods to get the last 6,000 points.

This post will be about the easier and cheaper way: getting the credit cards.

The Cards

The easiest way to earn a Southwest Companion Pass is to earn 110,000 qualifying points in one calendar year. At the moment, qualifying points can be earned from credit card sign up bonuses, credit card spending, Rapid Rewards shopping portal points, or hotel points transfers among other ways.* Qualifying points CAN NOT be earned by transferring points directly from Ultimate Rewards.

There are three Southwest credit cards: Premier Personal, Premier Business, Plus Personal.

Right now a personal and business Southwest credit cards are offering a 50k Rapid Rewards sign up bonus after spending $2,000 in the first three months.

Each card requires $2,000 spending in 3 months to unlock the bonus miles. The $99-annual-fee Premier cards come with 6,000 anniversary Rapid Rewards. The annual fee is not waived the first year.

If you can’t get a business card, you need to get the Premier Personal and the Plus Personal. There is no public offer for 50k points on the Plus Personal, but current cardholders can send you a referral for a Plus Personal with 50,000 Rapid Rewards after spending $2,000 in the first three months. The Plus Personal has only a $69 annual fee. It comes with 3,000 anniversary Rapid Rewards. Get a referral here.

Can You Get Two Southwest Cards at Once?

You can and should get two Southwest cards the same day if you want to get the Southwest Companion Pass. I’ve seen tons of reports of people getting one personal and one business Southwest card on the same day. I have also seen people report getting both the Plus and Premier personal cards on the same day.

Can You Get the Premier and the Plus?

All three Southwest cards are separate products. Having one or having had one does not disqualify you from getting a different one.

Can You Get a Card Again?

These cards are issued by Chase. You can get a Chase bonus again if it has been at least 24 months SINCE YOU GOT THE BONUS on the card previously, and the old card is closed.

The Strategy to Get 104k Southwest Rapid Rewards

Sign up for two 50k card offers.

Spend $2,000 on each card in the next three months. The sooner, the better. Once your statement closes on which you’ve met the minimum spending requirement, your 50,000 bonus points will post. Meeting both $2,000 spending requirements means you’ll get 104,000 Southwest points (100,000 bonus + 4,000 for spending at 1 point per dollar).

 

Here’s where the fun begins. There are two great ways to get those 6,000 points and your free companion pass good through December 2017.

1. Spend $6,000 more on either card. The 6,000 Rapid Rewards points earned will put your total at 110,000.

2. This one is multistep, but should only take a few minutes.

  • Transfer 13,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to 13,000 Hyatt points. Inside your Chase account, go to the Ultimate Rewards section, Transfer Points, and select Hyatt. The 1:1 transfer should be instantaneous.
  • Transfer 12,500 Hyatt points to 6,000 Rapid Rewards here. The 25:12 transfer may not go through immediately, but when it does, you will be over 110,000 points, and you’ll have a companion pass.

Why can’t I just transfer 6,000 Ultimate Rewards to 6,000 Rapid Rewards? They are transfer partners.

Ultimate Rewards transferred directly to Rapid Rewards do not count toward the 110,000 qualifying points threshold. But hotel points transferred in do count, and this two-step process gets the 6,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards at the cost of the fewest Ultimate Rewards.

3. through 10.

There are more than just these two options to get the 6,000 points that we need after meeting the credit card spending requirements. Here is Million Mile Secrets with ten ways.

Maximizing the Value of the Pass

An easy was to maximize the value of a Southwest Companion Pass is to use all seven of your companions.

From southwest.com’s FAQ on the Companion Pass:

The Member may, however, change his/her designated Companion and request issuance of a new Companion Pass card up to three (3) times each calendar year that the Member maintains Companion Pass status.  Any reservation with the current Companion Pass would need to be cancelled before changing his/her designated Companion.  Requests may be made by calling 1-800-435-9792.  Allow 21 business days for processing and issuance of the Companion Pass card.

You can switch back and forth between companions, designating a new companion four total times–the original companion and three changes–in the first year and three new companions in the second year for seven total. You can only have one companion at a time, but there is still some value in efficiently using your changes.

Recap

With a few easy steps, you can get $3,142 worth of travel on Southwest:

  1. Open two of the Southwest 50k cards on the same day.
  2. Meet the minimum spending requirement of $2,000 within three months on each card. That gives you 104,000 points.
  3. Then get the last 6,000 points needed to get to 110,000 qualifying points and a free Companion Pass on Southwest through the end of 2017 for $6,000 in spending or 13,000 Ultimate Rewards.
  4. Designate a companion to fly just for the taxes on Southwest every time you fly on Southwest, whether you’re flying a paid ticket or an award.

Bonus

Why not have both parents get the Companion Pass and each name a child as a companion? That would be a 4-for-2 travel deal for up to two years.

Getting the Cards

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

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Longtime reader Caveman is offering one lucky reader a $51 Southwest gift card.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 12.05.58 PM

Southwest gift cards are fully transferable and don’t expire. There are two ways to enter, and you can enter both ways. I’ll choose one winner from among the two types of entries next Friday and notify the winner via email.

  1. Comment on this post.
  2. Retweet this tweet.

Further reading about Southwest:

Thanks again, Caveman.

 

------------------------------------------------------------

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

2

Southwest is offering $49, $99, $129, and $149 one way fares if you book by tomorrow (June 4) and fly between August 25 and December 16. Fridays, Sundays, September 3-5, September 7, and November 20 – December 1, 2015 are blacked out.

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For other restrictions and all the city pairs, see the sale page. Here are the $49 fares from Baltimore:

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There are even a few sale prices under $49.Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 7.04.10 PM

If you prefer to fly with another carrier, check to see if they are matching the sale. United is matching Southwest’s $99 fare from Houston to Tampa on some dates (though the Southwest fare comes with free checked bags, free changes, and free cancellations, and United charges for all of those things.)Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 7.13.14 PM

 

Southwest has a great calendar search feature, so it is easy to see which dates the fare is available. The $49 fare from Baltimore to Boston is available all the promised days on the sale page.

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The sale is also available with points. Most Southwest fares cost 70 points per dollar. The $49 fares are working out to 2,273 points + $5.60 one way.Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 7.37.13 PM

 

Fees

Southwest offers two free checked bags, free soft drinks, and free snacks onboard. There is no seat selection before the flight. At check in, you are assigned a number. You board based on that number and can pick any empty seat.

You can cancel a Southwest ticket and get a credit in the full amount of the original ticket that you can use for one year from the original booking date. You can change a Southwest ticket for no fee, just the fare difference. If you have a ticket booked on Southwest for this Fall and the price just dropped, rebook and pocket the price difference as a voucher.

If you have some dates you might want to travel this Fall, this is a great time to book speculatively with cash or points, but especially points. If you later need to cancel the award, you’ll get back all the points for free and the $5.60 in taxes as a voucher for a future flight.

 

Getting These Flights for Free

There’s no need to actually pay cash for cheap, cash fares. The Citi Prestige® Card comes with a $250 Air Travel Credit every calendar year that will cover the purchase of this ticket. If you haven’t used the credit yet, buy this fare with your Prestige, and you will receive an offsetting credit on your next statement, so you’ll get a completely free ticket. The Air Travel Credit will also offset seat selection, baggage, and food fees.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

77

Longtime reader Cave Man is offering one lucky reader a $51 Southwest gift card.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 12.05.58 PM

Southwest gift cards are fully transferable and don’t expire. There are two ways to enter, and you can enter both ways. I’ll choose one winner from among the two types of entries next Friday and notify the winner via email.

  1. Comment on this post.
  2. Retweet this tweet.

Further reading about Southwest:

Thanks again, Cave Man.

------------------------------------------------------------

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

Southwest is offering a Companion Pass for the rest of 2015 to Atlanta residents who register for the promotion and fly three roundtrips that originate in Atlanta by May 17, and you can get in on it too.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 5.46.47 PM

If you have a regular companion and want to fly within the continental United States, Caribbean, and Mexico, the Southwest Companion Pass is the best deal in travel. The Southwest Companion Pass allows you to designate a companion who flies for government taxes ($5.60 domestically) every time you fly Southwest–whether your ticket is a paid ticket or award ticket. (More info on Companion Pass. How to earn the Companion Pass for up to 23 months from opening two credit cards.)

If you’re so inclined, it seems trivially easy to be an Atlanta resident for this promotion.

How It Works

If you are not a Rapid Rewards member, go to the promo page and click “Enroll Now!” You’ll sign up for a Rapid Rewards account that will be enrolled in the promotion. To qualify as an Atlanta resident, you must have one of the zip codes on this page.

If you have an existing Rapid Rewards account, your address on file needed to be in one of those zip codes as of February 5, 2015 to be eligible. So if you didn’t have that address last week, you might want to start a new Rapid Rewards account. I am not sure how to enroll an existing account. Maybe sign in to your existing Southwest account and go to the promo page.

Now you have to fly three paid roundtrip tickets that originate in Atlanta. These must be purchased and flown between now and May 17, 2015. Currently the cheapest roundtrips I see are $217 to all of Southwest’s Florida destinations; Richmond, VA; and more. Frankly that seems a bit high to me for a lot of 1-2 hour flights, but you can lock those prices in, and if prices fall, you can rebook and get Southwest credit in the amount of the price difference.

If you have no trips you want to take, you can do three roundtrips in a day or two for $651 and have a Companion Pass for the rest of the year. For many, that would be fun and worth it. If you don’t live in Atlanta, your positioning flights to Atlanta would add to the cost.

If you can take three fun weekend trips and get some value out of the flights, your “cost”–the price of the tickets minus their value to you–goes down quite a bit.

Be Smart with Positioning

If I lived in Tampa, here’s what I’d do: I’d open a new Southwest Rapid Rewards account with an Atlanta zip code. I’d book myself the cheapest Tampa-to-Atlanta flight one way (possibly on Southwest), and then three roundtrips from Atlanta to Tampa, and then the cheapest Atlanta-to-Tampa one way flight. This would cut down on positioning costs by making sure I only positioned once, and then I’d have a Companion Pass in Tampa, which has a lot of daily Southwest flights.

Third Southwest Post of the Day

This post is a record third post about Southwest today. Also check out your chance to win a $51 gift card and Southwest’s massive devaluation that takes effect in April.

Bottom Line

Southwest is offering Atlanta residents a super easy route to a Companion Pass, just three roundtrip paid tickets originating in Atlanta. And for the purposes of this promo, you might be an Atlanta resident.

Hat Tip MJ on Travel

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Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

Meeting the minimum spending requirement on the Arrival Plus give you about $500 worth of free flights on any airline with no blackouts. Use the $500 in free flights to book three roundtrips from Atlanta and get a free companion pass.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

16

Southwest currently has a purely fixed-value rewards program. For every dollar of the base fare, you have to redeem 70 Rapid Rewards to get your ticket (plus you pay a $5.60 per direction government tax on each redemption.)

That’s about to get worse, much worse in my opinion.

Current Rapid Rewards Scheme

Let’s look at an example. Here are the pries for tickets from Los Angeles to Tampa this March. They vary greatly by day from $207 to $334 to $607.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 1.18.54 PM

If you select a day with $211 fares, not all fares that day are $211. Fares vary by flight.Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 1.19.14 PM

You can select the $211 fare and find it is $188 in base fare plus taxes.
Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 1.19.37 PM

Now you can go back and look at the exact same calendar for Tampa to Los Angeles in points instead of cash. Now all those $207, $210, and $211 fare days show 12,242 points. The more expensive days require more points.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 1.20.20 PM

The exact same flight that costs $211 costs 12,242 points.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 1.20.07 PMIf you divide that 12,242 by 70, the supposed number of points needed per dollar, you get about $175, which is less than the listed base fare. Southwest often charges fewer points than the base fare times 70. Let’s not look into that too closely. 😉

So that’s the current system. Every “Wanna Get Away” fare can be purchased with points at a fixed rate. No blackouts, no exceptions. The points are worth around 1.4 cents each. Most miles and points are worth more, but I still love the Rapid Rewards system for its simplicity and diversity.

Diversity is a key part of your miles strategy. If every program in which you collect miles is the same–it has a region-based award chart and capacity-controlled award space–you won’t get as much value as a mixture of region-based award charts (United, Delta, American), distance-based charts (British Airways), and fixed-value (Southwest, Arrival.) The diversity allows you to always have the right type of miles for the job, and fixed-value points specifically are usually the best option for domestic economy redemptions.

In return for “giving up” the ability to make tricky high-value routings and to redeem for aspirational awards with fixed-value points, I expect fixed-value points to be fixed value–worth the same for every flight with no blackouts.

That’s what’s changing with Southwest.

The New Rapid Rewards

Southwest released updates this week effective April 17:

Beginning April 17, 2015, the number of Rapid Rewards Points needed to redeem for certain flights will vary based on destination, time, day of travel, demand, fare class, and other factors. However, there are still many flights which will stay at the current redemption rate.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! That eviscerates the entire nature of Rapid Rewards. Rapid Rewards redemptions currently vary based on two factors: price of the ticket and which fare class you choose (until a few days before departure “Wanna Get Away” fares are available on 99% of flights, so this second factor is rarely important.)

Now an infinite list of factors has been added:

  • destination
  • time
  • day
  • demand
  • other factors

First, this strikes me as very disingenuous. All these factors are captured in the price of the ticket which correlates perfectly with the price of current Rapid Rewards awards.

Second, this undermines the whole “contract” I talked about in the last section. We give up our tricks and aspirational awards for certainty under a fixed-value regime. Now we get no tricks, no aspirational awards, and no certainty.

Third, the size of this devaluation comes down to how it works in practice. We’ll just have to see how many award prices Southwest jacks up. And you’ll have to do the math on each award to find out since Southwest doesn’t have an award chart.

Fourth, in the sense of waiting, this devaluation is like Delta’s recent devaluation. When programs have no award chart and no fixed-way of pricing awards, we are completely at their mercy for award prices and further stealth devaluations. I don’t like that.

Bottom Line

We’ll see how much award prices actually change on Southwest beginning April 17. No matter what happens initially, I’m still calling this a massive devaluation.

It is a massive devaluation of the simplicity of Southwest’s program, which Southwest rightly touts at every turn. It is a massive devaluation of the fixed-value program “contract.” It is a massive devaluation of our ability to trust Southwest. It is also a devaluation of the value of one Rapid Reward, the exact size of which we won’t know until April 17 and will be subject to change daily.

Hat Tip Travel Summary

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

76

Longtime reader Cave Man is offering one lucky reader a $51 Southwest gift card.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 12.05.58 PM

Southwest gift cards are fully transferable and don’t expire. There are two ways to enter, and you can enter both ways. I’ll choose one winner from among the two types of entries next Friday and notify the winner via email.

  1. Comment on this post.
  2. Retweet this tweet.

Further reading about Southwest:

Thanks again, Cave Man.

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

130

Longtime reader Cave Man is offering one lucky reader a $49 Southwest gift card.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 12.05.58 PM

Southwest gift cards are fully transferable and don’t expire. There are two ways to enter, and you can enter both ways. I’ll choose one winner from among the two types of entries next Friday and notify the winner via email.

  1. Comment on this post.
  2. Retweet this tweet.

On Monday night, I’ll pick a winner and let them know.

Thanks again, Cave Man.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

Using miles to book trips instead of using cash has tons of advantages:

  • Easier access to First Class and flat beds: An international First Class ticket can cost $10k or the amount of miles you can get from opening a pair of credit cards.
  • Better open jaw and stopover rules: Few revenue tickets allow you to stopover without increasing in price. Many mileage awards allow free stopovers and open jaws for no extra miles.
  • Some mileage awards can be cancelled for free or close to it.

This last advantage–free or very cheap cancellations–is an oft-overlooked benefit of certain mileage programs.

I can afford this seat with miles, but not cash.
I can afford this seat with miles, but not cash.
  • Which program allows completely free cancellations?
  • Which programs allow cheap cancellations, as cheap as $2.50?

Southwest Rapid Rewards Awards

As commenter UAPhil has pointed out numerous times on this blog, Southwest Rapid Rewards are the gold-standard when it comes to cancellations. Here’s his take:

Rapid Rewards points bookings are fully refundable, with no cancellation fees or penalties, and no availability hassles. (Southwest revenue bookings have no change fees, but they are non-refundable with some fairly strict rules on when they must be re-used, so points are actually a more valuable currency than dollars for making Southwest bookings.)

It’s true that if you book a Southwest award for 10k points + $5.60, and you later cancel it, you will get your 10k points back and the $5.60 will even be returned to you as a credit toward a future booking. (I think I’ve even succeeded in having Southwest refund the $5.60 to my credit card, but I can’t find a record of it.)

Since Southwest awards are fully refundable, you can speculatively book with impunity.

British Airways Avios Awards

Last year I booked two friends tickets to visit me in Hawaii from Los Angeles. For each friend, I booked two awards:

  • Los Angeles to Oahu for 12,500 Avios + $2.50 per person. (Domestic airfare taxes have since increased to $5.60 one way.)
  • Maui to Los Angeles for 12,500 Avios + $2.50 per person.

One friend had to cancel.

I called British Airways to cancel his awards. I got back my 12,500 Avios on each award and lost my $2.50 on each award. That’s an effective cancellation fee of $2.50 on each award!

The fee is “supposed to be” $40.

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 1.12.51 AM

If your taxes and fees are greater than $40 and you cancel, British Airways will refund your Avios and taxes and fees less the $40 fee. But if your taxes and fees are less than $40, you just forfeit whatever your taxes and fees were and get your Avios back.

Since I pretty much exclusively use Avios for direct domestic flights with $5.60 in tax per segment, my Avios cancellation fee is routinely $5.60.

Lufthansa Miles & More Awards

Miles & More awards have a $60 cancellation fee. That’s $140 cheaper than the cancellation fee on a United award with the same flights.

And it’s certainly much better than trying to cancel a non-refundable cash ticket.

Singapore KrisFlyer Awards

Singapore Airlines awards have a $20 change or cancellation fee. My friend booked one of those super cheap awards between South America and the United States with Singapore miles, and when he decided to change the dates of his stopover in Cancun, he paid just $20 to do so.

Try doing that with a cash ticket!

Recap

The main reason I use miles is to enter into otherwise inaccessible First Class cabins and stretch my travel further. I also love the lax routing rules on many awards that have let me see seven cities on one trip (although that loophole has now been closed.)

Beyond those big things, though, don’t forget to take advantage of the free or cheap cancellations that some types of miles offer. Speculative bookings have a lot of value when your plans aren’t fixed and great award space (or a cheap fare in the case of Southwest awards) is available.

As cash tickets have ever worse change and cancellation rules, award tickets hold extra value for their lax rules on the matter.

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

In October, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Chicago Seminars. My original slot was to speak about Trick Awards, but a last minute cancellation by another speaker had me also speak about the Southwest Companion Pass.

Here are my slides from the presentation, which are another way to consume the information in this post: Southwest 50k Offers Are Back, Leverage Them for $3,142 in Free Flights.

The presentation also contains some of my best tips about Southwest like how to snag the best seats, when Southwest’s ticket prices go up (this is pretty regular in my experience, and much more.

Also see Free Giveaway: $51 Southwest Gift Card.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

100

Longtime reader Cave Man is offering one lucky reader a $51 Southwest gift card.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 12.05.58 PM

Southwest gift cards are fully transferable and don’t expire. There are two ways to enter, and you can enter both ways. I’ll choose one winner from among the two types of entries next Friday and notify the winner via email.

  1. Comment on this post.
  2. Retweet this tweet.

Thanks again, Cave Man.

------------------------------------------------------------

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

Chris won the drink passes. Stay tuned for more giveaways.

Generous reader Virginia wants to give away her two Southwest drink passes that expire December 31, 2014.

If you can use them between December 16 and 31 of this year, leave a comment. In about 24 hours (11 AM ET Wednesday), I will pick a winner and get your address to Virginia, so you can get those drinks passes in time.

Do you have any lounge or drink passes expiring soon? Let me know, and I’ll help you get them to someone who can use them.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

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