Tags Posts tagged with "Southwest"


Marriott and Starwood have merged. With admirable speed, Marriott has announced that you can now status match between the two rewards programs and transfer your Marriott points to Starpoints or vice versa, and that the programs will remain separate until at least 2018.


I’ll break down the news from the perspective of how to maximize the separate programs.

Status Match Angle

This one is a no-brainer. Link your Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest accounts now, so that any status you have in either program matches to the other program.

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-2-33-05-pm For instance, I am an SPG Gold member, and now I am Marriott Gold member too.
screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-2-35-04-pm That’s pretty nice since Marriott Gold is better than SPG Gold and includes free breakfast and club access.

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-2-38-14-pmBelow is a table of how the statuses match. The only complaint would be from top-top tier elites who only match the top of the other program and not the enhanced top of the other program reserved for those who spend half their lives in hotels.


United Angle

United has a partnership with Marriott. If you’re United Gold or higher, you get Marriott Gold Status, which means you can match to SPG Gold also and have mid-tier status at two chains without ever having made a paid stay.

If you’re a Marriott Platinum member, you get United Silver elite status. So if you have SPG Platinum, match to Marriott Platinum and claim your United Silver status.

American Express Platinum Angle

If you have any American Express Platinum (the best one is currently the Mercedes-Benz AMEX Platinum), you can get free SPG Gold status–that’s how I have mine. You can match that to Marriott Gold Status.

Combining Stays for Status?

Sorry, no dice here. (The third loyalty program referenced is Ritz-Carlton Rewards, which has been maintained separately of Marriott Rewards despite the companies’ prior merger.)


Points Transfer Angle

Once you link your accounts, you can transfer from Marriott to SPG at a 3:1 ratio or the other way at a 1:3 ratio. There are a lot of times you’d want to do this.

Hotel Booking

If you have an upcoming hotel stay that you want to book with points, go to both sites and check your award options. All other things equal, if the Marriott option is less than three times the number of points, you might want to transfer from SPG to Marriott to make the booking. But if the Marriott option is more than three times the number of points, you might want to transfer from Marriott to SPG.

SPG Chart
Marriott Chart

At the top end, Marriott free hotel nights will be a better deal. At the bottom end, SPG free nights will often be a better deal.

SPG to Marriott for Hotel + Air (including Southwest Companion Pass)

The best value redemption of Marriott points is Hotel + Air packages. You redeem a certain number of Marriott points for seven free nights at a Marriott or Ritz Carlton hotel plus a certain number of miles in the airline program of your choosing. Here is the chart to convert Marriott points to Southwest Rapid Rewards.


Along the left, you see the Category of the Marriott hotel or Tier of the Ritz Carlton hotel where you’d get your seven free nights. Along the top, you see the number of Southwest points you’d get.

For 270,000 Marriott points, transferred from 90,000 Starpoints, you can get a week in a Category 5 Marriott and 120,000 Rapid Rewards and a Southwest Companion Pass valid until December 31 of the next year.

The Rapid Rewards are worth about 1.4 cents each ($1,680), and the Companion Pass gets a designated person onto Southwest flights for free (plus taxes of $5.60 one way on domestic flights and a little more internationally) every time you fly Southwest, whether you book your ticket with cash or your 120,000 new Southwest points.

Read more about the Southwest Companion Pass (and other ways to get it) here. For those with a regular companion who like to go where Southwest flies, the Companion Pass is the best deal in travel.

To maximize this deal, you’d want to redeem for the Hotel + Air package in January 2017 or January 2018 to get the companion pass for two full years. Redeeming now would get the Companion Pass for only 15 months.

If you don’t want a Southwest Companion pass, you can redeem a Hotel + Air package for dozens of airlines’ miles.


You get 10% more miles if you choose United miles because of the special Marriott-United relationship.

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18,667 SPG to Marriott to 25,000 United Miles

While SPG points have a great transfer rate of 20,000 Starpoints = 25,000 miles with a few dozen airlines–my favorites being Asiana, American, and Alaska–United is not on that list. Twenty thousand Starpoints is a measly 12,500 United miles.

Now, with an intermediate step, you can turn SPG points into United miles at a better rate.

  1. Transfer 19,000 SPG points to 57,000 Marriott points
  2. Transfer 1,000 Marriott back to 333 Starpoints (necessary step because the starting amount of transfers from each program has to be an even thousand)
  3. Transfer 56,000 Marriott (18,667 Starpoints) to 25,000 United miles

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Or you can turn 8,000 Starpoints into 10,000 United miles.

Speculative Transfers

I value SPG points at 2.5 cents and Marriott points at 0.8 cents.

My SPG valuation is pretty steady no matter how many you have because SPG points are valuable for free nights, Cash & Points stays, transfers to airline miles, SPG moments, and Nights & Flights awards.

My Marriott valuation changes a lot depending on how many you have. If you only have a few thousand, you can really only redeem for free nights, and I’d value your points around 0.5 cents. If you have enough to book Hotel + Air packages, a few hundred thousand points or more, then I’d value the points at 0.8 cents or even higher.

Your valuations may differ.

Under my valuations, there is some value in transferring 3 Marriott points to 1 SPG point. If you’re afraid that transfers will be cut off without notice, or the ratio will change, maybe you should transfer speculatively. I don’t see either thing happening, though, so I think there is no point in speculative transfers. Keep your balances as they are until you see an arbitrage opportunity for on an immediate redemption.

Credit Card Angle

Until at least 2018, we will see the Marriott and SPG credit cards stick around.

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-2-37-24-pm You’ll want to get all the cards before 2018 when one or more might be killed off. Right now the SPG personal and business cards each offer 25,000 SPG points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The Marriott card offers 87,500 Marriott points after spending $3,000 in the first three months and adding an authorized user.

After meeting minimum spending requirements, you’d have:

  • 56,000 SPG and 90,500 Marriott points
  • or 86,000 SPG points
  • or 258,500 Marriott points (which is just $4,000 more in spending on an SPG card short of the best Hotel + Air package values which cost 270,000 points)

Bottom Line

In the long run, it’s bad for our rewards when hotels or airlines merge. It means less competition and less need for the airlines or hotels to offer lucrative rewards programs.

But for the next two years or more, there will be a lot of ways to take advantage of the Marriott-Starwood merger by combining points and matching status.

Hat Tip Dan’s Deals

Hawaii is one of the best places in the world to visit, and judging by the number of inquiries I get about booking awards to Hawaii, it’s clear that many people agree. There are a number of cheap ways to get there that I’ll list in order.

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Waikiki at Sunset

1. Allegiant Air $314+ roundtrip (ending 8/2016)

Allegiant Air is an ultra-low cost carrier that flies from Las Vegas and Los Angeles to Honolulu. The flights are as cheap as $314 roundtrip, but a carry on will cost $50 roundtrip and a checked bag is $70 roundtrip. Additionally if you want to select your seat or board early, you have to pay extra.

If you live in LA or Vegas, don’t mind a middle seat for six hours, and can travel with only one carry on, $364 roundtrip to Hawaii including a carry on is the best deal in my opinion–better than burning 25,000+ miles on the trip.

You can always pay for your Allegiant flights, bag fees, seat fees, and food with the $250 Air Travel Credit on your Citi Prestige® Card, which comes with 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.

Check out my review of the Citi Prestige Card which explains its many benefits like $250 in airfare or airline fee credits per calendar year, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

With $250 off the price of an Allegiant ticket, you could get one to Hawaii for about $100 roundtrip.

Here’s my review of paying $90 extra to get a “Giant Seat” up front from Los Angeles to Honolulu when I flew Allegiant.

Allegiant has announced that it will terminate Hawaii service in August 2016.

2. Avios Award: 25,000+ Avios and $11+ roundtrip

I love that British Airways Avios has a distance-based award chart. For 25,000 Avios and $11, you can fly roundtrip on American Airlines or Alaska Airlines planes from the West Coast to Hawaii. Here are the possible routes.

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 6.21.15 PM
1: Seasonal

Avios can be used for one way awards at half the price of a roundtrip award, which means that if you can’t get the Avios deal both ways, it’s still a good idea to go one way for 12,500 Avios and use another one way deal.

See here for an Anatomy of an Award post for a step-by-step breakdown of the time I booked a one way award from Honolulu to Los Angeles with Avios.

Getting British Airways Avios

You can get Chase’s British Airways card, transfer Ultimate Rewards 1:1, transfer Starpoints 4:5, or transfer Membership Rewards 5:4.

  • The British Airways Visa Signature card comes with 50,000 bonus Avios after spending $2,000 in the first three months on the card.Spend $15,000 in the first 12 months for another 25,000 bonus Avios. The maximum bonus is 75,000 total Avios for spending $15,000 in the first 12 months of which $2,000 came in the first three.

    While I can not directly link to the current British Airways Visa offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

3. Korean Miles Award: 25,000+ Korean Miles and $11 Roundtrip, First Class from 45,000 Korean Miles Roundtrip

Korean miles can book a roundtrip in Delta economy from anywhere in the United States to any of the four major Hawaiian islands for 25,000 Korean miles. A roundtrip in Delta First Class is 45,000 Korean miles.

You just have to find Saver award space on Delta flights on delta.com and transfer your Ultimate Rewards or SPG Starpoints to Korean miles.

More info on the process: Guide to Booking Delta Flights to Hawaii for 25k Korean Miles Roundtrip, 45k in First

Korean miles can also book Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines Saver award space, but the price is higher: 30k/60k Korean miles roundtrip in economy/First.

Getting Korean Miles

Korean miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards and 4:5 transfer partner of Starpoints.

  • The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a personal card that earns 50k Ultimate Rewards after spending $4k in 3 months.You also get 5k bonus points for adding an authorized user while applying, so I think of this as a 55k bonus point card. (Adding an authorized user does not prevent that person from getting the card at the same time or in the future as a primary account holder and getting the full sign up bonus.)

    The Sapphire Preferred earns 2x points on dining and travel. Dining includes bars, restaurants, and fast food. Travel includes airfare, hotels, taxis, rental cars, tolls, parking, and much more.

    The Sapphire Preferred has no annual fee the first year, then $95 thereafter.

    While I can not directly link to the current Sapphire Preferred offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

4. Singapore Miles Award: 35,000+ Singapore Miles and $11 Roundtrip, First Class from 60,000 Singapore Miles Roundtrip

Singapore miles can book United economy from anywhere in the United States to any of the four major Hawaiian islands for 17,500 Singapore miles each way. One way in United First Class is 30,000 Singapore miles.

You just have to find Saver award space on United flights on united.com and transfer your Ultimate Rewards, Membership Rewards, ThankYou Points, or SPG Starpoints to Singapore miles.

More info on the process: Guide to Booking United Flights to Hawaii with Singapore Miles

While it’s ideal to use one of the three previous options to book an award to Hawaii, you might not live in a place that can take advantage of Allegiant flights or Avios awards, and Delta is notoriously poor for releasing award space (which means Korean miles are useless.) The best bet on this list is definitely United opening up award space, which you can then book with Singapore miles.

Getting Singapore Miles

Singapore miles are a partner of every transferable points program. Cards I like that earns points that transfer:

What Wasn’t On the List

  • United miles
  • Delta miles
  • American Airlines miles

Flights on those airlines can be booked cheaper with Singapore, Korean, and British Airways miles respectively.

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


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.

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 1.46.35 PM

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.


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.


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


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.



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



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.


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

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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.

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.

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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

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

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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.



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.

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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.

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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!


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.


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.


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

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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.

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.

This is the nineteenth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

I’ve covered how to earn miles and the redemption options for miles. Now I’m giving the basics on several major airline programs where you can quickly collect miles for amazing trips. Today: the Southwest Rapid Rewards, JetBlue TrueBlue, and Virgin America Elevate programs. I’m taking all three together because they are similar programs.

Why Collect Southwest, JetBlue, and Virgin America Points?

All three types of airline points can save you big on your next domestic trip or near international trip.

All three types of points can access every flight on their respective airlines with no blackouts.

  • What airlines can you fly with Rapid Rewards, TrueBlue points, and Elevate points?
  • What are the special features of each program?
  • How can you book Rapid Rewards, TrueBlue, and Elevate awards?

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