We love to travel, and although we don’t do it as much as we’d like we still try to get in a couple of trips a year. Most people would probably agree that the worst part of traveling is paying for it.  I mean, if we all could travel for free, everyone would do a whole lot more of, right?

The thing is, sometimes you can travel free.  You do it by what’s called Credit Card Travel Hacking, and it’s awesome.

What is travel hacking?

The basic premise is this:  Most credit card companies have special offers throughout the year in which bonus points are awarded for signing up for their credit card and making purchases with it.  

Travel hackers take advantage of these bonus offers in strategic ways and are able to amass hundreds of thousands of points in a very short period of time.  They then redeem these points for free flights and hotels (even very expensive ones).

Sites like The Points Guy, Zero to Travel, and Nomadic Matt have made an art out of getting awesome deals on free travel, and most of these deals are based around credit card travel hacking.

Credit card travel hacking doesn’t come without a cost: If you want to get the most benefit out of it, you’re going to pay with some sweat equity.  

It takes time to research what cards have the best bonuses at certain times and how points may be redeemed across companies and alliances (a group of airlines or hotels that share rewards systems).  The other cost is potential dings to your credit score for opening multiple credit accounts in a short period of time, although it’s been debated how legitimate of a concern this should be.

If you’re wanting to make travel hacking your part-time job and get every last benefit you can out of multiple cards, I’d suggest you refer to one of the websites I noted above or any of the many other travel hacking blogs that are out there.  

Let’s Keep It Simple

Today, we’re going to make things easy and tell you about the only travel hack we’ve ever done.  In our humble opinion, it’s also the best travel hack available.  No, it didn’t get us round-trip First Class tickets to Europe, or free nights in a 5-star hotel in Barbados.  

What we got instead was basically a “Buy one, Get one free” coupon on every plane ticket we purchased, plus an extra 100,000 points we could use to purchase those tickets with.  What it really amounted to was free flights for 2 years.  For busy schedules like ours, the practicality and simplicity of use made it the best travel hack for us.

We’re talking about the Companion Pass from Southwest Airlines.

What the Companion Pass?

In the simplest terms, it really is a “Buy one, get one free” coupon on Southwest Airlines flights.  Once you earn the Companion Pass you designate another person (in our case, it was a spouse) to be – wait for it – your Companion.

Whenever the holder of the Companion Pass buys a Southwest Airlines ticket, they can add their companion to the reservation at no extra charge (aside from a 9/11 fee they are required to bill out, which amounts to about $12.00 round trip).

Basically, you’re getting a free flight.  Every. Time. You. Fly.

How do you get it?

There are a couple ways according to the Companion Pass website.  

The first if the old-fashioned way:  Earning it through brute force by flying 100 qualifying one-way flights in a single calendar year.  If you travel a lot for work, maybe you can get it this way.  It basically amounts to one round-trip flight a week, and that’s not gonna happen for busy people like us.  Plus, we’re talking about travel hacking here, so we need to do this an easier way.

Which comes to the second way you can get the Companion Pass:  By earning 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year.  On the surface, that doesn’t look so easy, either.

Luckily, there’s a trick to getting the 110,000 points that makes it easier.

Every year, Southwest does awesome bonus specials like this one. 50,000 bonus points for signing up and spending a few thousand dollars the first couple months you have the card.

There are 3 Southwest cards that Chase carries that are eligible for the bonus:  The Plus, the Premiere, and the Premiere Business.  As of this writing, the Premiere Business card actually has a 60,000 bonus point offer.

Here’s how to do the hack:

  1. Apply for 2 of the 3 cards.
  2. Once approved for both, spend the required minimum to get the bonus.
  3. Collect your bonus points, and spend whatever you need to get to 110,000 total points.
  4. You’re done!  You have now earned Companion Pass and can activate it on your Southwest Rapid Rewards account.

Conclusion

The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is an awesome credit card bonus that is easily attainable if you qualify for the cards.  If you live near a Southwest hub and fly more than a few times a year it’s a no brainer.  If you use your points to purchase the flights you’re basically flying for free!

The cards do have fees, but these are slightly offset by anniversary bonus points that Southwest gives out every year for having the card active (plus, if you use the pass even just a couple of times a year you’ve made your money back on the fees anyways).  

What do you think?  Have you earned the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass?  Is it worth it, or a waste of time?  Let us know in the comments!