• • • Southwest Rewards card guest post by Lyn Mettler • • •
Last year, my family discovered the secret to flying around the country for free. We managed to visit six destinations for less than $100 per flight for my family of four with our Southwest Rewards card. I was so amazed by our ability to do this with so little effort that I want all families to know the trick to flying Southwest Airlines for free with a Southwest Rapid Rewards card. Just think of the doors you could open up and the places you can show your kids if airfare was no longer a concern!
A longtime couponer, I realized there was a way to harness that same strategy toward travel. The secret: Leveraging the Southwest Rewards card bonuses to earn a “return” in the form of miles on the money you spend every day.
AREN’T CREDIT CARDS A BAD THING?
Many of us have been trained to think credit cards are a bad thing. It’s really credit card debt that is the bad thing. If you can responsibly use credit cards to pay for everyday expenses and make sure the balance is paid entirely every month, then you can leverage them to travel free with a Southwest Rewards card.
Many banks offer travel credit cards that allow you to earn significant bonus miles after meeting the minimum required spend (usually $1000-$5000 within three months) and these are miles that can be used for free trips. You are essentially earning a “return” on the money you spend in the form of miles. You will be spending this money anyway, so why not earn free travel at the same time?
THE SOUTHWEST COMPANION PASS
The simplest and quickest way to accomplish free travel is on Southwest Airlines via the Southwest Rewards card. They offer one of the best deals in travel called the Southwest Companion Pass that lets you fly one person free with you for up to two years. You can earn the pass by accumulating 110,000 of Southwest’s Rapid Reward points within one calendar year and those are points you can also use to book free flights. You can download my free step-by-step guide to earning the Southwest Companion Pass for complete details, but here is an overview.
Within just a few months, you can have a Companion Pass in hand that is good through the end of 2018. You can accomplish this by signing up for two of Southwest’s three Rapid Rewards credit cards. Currently, all three cards, which include two personal cards and one business card, are offering 40-50,000-point bonuses when you spend $1000-$2000 on the card within the first three months. Here are the three valid credit card offers. Each Southwest Rewards card does charge an annual fee, so consider if you feel that cost is worth it for nearly free Southwest flights. The $100 per flight we spent for the four of us does include the annual fees divided among each flight.
APPLYING FOR A SOUTHWEST CREDIT CARD
Ideally, you apply for one personal Southwest Rewards card and one Southwest business credit card. Even if you don’t own your own business, you may still qualify if you do any sort of work for which you earn a 1099 or file a Schedule C. This may include Uber driving, selling items on eBay or Etsy, craft fairs, consulting, freelance writing and more.
Be sure you only use the cards for purchases for which you have money in the bank to cover. I suggest paying down the card every few days so you do not incur debt, because if you have to pay interest, the Southwest Companion Pass is no longer a great deal.
Earning Miles with your Southwest Rewards card
In addition to earning the 40,000-50,000 bonus points for meeting each Southwest credit card’s minimum spend, you will earn 1 point per dollar on most everyday purchases. So once you have met the minimum spend on two cards, you will have earned 40,000-50,000 points on each + 2000 points on each for the $2000 minimum spend. That brings you to a total of the 93,000-104,000 out of 110,000 points you need to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass.
You can easily earn the remaining points by continued everyday spending on the card, by flights on Southwest, by starting your online shopping at the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal or even by subscribing to publications like the Wall Street Journal or Barron’s for $12 through Southwest and earning 700 points.
The earlier in the year you earn the Southwest companion pass, the better, as it is good from the time you earn it until the end of the following year.
STRETCHING YOUR SOUTHWEST MILES
Once you have the Companion Pass in hand, one of your family members, who you will designate as your “Companion,” will fly free until the end of 2018, so no points are needed to book their flights. Plus, you now have 110,000 Southwest points in the bank to use to book free travel for the rest of your family. Southwest lets you use your points to book any flight any time with no change or cancellation fees. That makes it very easy to book flights using your points unlike other airline loyalty programs that force you to search for certain fare types.
To help your Southwest Rapid Rewards points take you to as many places as possible, try to book your flights only during Southwest sales when not only the fare price, but the number of points required to book the fare, decreases. Flying on less-traveled days like Tuesdays and Wednesdays or during less busy times of year can also help your miles stretch as far as possible.
Put your Rapid Rewards to Work
By continuing to earn Rapid Rewards points throughout the year, we traveled to San Diego, Orlando, Fort Myers, Anaheim, Denver and New York City all for less than $100 per flight for a family of four. Keep in mind that the government does require everyone to pay a security fee of $5.60 per person per one-way flight even if you are booking the flight on rewards or the person is your designated “companion.”
I hope your family flies free in 2017!
PIN IT FOR LATER!
Lyn Mettler is a freelance travel writer who blogs on how to fly free on Southwest, including the latest ways to earn Rapid Rewards points and earn the coveted Southwest Companion Pass, at www.GotoTravelGal.com. Photos courtesy of the author and Southwest Airlines media center.