Even with the best airline miles credit cards, for the occasional traveler gaining elite status is probably just a pipe dream. Most airlines require you to fly tens of thousands of miles just to achieve their lowest tier status. That’s why you often see business travelers with elite status or other professionals who travel a lot for their work. It’s much easier to get elite status when someone else is paying for it.
But there is a lesser known elite status that may just be the most valuable one of them all, it’s called the Southwest Companion Status. Technically, it’s not really an elite status but it does give you a free companion pass every single time you fly Southwest Airlines. So whether you pay for a flight with cash or even pay with points, your companion gets to fly completely free.
Now if you fly primarily internationally, you may not be that familiar with Southwest Airlines but it is one of the United States’ largest domestic carriers and it is growing faster than ever. And now that they’ve acquired AirTran, Southwest is even starting to serve some international routes. The best airline miles credit cards are the ones that let you build miles on Southwest Air.
Normally, you need to accrue 110,000 Southwest points in a calendar year or fly 100 one way trips in order to qualify for companion status. But I don’t think I’ve even flown 100 one way flights on Southwest in my life (although I’m getting close) so that option probably isn’t very realistic for most.
One of the unique features of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards points system is that miles earned through the best airline miles credit cards sign-up bonuses count towards companion status. The standard offer for the Chase Southwest card is 25,000 points but you’ll see 50,000 point offers all the time if you follow our site. So all it really takes is two credit card sign-ups and $10,000 worth of spending in order to reach the 110,000 miles necessary for companion status.
Chase actually offers four different Southwest cards: Personal Plus, Personal Premier, Business Plus and Business Premier. So you could effectively achieve companion status two separate times if you were so inclined. And if you’re married like me, that means double the fun!
Although Southwest is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, points transferred in this manner will not count towards Companion Status. You can, however, transfer points through the Marriott Hotels Rewards Program.
If you decide to go this route, consider using Marriott’s flight and hotel package, which will get you by far the best redemption rates. For 250,000 Marriott points you can purchase 7 nights at a category 1-5 Marriott property and 100,000 Rapid Reward Points. And those 100,000 points will count towards your companion status!
Once you hit companion status, the pass is good for the rest of that year and the entire next year. So the best time to achieve companion status would be as early in the year as possible. So if you are really intent on maximizing your companion benefit, you could apply for your first Southwest card in late October/early November and hit the spend requirement on the first of January.
That way your first 50,000 points would post and you could apply for your second Chase card around 90-100 days after your first application. There are some reports that indicate you wouldn’t need to wait that long if you do a personal card application followed by a business card application with Chase. If you’re able to hit 110,000 points in January your pass would be good for nearly two years. But remember the 110,000 points all have to post in the same calendar year.
I think the Chase Southwest Companion Pass is one of the best deals in the points and miles industry for one big reason. It’s nice to pay 50,000 points for a business class seat that costs $5,000 (since you’re getting close to 10 cents per point) but if you’re like me, you would never pay $5,000 for a business class seat. You’d probably pay a fraction of that and sit in coach, so are you really getting a value of 10 cents per point?
Southwest Rapid Reward points are worth about 1.5 cents per point when redeemed for Wanna Get Away Fares’. So by signing up for two credit cards at 50,000 points a piece and spending $10,000 you’ve just earned 110,000 points. That alone is a pretty impressive haul at $1,650 in actual value but since your companion flies free you actually get $3,300 worth of value out of just two credit card sign-up bonuses. The more you fly, the more you save! But before you choose a card be sure you are comparing credit cards for their companion fare and other mile bonuses.
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