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I was thrilled to accomplish something on my frugal travel bucket list this month! My hard work paid off and I earned Companion Pass status on Southwest, the holy grail of domestic air travel. A Companion Pass means that I can choose a companion to fly with me for free anytime through the end of 2017. For almost two full years! And even better, the Companion Pass works when booking travel with Southwest Rapid Rewards points, which I am rich in right now with over 100,000 points in my account.
How did I do it? Well, it involved opening a Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Visa (see why it is my favorite card for frugal travel below), also getting the business version of the card, and then moving some old Marriott points around. You can check out the details in this post from Frugal Travel Guy, but keep in mind that this approach isn’t for everyone. It requires discipline with credit cards, a good to excellent credit score, and tracking your spending in an organized way (think spreadsheets). So if you don’t have an established history of using credit responsibly, I would not suggest this approach.
Even if aren’t interested in earning a Companion Pass, I recommend looking into the benefits of opening a Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Visa. You can earn a 50,000 point sign-on bonus after you meet the minimum spending requirement of $2,000 in the first 3 months of opening an account. These points alone are worth close to $900 in airfare! You will pay a $99 annual fee for this card which is not waived for the first year. However I keep this card from year-to-year because on each anniversary I earn 6,000 points, which is worth more than $99 in airfare. As long as you fly Southwest once a year, it makes sense to keep this card in your wallet.
I am committed to making this my most intentional year yet, and this extends to travel. I want to use this opportunity to do some traveling with my husband and daughter that we haven’t yet had a chance to do. I want to be intentional about how I use my hard-earned points and Companion Pass, so I am asking myself these hard (but fun!) questions:
- Where as a family do we most want to travel?
- When can we travel?
- How will we fund the rest of our trip?
It is helpful that I can use my points to book flights for my husband, and I already named our daughter as my companion. 🙂 I’m learning where Southwest flies direct from our home airport (RDU) as well as roughly how many points it takes to get to certain destinations. I’ve also learned that I can use my Southwest points to book rental cars and hotel rooms, though the value of the points decreases substantially with these options.
I know we’ll make a few trips to Orlando over the next two years, and I’m also looking into trips to the Everglades, Arizona, and possibly California. Where would you go if you were rich in Southwest points? Please share your ideas below and I just may end up going there!