Why The Companion Pass Is Getting A Hard Pass From Me

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Companion Pass Is Getting A Hard Pass

Why The Companion Pass Is Getting A Hard Pass From Me

There is no doubt that the Southwest Companion pass is a favorite perk of the miles & points community.  It is probably the most lucrative domestic travel perk out there.  Having said that the Companion Pass is getting a hard pass from me this time around.

What Is The Companion Pass?

Before we get ahead of ourselves I should explain what the Companion Pass (CP) is. The CP allows you to designate a traveler to fly with you for free on Southwest (you still must pay the taxes and fees for the companion). You can change your companion 3 times in a calendar year, which gives you a lot of flexibility. The best part is that this works for award flights or paid flights.

And if you time it right you can earn the Companion Pass for essentially 24 months. The perfect time for that opportunity is now. It is a truly magnificent program, it is just not for me right now.

Companion Pass Is Getting A Hard Pass

How Do You Earn The Companions Pass?

One more thing we should discuss before we talk about why I am giving the Companion Pass a hard pass.  That is, how do you earn this magical carpet ride of free flights with friends?

To qualify for a companion pass, you can fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year. You’ll earn the Companion Pass for the following full calendar year, plus the remainder of the year in which you earned it. It is possible to earn it for close to 24 months if you time it right. 

Taking 100 flights is not feasible for people who don’t travel for work.  Earning 125,000 Rapid Rewards points is a tall task too but there is a workaround. Credit card welcome offers count towards the 125,000 points needed. You can apply for a Southwest personal card, like the Southwest Plus, and a business card, like the Southwest Performance Business card, and that can earn you over 125,000 Rapid Rewards points.

If you are unable to get a business card there are other ways to earn points to reach the 125,000 point threshold.  You can pair these earning methods with a personal card welcome offer.  Here is a list of other earning methods that work towards the 125,000 point total.

  • Flying – earn 6 points per dollar on wanna get away fares
  • Use your Southwest credit card for 1 point per dollar.  This is only advisable if you are shooting for a companion pass.
  • Use the Rapid Rewards shopping portal
  • Use the Rapid Rewards dining club
  • Booking hotels or car rentals on Southwest.com
  • Credit card referral points (up to 10,000 points per referral)
  • Credit card anniversary bonus points (3,000-7,500 points per year depending on card)
  • Some Rocketmiles bookings count as well

You can see my whole breakdown of the Companion Pass and some tips when using it here.

Companion Pass Is Getting A Hard Pass

Wait, So Why Is The Companion Pass A Hard Pass?

This sounds great and I have admitted that it is amazing value, the most valuable thing in domestic travel actually.  So why am I giving it a pass?

Is it because it has become harder to earn with the Southwest family card rule? No.

It must be because Southwest recently increased the earning requirements from 110,000 Rapid Rewards points to 125,000 RR points?  That isn’t it either. With increased welcome offers the increase doesn’t change the strategy at all.

Aha it is because you are over Chase 5/24 and you can’t get the offers needed to make it work?  That was true up until now, but that isn’t the case for my family anymore.

It is because you are a snob and only want to fly internationally, right?  I actually travel a ton more domestically than I do internationally. Plus there are actually a few decent international destinations on Southwest’s route map so that isn’t it.

There Are Three Reasons I Am Passing On The Companion Pass.

The concerns listed above are all legit concerns but there are three main reasons I am giving the Companion Pass the deuces this time around.

Their Route Map Blows (For Me)

The first issue I have is that Southwest’s route network out of Detroit is pretty terrible.  We have almost no direct flights out of DTW.  And even for the routes that we do have non stop flights they are sometimes limited to one or two flights per day.  While Southwest’s Companion Pass could save me money on flights with my family they will also often take me quite a bit longer to reach my destination.  I don’t want to have to stop in Atlanta with a 2 hour layover on the way to Orlando (which is a 2 hour direct flight normally).

I got into miles and points to travel better.  That doesn’t mean lie flat and caviar everywhere. It means that I can fly at better times or on direct flights instead of connecting.  Flying the most direct route all the time is being #bougieAF in my world.  Time is the most valuable thing to me right now and miles and points allow me to have more of it at my destination.  Sadly Southwest does not.

They Are Not That Cheap 

I have noticed more and more when I search Southwest that they just are not competitive.  They want me to fly a connecting flight AND pay more to do it?! No thanks. Sure when you take into account that you would only be paying for one of the two tickets that would make it cheaper. But that value is diminished when the flights are already 20%-30% more expensive.

This is what I have noticed out of Detroit. If you live near a Southwest hub like Baltimore etc. then this wouldn’t be the case for you. In Detroit Spirit blows their pricing out of the water most of the time and that includes me getting a Big Front Seat.  To be honest they are often around the same price as Delta or American out of Detroit. Plus American or Delta is often giving me a direct flight versus a connection with Southwest.

Companion Pass Is Getting A Hard Pass

It Would Be My Wife Earning The Companion Pass

My wife is the one dropping under Chase 5/24 this month. I had originally thought I would just have her earn the Companion Pass with my new found 5/24 freedom.  That is the party line after all!  But the more I thought about it the more I realized this doesn’t really work for us.

She doesn’t travel as much as I do so the Companion Pass’ value would be a lot less useful in that scenario.  And it would make us fly less convenient routes on the trips we did take, which does not earn me any wife points (which are the most valuable points by far).

I plan on getting her a Chase Ink Preferred and a Chase Sapphire Preferred instead.  If you are wondering why the CSP instead of the Chase Sapphire Reserve I have shared my thinking on that in the past. Essentially the best play is to get the Preferred and then upgrade it to the Reserve after the first year.

Final Thoughts

For all of the reasons listed above I can not in good conscience get a Companion Pass.  My wife being the one earning it is a big part of the story. I would be able to use it twice as much if not more if I was earning it. But Southwest’s route network out of Detroit is the bigger issue.

It is just not convenient to fly Southwest out of my airport and convenience is the number one perk of miles & points, at least in my opinion.  I even talked about the darkside of the Companion Pass in the past.  My buddy was routinely sacrificing convenience to save a few points with his CP.

I wanted to share this thinking with you so that you see this isn’t a one size fits all game.  Just because a deal is a great deal for most people doesn’t mean it is good for you.  Get away from the group think and crunch the numbers for yourself and do what is best for you.  The Companion Pass is a great deal for most people, but it wasn’t for me this time around.

Miles to Memories has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Miles to Memories and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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14 COMMENTS

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14 COMMENTS

  1. The bottom line is that you live in a place where making great use of the Companion pass is not often possible. I had the Companion pass for maybe 20 years, both when I worked and now retired for 11 years. I loved it and kept flipping it between my wife and I over the years. I lost it last year, but did not care much as I live in SW FL and piled on the British Air points to use AA out of Sarasota to DCA regularly and tons of Jet Blue points, family pooled. But, my wife picked up the new Premier Business card at 80,000 SW points and will finish off the spending in a day or two so that those points post next year, then pick up a personal card for my wife as well and we have the companion pass again for nearly 2 years. Quick trips from Tampa to Vegas or Puerto Rico or BWI or DCA or one stops to Burbank. We are plenty good. Love it. And we can ship points over from Ultimate Rewards if we want as well. That mean free flying. Always good to have tons of choices. It was better when we lived in the DC area years ago, but still great.

    • It depends on where you live for sure. DC is one of the better areas to live and have one since there are so many flights out of the area.

  2. Agree, have had the companion pass twice. No interest in trying to use one again. I want to go where I want to go from the most convenient airport at most convenient time. And the prices can be shockingly high, especially close in nonstop. Plus I despise the seating chaos.

  3. Mark, true about expensive pricing lately; even when its price was competitive to low-cost carriers like spirit or frontier, the arrival time was mostly late at night on wkdy; also, my home airport where WN operates here has no lounges for use before departure

    • 4-5 years ago Southwest would routinely have great rates for me. Now I fly them once a year, maybe. They are no longer a low cost carrier which is their roots.

  4. Off topic but Direct and non-stop are not the same. I know, I know, nit picking but hey… it’s Monday. 😉

  5. Flightconnections.com shows direct DTW-MCO flights on WN. Is that inaccurate, or is it just an inconvenient time?

    In any case, my problem is worse – they left Newark completely, and there’s no way in hell I’m flying out of LGA. Good thing I didn’t pounce on the CP last year!

    • It may be one day a week or something but often there are no direct flights.

      That would suck to earn it and then have them pull out of your airport.

  6. Agree about SWA pricing. Would rather spend (what they ask now even with some “sales”) on a ticket on a more comfortable airline.

    Will never agree on the CSP over the CSR with as much as you spend & travel, though!

    • I don’t spend a lot on travel though honestly. Nowhere near the amount necessary in the first year to cover the difference in annual fee and welcome offer. I don’t think most people would come close to the number either.

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