How to Get a Year (or More) of Free Flights on Southwest

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This frequent flier program offers one of the very best loyalty perks in existence. Find out if it makes sense for you.

Flying isn’t cheap. Even now, with jet fuel costs at near historic lows, travelers are still forking over big bucks for airfare. Now imagine if every time you boarded a plane for a year (or more), you could bring a companion along for free.

It sounds too good to be true, right? It’s not.

Southwest Airlines offers a companion pass to members of its Rapid Rewards frequent flier program. As the name implies, the pass allows you to book free tickets for your travel partner — though you’ll have to pay nominal taxes and fees — on an unlimited number of flights for at least a year, even if you paid for your ticket with points.

It’s arguably one of the greatest airline travel perks around.

“I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop, because it’s such a lucrative benefit,” Matthew Goldman, chief executive of Wallaby Financial, which tracks credit card benefits, told The Wall Street Journal. “It’s by far one of the best loyalty perks available.”

Members of Southwest’s loyalty program can earn a companion pass by completing 100 one-way qualifying flights or by accumulating 110,000 qualifying points in one calendar year.

The companion pass is good for the year that you qualify, as well as the following year, so the earlier you earn the pass, the better. For example, if you qualify on March 15, 2016, the companion pass is good through Dec. 31, 2017.

“Points are compiled based on the price of Southwest flight purchases and [Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa] credit card spending,” explains Money. “For frequent traveling pairs, it’s more than worth it to go the extra length to qualify for a companion pass: The savings can add up to thousands of dollars every year.”

It’s surprisingly easy to earn Southwest’s companion pass, and you can do so rather quickly, according to travel expert The Points Guy. The current sign-up bonus for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier credit card is 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months. The sign-up deal is the same with the Southwest premier business credit card. If you sign up for both cards, you could accumulate points on both toward the goal.

You can also earn points by using the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card to make purchases at Rapid Rewards partners, transferring points from hotel loyalty programs or using Southwest’s online shopping portal.

Check out “The 5 Best Frequent Flier Programs.”

What do you think of Southwest’s companion pass? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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