Big Spenders: Companion Passes for Big Spending

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BIG SPENDER SERIES:

Companion Passes via Credit Card Spending

Big Spenders can earn companion passes on Southwest Airlines and British Airways for spending Big Money on their credit card.

The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is a true companion pass because it lets your companion travel with you free, for an unlimited amount of flights during the validity of the Companion Pass, on both award and paid tickets.  This is one of my favorite airline perks.

The British Airways Travel Together Ticket is valid for only 1 use and you can’t earn more than one Travel Together ticket a year plus you have to pay hefty fuel surcharges. 

But it is worth it, in my opinion, if you use the Travel Together ticket for travel on business or first class.

Domestic Companion Pass

Spend $110,000 within a calendar year on the Chase Southwest credit card and earn the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass, which lets you fly free with a companion, for up to 2 years.  This is by far the best perk of any airline in my opinion!

The Southwest Companion Pass is valid for the entire year in which you earn the 110,000 points necessary to get the Companion Pass, AND for the following year.  This means that you could get a Companion Pass for almost 2 years if you spend $110,000 in January on your Chase Southwest credit card.

Each Southwest Airline point is worth 1.67 cents when redeemed for Wanna Get Away flights, so spending $110,000 a year earns you $1,837 (110,000 points X 1.67 cents per point) worth of Wanna Get Away flights.

But if your companion flies with you for free, you’ve effectively earned twice that or at least $3,674 ( 1,837  X 2).

That’s a return of 3.34% ($3,674/$110,000) per $1 spent, which is much better than the return on cash back cards for domestic US flying.

And if you buy a Southwest ticket and fly a companion for free with your Southwest Companion Pass, your return will likely be higher.

Currently, the 50,000 point sign-up bonus on the Chase Southwest credit card counts towards the points needed for the Companion pass, but I don’t know how much longer this will last.

International Companion Pass

 Spend $30,000 within 1 calendar year on the Chase British Airways credit card and earn a Travel Together Ticket which can be used for award reservations on British Airways operated flights only.

The Travel Together Ticket is valid for two years from when you earn it, but can be used only ONCE.  You can earn only one British Airways Travel Together pass per calendar year, and they are valid only on British Airways flights. 

This means that if you live in Omaha, but your British Airways flight leaves from Chicago, you can’t use the Travel Together ticket to get from Omaha to Chicago, because British Airways doesn’t fly from Omaha to Chicago.

Expect to pay ~$400 in fuel surcharges and taxes per long-haul segment on award bookings, but that’s still cheaper than paying for a business or first class ticket. The companion pass is NOT worth it if you will be redeeming in coach because of the high fuel charges.

Spending $96,000 on the Chase British Airways card will get you 120,000 British Airways points (you earn 1.25 British Airways Avios points per $1 spent) which is enough for a First Class round trip for two to London from Chicago with the Travel Together ticket.  However, expect to pay ~$800 in fuel surcharges for the round trip per person.

The current sign-on bonus for the British Airways card is 50,000 points, but there have been three previous offers with 100,000 points.

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28 responses to “Big Spenders: Companion Passes for Big Spending

  1. You can currently stretch the Southwest Companion Pass further by using the transfer to A+ credits and back for any R/T flight costing more than $318 as long as you check the award availability on your dates of travel.

  2. I’ve been also doing some scenario thinking re: the Southwest Credit Card bonus-to-companion pass. I’m wondering with the airlines merging (metal) what the best route is for trying to get this benefit.
    (1) Get it now, while we know it works.
    (2) Wait til’ January (or 50k bonuses) and try for it (extending into 2014) when Southwest will have Hawaii/Alaska/Caribbean flights and no more Airtran metal?
    (3) Wait til’ January and if it doesn’t work, transfer 120k SW points to A+ for companion pass that might convert to SW in late 2013?
    (4) Wait til’ January and if it doesn’t work, be glad you’ve got as many miles as you do and use them to bring your companion on half as many trips for the points.
    (5) What else is there?

  3. Is is possible to get both the SW card at the same time ?

  4. Geez Nick…I’m interested in hearing those answers, too!

  5. Hi Nick, can you please elaborate more with “using the transfer to A+ credits and back for any R/T flight costing more than $318”. I just wonder how it works. Thanks.

  6. @adnan, you could get one personal and one business Southwest at a time. but YMMV and you may have to call reconsider line. Also, the $99 version has no 3% foreign fee which is a GOOD reason you can convince Chase to approve you. 🙂
    http://firstclassforfree.blogspot.com/2012/07/southwest-premier-visa-card-no-foreign.html

  7. @Docomo, the trick is to transfer 19,200 RR points to 16 A+ credits to a standard Southwest award that can be used for any two free oneways. I outlined it here: http://milevalue.com/how-to-exploit-the-southwest-airtran-merger/

    And I recently used the second of my two free oneways.

    @Daraius, I know you recently used the BA Companion pass, can you tell me how much value you got on that flight based on your valuation of the experience and the out of pocket and miles expenses?

  8. For the Canadians in the audience — the RBC British Airways VISA also offers the companion award ticket after a $30,000 annual spend. Note, the spend is calculated over a calendar year, irrespective of when you received the card. Currently there is a 15K Avios signup bonus (rather paltry compared to what is offered in the US). There was a 50K bonus available when the card was first introduced.

  9. @milevalue & Darius et all…Wife and I have 32 airtran credits each, expiring this April. If we pass them back and forth between SW and Airtran, do you think airlines will lose track of original expiration? They said “no” of course. Any thought of how to inexpensively extend them? I called and surprisingly SW told me that even with our SW credit cards, the points (after converting to SW) will still expire in April. Just to use them up, was trying to fly us and 2 friends to Caribbean but the Airtran 8-credit flights getting scarce, and it appears that SW credits have very limited availability on SW flights. I hope this is coherent. thank you all!

  10. Darius, I am going to gun for the BA companion pass next year, thanks in part to your spending tips! However, I cant find a BA flight map or list though. It appears the flight map on their site also includes partners, which I don’t think you can utilize with the companion pass. Want to go far east or South Pacific region, if they fly there.

    • @Nick @jp – That’s a good summary! The best option depends on how much risk you’re willing to take. I’d go for #1, but I know folks who are waiting for next year to do option #2.

      @adnan – Some folks have managed to get 1 personal and 1 business or 2 personal cards.

      @Docomo – You can transfer Southwest points to Air Tran credits and then back to Southwest credits. Those credits can be used for a flight of any value. However, Southwest has limited availability for flights using credits (unlike when you use points)

      @MileValue – Ha! That’s a trick question. Wait until I write a few posts on how to value miles and points. 🙂 I paid $2,000 or about what I would have paid for 2 economy tickets, but got to fly in First Class and use up Avios points.

      @DLuke – The BA Travel Together ticket can only be used on BA flights, so if you want to travel outside the US, you have to travel via London i.e. all routing from the US on the Travel Together Ticket will be via London. You can see the number of Avios required using the Avios calculator –> http://www.britishairways.com/travel/avios-calculator/public/en_us

      If you transfer 16 Air Tran Credits to Southwest, you should get an award which will expire 1 year from when you make the transfer. This used to work a few months ago, but I haven’t tried it recently.

  11. Hi Darius!
    I was wondering if Chase only lets you sign up for each card only once?
    sw plus/premier (personal/business). I was unable to get the busniess card approved but got the personal. So I was thinking about not getting the 50k sign up bonus with the minimium spending, closing it next yr before I need to pay the annual fee, and try applying for it in the future. This way I haven’t gotten the sign up bonus and it’ll make me eligible to get it again? thanks!

  12. If you used Avios to fly to South America however wouldn’t one avoid fuel surcharges, thus making the comp pass on BA more valuable?

    • @NANCY – Usually you can get the bonus on once, but if it is a new card type, you *may* be able to get the bonus again. I’d complete the spending and try for a different personal or business version later on in the year. But, as always, do what ever is comfortable for you.

      @Mike Heffner – You can only use the BA Travel Together Ticket for flights on BA aircraft, which means that all routes will transit through London since BA doesn’t fly to South America from the US.

  13. Now that I have 150K in avios + the free Companion pass, how do I maximize the points for a trip beyond London? Is there a list where BA fly via London? How far will 150K avios get me in each class?

    Would love to experience the BA first class trip like your honeymoon, but would like to go beyond Europe.

    • @TTN – BA flies to most parts of the world via London. See this calculator to see how many miles are required. BA requires a lot of miles for flights beyond Europe. For example, Chicago to Beijing is 135K in First or 90K in business for a 1-way flight + ~$800 in surcharges per person. The best value sweet-spot seems to be flights to Europe from the US.

  14. If you get BA companion pass in 2012 and 2013 , can you take two people with you for the price of one

  15. If I got the one SW card in December, and another this month, am I still able to qualify for the 110,000 points by the end of the year by spending another $10,000 by the end of the year? Also, is there a quicker way to get the extra 10,000 points? Thanks!

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  19. @Thalha – you must use the companion pass on a one-to-one ratio, one paid with Avios points and one companion pass. I too had two CPs this past summer and took my wife and daughter to Europe but could only use one CP. I paid for two passengers with Avios and used one CP, plus all fuel charges for all three. The other CP dosen’t expire until next fall so the wife and I will go on a trip this spring.

  20. I just received my cards in the mail all with 50k signup bonueses when spending 2k in 3months.

    personal plus
    personal premier
    biz plus (had to give taxid info)

    Anyways thats a 150k points, easily the companion pass. I have all 3 cards in hand w/ the signup papers stating the 50k bonus for each of the 3. Can I activate now, then wait to spend the money on them till January that way I have the card for all of 2013 and 2014? Or do I have to wait till January to activate these cards and spend on them in order for the CP to count for all 13 and 14?

    Lastly, if I wait till January to activate, is there a chance I will loose the 50k point bonus on each card? For instance they cancel the promotion? I assume not as I got the cards at the time the promotion was running, however if I wait to activate I do not know? Thanks! For once I have 3 cards all w/ 50k bonuses and a fresh year coming up… seems like a great time to try and get CP status!

  21. Hello,
    I wanted to make sure I am doing it right (doing the min spending) for the companion pass, Applied the card on 10/24/12 and received them a week later, both SW card has a Statement closing date 15th of the month and due date 12th of the month. First billing cycles no transactions. 2nd billing cycle that closed on 12/15 has $1000 on each card. So in order to meet the min spending do I do the charges this month (dec 12 dec 16-31) or (Jan 13 before 1/15/13) in order to meet the min spending for 100K bonus ?

    • @Michael – You have 3 months from when you were approved for the cards to complete the minimum spending and get the sign-up bonus. You should get the 50K points even if there is no 50K public offer later on as long as you were approved using a link for the 50K version.

      @adnan – If you complete the minimum spending before your next statement, the points should post around 15th January. That said, I wouldn’t cross $2K until January 1, 2013 to be completely sure that the points count towards the Companion Pass in 2013.

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