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Lyn writes about how to fly free on Southwest and has a free guide that shows you step-by-step how to earn their coveted Southwest Companion Pass. The pass lets 1 person fly nearly free with you for up to 2 years. And Emily and I agree it’s THE best deal in travel.
I’ve asked Lyn to give you advice on how to increase your Southwest points-earning potential and help earn the Southwest Companion Pass for 2018!
Lyn: After finding myself 20,000 points shy of the 110,000 Southwest points I needed to earn my Southwest Companion Pass last December, I realized I missed a lot of opportunities to earn points. I got the pass just in time. But it forced me to evaluate how I earned my 2017 points – and how I could improve in 2018.
Once I took a look at where I did – and did NOT – earn points, I put together a plan for the year. I found several areas where I was NOT maximizing that I think will help you, too!
Earn the Southwest Companion Pass in 2018
1. Earn Credit Card Referral Points
Link: Chase Refer-a-Friend
My BIGGEST source of Southwest points in 2017 was credit card referrals. Sure, it helps to have a blog. But you only have to earn 5 referrals to max out what they will allow you to earn.
Chase lets you earn 10,000 Southwest points per person who is approved for a credit card referred by you by the offer deadline, up to a maximum of 5 across ALL Southwest cards, or 50,000 Southwest points per year.
You may not have the option to refer others to all of your Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards. To find out if you are eligible and to get your link, visit ChaseReferaFriend.com or follow my Chase Refer-a-Friend steps.
How can you get people to sign up for a card using your referral link?
- Share on social media
- Email friends and family – they may have heard about your hobby and want to do it, too!
- Ask people – just come out and ask if they will kindly use your referral link to help you earn some free points
- Start your own blog – here’s my Ultimate Guide to Starting a Travel Blog in Minutes
- You can share your link in the comments of some forums – but check guidelines first or you could get banned
When sharing a referral link, always be transparent and explain you may earn points if someone applies through it.
2. Dine Your Way to More Points
Link: Rapid Rewards Dining
Rapid Rewards Dining is an easy way to earn Southwest points by simply registering any cards you would use to pay for a meal at a restaurant. When you dine at participating restaurants, you’ll automatically earn 3 Southwest points per $1 without having to do anything else!
Plus, if you’re new to Rapid Rewards Dining, you can earn 1,000 bonus Southwest points (“bonus” points do NOT qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass, but can be used for free travel).
Toward the end of the year, I realized I had not updated my account with the cards I opened in 2017, so I was missing out on free points. I recommend signing into your account NOW to make sure all cards are added and updated. Add it to your to-do list a couple times each year.
3. Using the Southwest Credit Cards
Link: Hot Deals
Where I really missed points in 2017 was not using my Chase Southwest cards enough to pay for everyday expenses. There are some purchases, like travel and dining, that you may want to put on other cards that earn 2X and 3X points in these categories, because the Southwest cards only earn 1 point per $1 on most items (except for purchases with Southwest and their travel partners).
You can use Plastiq to pay bills you could not ordinarily pay with a credit card (they charge a 2.5% fee), though you can no longer pay mortgages through the service using a Visa card. You CAN pay expenses like:
- Car payments
- Home equity lines (they may not be considered mortgages) or second home loans
Here are more creative ways to use your Southwest card to earn points:
- College or primary school tuition
- Reimbursable expenses – anything that your employer, friend, or otherwise might allow you to pay and then reimburse you. Did you see Keith’s post on using his travel credit cards to sell sewing machines on eBay? Genius!
- Buying a car – I had a reader recently tell me she used her credit card to buy a new car!
- Medical or dental expenses
- Sports program fees
- Summer camps
If you plan to use your card to pay for expenses, I recommend having cash in the bank to cover all charges and paying the balance every few days. It’s no longer a good deal if you incur debt and have to pay high interest rates!
4. Shop Your Way up the Ladder
Start ANY and ALL shopping at the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal where you can earn up to 20 Southwest points per $1 for no added expense. Keep in mind, anything marked “bonus points” will NOT qualify for the Companion Pass.
An easy way to remember is to add Southwest’s new Chrome web browser button that automatically pops up when you shop at a partner site. Here’s how to add the button.
Also, follow Million Mile Secrets and Go to Travel Gal by email or RSS and check my Top Rapid Rewards Shopping Deals page updated every Monday to ensure you know about high points-earning offers like subscribing to Barron’s for $1 to earn 700 points. I take advantage of these, and they really add up!
5. Check Southwest’s Hotel Booking Site
You can earn a HUGE number of Southwest points – up to 10,000 points per night – by booking select hotels at the SouthwestHotels.com site.
I earned 10,000 Southwest points to complete my 2017 Companion Pass by booking a ~$300 hotel room. Here are more insider tips to get the most points from the Southwest hotel site.
There are lots of ways to earn Southwest points for the Companion Pass. Just take advantage of the methods that are most effective for YOU! These include:
- Earning the most referral points
- Participating in Rapid Rewards Dining and keeping cards updated
- Using Chase Southwest credit cards for everything except categories where you may earn more points on other cards
- Installing the Chrome button and starting all shopping at the Southwest shopping portal
- Remembering to check the Southwest hotel booking site