Southwest Airlines Companion Pass Travel Update

It’s been quite a summer of adventure and the travel isn’t over yet! To date, I’ve used the Southwest Companion Pass to take myself and my hubby to Jamaica, Manhattan/Queens, and Southern California. To my friends who let us crash at your places, thank you! Friends make traveling so much more affordable and it’s great for catch up too.

Our Jamaica trip was covered with Southwest points for the flights and Hyatt points for our amazing all inclusive four night stay. The next big adventure on our horizon is Arizona. We plan to check out Phoenix, Sedona, the Grand Canyon and possibly Scottsdale. The points I earned with Hilton, I had originally planned to used for our staying in NYC. However, being Memorial Day weekend I was having a hard time finding a hotel for a low enough amount of points and then my friend so graciously allowed us to crash on her sleeper sofa. (Did you know you can buy inflatable mattresses for sleeper sofas? They are very comfortable.)

TRAVEL FACT – If you are planning a hotel stay with points, look at the dates immediately following a holiday like Memorial Day or Labor Day. If you plan you trip on the weekdays following a major holiday, chances are you will be able to snag a really good deal on a hotel. Most every major hotel chain has a flexible date option on their website that you can use to find the cheapest days to stay.

So, with the Hilton points I ended up not using in NYC, I have been able to put them towards a stay at a Hilton resort in Sedona for two nights. You definitely don’t get as much bang for your point with Hilton vs Hyatt. Hilton is also managed by American Express. Having dealt with Amex and Chase, I really don’t care for Amex. There are a lot of sneaky details aimed at costing you fees, so make sure you read the fine print if you decide to earn points with Hilton.

One perk of Hilton Rewards is car rental discounts. You can use the Hilton Honors Rewards site to book a car with Alamo, National or Enterprise. During our recent trip to California, I was able to book a car for half the cost of any other competitor’s website.

Back to Arizona… We plan to stay a total of 5 nights in Arizona, two at the Hilton in Sedona and the other three at Holiday Inn hotels, or the IHG group. Currently IHG is offering 80,000 points if you spend $2,000 in the first three months. This is a fantastic deal and they are managed by Chase! I love that most of these hotel and airline miles are managed by Chase. It makes it super simple to login and manage all my accounts.

There is a Holiday Inn located inside the Grand Canyon National Park on the Southern Rim. Southern Rim accommodations are minimal, with most chain hotel options located in Flagstaff. Flagstaff is a little over an hour away from the Grand Canyon, so staying in the park saves a good bit of commuting time. However, with the limited accommodation options, this Holiday Inn cost 40,000 points per night. This high toll means that we will be spending our other two nights near the airport, so as to have enough points to cover all of our nights.

In addition to using Southwest points to purchase flights, you can also use them towards gift cards (and Le Creuset, but that is a different story). Even though using the points strictly for flights is the best deal dollar wise, we decided to use 20,000 points to cover the cost of our rental car for our trip to Arizona. Aside from gas, $24 in airline taxes, a $20 resort fee in Sedona and food, our trip will be essentially free!

The travel we have done this year would have not been possible without the Companion Pass, a whole lot of earned travel miles and some friends. Just to refresh on the Companion Pass, I started earning my Companion Pass in January of 2017. It took six months to earn, which left me with 1 year and six months to travel. The Companion Pass will expire on December 31, 2018. If I still have Southwest points, I will keep those but will lose the ability to have someone fly with me for free (you can change the person up to three times).

I have really enjoyed traveling with Southwest Airlines. Having done quite a bit of traveling in my teenage years, I didn’t have the highest opinion of Southwest Airlines. However, they have really stepped up their game and offer not only low prices, but free checked bags. More often than not I have been able to get A or early B boarding when checking in on the Southwest App and my hubby and I have been able to sit in the exit row on our flights, which is great for us as a 6 foot tall couple.

More travel details and tips to come. Stay tuned!

All inclusive Hyatt for less than $500!

After reading some blog posts on how to earn free travel I was highly intrigued but quite skeptical. I decided to try my hand at earning free airline points at Southwest Airlines and see where signing up for one credit card got me. So we canceled our current credit card and switched over to Chase/Southwest. I will say that Chase banking has made this whole process very easy as I can manage all my credit cards from the same place. This busy mom brain needs continuity as much as possible.

The offer with Southwest airlines was earn 50,000 points if you spent $2,000 in three months. Rerouting our expenses to the Southwest credit card made it easy to earn the bonus points. We put all our monthly bills on that one credit card – groceries, utilities, gas, diapers, clothes, insurance, etc. Once we earned those 50,000 points I decided to open a second Southwest credit card. There are two personal credit cards you can open. One has an annual fee of $69 and the other is $99. (There is also a ┬ábusiness credit card that can be opened in conjunction with a personal card.) As long as these cards are opened by the same person, all the points accrue. So same deal, $2,000 in three months. Now I was on track to earn 100,000 points. If you earn 110,000 points in one calendar year you earn a companion pass. This means one person can fly with you for FREE (you do have to pay tax). If you open a business card and a personal card you automatically hit 110,000 points. However, as a personal card holder you fall 6,000 points short (you earned 4,000 points spending the first $4,000). In my case, I had two friends open one personal card using my referral link. This gave me a boost of 20,000 points so in a little over 6 months I earned a companion pass! Plus, I kept all 100,000+ points. Once earned the companion pass is good until the end of the following calendar year (so for me, the end of 2018). Once you’ve opened a credit card, you are not eligible for point bonuses from Southwest for 24 months on that same card (if you were to close it and try to open it again for points).

Next came the exciting dilemma, where do we go? Hotels are expensive so if I can earn airline miles, I could probably earn hotel points too, right? After some deliberation we decided to take advantage of one of the few places Southwest flies internationally. The Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall all inclusive in Jamaica was our chosen destination. Hyatt offers 40,000 points plus 5,000 points when you add an authorized user. You have to spend $2,000 in three months (notice a pattern). This card has an annual fee of $75. Though I didn’t plan on keeping the card for more than a year. So for the remaining half of 2017, we used Hyatt credit cards. My husband opened one in addition to the one I opened. The beauty of Hyatt is that you can transfer your points to another Hyatt member. The all inclusive Jamaican Hyatt cost 25,000 points per night. So between the two of us we earned enough for three free nights! Now, if you have higher monthly expenses or have more months to work on spending money you could earn the remaining 6,000 points to spend a fourth night. You can also purchase points. It would be about $120 for 6,000 points. Considering you’d spend at least $500/night this is still a great deal. Once we had earned the 45,000 points on the first card, we transferred off all the points and canceled it. We plan to cancel the second one after our trip to Jamaica.

It only took 20,000 Southwest points to buy flights to Jamaica. The taxes are steep at $130/person. Still though, a significant savings. Hyatt offers transportation from the airport which saves even more money (and is much safer).

So to recap, it took around 12 months to earn all of these points. Depending on your monthly expenses and the sequence in which you open cards, this amount of time will change. Southwest charges you the annual fee up front. However, I also have enough points to make three more trips in 2018, which I will get to later. I decided to pay another $168 in annual fees to keep to cards open through 2018. This will also result in 9,000 additional Southwest points.

I can’t at the moment check to see if Hyatt charges the annual fee up front, as the website is being updated, but if I do find that I will update this portion of my post.

Someone asked me how this affected my credit score. I did some reading and when you first apply for a credit card it is considered a hard inquiry which will decrease you score. This has a temporary effect though, as banks want you to keep opening credit cards. I did not open cards sooner than three months in succession and I only opened three cards in 2017, my husband opened one. My current credit score is in the 700s. If you are going to need a lot of credit score in a short amount of time, you might not want to play the credit card point game.

I want to end this post by saying, be smart! We pay off our credit cards every month. Stay out of credit card debt. If I would have paid cash for our trip to Jamaica, airline tickets would have been a minimum of $500 each and the hotel would have been $2,000 minimum for 4 nights. Obviously prices vary depending on the month you travel. I spent $168 on Southwest credit cards, $260 on taxes, and $24 to purchase the remaining Hyatt points I needed for a total of $452.

Follow me on Instagram @lifeinreview for reviews of Zilara Rose Hall!