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Money; Courtesy of Southwest Airlines

The end of 2020 brings the hope of a COVID vaccine. As a result, many Americans, stuck at home for the past nine months, are looking forward to much needed vacations. Now comes an opportunity to use credit cards to earn both rewards for free flights, as well as the valuable Companion Pass on Southwest airlines that can be used through the end of 2022.

What is the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass?

Southwest Awards their Companion Pass to members of their Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program that earn 125,000 points during a single calendar year. You can earn these points by purchasing and flying tickets on Southwest, or by using one of the several Rapid Rewards credit cards offered by Chase. And the new customer bonuses that you receive from these cards count toward the Companion Pass.

Furthermore, you merely have to earn these points, but you don't have to redeem them in order to receive your Companion Pass. Once earned, your Companion Pass is valid until December 31st of the following year. So if you were to earn your Companion Pass in early 2021, your Companion Pass would be valid for close to two years.

Once you've earned your Companion Pass, you can designate a person to be your companion, allowing you to add that person to any reservation you have for just the cost of taxes and government fees (typically $5.60 cents for a one-way, domestic flight). It doesn't matter if you pay for your ticket, if someone else purchases it for you or even if you redeem your Rapid Rewards points for an award flight, you can always add your designated companion to your reservation. Also, you are permitted to change your designated companion up to three times per calendar year.

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Strategy #1: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business card gives you the ability to earn the Companion Pass through a combination of the new cardholder bonus and the spending required to earn it. First, you can earn 80,000 points after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening the account.

In addition, this card offers you 3x points on Southwest purchases, 2X points on select categories of business purchases, and one point per dollar spent elsewhere. Other benefits include up to 365 credits towards inflight WiFi and four upgraded boardings per year, when available. The annual fee is $199 and you receive a 9,000 point bonus each year on your account anniversary.

Strategy #2: Open both a personal and a business Rapid Rewards card.

If the spending requirements for the Rapid Rewards® Performance Business card are greater than what your business needs, there's another option to earn the Companion Pass. You could open up both a personal and a small business card. For the personal card, consider the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus, which offers new applicants 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. This card has a $69 annual fee. Similar offers are available for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card with a $99 annual fee and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card with its $149.

Then, all you would have to do is to open the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card ($99 annual fee), which offers 60,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. This brings your total spending amount to just $13,000 to earn all three bonuses (two from the personal card and one from the business card). In the end, you'll have at least 153,000 points as well as your Companion Pass.

Bottom line

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points are worth approximately 1.5 cents each towards airfare, so the 125,000 points required to earn the Companion Pass are worth approximately $1,875 towards airfare. And if you were to add a companion to all of these reservations, you'd realize about $3,750 in value, and potentially much more when you include the value of your companion tickets that you'll be able to add to an unlimited number of other reservations through the end of 2022.

You might not be traveling now, but if you plan on returning to the skies in the next two years, the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is an unbeatable offer.

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