My two newest credit cards: both Southwest Airlines Visas!

Photos of Mrs. Millennial and the hubby at some of the free trips we did this past year thanks to travel credit cards

If one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to travel more, then it’s time to jump into action and earn yourself one of the best travel-hacking values on the market: the Southwest Companion Pass.

I’ve written a lot about the Southwest Companion Pass in the past, but here’s what you need to know:

  • You earn it by accruing 110,000 Southwest miles in one calendar year
  • Once earned, it’s good for the remaining portion of that year and the entire next calendar year. Meaning, passes earned in early 2017 will be good all the way through December 2018.
  • The pass allows you to to get a FREE “companion ticket” for your designated companion ANY TIME the pass holder has a ticket on Southwest. It doesn’t matter if the main pass holder’s ticket was a paid ticket or free miles ticket. If they have a ticket, the companion gets a ticket, so long as there is still space available on the place REGARDLESS of the current price of those tickets.
  • Points earned from Southwest credit card bonuses DO COUNT towards the points threshold.

That last point is the most important one. Because right now, and for a limited time only, both Southwest credit cards, the Premier and the Plus Visas, are currently offering 50,000 mile bonuses for spending $2,000 in the first three months of card ownership. That’s 10,000 – 20,000 points higher EACH than the offers they run at other points in the year.

If you were to get both cards (as we’ve just done) and complete the minimum spending for each bonus, that already puts you at 104,000 miles earned towards the 110,000 needed to get the pass. You can then pretty easily earn those last 6,000 miles either by spending on the credit cards, flying paid flights on Southwest, or taking advantage of items like their shopping portal.

And the best part? If you earn the pass in this way, you still get to keep the 104,000 points you earned along the way. As such, many of those first few flights for the pass holder can be absolutely FREE too, just like their companion’s.

Now, time for my common caveats: if you don’t have good credit, this may not be an option for you, as it’ll be hard for you to get approved for both cards. If you don’t regularly and consistently pay off your full credit balance each billing period, you shouldn’t be messing around with high interest-rate cards like this in the first place. And finally, if you don’t normally spend at least $2,000 in credit cards over three months time, then I generally don’t think it’s a good idea to “manufacture” spending just to earn the credit card bonus.

Finally, in the past year, we’ve seen Chase (the card issuer) institute a new rule about travel bonus-earning credit cards; they’ll only allow you to open 5 maximum in any 24-month period. So if you’ve opened a lot of other cards recently, this may not be an option for you, either.

But, if you’ve got good credit and it’s just a matter of switching your current spending to a new card? Then this is a fantastic deal that lets you essentially travel the country for free for two full years with very minimal effort.

Happy flying!

Whitney