I discovered I had earned my Southwest Companion Pass around 5:57 pm this evening. I used it four times by 6:15 pm. If you are unfamiliar with the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass, which allows a companion to fly with you for free wherever and whenever you choose, you can get a brief overview by reading my last blog post or find out more in-depth information from Lyn Mettler of The Go To Travel Gal. It is the arguably the best value in air travel available today.
In my last post, I outlined how I planned to earn my Companion Pass by earning the necessary 110,000 Rapid Rewards points through Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards credit card sign-up bonuses. It didn’t go as seamlessly as I had originally planned. Here is a chronology:
January – I applied and was instantly approved for the Chase Southwest Premier Visa card with a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Rapid Rewards after $2k in spending within three months on the card. I also applied and was approved for the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, which is important to know because Chase has credit card application rules (nicknamed 5/24 in the world of travel hacking) that dictate how Chase bank will grant credit approvals. Chase will not grant new credit cards to anyone that has obtained more than 5 credit cards, no matter who the lender is, within a 24-month period (there are some exceptions to this rule).
I really wanted to earn my Companion Pass as soon as possible so I decided to take a chance and apply for the Southwest Premier Business Visa (yes, I do have a business), which was offering 60,000 Rapid Rewards after spending $3k in three months. I received an instant notice stating that “We need to review your application a little longer.” That sounded less than promising. A week later I received a letter in the mail from Chase expressing their regret that they couldn’t approve me because the two accounts that I did hold with them were “too new” and that if I had any questions about their decision I could call the enclosed 1-800 number a.k.a.the Reconsideration Line. I called and spent about 30 minutes on the phone with a representative who would ask me a question then put me on hold, get back on to ask me another question and put me on hold again. I thought for sure after spending that much time on the phone they would approve me. They did not. I was defeated.
February – I had read on a few different travel hacker websites that Chase had another rule that they would not approve more than two cards within a 30-day period. I got antsy and decided that enough time had passed and I would apply again for the Southwest Business card. Once again I got the “We need to review your application a little longer” and a week later, once again I got the letter in the mail stating the reason for denial being my accounts were too new. This time I tried to reach the Reconsideration Department by sending an email through the Chase Secure Message Center. They called me back to tell me that their decision would not change.
This was troubling for two reasons. Of course, the first reason was because I wasn’t any closer to earning my Companion Pass. The second reason was because, even though my credit report won’t reflect that I was twice denied on a credit card application, it does show how many hard inquiries (credit checks) I have had and too many can raise a red flag with lenders, thus hindering your ability to secure more credit in the future.
March – I sat on my hands all month. It really tried my patience. Doug was starting to get nervous about booking flights to Florida for the cruise we are taking our kids on in July. I told him to stop worrying about it because I was taking care of it. My plan was to earn the Companion Pass and name him my companion. Then I would use the accumulated points to book five round-trip flights for me and the kids. Secretly, I was starting to get nervous that it wasn’t going to happen, but I didn’t want to tell him that.
April – I went to the closest Chase branch to me to open a Chase Business Checking account. As the Client Service Representative was signing me up for it, we realized that the copy of my dba was not sufficient to open an account. I needed to have the original and I would need to go to the Monroe County Clerk’s Office to obtain it. Before I left, I asked her if I could apply for a business credit card and she tried to push me into a Chase Ink Business Preferred card, but I told her I really wanted the Southwest card. She advised me to apply for it at home as she didn’t have access to that application in her system. So once again, I went home and applied for the card. Same old message as before. In my mind, I thought if I didn’t get it this time, I was going to have to bite the bullet and spend the cash to buy the flight tickets for Florida.
The next week I went to the County Clerk’s office and got an original copy of my dba and marched it down to Chase. As I sat with the Client Service Rep and she was completing the process for my checking account in her computer, she said “How weird. It says you already have a business credit card.” I popped up and said “Is it the Southwest card?”, which she confirmed. I tried to play it cool but in my head, I wanted to stand up and twirl my bra in the air like a lasso.
As soon as I received the card in the mail, I paid the balance of our cruise with it, which covered my minimum spend instantly. All I had to do was wait for the month to cycle and I would have 60,000 Rapid Rewards in my account (in addition to the 50,000+ points I already had accumulated) and earn my Companion Pass.
Now here is the good part – because the road to getting here was kind of boring, I admit – what did all of that hassle get me? Tonight I booked five round-trip non-stop flights from Buffalo to Fort Lauderdale for me and our four kids in July using 114,840 Rapid Rewards points and $56 for government taxes and fees. Those same tickets are $1,829.80 if you are paying cash. Doug’s ticket was free plus $11.20 for government taxes and fees because I named him as my companion. That ticket would cost $365.96 in cash. Doug and I are also flying to Fort Lauderdale non-stop from Buffalo on business in June. I paid for my flight and Doug will fly as my companion. That flight will cost $262.16 for both of us.
Taking advantage of the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Program has saved us $2446.72 for our next couple of trips. And I have this Companion Pass until the end of December of 2018. I plan to use it many more times before then.
Yes, I had to spend $5k within those four months to earn those points, but I would have spent that money anyway. I paid my utilities, cable, internet, water, and cell phone with my credit card with no additional fees tacked on. I bought gas, groceries, clothing, my gym membership, and birthday gifts. I made the final payment for our family cruise. I didn’t live beyond my means and I paid the cards off as soon as they were due.
And I am happy to report that my credit score is in the high 780s.