A quick recap, after listening to a "gambling with an edge" podcast with Bob Dancer and Richard Munchkin I found out about a website called millionmilesecrets.com which gave me some great information on Southwest airlines Rapid Rewards Program.  The most important was that even though I was already a credit card holder and had received the 50,000 mile bonus last year they had another card I could apply for and get the bonus again!  The best part, this bonus counts towards the 110,000 mile requirement to achieve the companion pass.  This pass, once earned will allow you to choose a companion who will fly free each time you book a ticket and its good for the full next year and as early in the current year as you can earn it.  They do charge about 11 bucks round trip in fees for this free flight, plus they have done a good job of getting me to purchase the early bird which gives you an early boarding position at the expense of $25/round trip.  But when I have the miles to book mine for free, I can get 2 tickets to Vegas for $75 bucks fees and early bird included!  Not to mention they still offer 2 free checked bags and free carryon!

So the past couple months I have been making purchases in the rapid rewards shopping site when retailers offer big bonuses.  For example I bought an airline approved hard case for golf clubs and a ipad mini case for about $240.  This was through ebags.com I believe.  Since I entered their site from the rapidrewards page I earned 18 miles per $1 on that purchase!  I also bought a couple sweatshirts and a couple outlet priced jackets from backcountry.com the same way at 12 miles per $1.  These offers are not advertised and you have to check the site frequently but when a retailer is offering a bonus to shop there, its a great way to earn some miles.  

I had been obsessively checking my southwest app on my phone to check for my miles posting multiple times a day.  My most recent was a sams club membership which gave me 500 miles.  This was when i was only 300 miles away!  Well, I'm still waiting for that to post but in the meantime my credit card posted on the 27th and I was 100% companion pass achieved!  I was nervous because my next trip to vegas is over new years and I know that the tickets will continue to inflate as that time approaches.  So I was ready to go book my first ticket with a companion pass!

A great tip that I wish I had known was that to book a companion pass ticket you need to have your ticket booked first.  Had I known this I would have booked my ticket 2 weeks ago when the flight I wanted was on sale and would have saved about 7,000 miles.  Not the end of the world, but something to consider if you are in that same position.  Once you have your flight booked you go back into the rapid rewards section of the site, click on your trip and it will have a small button that says add companion.  You do need to first set up your companion and it states that any changes will need to be made over the phone so make sure you are accurate with this on the first go around.  So all said and done, I have 2 flights booked over new years, and still have some rapid rewards left in my account for a rainy day!  I get to enjoy this benefit until 12/31/2015.  As long as no major changes occur to this program next year, the smart play will be to have my wife open a couple cards during the 50,000 mile sign up bonus and do it again!
I have been using a Southwest premier visa credit card for all of my purchases for the past couple years to fund my flights from Michigan to Vegas.  I had previously used the Spirit card but the added fees, blackout restrictions forced me to look at other options.  When Southwest announced they would resume direct flights from Flint, MI to Vegas I was sold!  The card does carry a $99 annual fee but each year you receive 6,000 miles on your anniversary.  I also seem to get 4-8 free drink tickets sent to me a year which is nice.  I have my wife on as a cardholder as well to maximize our purchases on this card.  We tie our car insurance, phone bills, cable, gas and groceries which adds up to quite a bit.  Upon signing up in 2012 I received 50,000 miles as a signup bonus which was great, but I didn't realize their was an additional advantage play with this card until this year.

Millionmilesecrets.com uncovers the world of travel secrets, specializing in credit card bonuses.  What they taught me was that when the Southwest card is offering the 50,000 miles sign up bonus (this occurs off and on) that you can use those bonus miles towards the companion pass.  The companion pass requires 110,000 reward points in a 1 year period.  This entitles you to name a companion for a year to fly for free each time you add them to your reservation!  If I was really savvy I would have signed up for both of Southwest's cards and then only had an additional 10,000 miles to obtain this pass.  Instead Ive already been a premier card holder, so I decided to go after this goal by adding another southwest card to my arsenal.  I signed up for the Southwest plus card which has an annual fee of 69.00 but I was able to get the 50,000 mile bonus.  I am not sure what the spending requirement was, but it was around $2,000 in 3 months to get the bonus.  My bonus posted for me this month!

So I cannot confirm the benefits of the companion pass yet but I am very close.  Logging into the southwest app shows your progress toward the companion pass and how many miles are remaining.  As promised, the 50,000 went toward this goal, and I am left with 16,000 miles before January 1st to get my pass.  These miles must post before year end, so in reality I lose December.  Another thing that I was planning on doing was to utilize the rapid rewards mall that offers rapid rewards bonuses from certain retailers, but it looked as though those bonuses did not add to my progress towards this pass.  

I think I will make it and I will be sure to post my results and hopefully my experiences with the pass as I enjoy them.  As it gets down to the wire, I found another option on millionmilesecrets.com.  Chargesmart.com is a website that allows you to use your charge card to make payments on home mortgages and other loans that ordinarily do not allow credit card payments.  The catch is they charge you a fee based on the amount of the payment.  I normally will not pay unnecessary fees for something like this, but if I log my usual 3 trips to vegas next year using the companion pass I estimate I will save at least $750 and upwards of $1000 depending on flight pricing.  At most I may hit $70 in fees for using this service for 3 months, so in my eyes a worthwhile trade off.  

If you have decent credit and are interested in the companion pass, my advice would be to watch out for the next 50,000 sign up bonus and sign up for both cards.  As long as you can meet the spending requirements on both you will be able to get 100,000 miles towards the 110,000 goal and be that much closer to free flights!  Also, if you time this right and sign up at the beginning of 2015, meet your spending requirements by say March, you could have your miles post in April and you would get the companion pass for 20 months!!