How to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass in 2019

The Chase Southwest Companion Pass is one of, if not the, best airline perks out there. For people who fly domestically, it is an absolute must-have.

Even for people who don’t fly domestically that often, it can still provide incredible value and is probably worth getting.

Read on to find out what the Southwest Companion Pass is, how to get it, and our favorite ways to use it.

Jump to:

What Is the Southwest Companion Pass?

The name of the card is not intended to fool; the Southwest Companion Pass is exactly what it says it is.

The pass allows a companion (spouse, mother, friend, favorite blogger) to fly free with you when you fly on Southwest.

And unlike many other airlines, Southwest does not make the rules super confusing. In fact, the process is fairly straightforward:

  1. Once a person earns the Companion Pass (how to earn it is discussed below) they will designate the individual they want as their companion.
  2. The Companion Pass arrives in the mail.
  3. When the person is booking their tickets online, there is an option to choose to use the Companion Pass. When the person is booking over the phone, they simply have to tell the representative they want to use the Companion Pass.
  4. The companion flies for free.

About as easy as it gets, right?

Here’s a closer look at how you can earn the Companion Pass:

How to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass in 2019

Technically, there are two different ways to earn the Companion Pass:

  1. By flying 100 qualifying one-way flights with Southwest in a calendar year.
  2. Earn 110,00 Southwest points in one calendar year.

Since 99% of people won’t fly enough on Southwest to earn it the first way, we will focus on how to earn 110,000 Southwest points in one calendar.

At first glance, this may seem difficult, but in fact, it’s not hard AT ALL – below are all the options for earning 110,000 Southwest points in one calendar year.

Option 1: Open Two Southwest Credit Cards

Getting the Companion Pass is so easy because Chase is currently offering three different Southwest credit cards that EACH earn you Southwest points that count toward the Companion Pass.

The amount of points each credit card earns changes throughout the year, but you can generally get these cards with bonuses between 25-60k.

All you have to do is open up two of these credit cards and you’ll be at 110k Southwest points (and the Southwest Companion Pass) before you know it!

Plus vs. Premier Southwest Credit Cards

The first thing to be aware of is that there are two types of Southwest cards, the Plus and the Premier. These cards differ slightly:

  • The Plus has an annual fee of $69 and offers 3,000 Southwest points as an anniversary bonus each year you keep it open. Also, it charges a foreign transaction fee of 3%.
  • The Premier has an annual fee of $99 and offers 6,000 Southwest points as an anniversary bonus each year you keep it open. It has no foreign transaction fee, so you pay nothing extra when you use it abroad.

The second thing to understand is that Chase offers both a personal and a business version of the Southwest Premier card.

That means there is a Plus personal card, a Premier personal card, and a Premier business card — three opportunities to make the Southwest Companion Pass yours!

To ensure that you get the sign-up bonus for both cards (more than enough points to qualify for the Companion Pass), we recommend opening both a business and a personal card.

Since one is a personal card and one is a business card, you can apply for them at the same time without issues getting approved.

It is possible to reach the necessary number of points by opening two personal Southwest credit cards, but we don’t recommend it, as Chase is unlikely to approve an application for two personal credit cards so close together.

If applying for a business credit card feels intimidating, don’t worry. Here are some tips to get approved for a business card.

Other Ways to Earn Qualifying Points

If you only get approved for one Southwest credit card, or just want to apply for one of the cards, don’t worry, there are plenty of other ways to rack up points towards your Southwest Companion Pass.

Just a quick (but very important) heads-up: Not all the ways that you can get Southwest Rapid Rewards points count towards the Companion Pass, so be careful.

For example, buying 6,000 Southwest points WILL NOT count towards the Southwest Companion Pass, nor will transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points directly to Southwest. Transferring points from hotel loyalty programs was also cut out of the equation early in 2017.

Option 2: Spend with the Southwest Credit Card

For each dollar you spend, you’ll earn one Southwest point, so if you spend $6,000, you’ll earn 6k points!

Plus, any Southwest flights you purchase on the card earn you an additional point, making it that much easier to rack up those Rapid Rewards points! For instance, if you use your Southwest credit card to buy a $300 ticket, you’ll earn 600 points instead of just the regular 300.

I’d recommend this for anyone who has a big purchase planned or plenty of monthly expenses that you can pay with a credit card.

Your regular monthly spending could earn you your Southwest Companion Pass in no time!

Option 3: Book Hotels Through Southwest Hotels

If you are planning any travel in the near future, consider booking your hotel through Southwest Hotels.

The base rates for points will count towards your Southwest Companion Pass.

Generally, you’ll earn one point per dollar spent on hotels. This isn’t bad, but we can do better — some hotels give you up to 10k points!

For instance, a quick search for a one night stay in Las Vegas shows many hotels with 1-2k Rapid Rewards points per night. A $254 night at The Palazzo will earn you 7,000 Rapid Rewards points when you book it with your Southwest credit card.

Southwest Hotel Deals Vegas

And when you pay for the hotel with your Southwest credit card, and you’ll earn an additional two points per dollar. Meaning that, in the above example, your total earnings would be ($254 x 2) + 7,000 = 7,508 points.

Option 4: Shop Through the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal

Everyone shops online – so why not earn something for it?

There are lots of stores on the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal that you probably already shop at, so make sure you visit those shops through the portal and earn points towards your Southwest Companion Pass for buying what you were already going to buy!

Earn Rapid Rewards points at websites like Restaurant.com, Home Chef, Shutterstock, Bass Pro Shops, Lord & Taylor, Tumi, Apple, and Nike.

Buying a new iPad Pro? That’s 650 points towards your Southwest Companion Pass.

Buying $100 worth of clothes for the kids at JCPenny? That’s three points per dollar equalling 300 points!

The best part is that you can double dip when you pay with your Southwest credit card. This means iPad Pro purchase has turned into 1300 Rapid Rewards points and the clothing from JCPenney has become 400 points.

All of these points count towards your Southwest Companion Pass!

There are hundreds of websites listed, so make sure you check the Rapid Rewards portal before you click “buy” and you’ll be well on your way to the Southwest Companion Pass!

Option 5: Go out to Eat with Rapid Rewards Dining

If you go out to eat a lot, be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to earn points towards the Southwest Companion Pass.

Signing up for Rapid Rewards Dining Program will earn you up to three points per dollar towards your Southwest Companion Pass at participating restaurants.

That means a $20 dinner would net you 60 Rapid Rewards points!

If you use your Southwest credit card, you can double dip and earn even more!

Your $20 dinner just turned into 80 Rapid Rewards points just by using the right credit card. Who thinks double dipping is bad now?

Option 6: Fly Southwest Airlines

This might seem like a no brainer, but it really does make sense. You’ll earn miles for your fare, plus an additional two points per dollar when you book with your Southwest credit card.

You’ll earn Rapid Rewards points based on the fare you buy:

  • 6 points for Wanna Get Away
  • 10 points for Anytime
  • 12 points for Business Select

If you book a $200 Wanna Get Away fare, you’ll earn 1,200 Rapid Rewards points.

If you book that same fare with your Southwest Credit card, you’ll earn an additional 400 points for a total of 1600 Rapid Rewards points!

A $300 Anytime fare will earn you 3000 Rapid Rewards points (300×10=3000!)

If you’re a little short on Companion Pass qualifying points, spending a little extra on your next Southwest flight could bump you up to two for one travel for the next year!

5 Awesome Southwest Companion Pass Benefits

Still not convinced of the value of the Southwest Companion Pass? There are five things that make the Companion Pass especially awesome. Let’s take a look at them:

1. You Can Use the Pass Unlimited Times

This is not a one-time pass, but instead allows a companion to fly free with you EVERY TIME you fly Southwest.

Yes, you are hearing me correctly: EVERY SINGLE TIME you fly Southwest.

Theoretically, I could fly Southwest every day and my companion would fly free with me each and every time.

2. The Companion Pass Can Remain Valid for Up to 2 Years

You may think you are mishearing misreading me, but you aren’t. The Companion Pass is good for the year you earn it and the next calendar year as well.

Example: Let’s say you get your Companion Pass on October 1st. Your Companion Pass will then be good for October, November, and December of 2019 and then all of 2020, for a total of 15 months.

Of course, the way to squeeze maximum value out of it is to get it as early in the year as possible (like January) and then you’d have it for a full two years.

Bingo!

3. Your Companion Flies Completely Free

With most things in life, free doesn’t mean free, and a lot of times there is enough red tape and rules to make the “free” item not even worth it.

This is NOT the case with the Southwest Companion Pass.

In this case, free really does mean free.

The only thing that the companion will be required to pay is a government-mandated September 11th security fee and taxes which is about $5.60 one way.

Other than that, there are no costs for the companion whatsoever.

And in case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last two years, you should be aware that bags fly free on Southwest (awesome commercial evidence here, here, and here), so the companion won’t even have to worry about that cost!

4. You Can Use the Companion Pass on Both Paid and Award Flights

Whether you pay out of pocket for your flight or use some of the Southwest miles you’ve accumulated to get an award ticket, your companion can still fly free with you.

This is basically unheard of in the airline world, as every other companion pass (that I’m aware of) requires the original person to pay for their ticket.

Not on Southwest.

So whether you pay $500 for a last-minute ticket, $150 for their normally cheap regular fares, or fly free yourself using your Southwest miles, your companion can come along as well.

What’s better than one person flying free on Southwest?

TWO PEOPLE FLYING FREE ON SOUTHWEST!

5. You Can Change Your Designated Companion Up to 3 Times Per Year

After you originally designate your companion you can change it and get a Companion Pass reissued with another person’s name up to three times a calendar year each year you maintain your Companion Pass.

This can be done instantly over the phone and is an awesome perk that often gets overlooked among all the other amazing things about the pass.

I’ll give you a good example of how I plan to use this to my advantage.

Naturally, Heather (my wife) will be my companion on many of my trips.

However, instead of designating her as my original companion, I plan on designating my best friend Jon because we are planning a trip together down to Florida.

After we take our trip and he flies for free (saving him anywhere between $150-300), I’ll call in and ask to designate Heather as my new companion.

Then, we’ll use the Companion Pass to fly all over this awesome country of ours.

You can even designate a new companion (i.e. Jon), change it to someone else (Heather) and then change it back to the original person (Jon).

FINAL WORD(S)

The Southwest Companion Pass is an amazing, amazing perk and even those who only occasionally fly domestic should consider it. Southwest is expanding their route network every year with flights to the Caribbean and Latin America already happening.

For anyone who flies a decent amount (or would if it was cheaper), it’s an absolute must.

Grab a personal and business card, find a good companion, and experience the joys of free travel!

If you’ve got the Southwest Companion Pass, weigh in below. Is my love for it justified? Where have you gone with it? If you don’t have it, how do you plan on getting it? Fire away!

The Target REDcard: How to Pay Your Mortgage With a Credit Card and Meet Minimum Spends

target-redcards

[UPDATE 5/12/2015:  You can no longer load your REDcard with a credit card.  HOWEVER, you can still load your REDcard with gift cards.

All you have to do is follow Steps 1-5, skip Step 6, and then follow steps 7-8.]

The Target REDcard (frequently referred to as a “Redbird” card due to it’s similarity to Walmart’s Bluebird card) is far and a way the best tool for anyone who wants to:

  • Meet a minimum spend requirement on a credit card.
  • Pay bills that you can’t usually pay with a credit card (mortgages, student loans, rent, taxes, etc.).
  • Or simply earn extra frequent flyer miles and points on your credit card.

Why?

Because it’s easy, and most importantly, totally free!

Here’s exactly how to do it:

Step 1:  Find a Target that sells REDcards

The first step is actually the hardest, and that’s because at the moment only certain Target stores sell the Prepaid REDcard.

Target is slowly rolling it out to more and more stores, but it’s still in its infancy.

To check which stores currently sell Target Prepaid REDcards, click here.

If a Target near you sells Prepaid REDcards, great!  Skip to Step 2.

If you don’t see a store near you listed, I’d call ones in your area and ask if they have them.

Make sure you are asking for the Target Prepaid REDcard. Stress the PREPAID part! 

If a Target Near You Doesn’t Have a Prepaid REDcard:

If not, you’ll need some help to getting one.  Here’s how to do that:

  • 1.  Find someone who lives near a Target who will purchase you one.
  • 2. When that person goes to Target, have them buy an extra one for you (or many extra for multiple people).
  • 3.  When it comes time for the person to enter the birthday or social security number, they can either enter your information or enter fake information.  It doesn’t matter, because you’ll have to enter your real information when you register it later.
  • 4A.  Have them send you the temporary card in the mail OR
  • 4B.  Have them open the REDcard and tell you the card number and the security code on the back.

Step 2:  Buy the temporary Target Redcard

When you buy the card at Target, it’ll be a temporary card.

There are a few options, so make sure you get the Prepaid REDcard.  It looks like this:

Target-Prepaid-REDcard

DO NOT BUY A TARGET DEBIT CARD OR TARGET CREDIT CARD!  Get the Prepaid REDcard pictured above.

At the register, you’ll go through this process:

  1. When asked how much you want to load – Make sure to load at least $1.  You can load up to $500.  Personally, I loaded the max ($500) so I could get more points.
  2. Hand your driver’s license to the cashier.
  3. Enter your birthday, social security number and phone number on the keypad.

Step 3:  Register Your Temporary Redcard

If you have an existing American Express Bluebird card or Serve account you have to close that before you can register your Redcard.  You aren’t allowed to have both.

Take your temporary REDcard home and open it.

Then, go to https://secure.prepaidredcard.com/manage?intlink=us-serve-partner-target-launchmain-uppermanage

Click register.

Remove the sticker from the front of your temporary REDcard.

Enter the 15 digit card number and 4 digit security code that is on your REDcard.  Then enter your birthday.

After that, you’ll be prompted to enter all your information.

If you had someone else buy you a Target REDcard, make sure to enter YOUR information. 

You’ll get a confirmation screen saying that your permanent card is on it’s way.

Step 4:  Use Your Temporary REDcard OR Wait For Your Permanent Card

If you want, you can use your temporary card (which only has the money you initially loaded on at Target) wherever American Express is used.

Your temporary Redcard cannot be reloaded, used at ATM’s, or used for online functions like paying bills or sending people checks.

To do all of that, you have to wait until you get your permanent card.

For that reason, I reccommend that most people just wait the 4-7 days it takes to get their permanent card in the mail to start using it.  This cuts down on any confusion.

If you’ve found this post, then you’re obviously interested in using frequent flyer miles.  If you want to make sure you are squeezing all the value you can out of your miles, we created Frequent Flyer Bootcamp specifically for you.

Join hundred of others who are using their miles to take some of the most amazing trips in the world.  On top of that, we offer the one and only $1,000 guarantee.  It’s literally completely risk-free!

Check out Frequent Flyer Bootcamp

Step 5:  Get Your Permanent REDcard in the Mail and Activate It

Once your permanent card arrives in the mail, you’ll have to activate it.

You can do it by calling 1-855-306-7395 or by going to target.com/prepaidredcard/activate

Now that it’s activated, it’s time to move on to the good stuff!

Step 6:  Load Your REDcard at Target with a Credit Card

This is the easy part.  Just take your permanent REDcard to Target and ask them to load it at the cash register.  Here’s what’s crazy:

You can load it with a credit card, and it doesn’t cost a thing!

Currently, you can load $2500 per day and $5000 per month.

If you have a credit card that you need to make a minimum spend on, this is a great way to do it.  You can knock out $5000 in just two days.

If you’re not trying to make a minimum spend, just pick the credit card whose points you want to earn and use that to load the REDcard.

Make sure you’re picking the type of points that are most valuable (you can see my rankings of the best and worst frequent flyer miles here).

Step 7 (Optional):  Load Your REDcard at Target with Gift Cards

Want to get really crazy?  You can also use gift cards to load the REDcard.

Why is this important?

Because you can earn even more frequent flyer miles and points!

For example:

If you have the Chase Ink Plus card, you’ll earn 5x per $1 spent at office supply stores.

That means that if you buy a $200 Visa gift card at Staples or Office Depot, you’ll earn 1,000 Chase points.  Buy the gift card that looks like this:

Visa Gift Card

Then, you can take that gift card and use it to load your Redcard instead of using your credit card to load your REDcard.

But why stop at one?

If you buy $5,000 worth of Visa gift cards from Staples (the amount that you can load on your REDcard each month), you’ll earn 25,000 Chase points per month.

25,000 Chase points are enough for one roundtrip ticket anywhere in North America on United!

Each $200 Visa gift card costs $6.95 to purchase.  So, you’re paying $6.95 for 1,000 Chase points.

If you extrapolate that out, you’re paying:

  • $173.75 for 25k Chase points – a roundtrip flight in North America
  • $417 for 60k Chase points – a roundtrip economy flight to Europe
  • $556 for 80k Chase points – a roundtrip economy flight to Australia, NZ, or SE Asia

If you know how to use frequent flyer miles effectively – especially if you are taking advantage of stopovers and open jaws to get 2 vacations for the price of 1– this can be an incredible deal.

Step 8:  Use Your Online REDcard Account to Pay Any Bill

Now that you have funds in your REDcard account, you can easily pay any bill you’d like from this account – including things like your mortgage, rent, student loans, or any other big expense that doesn’t normally accept credit cards.

That’s because you’ll be sending a check from your REDcard account, and almost everyone accepts checks!

If you’re struggling to visualize this, just think of your REDcard account as a bank account.  It operates in the same way as regular online checking account – it just happens to be tied to Target.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Login to your REDcard account
  • Go to Pay & Transfer and hit the Pay Bills button on the dropdown.

Target-REDcard

  • Hit Pay a Bill on the next screen.

Target-Redcard-pay

  • Pick whether you are paying a business or a person (if it’s a mortgage or student loan, they may have your company preloaded in the business part).

Target-REDcard-person

 

  • Enter the information.  If it’s a person, you won’t have an account number.  Hit “Save and Pay”
  • On the next screen, enter how much you want to pay, then you’ll hit “review”.
  • On  the last screen, you’ll have to enter the PIN you set when you registered the card.
  • After that, hit “submit” and a check will be sent to whoever you are paying!

Step 9:  Repeat Each Month and Rake in Points

Every calendar month, you’ll be able to add $5,000 on your Redcard.

As long as you have a Target near you, this is by far the easiest way to rack up miles and points and it doesn’t cost a cent.

If you did this for a year, you’d have 60k extra points, which is enough for a free roundtrip ticket to Europe!

[post src=”http://www.extrapackofpeanuts.com/bootcamp/”]

A Few Frequently Asked Questions

1.  Do you know where I can get a Target Redcard?

Click here to see where they are sold.  If you don’t see a store near you, make sure by calling and asking if they sell Prepaid REDcards.

2.  Do you know when all Targets will start selling REDcards?

No idea.

3.  Do you know when or if Targets will stop allowing us to load REDcards with credit cards and gift cards?

Nope, but I imagine they won’t let it go on forever.  I’d take advantage of it as much as you can while it’s available.  Personally, I’m loading the $5,000 a month max each month.

4.  Can someone else buy me a Prepaid REDcard?

Yes.  If you know someone who lives near a Target, they can buy you one.  Then, have them either send you the temporary card in the mail or give you the card number and security code.  After that, you can register it online and get a permanent card sent to your home address.

4.  Is buying Target REDcards for other people illegal? 

No.

5.  If I’m going to buy more than one for other people, what should I say?

I simply told the cashier that I lived in Philadelphia and had driven all the way down to Maryland to get them because we didn’t have them up there yet.

I then said that my friends and family had heard about the REDcard and wanted them as well, and that I was buying some for them too.

She totally understood, and said she realized that only a few places had the REDcards and that it was nice of me to do that for others.

6.  If someone else buys me a REDcard, do I need them to actually send me the temporary card?

No.  They could open it up, give you the card number and security code, and you could “register” for your permanent card without ever actually having the temporary one in your possession.

7.  How much can I load at a time?

$2,500 per day and $5,000 per month.  You can only load $1,000 per swipe of your card, so if you are loading $2,500, you’ll have to ask the cashier to do it three separate times ($1k, $1k, $500).

Final Word(s)

The Target REDcard is an absolutely amazing way to meet minimum spends, get points for paying bills that you can usually pay with a credit card, or just rack up points very easily.

I highly recommend you start doing it as soon as possible, as there is no telling how long it will last.

And if it sounds a little confusing, trust me, it’s not.  As soon as you do it once, you’ll realize how easy it is.

I get it, frequent flyer miles can be complicated and confusing.  2 years ago, I created Frequent Flyer Bootcamp to personally walk you through the each and every step.  Now, hundreds of people are traveling the world for (almost) free.

You’ll learn everything you need to know in less than one month, and we even have the one and only $1,000 guarantee.

If you thought this post was helpful in explaining a difficult subject, you’ll be blown away by our concise, easy to understand library of video lessons.

Check out Frequent Flyer Bootcamp now! – and don’t forget, it’s completely risk-free

FURTHER READING (POSTS HANDPICKED FOR YOU…BY US!)

None of that automatic “read more” stuff you’ll see everywhere else on the internet!

If you liked this post, then you’ll love these as well:

How to BA Avios Points On USAirways and Why Their Value Has Skyrocketed

British Airways

Since March 31, 2014, you’ve been able to use any Oneworld airline partner’s points to book on USAirways.

This is a nice perk for using AA miles, but an absolutely major score for anyone using British Airways Avios points.

In today’s post, I’ll hit on a few main points:

  • Why the Value of BA Avios Points Has Skyrocketed
  • Who Benefits the Most (hello, Philadelphians!)
  • How to Book USAirways Flights on BA.com
  • Why This Makes American Express Points Much More Valuable.

Why the Value of BA Avios Points Has Skyrocketed

Since their devaluation a couple years back, BA Avios points have been a conundrum for most people.

They can have offer great value, but overall, they are very confusing to use.

[bluebox]In fact, they are so confusing that two of EPoP’s top posts are about BA Avios points.  These should help clear up the confusion:

To sum up why USAirways joining Oneworld is so important, there are two things that you need to know.

1.  On MOST flights, using BA Avios points will incur a massive fuel surcharge.  

[bluebox] If you have no clue what a fuel surcharge is, make sure to check out my series on fuel surcharges.  It’s one of the major keys to using frequent flyer miles effectively [/bluebox]

When I say massive, think between $400-600 per person.

That’s insane, considering that you can sometimes purchase a ticket for almost the same amount!

So in order to use BA Avios points in a way that makes sense, you have to find flights that you can take that don’t hit you with a fuel surcharge.

One of these flights is flying domestically in the US (and here are the other 4 options that won’t hit you with a fuel surcharge).

2.  British Airways award chart is distance-based, meaning you pay for how many miles you fly.

BA-Avios-chart

Check out the Avios award chart above.  If you fly 0-649 miles, you’ll only pay 4,500 BA Avios points for an economy ticket.

This is huge, because you’d pay 12,500 for a one-way domestic ticket with other carriers.

So if you’re taking short to medium haul domestic US flights, BA Avios are the way to go!

The downside is that you have to pay for each segment separately.

For example, if you fly Philadelphia to Columbus with a layover in La Guardia, you have to pay for two separate flights.

Philadelphia to La Guardia is a distance of 95 miles, which would cost 4,500 Avios points.

La Guardia to Columbus is a distance of 479 miles, which would cost 4,500 Avios points.

With the layover at La Guardia, you’ll pay 9,000 Avios points total to go one-way from Philadelphia to Columbus.

Ugh!

However, a direct flight from Philadelphia to Columbus is a distance of 406 miles.

With a direct flight from Philadelphia to Columbus, you’ll pay 4,500 Avios points to go one-way.

Obviously, you are MUCH better off finding direct flights.

This is easier said than done, since before the merger, your only option was to look for AA flights.

Not only did direct flights get scooped up quickly, but you also needed to live near an AA hub to get direct flights to most places.

Now, however, you can book any USAirways flight with your BA Avios points.

This opens up a world of options, and many, many more direct flights.

More options and more direct flights = many more chances to book good flights with no fuel surcharges!

Who Benefits the Most?

Anyone who travels domestically is going to benefit, since USAirways operates 3,031 flights a day, with a majority of them being domestic within the US.

But the big winners?  

People who live near USAirways hub cities!

The current USAirways hub cities are:

  • Charlotte (613 flights per day)
  • Philadelphia (429 flights per day)
  • Phoenix (255 flights per day)
  • Washington DC National Airport (222 flights per day)

Under the merger agreement, USAirways is required to continue to use Charlotte, Philadelphia, and Phoenix as a hub for at least a period of 5 years.

If you’re someone who uses these airports regularly, you should be jumping for joy right now!

[bluebox]To check out all the routes you can fly with Oneworld, use the Oneworld interactive map.  This shows you all the flights you can take.  Just be careful: you can get lost for hours planning dream trips![/bluebox]

A Real-Life Example of Why This Rocks

As someone who has his home base in Philadelphia, I’m ecstatic.

Here’s a real-life example of why this rocks:

The Philadelphia to Columbus example I gave above was one that I actually just booked for my parents.

Previously, if AA was my only option, I’d need to do the following route:

PHL-DFW-CMH

Philadelphia-Dallas/Fort Worth-Columbus

Ummmm….no thanks!

On top of being way out of the way, I’d also have to pay a whopping 17,500 Avios points for a one-way trip (10k to go PHL-DFW, 7.5k for DFW-CMH).

Looks like I’d be staying home or making the 8 hour drive.

Now that USAirways is a Oneworld partner, I can do the following route:

PHL-CMH

Philadelphia-Columbus direct.

The flight is 1 hour, and it costs only 4,500 Avios points one-way.

Score!

How to Book USAirways Flights on BA.com in 6 Easy Steps

Ok, so you get why this all sounds great in theory.

But anyone who has tried to use frequent flyer miles knows that theory is one thing, and actually booking tickets is another.

The two major hang-ups with booking tickets with miles are:

  • Finding availability
  • Not being able to book the tickets online

Thankfully, using BA Avios points on USAirways has neither of these two problems!

There is TONS of availability on USAirways flights to almost any destination I checked.

And you can EASILY book USAirways flights on BA.com!

Here’s how:

1.  Go to BA.com to Book Online

Head to BA.com—>click on Executive Club tab—>Spending Avios—>Book Flights with Avios

BA Click here

2.  Enter your preferred itinerary and dates

BA Enter Info3.  Select the Flight You Want

Two cool things to note:

  • You can easily toggle between the dates at the top to check for availability.
  • It shows exactly how many seats are left on that flight, an awesome function.

Flight options

 

As you can see, there is plenty of availability on all the USAirways flights operated that day!

4.  Decide How Many Points and Dollars You Want to Spend

BA allows you to do a neat thing where you can choose to use less points and pay more cash if you want.

Normally, using more points and less cash is the best way to go, but it’s nice to have the option.

Price Quote

5.  Pay for the Ticket

Payment

18,000 Avios points and $10 for 2 roundtrip tickets?  Amazing!

6.  Receive Your Confirmation

Confirmation

Just in case you forgot how little you paid…yep, it’s still only 18k Avios and $10 for 2 roundtrip tickets!

Why This Makes American Express Points Much More Valuable

When ranking the best frequent flyer miles and points, I gave American Express points a 5 out of 10 and ranked them #7.

I still consider them worse than Chase Ultimate Rewards and some others, but they are now substantially more valuable.

Why?

Because British Airways is a transfer partner of American Express, and so it stands to reason that if BA Avios points increase in value, so would American Express points.

The problem with American Express points is that while they have a lot of transfer partners, they don’t have a lot of quality partners, and there is no real “best” partner.

Who you should transfer your Amex points to depends on what type of trip you take.

BA Avios has always been one of the better transfer partners, and now that they are are so many more options for direct flight domestic U.S. travel, they have become even better.

Also, Amex usually runs a few bonus promotions for transferring to BA each year, sometimes offering up to 50% (100k Amex would net you 150k BA Avios).

If you’re sitting on a stash of Amex points and plan on doing some domestic traveling in the future, especially if you live near an AA or USAirways hub, then transferring to BA will probably be your best bet.

You could have lots of free travel in your future!

Final Word(s)

Since Philadelphia is my home airport, I’m super excited.  I’m also really pleased with how easy it is to book USAirways flights with BA points.

Overall, this opens up a lot of good options for domestic travel, regardless of where you live, because there are so many more flights with the combined AA/USAirways network.

And we finally have some good news for Amex points, which are now more valuable thanks to the strengthening of BA as a transfer partner!

What trips are you planning to use your BA Avios points on?  What new routes are you most excited about?  And what are your favorite Amex transfer partners?  Let me know in the comments below!

My Mile Earning Strategy to Avoid Fuel Surcharges

Strategy to avoid fuel surcharges

[bluebox]This is part 4 of the Defeating the Fuel Surcharge Series.  Other posts can be found here:

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If you want to save yourself thousands of dollars by not paying a fuel surcharge, you need to fly with airlines that never (or rarely) charge them.

And in order to fly for free on these airlines, you need to collect frequent flyer miles with them.

Now that I’ve already told you what airlines you need to fly on, I’ll give you my personal strategy for earning miles.

I’ve ranked the airlines below on a scale from best, the ones I focus on most, to worst, the ones that I focus on least.

United

United is currently the undisputed apple of my eye for two main reasons.

First, United miles have amazingly friendly rules.

You never have to worry about paying a fuel surcharge, they allow you to purchase one way tickets, and they also allow one stopover and two open jaws when you book roundtrip.

This means you can visit 2 or 3 places for the price of one!

The other reason I love United miles is they are so easy to collect.

Many Chase cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold [This card is no longer available from Chase], and Chase Ink Plus earn you Chase points that transfer to United at a 1:1 ratio, and the Chase United Explorer earns you United miles directly.

With so many ways to earn them and their super generous rules, United miles rule supreme in my book!

American Airlines

AA miles are definitely another great option because they have great off-peak awards, the one thing United is missing, rarely charge fuel surcharges (just don’t fly on British Airways), and allow one-way tickets and limited stopovers.

You can earn AA miles directly by opening up the Citi AA Visa and the Citi AA Visa business card or also by getting the Starwood Preferred Guest personal and Starwood Preferred guest business cards and transferring those SPG points to AA.

If you transfer SPG points to AA, you’ll also receive an extra 5k AA miles for every 20k you transfer (so 20k SPG=25k AA) which is an awesome bonus!

USAirways

USAirways miles rounds out my top 3 and are great because they never charge fuel surcharges and are very generous with their routing rules.

Pretty soon, USAirways will merge with AA, at which point your USAirways miles will change to AA miles, so you should take every chance you can get to earn them now and double up.

The easiest way to USAirways miles by opening a Barclays USAirways card.

The Best of the Rest (British Airways/Air Canada/ANA/Lufthansa)

I don’t specifically try to earn miles with any other airlines because none of them are near as good as United, AA, or USAirways.

However, I do take advantage of good sign up bonuses when they come along and collect various miles with other airlines that way.

One of the ways I do this is by earning American Express points, which are useful because they can transfer to multiple partners.  The 6 best ways to use Amex points are listed here.

British Airways Avios points can be a pain in the butt but also very good in specific situations, so make sure you understand the best ways to use them.  Avios points can be earned either through the Chase British Airways card or by transferring from American Express.

Air Canada and ANA also have some good value at times, and the best way to get miles with them is again through transferring from American Express.

Lufthansa miles offer good value if used in specific situations and you can easily earn a nice sign up bonus from the Barclays Lufthansa card.

Basically, if a good deal comes up for American Express or any other airline, jump on it but don’t go out of your way to collect these miles instead of miles from United, AA, or USAirways.

Final Word(s)

Now that you know what fuel surcharges are and learned how to avoid them, make sure to do it!

You’ve earned miles to help you take a trip to your dream destination for almost free, so don’t be a sucker and get stuck with a $600 tab because you weren’t aware of the airlines “dirty little secret”!

Earn miles with the right airlines, avoid the fuel surcharges and pay $100 or less to almost anywhere in the world!

What airlines do you use most frequently to avoid fuel surcharges?  Did you learn your lesson by once getting stuck with huge taxes and fees?  Let us know in the comments below!

(photo courtesy of Joriel)

Which Airlines Charge Fuel Surcharges (with downloadable chart)

inside the plane joke

[bluebox] This is part 3 of the Defeating the Fuel Surcharge Series.  Other posts can be found here:

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You know what a fuel surcharge is, and you know how to find out how much it costs.  Now, it’s time to learn how to avoid them.

In theory, avoiding fuel surcharge is simple.  You simply have to avoid flights where they are charged.

The tricky part is knowing which flights charge them and which don’t, which is where this post comes in (hint: you may want to bookmark it for future reference)!

The MOST important thing to remember is that you follow the rules of the airline whose miles you are USING, not the airline who you are actually flying on.

Here is a handy chart to help you out.  You can also download it as a free PDF, but please give proper credit if you use it or any other websites or publications.

fuel surcharge chart

Airlines That NEVER Charge a Fuel Surcharge

If you use miles from these airlines, you’ll never pay the fuel surcharge.  Collect as many miles with these airlines as you can!

  • LAN
  • South African Air
  • TAM
  • EuroBonus (Blue1 Airlines and SAS Airlines)

Airlines That RARELY Charge a Fuel Surcharge

Most of the time, you won’t pay a fuel surcharge.  You’ll only get hit with one in very specific instances.

American Airlines

  • Charged when flying on:
    • British Airways- a huge fuel surcharge (think $500-700)
    • Iberia- a small fuel surcharge (think $150-250)
  • NOT charged on:
    • Everything else

Alaskan Airlines

  • Charged when flying on:
    • British Airways

Airlines that SOMETIMES Charges a Fuel Surcharge

These airlines are about 50-50 when it comes to charging a fuel surcharge, so be careful.

Delta

  • Charged when flying on:
    • All partner flights
    • Delta flights originating outside the US or Asia
  • NOT charged when flying on:
    • Delta flights originating in the US or Asia

Air Canada

  • Charged when flying on:
    • Adria
    • Air Canada
    • ANA
    • Asiana
    • Austrian
    • LOT Polish
    • Lufthansa
    • TAP Portugal
    • Thai
  • NOT charged when flying on:
    • Aegean
    • Air China
    • Air New Zealand
    • Avianca/TACA
    • Brussels
    • Copa
    • Croatia
    • EgyptAir
    • Ethiopian
    • SAS
    • Singapore
    • South African Airways
    • Swiss
    • TAM
    • Turkish
    • United
    • USAirways

Airlines That USUALLY Charge a Fuel Surcharge

These airlines almost always charge a fuel surcharge, but you can find specific examples of when they don’t.  Take advantage of those times!

ANA

  • NOT charged when flying on:
  • Charged when flying on:
    • ANA flights
    • All partners other than United or USAirways

British Airways

  • NOT charged when flying on:
    • Aer Lingus
    • LAN
    • airBerlin
    • American Airlines (if completely within Western Hemisphere)
    • Flights within Europe
  • Charged when flying on:
    • All British Airways flights except those wholly within Europe
    • All other partners than the ones listed above

Singapore Airlines

  • NOT charged when flying on:
  • Charged when flying on:
    • Singapore Airlines
    • Any partners other than United or USAirways

Lufthansa

  • NOT charged when flying on:
    • USAirways, all flights
    • LOT Polish, all flights
    • United Airways flights
      • within the US
      • US to Canada
      • US to Mexico or Caribbean
      • US to South America
  • Charged when flying on:
    • Lufthansa
    • All other partners
    • United Airway flights from
      • US to Europe
      • US to Asia

Airlines That ALWAYS Charge a Fuel Surcharge

You’ll want to avoid collecting miles with these airlines, as it’ll cost you an arm and a leg to redeem them.

  • All other international airlines that aren’t listed above will always charge a fuel surcharge.

Now that you know what flights you can take to avoid fuel surcharges, it’s time to figure out the best ways to earn miles with those airlines.

Head on over to Part 4: My Frequent Flyer Mile Earning Strategy to Avoid Fuel Surcharges.

The information in this post came from my own experience and the thread over at DansDeals, which was a huge help.  

If you notice anything that is incorrect, please let me know and I’ll fix it, as the airlines are constantly changing their rules.

(photo courtesy of DearEdward)

How to Find the Fuel Surcharge Cost Using the ITA Matrix

lego Matrix

[bluebox] This is part 2 of the Defeating the Fuel Surcharge Series.  Other posts include:

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In airline speak, a fuel surcharge is represented by the code YQ.  The easiest way to figure out the YQ is to use the ITA Matrix.

If you’re unfamiliar with the ITA Matrix, don’t worry, I’ll walk you through it.  It’s a really cool tool that you should get familiar with.

1.  Go to the ITA Matrix

2.  Put in cities and dates that you want.

3.  Pick a ticket that is to your liking.

When you do that, you’ll be given a screen that looks like this: (I did a simple New York to Tokyo search)

There are three things that you need to notice, all of which are highlighted.

Fuel Surcharge screenshot 2

#1 The Actual Fare

This is the cost before taxes and fees.  It is $280 from New York to Tokyo, and $250 from Tokyo to New York.  In total, it is $530.

If you use frequent flyer miles, you will never pay the fare.

#2 The Fuel Surcharge (YQ)

This is what we’ve been discussing already.  Obviously, you want to fly on airlines that don’t charge you this, which I’ll show you in Part 3.

On this ticket, the fuel surcharge is $580.

Depending on what frequent flyer miles you use and what airlines you fly, you may or may not pay this.

#3 The other taxes and fees

The other taxes and fees are everything that’s not the fare or the fuel surcharge.  In this case, the other taxes and fees come out to $83.70.

These “other taxes and fees” are things collected by the governments and completely unavoidable.  This is why an award ticket is never completely free.

You’ll always pay the taxes and fees when redeeming frequent flyer miles.

Cost Difference

If you were using an airline who doesn’t charge a fuel surcharge, your total cost would just be the “other taxes”, which would be $83.70

SCORE!

You’ve just got yourself a roundtrip ticket that would normally cost you $1,193 for less than 1/10th the price!.

However, if you were using an airline who DOES charge a fuel surcharge, your total cost would be the other taxes PLUS the fuel surcharge, which would be $663.70.

WOMP, WOMP!

$663 for a “free” flight?  Ick!

It’s pretty easy to see which one you would prefer.

But knowing what a fuel surcharge is and how much it doesn’t help you at all if you don’t know which airlines to fly to avoid them.

To figure out which airlines you should be flying, check out Part 3: Which Airlines Charge Fuel Surcharges (with downloadable chart).

(photo courtesy of Brandon Griffith)

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