Southwest Companion Pass Breakdown

If you know anything about Mindful Cents, you know that we are huge fans of free travel!

In January of 2020 we were lucky enough to earn one of the crown jewels of the domestic travel hacking world – the Southwest Companion Pass. If you aren’t familiar with this fantastic perk, a few things to note:

Southwest Airlines provides patrons the opportunity to earn the Companion Pass, with the following details listed on their website:

There are a few different ways to earn the 125,000 points necessary for the pass. The most common way to earn it is by opening both a personal Southwest credit card and a business credit card shortly after, while ensuring the sign-on bonuses and points earned from the minimum spend requirements equal the 125,000 points. It is often recommended to strive to hit your minimum spend on both cards in early January, therefore maximizing the time with the companion pass as you would have it for the remainder of year in which it is earned PLUS the entire following year. This allows for potentially two full years of travel for virtually half off the sticker price.

In our case, we actually stumbled into the Companion Pass through a different (and unexpected) approach. Shortly after opening the Southwest Priority card, which earned Mrs Mindful Cents a 60,000 sign on bonus at the time (this bonus tends to vary), we received an email from Chase Bank offering us an additional 60,000 points for opening a Chase Checking and Savings account and holding a designated amount of money in there for a specific amount of time. While we are unsure of how common this type of offer is, it stands to reason to keep an eye out on your email for any special offers from Chase after opening any Southwest or other Chase cards in the future!

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic canceling many of our pre-scheduled plans for additional use of the Companion Pass, we were still able to use it for 20 flights for two people (40 seats total) with an out of pocket cost of $279.80. We are so thankful to Southwest Airlines for their flexibility and extended safety precautions during the height of the pandemic. They ultimately extended our pass out for an additional year in an effort to compensate us for missing out on much of our 2020 travel. Kudos to you, Southwest, for making us happy and loyal customers during a challenging and stressful time!

The most impressive thing about the Southwest Companion Pass is that while you do need a hefty 125,000 points to earn the pass, you then have those 125,000 points available to spend on all of your subsequent flights. Yes, you read that right. A common misconception is that you are “purchasing” the pass for 125,000 points, but instead it is a true perk for EARNING the points. Yet another reason why Southwest Airlines is one of my top choices for domestic travel.

Now onto the stats…

2020-2021 Southwest Companion Pass Travel Breakdown

Total Flights (per person): 20

Total Out of Pocket Cost: $279.80

Total Points Used: 140,967

Cash Value (total; 2 people): $4,386

Average Point per Dollar Value: 64.59 points/dollar

A few things to note..

  • Southwest Airlines allows you to re-book any flight without any penalty or fee if the cash price/point redemption drops. We typically book out our tentative flights once the schedule is released from Southwest (they list this date on their website) and monitor the flight prices for any drop in price ~3-4 times/week. While this may not be feasible for everyone’s schedule, it is a habit that can save some major points! Keep an eye out for a future post tracking how much we save in a year through this practice!
  • Low prices secondary to the COVID-19 pandemic once travel began to slowly resume likely impacted the total points used and cash value from our Companion Pass. I would anticipate a higher cash value in the future if we are able to earn the companion pass again and travel with it for a full two years. 

Itinerary Breakdowns

January 2020

Tampa, FL →Nashville, TN

Nashville,TN → Tampa, FL

Points Used: 10,548

Cash Spent (taxes & fees): $22.40

Cash Value: $348

Off to Nashville we went on our first Companion Pass excursion to celebrate Mr Mindful Cents’ golden birthday! We enjoyed exploring local breweries, visiting with friends, enjoying all the vibrant music and food the city has to offer. 

July 2020

Tampa, FL →Manchester, NH

Manchester, NH → Tampa, FL

Points Used: 13,797

Cash Spent (taxes & fees): $22.40

Cash Value: $404

After 6 months of canceled travel plans, we were so thankful to be able to escape the humid Florida summer for a few days of hiking, biking, and beaching in Mrs Mindful Cents’ hometown. While it is accessible from both Manchester and Boston, Manchester is a much easier airport to fly into and flights from Tampa are direct, whereas Boston requires a layover. Throughout all of our Southwest Airlines adventures thus far, we fly direct for the convenience of no layovers. Keep an eye out for a future post with resources regarding all of the airports Southwest flies direct from Tampa (with bonus points if they have a Hyatt Hotel nearby where we can stay free with points!)

September 2020

Tampa, FL →Las Vegas, NV

Points Used: 6,552

Cash Spent (taxes & fees): $11.20

Cash Value: $210

We embarked on a two week road trip out west, visiting some family and friends along the way and sparking our love for National Parks.

We started in Las Vegas (staying at the Hyatt Place for free with points, of course) to visit Red Rock Canyon. Calico Tanks was our favorite hike with many rock scrambles and a beautiful (and totally worth it! view at the end).

From there we drove 3 hours to Kanab, Utah to hike at Zion National Park, where (surprise!) we got engaged!

We continued on to hike at Bryce Canyon with the breathtaking hoodoos. We loved the Navajo Loop where you gradually hike down into the canyon and inevitably a steep trek up “Wall Street” to get back out of the canyon. Such an incredible experience!

After a short drive of just under an hour and a half, we hung our legs over the edge at Horseshoe Bend in Page, AZ

From there, we took another longer leg of our road trip lasting a little over four hours to get to Durango, Colorado.

From there, we visited Mr Mindful Cents’ family in Los Alamos and Albuquerque, New Mexico and even took a ride in a hot air balloon. We had a phenomenal adventure!

Sandia Tram – Sandia Mountain

September 2020

Albuquerque, NM →Tampa, FL

Points Used: 4.992

Cash Spent (taxes & fees): $11.20

Cash Value: $158

January 2021

Tampa, FL →Atlanta, GA

Atlanta, GA →Tampa, FL

Points Used: 6,514

Cash Spent (taxes & fees): $22.40

Cash Value: $208

Who knew crisp air, waterfalls, mountains, and MEAD were so close to Florida? We had a great getaway for some hiking and a change of pace to start off the new year. We flew into Atlanta, GA and rented a car to make the short trip out to Dahlonega, GA for a few days of exploring a new town. We enjoyed dinner and live music in the town square and had great conversations with all we met.

July 2021

Tampa, FL →Manchester, NH

Points Used: 17,457

Cash Spent (taxes & fees): $22.40

Cash Value: $510

We flew North to visit Mrs Mindful Cents’ home town again for our annual summer trip to Plum Island, MA. From there, we took a road trip to Bar Harbor, Maine to hike at Acadia National Park over the Fourth of July. After a few days of hiking and as many delicious lobster rolls as we could fit in, we visited friends and family in Boston, MA and continued our trip onto Hartford, CT. 

Man O War Trail – Acadia National Park

Hartford, CT →Tampa, FL

Points Used: 12,668

Cash Spent (taxes & fees): $22.40

Cash Value: $378

August 2021

Tampa, FL →Manchester, NH

Manchester, NH →Tampa, FL

Points Used: 27,114

Cash Spent (taxes & fees): $22.40

Cash Value: $760

Back to MA we go to escape the Florida heat and rainy season and celebrate Mrs Mindful Cents’ birthday in her hometown! We did a behind the scenes Fenway Park tour before watching the Boston Red Sox play the Tampa Bay Rays at the game later that night! After some beach time on Plum Island, we headed up to Portland, Maine for a day of great food and beautiful views. We finished off our trip by celebrating our engagement with many family and friends with a beautiful day on Plum Island. 

September 2021

Tampa, FL →Chicago, IL

Chicago, IL →Tampa, FL

Points Used: 5,342

Cash Spent (taxes & fees): $22.40

Cash Value: $196

We enjoyed a quick weekend with beautiful weather exploring the city of Chicago! We checked Wrigley Field off our bucket list with an afternoon game and enjoyed walking along the river and seeing the whole city by foot. 

October 2021

Tampa, FL →Dallas, TX

Dallas, TX →Tampa, FL

Points Used: 11,086

Cash Spent (taxes & fees): $22.40

Cash Value: $348

Another quick weekend trip to visit a new city we had never been to before. We loved visiting with friends and exploring all of the beautiful green spaces in Dallas. We visited the famous Texas State Fair and even got a photo with Tex!

October 2021

Tampa, FL →Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix, AZ →Tampa, FL

Points Used: 17,131

Cash Spent (taxes & fees): $22.40

Cash Value: $502

We were able to cross a few more new locations off our travel list! We explored Tempe, AZ on an Arizona State University game day and loved the mountainous region right in the middle of a city. Scottsdale had great restaurants and Old Town was filled with unique shops. From there, we drove to Sedona, Arizona for a weekend of hiking. We found unique caves off the beaten path and loved the incredible views and weather! Prior to heading home, we explored Phoenix and loved exploring the breweries and parks in that area. 

Papago Park | Phoenix, AZ
Boynton Canyon | Sedona, AZ
Soldier’s Pass Cave | Sedona, AZ

December 2021

Tampa, FL →New Orleans, LA

New Orleans, LA →Tampa, FL

Points Used: 7,766

Cash Spent (one flight + taxes & fees): $78.20

Cash Value: $364

Last trip of the year! We soaked up all of the amazing food and music while exploring NOLA! Our favorite experience was an 18 mile walk through the Garden District down magazine street and onto the Tulane Campus.

Charbroiled Oysters | Gallier’s Restaurant
Shrimp Po-Boy | Domilise’s Po-Boy & Bar
Royal Frenchman Hotel & Bar Courtyard

Throughout our time with the Southwest Companion Pass, we adventured on 10 trips ranging from weekend jaunts to two week road trips. Earning the Companion Pass awarded us $4,386 worth of airline travel and countless priceless memories. 

Ready for your own Southwest Companion Pass? How much value can you get out of the Companion Pass this year?


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