Travel On A Budget: Flying For Free

Southwest Credit Card

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You know that saying “If I could get a dollar for every time someone asked me that”, the question I seem to get most of the time is how can we afford to travel so often. Honestly, it takes a lot of work, but I feel so incredibly blessed for the life we have right now. We can basically drop everything and book a plane ticket in any amount of time. In fact, we did this last month. 3 weeks prior, we were asked to go to North Carolina for New Years, and I booked a plane ticket a minute later. The main reason for this is making travel a priority, the other big reason is because I pay way too much attention to saving for travel.

I am excited to be starting a new series all about traveling on a budget and how to plan, save for, enjoy and love the adventures you go on. Big trips don’t need to be expensive, and they aren’t if you are always working towards the goal of traveling. All of these tips, companies and rewards systems are ones that I actually use and take advantage of. Now I know there are others out there, and some of them I may have never used, but based on my research and the amount of traveling we do, these are the resources I love and use all of the time.

There are several resources I use to earn free or reduced rate while traveling, the biggest being the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card. This card is a lifesaver. Before you ignore this post because you don’t want a credit card, let me explain why it is worth it. I also have some tricks up my sleeve on how to earn even more points.

With the Southwest credit card there are a few ways to earn the points, which are called Rapid Rewards, through Southwest itself.
  • 2 points per dollar for every flight you book with your card, plus the points you earn from the flight. Pay close attention to the price difference in fares. There have been times where the Wanna Get Away cost was only $70-$100 less than the Business Select, depending on the cost it may be more cost effective to get the more expensive fare.
    • Wanna Get Away = 6 points per dollar
    • Anytime = 10 points per dollar
    • Business Select = 12 points per dollar
  • Several restaurants and retail stores give rapid reward points if you use the Southwest credit card to pay for your purchase or meal. This points system is called Rapid Rewards Shopping & Rapid Rewards Dining, you can find the participating locations on the Southwest website.
  • Hotel reservations will offer a few hundred bonus points for booking through the Southwest website, which will also earn 1 point per dollar spent on the Southwest Credit Card  (I do not recommended- see below)
  • Signing up during a bonus offer (happening now!) you can get 50,000 bonus points just for signing-up. If you would like one of these offers, comment below or email me- totravelandbeyond@gmail.com and I can send you the link! To get 50,000 points, you need to spend $2,000 in the first 2-3 months you have the card
  • Booking a car through Southwest. This oftentimes will give you about 400 Rapid Rewards points per car rental
  • 1 point per dollar on every purchase with the Southwest Credit Card

fly for free

There are 2 websites I use to book hotels, hotels.com and Rocket Miles. I have another post coming on hotels.com, but Rocket Miles is perfect for Southwest Rapid Rewards. These two companies have a partnership where the rewards you receive from booking through Rocket Miles can be directly added to your Rapid Rewards account. They generally begin around 1,000 points (still a good deal) but every now and then I will get an email from Rocket Miles about a Rapid Rewards Bonus. A few months ago, they sent me a 7,000 bonus offer, all I needed to do was book one hotel night and I would receive 7,000 Rapid Rewards points. If you do not have a Rocket Miles account, you can sign up for one here.

You may be wondering what you get with all of these things called Rapid Rewards…free flights, free flights, and more free flights! The best thing about Southwest is the ease of using Rapid Rewards. There are no blackout dates, great sales, and over 100 destinations. But what is better than free flights for yourself? Free flights for a companion every single time you fly!

The companion pass is the reward you get for reaching 110,000 points in one calendar year through Southwest. All Southwest Credit Card purchases go towards this 110,000 goal, as well as the 50,000 bonus, Rocket Miles bonus, and rewards earned from flights. Once you reach companion status, you can chose one person to always get a free ticket to fly with you. Once you reach companion status, you get it for the remainder of the year you earn it, and then the entire next year. You can change the person 3 times while you have the companion pass, and you can use it for anywhere Southwest flies…even Mexico!

Another great thing about this is that you can use your own Rapid Reward points to book flights for yourself, and then still get the free companion ticket. All you need to do is pay taxes (which in the US amounts to $11.20 roundtrip)

Other things to know:

  • There is a $69 or $99 yearly fee depending on which Southwest Credit Card you get, but you also get 6,000 bonus points for your “anniversary” which would cost way more than the fee anyways
  • There isn’t a foreign transaction fee, so while you are using it in another country you are basically getting paid to use the card

We use our Southwest Credit Card for everything, bills, eating out, birthday presents, etc. As long as we have the money to pay it off right away, we put it on the card. Hopefully this information was helpful, if you have dreams to travel…do it!!

Do you have any favorite rewards programs or resources?

  • http://lostrightdirection.blogspot.com/ Jenn

    Yes! I love my southwest card! I signed up during a special and it ended up making our honeymoon flights free! I usually make all big purchases on that card and then just pay it off right away to get the points.

    • http://totravelandbeyond.com/ Macy Volpe

      That is amazing!! I try to purchase everything I can with the SW card, it’s the only way we can travel as often as we do.

  • Megan

    YAY! I love that you shared this post. It’s seriously such a cool way to travel for cheap and I’m even more excited to read your other posts! I just booked Valentine’s Day weekend with an Airbnb. A quick little staycation for the boy and I :)

    • http://totravelandbeyond.com/ Macy Volpe

      Thank you!! It really is my favorite. We wouldn’t be able to go to half of the places we do if it wasn’t for this card. AH yay!! That sounds so fun!

  • http://www.wanderingweekenders.com/ Ashley @ Wandering Weekenders

    I actually think that we’ll be switching to the Southwest card this year, instead of using the United card. We had the United so we could fly for free to Hawaii since Southwest doesn’t fly there (yet!). We almost had our flight completely free, but not quite. Chris gets a lot of Southwest points from traveling, but I think that he’s worried that he won’t be traveling as much and get Companion Pass status. I seriously don’t know what I’d do without Companion Pass status! $12 for a round trip flight for two people is amazing!

    • http://totravelandbeyond.com/ Macy Volpe

      I really hope SW adds flights to Hawaii one day, the companion pass would REALLY be wonderful in that case. I love this card because it has a lot of benefits for all sorts of travel programs.

  • http://ohhey-ilikethat.com Lauren

    Ooooh I had no idea about Rocket Miles! I’m signing up now!

    • http://totravelandbeyond.com/ Macy Volpe

      It’s such a great website when they have the rapid rewards points!

  • http://www.dreambigandbuytheshoes.com/ Emelia @ Dream Big & Buy the S

    GREAT post…I love all your tips & so much great information for those of us who love to travel!

    • http://totravelandbeyond.com/ Macy Volpe

      Thank you!! This card is my all-time favorite travel resource.

  • http://sarahandstewart.blogspot.com/ Sarah Alway

    This is super helpful info, thanks so much for sharing! I think that we probably don’t travel enough to reap many of the benefits from this program, although I wish that were the case! Right now we’re lucky to take one trip per year. But we have the Capital One Venture card, and that’s worked pretty well, especially for international travel.

    • http://totravelandbeyond.com/ Macy Volpe

      Thank you!! Maybe once Ryder is a little older and can enjoy all of the great places around the country 😉

  • Bailey

    I just recently got the Southwest card. It looks like I’m going to miss out on the companion pass though :(

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