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TPG reader Matt sent me a message on Facebook to ask about using a companion ticket on flights booked through a third party:
“If I book a Southwest flight using ThankYou points, can I still add a companion to that reservation?”
You can get a lot of value out of companion tickets, but many of them come loaded with rules and restrictions that make them difficult to use. Some make you pay a fee in order to redeem, while others limit you to more expensive fare classes or require that you book directly with the airline. In contrast, the Southwest Companion Pass is free and exceptionally easy to use, which is part of why it’s one of the most valuable travel rewards out there.
One of the most potent aspects of the Companion Pass is that you can use it on any flight so long as you’re a ticketed passenger and there’s a seat available. It doesn’t matter whether you book directly with Southwest or through a third party. Even better, it doesn’t matter how you pay; the Companion Pass works whether or not you buy your own ticket, and it can even be used when you pay for your flight with points.
Matt wants to add a companion to a flight booked through the Citi ThankYou Travel Center — Southwest doesn’t usually sell tickets through online travel agencies, but you can book by phone through Citi ThankYou Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and (at a much lower redemption rate) Amex Membership Rewards. Once you’re ticketed, you’ll be able to add a companion to your itinerary like normal. Furthermore, you’ll earn Rapid Rewards points and elite credits on the way, since your flight will count as a revenue fare.
It’s worth noting that this shouldn’t technically be allowed according to Southwest’s rules, which state that the Companion Pass can be used “… on Southwest Airlines flights purchased by the Member and booked through Southwest Airlines during the Companion Pass validity period.” In practice, however, booking with a third party doesn’t seem to make a difference, and I have yet to hear from anyone who was unable to add a companion to a reservation made through Citi, Chase or Amex. (If you’ve had trouble with this, please share your experience in the comments below.)
The Citi ThankYou Premier Card enables you to redeem points for flights and other travel at 1.25 cents apiece through the ThankYou Travel Center. Citi Prestige cardholders currently get a higher rate of 1.33 cents per point on most travel purchases, or 1.6 cents per point on American Airlines, but those redemption rates will decrease next summer. In either case, you’ll generally get better value by transferring your rewards to airline partners, but redeeming on Southwest makes a lot of sense if you plan to use the Companion Pass and don’t have Rapid Rewards or Ultimate Rewards points on hand.
For more on earning and using the Southwest Companion Pass, check out these posts:
- How to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass for Almost Two Years
- Transferring Hotel Points to Get the Southwest Companion Pass
- What Is Southwest Airlines Elite Status Worth in 2016?
Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards