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Speaker 1: You're listening to the Miles To Go podcast, the go-to source for travel tips, news, and reviews you can't afford to miss. Now here's your host, travel expert, Ed Pizza.

Ed Pizza: Hey guys. Welcome back to the Miles To Go podcast. I am flying solo this week, although I will be with Mr. Kerr when this episode drops. A little bit more about that in just a minute. But up this week on the episode, I have Jen back with us from Deals We Like. We're talking through what are the highest bonuses, signup bonuses, that we've ever seen for the Southwest credit cards and it's on a whole bunch of them. And it's a good time a year to strategize, to potentially pick up the companion pass early next year to have it potentially for a full two years. After that, we've got a new segment. When I was down on Mosquito Island, we recorded some short segments with a bunch of the other travel folks that we were there in a kitschy dad joke sort way. I'm going to call the these mosquito bites and we're going to have a bit of a short sit down with Nick, from Frequent Miler, who has been on the show a long time ago, but back on this week.
And then when you guys are listening to this, if you're listening to it on the day the episode drops, we will be down in Disney World. It'll be me. It'll be three of the horseman, me, Kerr, and Summer all trying to ride as many rides as possible to support a charity called Give Kids The World. I won't go into this in a ton of detail. I will link to it in the show notes, but if you enjoy the show, if you've gotten some value out of it, I hope you'll take the time to do one of two things, or both if you're in the mood for it, either share the link with a friend who might want to support us and donate and consider possibly donating yourself. Give Kids The World houses critically ill kids for once in a lifetime vacations. They essentially take care of the Make-A-Wish kids that want to come down to Disney World for a vacation. And they take care of their families as well. It's a pretty awesome charity, something that I've been involved with for a few years.
And like I said, we're doing a big fundraiser forum, sort of to kick off Disney being a little bit more normal now that COVID is fading away. Anyway, if you got any questions for us, you can always shoot us an email, ed@pizzaemotion.com. You can text us or leave a voicemail at (571)-293-6659. And you can hit me up on social media, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, all at pizzainmotion. And if you want to see me being truly stupid, just follow along on Instagram today, Wednesday, we'll be doing a bunch of crazy stuff all day long. With that, we're going to step aside for a quick musical break and we'll have Jen from Deals We Like back to talk about the new Southwest offers and how to score the companion pass for 2022 and 2023.
Back on the Miles To Go podcast and amidst all the craziness that we've seen recently, Marriott lighting award charts on fire, American completely redefining what loyalty means for them. We've got some things that are staying the same and some really interesting earning opportunities right now, if you're thinking about signing up for a new card. Southwest has offers higher than I've seen across the board, which is a little bit surprising to me. So I reached out to my buddy, Jen, from Deals We Like who is our resident Southwest expert. And I guess, like high level Jen, I don't really ever remember all of the cards being this huge 100,000 point signup bonus. Has this happened before?

Jen Yellin: Not with all three personal cards. We haven't seen it thus far.

Ed Pizza: Yeah. I mean, it's pretty interesting. And given, I mean, it's not a small amount of spending to hit the 100,000 but... Well, I'm getting ahead of ourselves here. Explain to folks what the offer is, the upfront spend and then the rest of the spend for them to earn the 100,000 points.

Jen Yellin: Sure. So right now, with all three personal Southwest credit cards, you can earn up to 100,000 points and it's a two tiered opportunity. So after $2,000, you'll earn 50,000 points. And then after you spend $12,000 in total, you'll earn another 50,000 points. So $12,000 is quite a bit of money, but you have 12 months to spend the full $12,000.

Ed Pizza: Yeah. And obviously you're going to want to earn it sooner than later, because this is what's going to help you get to a companion pass, which is what you've been on the show many times is one of your favorite benefits out there. And I think one of the best benefits in loyalty. So if they hit this, so they would have to spend $12,000 total on the card, is it 2000 and then 12,000? Or is it 12,000 total?

Jen Yellin: Nope. 12,000 total. So, think about it, $2,000 and three months plus an additional 10,000 over 12 months from when you initially applied. So you're looking at about $1,000 a month if you spread it out. But like you said, the earlier you spend and earn the bonus points, you can earn the Southwest companion pass, which we'll kind of get to in a second of what that is.

Ed Pizza: Yeah. And so, from that standpoint, timing is super key on the offer. And as you said, a thousand bucks a month on a credit card isn't hard to do if you think about all the things that you can charge on a credit card without incurring a fee, but we definitely want to try and accelerate it because you're still going to need a little bit more earning activity than just this card, which is a good segue to talk about the companion pass, because, I don't remember exactly how long it was ago with the pandemic really slowing down all my timing, but Southwest did change this. It's 125,000 points now to qualify for a companion pass?

Jen Yellin: Right. So to earn the companion pass, you have to earn 125,000 qualifying points, and that can include regular flying on Southwest, using their partners, but one of the real key ways to earn those qualifying points is with your Southwest credit cards. And even the bonus points you earn from the welcome offer count towards those qualifying points, which is huge. So not only do you get the points to redeem for free Southwest flights, they also count towards the 125,000 points required to earn the pass.

Ed Pizza: Yeah. And to put that in simple math for people listening, if you spent the right amount on the card to hit the signup bonus, you have 112,000 points towards your 125,000 for the companion pass because you earned 100,000 bonus points on your signup offer and you spent $12,000 to get you there, which, in theory, should earn you at least one point per dollar. And there are some bonus categories on these cards, they differ per card, so you could, in theory, have more. You're still probably going to need to do a little something else, but an easy example, and Jen you know these cards better than I do, but the entry level card, the $69 rapid reward plus credit card, earns double points on Southwest flights on internet, cable, phone.
So it could easily put some of those auto charge expenses on the card on a monthly basis and earn double points, but still probably going to need to do something else to earn a few more points, but then you've got the companion pass and depending on the timing, you've got it for, and this is where you've really perfected this to a science, you could have it for almost two years if you time it correctly, right?

Jen Yellin: Right. So, if you were to apply for the card now, and let's say, hypothetically, tomorrow you spend $12,000 and you get your 100,000 points. You're going to earn those points in the calendar year of 2021. That is not necessarily what you want to do though. So the pass is valid for the rest of the year that it's earned, plus the entire following year. So if you apply now, but you wait until January 1st, and then spend all the minimum spend requirement of $12,000, you'll then earn those 100,000 points, plus the 12,000 points earned from your credit card spent in 2022. If you can earn that in January or February, maybe even March, you could have the pass for almost two full years.

Ed Pizza: Yeah. I think that, that's excellent. And it's why we want people, obviously, tuning into the show and listening to ways to leverage this. Because as Jen says, there's two ways you can do this. You could apply right now and start earning, which is fine, but it's much better if you were to earn these two 50,000 point bonuses at the beginning of 2022 and give yourself a full extra year of companion pass. And at that point, you could essentially get a free ticket minus the passenger surcharge fee. So what, $5.60?

Jen Yellin: So for domestic flights, it's $5.60 each way. So you're looking at $11.20 round trip spending on your passenger. So they can literally fly with you for free, in quotes, plus those $5.60 per one way segment. And that's an unlimited number of times throughout the life of the path. So if you earn it in, let's say, February of 2022, you can have your companion fly with you for truly free international flights. It really depends on where you're going in the Caribbean or Mexico, but they can range anywhere between $50 to $100 round trip, usually, which is still cheap.

Ed Pizza: Oh, absolutely. I mean, especially when you consider how high some of the prices are right now because of demand for leisure travel being sky high. And as compared to the days when you and I first started following Southwest, it's actually gotten a lot easier to swap out your companion as well, right? You can do it online?

Jen Yellin: Right. So you can designate up to seven passengers to be with your companion. Not all at the same time, you only can have one at a given time, but you can swap it out three times per year. So if you earn it in January, initially, you have to designate a companion. So let's call that companion A, then you can swap it out to companion B, C, and D throughout 2022. And then you can have another three companions for 2023. So in total, seven different people can fly with you. Or you can repeat companions too, or you can have the same person. My daughter has been my companion for probably the past three years for the most part.

Ed Pizza: And just to clarify for folks, if I remember how it works correctly, if you had your daughter as your companion, and then you switched it to your husband and switched it back to your daughter, that would count as three different companions, right?

Jen Yellin: If I had my daughter, switched it to my husband, then that would be two different switches and yes, three companions.

Ed Pizza: Yeah. Okay. So, switching does count. It's not individual people, it's the switch. But again, timing wise, if you work it out, you can definitely take advantage of it for the right sorts of trips, especially for families, whereas you say, you can almost set it and forget it if you have kids and that maybe there's one vacation where it's just going to be you and your significant other. And so you could switch it for that and then switch it back to your child for the rest of the year. You're probably... I would like to say that I'm traveling without my kids to all these exotic places with my wife periodically throughout the year, but that's just not reality with teenage kids.

Jen Yellin: I know Ed, this sounds so glamorous in your head, but reality...

Ed Pizza: The reality is, is that my wife and I had not been on a romantic getaway since before COVID. So, two years plus.

Jen Yellin: But there was even a time, I think it was about five years ago, my mom was my companion one way. And my husband was my companion on the way home. And I can't really remember why those logistics worked out to be the way they were. But once your companion flies, you can just call Southwest quickly, they'll change the companion for you, and immediately you have a new companion and you can add them onto your new flight, and you can also book your flight now, you don't have to wait to earn to the companion pass to then book your flight. You can book your flight, and then once you earn the pass, add your companion on it. The only requirement that there has to be one seat available for sale. No other blackout dates, no other restrictions, literally it's just one seat available for sale.

Ed Pizza: And that's one of the really great things about the companion pass for me. And we're going to link to Jen's story in the show notes so you can see all three different cards. But I think knowing that it really is last seat availability, which if I remember correctly from a segment you and I did a few years ago, you've actually tested last seat availability.

Jen Yellin: I did.

Ed Pizza: Which you forgot once you forgot to book your husband's seat. But it's one of those things where a lot of the challenges I think that people run into when we talk about miles and points is, "Oh, I can never use these things. I can't find availability on the days I want to travel." And so here, it's really just as simple as if there's a ticket for sale for cash, you can use it as a companion pass seat.

Jen Yellin: That's right. And also I want to point out is these 100,000 points you earn from credit card, the credit card offer, or points you earn from any other method on Southwest, you can use points to book your flight and still add your companion onto a ticket that is used with points. It does not have to be a paid ticket. So you can think of this offer as kind of doubling, if you can earn the pass.

Ed Pizza: Absolutely. And it's a great benefit to eek out the vacations either with you and a significant other, or with the entire family. And in the grand scheme of things, when I think about all the cards that are out there, I actually kind of feel like these annual fees are probably some of the friendliest in the Chase portfolio. You got the entry card has a $69 annual fee. The premier has a $99 annual fee, and the priority has a $149 annual fee. You know, when we think about all the premium cards that are out there, those are pretty reasonable annual fees, wouldn't you say?

Jen Yellin: Absolutely. And you'll find that all three cards actually, the plus in the premier, the ones that are sub $100, on your anniversary, you receive rapid reward points that almost offset the fees. So maybe your out of pocket spend is, theoretically, like $15. So it's really not much. The priority one, you actually get credits and many more benefits that offset that $149 fee and you are coming out ahead. And this is another thing, there's also two business credit, and while those offers did not increase, they're still between 60 and 80,000 points, depending on the card.
And you can actually have a Southwest personal and Southwest business card open at the same time. So if you aren't going to... If you don't have the opportunity to earn those 13,000 extra points or hit the pass, or even if those that $12,000 minimum spend is hard to do, you can combine the offers on both cards and get the pass pretty easily. So you can earn the 50... You can spend $2,000 on the personal card, get the 50,000 points, sign up for the premier business card, get the 80,000 points, combine the two, and you have the pass pretty quickly, if you're eligible for a business card. Not sure if all that made sense.

Ed Pizza: It did. And you reminded me of something that I had forgotten, which is that priority card, the $149 annual fee card actually comes with a $75 Southwest travel credit. So right off the bat, if you're doing any sort of travel, you've cut the annual fee in half just by using that $75 credit.

Jen Yellin: Yes. Yep. Exactly. And that can be used towards a ticket, your taxes and fees if you're using points. Really anything.

Ed Pizza: Yeah. And that goes back to something that we talk a lot about on the show, which is always making sure that you're looking at the cards in your wallet, and you're making sure they're earning their keep. In August of 2020, a $75,000 Southwest travel credit was significantly less useful than it was in August of 2019. And, hopefully, will be significantly more useful in August of 2022. When all of us are traveling at a much more regular rate. So, I wouldn't even think of this $149 annual fee card as $149. I think of it as 75. There's no reason you should get this card if you're not going to fly Southwest, so you're absolutely going to use that credit.

Jen Yellin: Absolutely. Yeah. $75 credit is easy to use on Southwest. Cuts the fee in half, and then you still get other benefits as well.

Ed Pizza: Awesome. Are you carrying one of these cards right now?

Jen Yellin: More than one.

Ed Pizza: That's my girl.

Jen Yellin: I also have some of the cards that are no longer available. So I have-

Ed Pizza: Of course you do.

Jen Yellin: I maybe have four Southwest credit cards, because I applied for a few personal cards when you were allowed to have multiple personal cards in your wallet. Right now, Southwest will only approve you for a personal card if you are not currently a Southwest personal card owner, so if you've had it in the past, you've closed it, you can apply, but you're not allowed to have multiple ones at the same time for new account owners.

Ed Pizza: I love it. Of course you have multiples.

Jen Yellin: Of course. Now, I have to be honest, I'm not sure if I'm going to earning the pass next year.

Ed Pizza: Oh no! That'd be like the first time in 750 years that you don't have it.

Jen Yellin: I know it's crazy. I mean I had this before I was even a baby. I know. We'll see. I haven't been flying in the past 20 months. Southwest also eliminated a lot of routes from my home airport of Boston and Providence. So they used to have a lot of nonstop flights to Florida. And then from there you can kind of bridge out to other places. The flights have really diminished and hopefully it'll come back, but I'm finding myself not flying. Or not speculatively flying Southwest right now. So it's hard and I'm not sure if I'm going to shift all my spent to Southwest credit cards purely for the pass which I might not utilize.

Ed Pizza: Yeah. I was kind of bummed that they dropped Dulles Orlando since we go to Disney so often and they never brought it back. So it's been tough for me to make another run at the annual pass if I don't have those sort of built in trips, because our closest airport is BWI, which isn't horrible, but it's still an hour plus from the house, a bit of a hike when Dulles is just 15 minutes down the road. At any rate, I don't think we're ever going to see... I don't think anytime in the near future, we're going to see better offers than these. Is that fair to say?

Jen Yellin: That is fair to say. I would be surprised.

Ed Pizza: If you're thinking about it, this is a great time to look at it. And like Jen had said, make sure you time it so that you can get those bonuses. The beginning of 2022, not the end of 2021. We'll be linking your story in the show notes, Jen, but tell folks where they can find you talking about deals.

Jen Yellin: Sure. Thanks Ed for having me. You can find me at my website, DealsWeLike.com or any social media channels at DealsWeLike.

Ed Pizza: And in writing for CNN underscored, lots of great stuff over there as well.

Jen Yellin: That's right.

Ed Pizza: Cool Jen.

Jen Yellin: Thank you.

Ed Pizza: Thanks for being on the show. You guys stay tuned. We are going to be right back after the break with one of my mosquito bites, introducing you to another one of my favorite travel blog.
Back on the Miles To Go podcast. We are on Mosquito Island. There are a bunch of bloggers sitting in the pool hanging out and we are doing mosquito bites.

Nick Reyes: Mosquito bites.

Ed Pizza: Sound bites with some of my favorite travel bloggers. So I've got Nick Reyes here from Frequent Miler. Nick, tell folks a little bit about your background. I know you've been on the show before, but let's pretend like folks don't know who you are.

Nick Reyes: All right. Well I'm the senior author at Frequent Miler. So I write the quick deals. I write some of the morning analytical posts. I've been collecting miles and points for years. It kind of all started for me when I collected a ton of miles and points to do a four month honeymoon around the world. And that really hooked us because we got used to flying business and first class very quickly. So it was lot of fun. And so then I just kind of dove into this world and here I am now in Mosquito Island with you.

Ed Pizza: And you have moved into the family travel world at this point now, right?

Nick Reyes: I have. Yeah, that changed over the years. So, we have a three year old and now an almost one year old. And so yeah, it's a whole new world navigating travel, needing more seats and more space, et cetera.

Ed Pizza: So, let's hit you with five quick questions as our buddy Julian opens up beers right here by the recording. Thanks Julian. We appreciate that. So give me one of your favorite places you visited.

Nick Reyes: You know, on our honeymoon, we visited 18 different places and we were on a plane going to the last country and my wife asked me what my favorite was and I didn't have an answer and neither did she. And funny enough that the place we were on our way to was South Africa and a few weeks later we said, unequivocally, South Africa was the favorite stop on that trip for us. And the reason was just, it was magical going to Kruger National Park and just driving ourselves, renting a car from Avis and driving around the park ourselves, coming around the bend and seeing a rhinoceros, or a cheetah, or a leopard. That's just a magical thing that I think I never had on my radar as something possible. It was something I was going to see on the discovery channel, but something that I never really thought that I would be able to do, or if I did, I'd have to save forever and ever to do it. I didn't realize I was going to be able to use miles and points to be able to do that very inexpensively.

Ed Pizza: Well, I think when you talk about Kruger, we talked about this in the show a handful of weeks ago and it wasn't the first time we've talked about it, but Protea, if I'm pronouncing it correctly, small hotel chain that's part of Marriott, that has a great property right outside of one of the gates at Kruger. And I think it's like a category one our category two.

Nick Reyes: It was a category one. It might have gone up to category two, but yeah. I mean, we're talking very, very few Marriott points to stay literally 100 yards from the gate to Kruger National Park.

Ed Pizza: Yeah. And that's our... I think when we talk about how miles and points can be life changing, it's something where you say like, a safari can cost you tens of thousands of dollars or-

Nick Reyes: You can say for a week from the sign up bonus from a single card. Pretty crazy.

Ed Pizza: All right. So we talked about some of the great stuff. I know I've had some incredible fouls over the years. So talk about one of the mistakes that you remember most.

Nick Reyes: Well, the first redemption I ever made, I had some miles because we had flown... My wife and I didn't know anything about miles and points. Let me start there. Until we discovered this world, we didn't know anything about it, so we had just happened to have booked some cheap flights on United or Continental, I think at the time. And so we had some miles or I had some of my account cause I signed up for the free account. I had like 10,000 let's say or something like that. And we were planning a trip to Hawaii that we had booked just because it was a cheap cash fair, again, knew nothing about points. And then I said, oh, well I have some of these. Let me call United. We want to fly an inner island flight. Let me see if I can redeem my miles.
And so sure enough, it was something like the 10,000 miles that I had, plus because I was booking within 21 days, it was a $75 close in booking fee for a flight that was like $109 cash. So I mean total mistake in the sense that I didn't do any research. Now I look back and I say, wow, that was horrible. I got terrible value for my miles because I used miles and paid $75 where I could have just paid 109 and not used any miles and earned some miles because I didn't know enough to check the award charts. And that's a lesson that while, obviously it wouldn't make the same type of mistake again today exactly, it's a mistake that I've now avoided because I will check the cash price and the price with different programs. That was an important lesson to learn. And thankfully for me it was relatively cheap in the sense that it wasn't that many miles, it was a relatively easy lesson to reflect back on and say, wow, that was dumb.

Ed Pizza: Yeah. Yeah. All right. So one of your favorite loyalty programs.

Nick Reyes: So I mean, I know that lots and lots of travel bloggers love Hyat so I'm going to skip Hyat because everybody else loves it. So I think my favorite airline loyalty program is Avianca Life Miles because there are so many hidden sweet spots in that program. It's so gameable because with a mixed cabin redemption, you can pay many fewer miles than the standard price for an award ticket. And also there are many pricing anomalies on their award chart. So life miles I think is something really intriguing because if you only look at the award charts, you're not seeing the whole picture. And if you're willing to hunt around a little bit, and be a little flexible about where you position to, then sometimes you can find some really amazing, amazing, terrific deals. So, that's one that I'm a big fan of.

Ed Pizza: Cool. All right. So one of your favorite redemptions, either something that you think is a great value or a time where you really maximize miles and points to do something super awesome.

Nick Reyes: You know, I feel like it'd be hard for me not to say Turkish Miles and Smiles because Turkish Miles and Smiles, for those unfamiliar, has an incredible award chart for domestic flights, domestic star Alliance flights. So you can book a flight on United all the way to Hawaii or Alaska from anywhere that United serves in the United States for 7,500 miles in economy class when there's availability or 12,500, if you find a unicorn business class seat. And that was something that I had stumbled on and reported. And so it was a cool find and I love Hawaii. I always say half my brain is in Hawaii. Most of my wardrobe is Hawaiian shirts. So that, for me, was a particularly special find. So I think that's got to be my favorite.

Ed Pizza: And as we sit here in one of the most aspirational places I've been sitting on mosquito island in the Caribbean, the Bridge Virgin Islands, you can't use that as your answer for the next one. So give me a trip that you're looking forward to. We've been on the sidelines for so long. What's a place you're looking forward to going to in the next handful of months.

Nick Reyes: Yeah. You know, I don't have any trips booked... I take that back, I have a trip to Spain booked for tomorrow that I need to cancel still. So thank you for reminding me of that again, but I don't actually have... I have trips planned just to visit family and I'm looking forward to getting together with family that I haven't been able to see much, but I think that when I put travel back on the docket, one of the places I'm looking forward to going back to very much is Greece. I love Greece. The food is terrific. Prices are reasonable. Lots of good redemptions. So that's a place I look forward to going back to with my kids because I feel like it's also very kid friendly.

Ed Pizza: It is very kid friendly.

Nick Reyes: So that's a place high on my list at the moment, even though I've been a couple of times and I love it. And there are lots of other places I love and lots of places I haven't been that I'd love to get to. That's a place I very much look forward to getting to again.

Ed Pizza: Yeah. It was the first place our kids tried muscles and loved them. And then we ate at a restaurant down south in the Colson Villamania where we ordered a golden snapper. They cooked it up for us. It had been caught the day before and the kids just got the pick off of it at the table. So I think if your kids are even a little bit adventurous as an eater, there's so many fun things in Greece for them to do.

Nick Reyes: There are. You know, and one of the things that we like to do, that's very simple with kids is we find a playground, a local playground. And the chance to play with kids from another country and another culture. It's always amazing because kids love to have fun and they share that and smile is a universal language. And so our older son always finds another kid or usually an older kid that kind of takes him under the wing. And I think it's valuable for me to be able to give him experiences like that, to become comfortable in those situations, is one of the things I really value.

Ed Pizza: Yeah. And they don't need to speak the same language. You're absolutely right.

Nick Reyes: Exactly. And in Greece, that's one of those things that we just found lots of little neighborhoods where we were able to do that kind of thing.

Ed Pizza: All right. Before I kick you out back into the pool, tell folks where they can find you.

Nick Reyes: You can find me at frequentmiler.com. So it's frequentmiler.com. You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram, Nick at FM, but you can follow the Frequent Miler groups and the Frequent Miler Facebook group. That's the Frequent Miler insiders. So we're all over the place. You can find us at anywhere you're looking.

Ed Pizza: All right, man, jump back in the pool. Thanks for stopping by.

Nick Reyes: Thank you very much.

Ed Pizza: That's a full wrap on this week's episode, you can find links to everything we discussed today in the show notes, a big thanks to all of you for tuning into this week's show. If any of you have questions or suggestions for a future show, you can drop me an email at ed@pizzainmotion.com or hit me up on social media, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram all at pizza in motion. And you can find me blogging daily@pizzainmotion.com. Until we upload again, we've got miles to go.

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