Today you are going to learn how to create the ultimate Southwest student discount, which is one of the best kept secrets in the travel industry. When my Midwest-raised daughter wanted to pursue her passion and attend film school in California, we needed to reduce every cost possible to make it work. So I started racking my brain on how to minimize the airline fares since we live many states away.

After researching many different options, I concluded Southwest Airlines was by far the best option to achieve our goal of creating the best student discounts in the industry. With Southwest Airlines’ deal being so good, with a little teamwork and the right strategic plan in place, we could achieve free airfare during her college years.

Introducing the “Southwest Student Discount Scholarship”

What I discovered is so amazing that I had to give the system a name, so I’m calling it the “Southwest Student Discount Scholarship.” A team effort is needed in order to achieve the student discount fares. There must be three team members to maximize the “Southwest Student Discount Scholarship.” You need two family members or close friends with pretty good credit scores and a willingness to give the future/current college student some of their earned Southwest Airlines points. And of course, you must have a current or future college student who needs to travel for school (or for fun… that works too).

How the “Southwest Student Discount Scholarship” works

The cornerstone of this system is earning the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass by accumulating 125,000 Southwest Airlines points in one calendar year. I know this sounds like a lot, but it is actually easier than you think. The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass allows anyone who receives this award to travel with any companion of their choice for free. For example, if Mom and Dad want to fly with their child to drop them off at school before the year starts, Mom would be the owner of the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass and fly for free using her airline points, Dad would fly for free as her companion, and their child would fly using Mom’s airline points.

The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass can benefit a college student in many ways.

1) The parent who aquires the Companion Pass may designate their college student as their companion and fly with the student to or from their out-of-state college destination, with the student flying free as the companion.

2) If both parents wanted to fly with their college student to their out-of-state campus, the parent who acquires the Companion Pass can designate their spouse as their companion, which would allow more earned points to be allocated towards the college student’s flight.

3) The process of acquiring the Companion Pass will allow one of the parents to accumulate many Southwest Airlines Rapid Reward points, which can be allocated to your college student’s flights if they are flying solo.

The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass can be acquired by applying for a couple of Southwest Airlines credit cards at the right time in the correct order.

The “Southwest Student Discount Scholarship” Timeline

Before getting into the details of this college cost-saving system, please review the below infographic to get familiar with the process milestones. The timeline below will maximize the “Southwest Student Discount Scholarship” award. But like most scholarships, the awards can vary. So you could partially implement this cost saving system and still reap significant benefits.

After you accomplish the 7 steps in the infographic, you can use your Companion Pass for the year in which you earned it and the following year. For example, if you earn your Companion Pass in February of 2023, then you will be able to use the pass for the remainder of 2023 and the entire year of 2024. But you can start on meeting the minimum spend requirement for each card in 2022; you just can’t complete the minimum spend requirements until 2023 if you want to maximize the amount of time you have to use the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass.

The 7 steps needed to be awarded the full “Southwest Student Discount Scholarship”

So there are a total of 7 steps needed to maximize the family’s Southwest Airlines points. Let’s look at each step in detail.

Step 1:  Sign up for the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card

So the first step for Parent # 1 (could also be a grandparent or family friend) is to sign up for the Southwest Airlines Performance Business Card. A lot of people reading this will stop here and say to themselves, “I don’t have a business.” But if you earn any income that isn’t recorded on a W-2, then you have a business. Therefore, you may already have a business, but never really thought of it as a business. If this is the case, there is a chance you can still qualify for the Southwest Airlines Performance Business Card.

If you don’t have any income that would qualify as business income, then you can still apply for the other credit cards and receive Southwest Airlines Rapid Reward points to help pay for your college student’s airline fares.

At the time of writing this article, this card would earn you 80,000 points towards your Companion Pass. This particular credit card usually awards the most points compared to the others, but it can range anywhere from 40,000 to 80,000 depending on the promotion at the time.

There are a wide range of perks you will receive with this card, which are as follows:

  • Anniversary points for each year you hold the card.
  • Up to $100 in TSA Pre Check application fee credit
  • 4 upgraded boardings per year.
  • When purchasing various services, you will receive multiple points for every dollar spent.

The annual fee for this card is $199 per year, and you must spend $5,000 on the card in the first 3 months.

To qualify for this card, your credit score should be between 670 and 850.

In order to maximize the time you have with a Southwest Airlines Companion Pass, you would want to start the spending needed to meet the $5,000 minimum spend at the end of a calendar year, but then you would want to finish the spending requirement at the beginning of the next calendar year. DO NOT FINISH THE MINIMUM SPEND UNTIL THE NEW YEAR BEGINS! Since the points associated with the credit card sign up aren’t awarded until you meet the minimum spend, you would be able to accumulate the points needed for the Companion Pass at the beginning of the year, which would give you almost two years to use the pass for your travels.

Step 2: Sign up for the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card

So the second step for Parent # 1 is to sign up for the Southwest Airlines Priority Consumer Card. But you should wait at least 30 days after applying for the business card. Having two open applications at the same time for two different cards can cause some red flags. Therefore, you want to make sure the first application is completely processed before applying for a second card, even if the cards are two different types.

At the time of writing this article, this card would earn you 75,000 points towards your Companion Pass. This particular credit card usually awards points in the range of anywhere from 40,000 to 75,000 depending on the promotion at the time.

There are a wide range of perks you will receive with this card, which are as follows:

  • Anniversary points for each year you hold the card (super deal)
  • Annual travel credit up to $75 (nice extra discount)
  • 4 upgraded boardings per year 
  • When purchasing various services, you will receive multiple points for every dollar spent.

The annual fee for this card is $149 per year, and you must spend $1,000 on the card in the first 3 months.

In order to maximize the time you have with a Southwest Airlines Companion Pass, you would want to start the spending needed to meet the $1,000 minimum spend at the end of a calendar year, but then you would want to finish the spending requirement at the beginning of the next calendar year. DO NOT FINISH THE MINIMUM SPEND UNTIL THE NEW YEAR BEGINS!  Since the points associated with the credit card sign up aren’t awarded until you meet the minimum spend, you would be able to accumulate the points needed for the Companion Pass at the beginning of the year, which would give you almost two years to use the pass for your travels.

Keep in mind that you will need to combine your business card points with your consumer card points to get close to the 125,000 point goal of receiving a Southwest Airlines Companion Pass.

Step 3: Use both cards to buy the necessary items.

So in order to achieve the needed points for the Companion Pass, you will need to spend $5,000 between Oct and Jan on the business card and then another $1,000 between Nov Feb on the consumer card. The good news is that most of us do most of our spending towards the end of the year.

If possible, delay any bigger purchases until the end of the year. Also, the holidays are upon us at the end of the year, which gives us plenty of opportunities to use the newly acquired Southwest Airlines cards on things we were going to purchase anyway.

When purchasing items, please be a responsible consumer. Don’t purchase items you normally wouldn’t purchase just to meet the minimum spend requirements to get the points. Also, don’t carry a balance on your credit cards into the next month. Pay it off each month. Carrying a balance will cause interest to accumulate, which will eventually negate the benefits of these special discounts on travel. This system works only when paired with financial responsibility. 

Step 4: Complete your spending on both credit cards.

After the new calendar year begins, it is time to meet the minimum spending requirements on both Southwest Airlines credit cards. You also need to make sure you meet the spending requirements before the 3-month period ends on each card. So you have a small window to complete the needed steps in order to maximize the benefits of the Companion Pass and to receive these exclusive discounts on airfare.

If you signed up for the business card first, then you will want to finish the spending requirements on that card before the consumer card so you don’t risk going over the 3 month time limit. As soon as the business card requirements are met, then you can finish the spending requirements on the consumer card.

These spending amounts should be small, because in the previous calendar year you should have met at least 90% of the minimum spending requirements. After the spending requirements are met, you will receive your awarded points on the next billing cycle. Now you are really close to reaching 125,000 points and earning the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass!

Step 5: Earn the remaining points required to reach the Companion Pass’s 125,000 point balance.

After receiving the Rapid Rewards points from the first two credit cards, you will most likely be a few points shy of the 125,000 needed to receive the Companion Pass. There are multiple ways to achieve these last remaining points. The easiest and most obvious way is to continue using the Southwest Airlines cards. For every dollar you spend, you will receive the equivalent number of points. And for certain categories of purchases, you could receive 2x or 3x the points for every dollar spent.

Other ways to enhance your Rapid Rewards shopping experience when purchasing your favorite products is to use the following services:

1) Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Dining Program

2) The Rapid Rewards Shopping experience

3) Southwest Airlines travel portal

4) Shopping offers on the Southwest Airlines website using discount codes

Step 6: Add additional points to your 125,000 total

Congrats! You now have the Companion Pass, which is the best way possible to receive the ultimate student discount flight. Now is the time to acquire additional points so your family and friends can come visit your school student.   Another productive way to shop for your favorite products is to use the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. This card is considered by many to be the best overall travel card, as it provides the holders a wide range of travel options and huge discounts.

At the time of writing this article, this card would earn you 60,000 points that you could transfer over to Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points. The initial sign up points may vary depending on the types of promotions available at the time.

There are a wide range of perks you will receive with this card, which are as follows:

  • You will receive multiple points for every dollar spent when purchasing various services.
    • 5X points on travel when using the card (super deal).
    • 3X on dining
    • 2X on other various purchases.

The annual fee for this card is $95 per year and you must spend $4,000 on the card in the first 3 months. To qualify for this card, your credit score should be between 670 and 850.

Also, keep in mind that you can transfer these earned points to other airlines and hotel partners. It doesn’t have to be Southwest Airlines. This particular card provides a lot of flexibility.

Step 7: It’s time for you college student to get some skin in the game.

If you have a college student who is disciplined and responsible, now may be a great time to help them build their credit. If your college student travels to and from school, the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for students may be a good place to start.

At the time of writing this article and according to the Bank of America website, this card would earn 25,000 travel points. With this particular card you can’t transfer the points over to Southwest Airlines. But these points can be used with any airline. After you book a trip using this card on any site, the card will credit your flight value based on the number of points you have earned.

There are a few perks you will receive with this card, which are as follows:

  • Will receive 1.5 points for every dollar spent.
  • No annual fee

Must spend $1,000 on the card in the first 3 months to receive the 25,000 point bonus.

Congrats!  Now is the perfect time to fly free.

One of the parents has received a Southwest Airlines Companion Pass and accumulated enough points to give you about two years’ worth of free flying, assuming you use your points wisely. Not only does this system reduce cost barriers for going to school out-of-state, but it might also give parents more opportunities to visit their child at school.

Continue this astonishing discount by repeating the process for Parent # 2.

When your two years of astonishing discounts on airfare are coming to an end, you can repeat the same process for Parent # 2 and receive two more years of Southwest student discounts.  You can even continue this process after your college years by implementing just a couple of additional simple steps.

This system creates your own student discount fare whose value may outweigh many military discounts, corporate discounts, responder discounts, teacher discounts, or government discounts you would receive from Southwest Airlines. This is a great system for college students and their families who need to travel.

Disclaimer: It is not recommended to use this system if balances are going to be carried on the credit cards each month, which would accumulate significant amounts of interest on the listed credit cards. Also, this system should only be used if you purchase items on the credit cards that you would have purchased regardless of whether you sign up for the listed credit cards. The purpose of this article is to make you aware of the possibility of achieving free or reduced priced airfare with Southwest Airlines. Please consult with your financial advisor before implementing this system or partially implementing it.

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