Let’s face it, stashing points and making that first class award booking is difficult enough when traveling alone, but for couples, traveling on points can sometimes seem impossible. Since my wife and I got married in 2012, we’ve been traveling together a lot. I’ve come to learn that booking awards for two is a double edged sword. Having the ability to apply for two of every credit card is great, but when it comes time to book, finding two open seats on a plane, especially in premium cabins, can be quite the task.
Today, I wanted to discuss some tips for traveling couples that can reduce the headache of booking and hopefully help you enjoy the planning process more. For me, planning a trip is just as much fun as taking it. I get obsessed with getting the best plane, seat, room and car that I can for my points. It’s bordering on unhealthy. But, if you know where to look and what types of points to collect, you’re going to be a lot better off when it comes time to make that transfer or buy a ticket.
Transferable points are as good as gold
For many of you experienced points enthusiasts, you’re probably saying “no duh.” But there are so many people that only collect either United, Delta or American miles and get frustrated when they can’t book two round trip tickets in business class to Europe during the time they need to go. Transferable points like Chase Ultimate Rewards Points, American Express Membership Rewards Points, Starwood Points or Citi ThankYou Points can be transferred directly to your loyalty account at large variety of airlines and hotels.
A coworker of mine is very proud of his United and Marriott cards from Chase. When I told him he could get a Chase Sapphire Preferred and transfer Ultimate Rewards Points to not only those brands, but many others as well, he looked at me like I was speaking another language. Diversifying your points portfolio is important and that not only means having points in a variety of loyalty programs but also having a variety of transferable points. I have points in all of the above programs and it gives me access to nearly every loyalty program known to man, which in turn gives me a great deal of flexibility.
Get the Southwest Companion Pass
Don’t get conned by the airline credit cards that offer you one companion ticket for $99 + taxes and fees annually when you book with cash. In some cases these are a good value, but for most couples, the Southwest Companion Pass is a much better deal. This pass allows you to add a companion to your reservation for FREE, regardless if you paid with cash or Southwest points. If there is an open seat on the plane, your designated travel buddy can have it.
The Companion Pass is earned by obtaining 110,000 Southwest points in a single year and will be valid for the remainder of the year you earned it, plus the next year. The easiest way to get those 110,000 points required to qualify is with the Southwest Personal and Southwest Business credit cards from Chase. Generally, the sign up bonus on each of these cards in 50,000 points after spending $2,000 in purchases on each card in the first three months. After getting both cards and meeting the minimum spend, you’ll have 104,000 points and only need another 6,000 to qualify. You can do a number of things to meet that difference, but here are my three favorites: (1) You can fly, (2) Spend $6,000 on the cards, or (3) shop for everyday items through the Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal. For more info, check out this post at View From the Wing.
I reccomend applying for these cards at the end of the year, meet the minimum spend early in the new year (not before) and enjoy this amazing benefit for nearly 2 full years. My wife and I got roughly $8,000 in free travel out of this strategy. Also, be conscience of the Chase 5/24 rule when applying. Here is a great post from Ben at One Mile at a Time to explain what that is.
Book in advance
This goes without saying, but couples who want to fly in a premium cabin need to book a ways out if they’re using points. Not to say that you can’t find last minute redemptions, but they are NOT there more often than they are. American Airlines is notorious for only opening one award seat in business class on each flight. Do this, and you’ll surely avoid the temptation of applying for the Capital One Venture Card. No matter what Jennifer Garner tells you, THAT CARD IS TRASH AND THOSE ARE NOT “MILES,” THEY’RE DIGITAL PENNIES!!!!!!!!
Put together a credit card strategy
As I mentioned above, being able to apply for 2 of each credit card really opens up the world to couples. My wife and I both have our own version of a number of cards and this has allowed us to pool a lot of points together to take big trips. Most airlines won’t allow you to transfer your frequent flyer points to your spouse for free, but when you have Chase Ultimate Rewards Points or Starwood Points you can pool them all into one account at no charge. There are workarounds for pooling American Express points, like adding your spouse as an authorized user then transferring your points to their frequent flyer account. Please also keep in mind that in most cases, adding your spouse as an authorized user will count toward the Chase 5/24 limit.
Sit down, write out what cards you each want to get, put them on a calendar, spread them out among you and stick to your plan. You’ll be surprised how quickly the points accumulate.
I love traveling with my wife, we have a lot of fun taking big trips that we couldn’t otherwise afford if not for miles and points. It’s been great for us as a couple and I hope this hobby will be great for you as well. If you’re new to the hobby and have questions, leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer. I’m here to help my readers understand the process and answer questions. If you’re a points veteran, feel free to add any other tips I may have missed.