My Firm Always Flies for Free — Business Success Story

Jul 14, 2018

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Whenever Shaun Spellman flies for work, he flies for free on Southwest Airlines.

That’s thanks to the roughly $100,000 annual spend that Spellman, the owner of e-commerce websites like TopStyle.co, has put on his Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card.

Two years ago, Spellman — who was no Southwest loyalist before owning the Chase co-branded card — and his wife applied for both the business card and the personal version, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, after moving themselves and their businesses from Upstate New York to Florida. They knew they’d be flying back to visit family frequently and were attracted to Southwest’s sign-up offer and its generous Companion Pass, which his wife uses whenever he flies.

The points they’ve earned have helped to pay for both business trips and to keep the family connected.

“We’ve been able to fly parents and nephews and nieces and brothers-in-law and sisters,” Spellman says. “It’s been great for that as well as saving lots of money on flights for business and pleasure.”

Here’s a look at Spellman, his business and how he managed to succeed and thrive in earning and using airline points.

Running a ‘Location-Independent’ Business

Spellman has been self-employed for the last seven years after working in the marketing departments of several companies, as well as offering his consulting expertise independently. He and his wife operate several e-commerce websites, selling everything from custom jewelry to clothing.

“Basically we wanted to create a business that didn’t require a location,” Spellman says. “We wanted to be location independent. It allows us to travel. It’s basically why we run these e-commerce businesses and how we decided to accumulate points.”

A big chunk of Spellman’s business budget goes into online advertising, particularly on Facebook, where he can tailor ads for his print on-demand apparel to consumers’ hobbies or lifestyles. “It’s very easy to pair up what people are passionate about,” he says. “There’s just unlimited capabilities for coming up with different designs and styles.”

Approximate Annual Spend

Spellman says his annual business credit card spending is in “the six-figure range.”

Credit Cards Used

Along with the Southwest Card, Spellman also uses the Capital One Spark Cash for Business and American Express® Business Gold Card to pay for his business’ needs.

Points Earned

Spellman earns and redeems points quickly, so he’s unsure just how many Southwest points he’s earned in the last couple of years. “Two-hundred forty thousand miles. That was the most I’ve seen in my account at once,” he says. He estimates total earnings have well exceeded that mark.

The couple earned bonuses on both cards when they first opened them. Here’s what the Southwest cards offer today:

  • Earn 40,000 points on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Earn 60,000 points on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.

That put the couple within shouting distance of the airline’s 110,000 qualifying points required to earn the Companion Pass, which allows you to bring along a designated friend or family member on any Southwest flight you take. You just have to pay airline fees and taxes.

The bonus alone (not including the money spend qualifying for the bonus) left the couple needing to spend $5,000 on Southwest (2 points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases hotel and car rental partner purchases ) or $10,000 on everything else (1 point per dollar on all other purchases).

That wasn’t an issue, as Spellman says he put ad spend, office supplies and office equipment on the card.

Note: This strategy of opening two Southwest credit cards to quickly earn enough points to qualify for the Companion Pass still works if you open the business and consumer versions (and you still fall below Chase’s 5/24 rule), but you can no longer open both consumer cards, the Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card.

In addition to the welcome bonus points and points Spellman earned from spending on his business, he also receives 6,000 bonus points after each card-year anniversary, one of the perks of the Southwest business card. Meanwhile, the personal version of the card earns 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points toward Southwest elite status for every $10,000 he spends on the card annually (up to 15,000 TQPs).

The lowest tier in Southwest’s program, A-List, normally requires 25 qualifying one-way flights or 35,000 TQPs in a calendar year. Once you reach that status, A-List members will earn 25% more points than non-status flyers.

But it’s that Companion Pass that Spellman has enjoyed most.

“We have had a Companion Pass for the last two years, allowing my wife to travel for free with me anywhere Southwest flies to,” he says. “This is especially important because as an internet-based e-commerce store, we do quite a bit of traveling to different conferences and events.”

Points Redemptions

Redemptions are split equally between business and pleasure traveling, Spellman says, which occurs once every month or so. “One-hundred percent of the time we use points,” Spellman says. “I’m a little sad because I switched over to the Capital One card (for some of his business spend), and I don’t know if I’m going to reach the 110,000 points to renew the Companion Pass at the end of the year.”

Takeaways

Spellman says you just have to put in the time to find the card that benefits you the most.

“I’d say just do the little extra research and just ask around and learn the combined benefits (of multiple cards) so you can put it back into your business or you can help out a family member,” he says.

“I tend to stick to the programs that I like and know how to use. I like to keep it simple.”

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