The Master Guide to Earning & Using the Southwest Companion Pass
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The Master Guide to Earning & Using the Southwest Companion Pass

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We’re not ashamed to admit it: We love Southwest Airlines. From their resistance to basic economy to their rejection of change and cancelation fees, they just do things differently than most airlines – and that’s a good thing. And then there’s perhaps the best feature of all: the Southwest Companion Pass.

You won’t find a better deal in the world of travel than the Southwest Companion Pass. Other airlines like Delta and Alaska have companion certificates for travelers, but Southwest’s pass is the most lucrative by far – and it isn’t close. If you regularly fly domestically (including Hawaii) or even to Mexico and the Caribbean with a companion, this unlimited buy-one, get-one pass can be invaluable.

We’ll walk you through how you can earn it, how to best use it, and why you should want the Southwest Companion Pass.

 

 

What is the Southwest Companion Pass? 

The Companion Pass from Southwest Airlines lets you choose one person to fly free with you every time you purchase a flight or redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards points for a flight on Southwest. There are no blackout dates and no questions asked. If the flight is bookable, you can add your companion.

For every flight booked with the Southwest Companion Pass, you need only pay for taxes and fees ($11.20 round trip on domestic flights) for your companion. And that’s the case regardless of whether you pay cash for your ticket or book with Southwest Rapid Rewards points.

 

southwest companion pass

 

But perhaps the best part of the Southwest companion pass is there are no limits on how often you can use it. And it’s valid for the year you earn it … and the entire following calendar year. So if you earn it in January or February of 2021, you could use the Companion Pass all the way through 2022. That’s almost two full years of buy one, get one free flights.

Finally, Southwest allows you to change your designated companion up to three times each calendar year. This can be done over the phone with a Southwest customer service agent, although it can take a few days (or even weeks) to take effect. You may even be able to change your companion by messaging Southwest via Twitter.

 

How to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass

A year (or even two?!) of BOGO flights? It’s not too good to be true. And while earning the Southwest Companion Pass does require some effort, it can certainly be done.

In order to earn the coveted Southwest companion pass, you need to either earn 125,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points or fly 100 one-way revenue flights in a calendar year. That means flights booked with Southwest points won’t qualify.

But either way, it’s not as bad as it sounds. While 125,000 points might sound like a lot, the points you earn from a Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card sign-up bonus count towards that total.

And seeing as those cards are out with welcome bonuses of 80,000 points, now is a great time to map out your gameplan to earn the Companion Pass for 2021 and 2022 travel.

We will dive into more detail below about both options for earning your companion pass.

 

Southwest Companion Pass

 

Why Now is the Best Time to Work Towards a Companion Pass

It’s all about timing.

When you earn the Southwest Companion Pass, it lasts for the rest of the year in which you earn it and the entire following calendar year. So to squeeze as much as you can out of it, you want to earn it as early as possible in the new year.

As 2021 approaches, that means the time is ripe to get started. We’ll lay out a few strategies to earn the Companion Pass shortly. But no matter which path you take, it’s important to nail the timing.

Let’s say you plan to earn the Southwest Companion Pass through earning signup bonuses on Southwest credit cards. Opening one of Southwest’s personal credit cards now can get you 90,000 Rapid Rewards points, thanks to the larger welcome bonuses currently available on those cards. That gets you nearly three-quarters of the points you need.

But you want to ensure you don’t actually earn those points until 2021 rolls around. If you earn the Southwest points you need to unlock the Companion Pass before the year ends, you’ll only have the pass through 2021.

Earn those points in January or February instead, and your Southwest Companion Pass will be valid all the way through 2022.

 

Method #1: Sign-Up Bonuses From Southwest Credit Cards

Read closely: This is the easiest way to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.

To earn the 125,000 miles necessary to unlock the Companion Pass, all points earned from the Chase co-branded Southwest Airlines credit cards count. But there’s one hitch that complicates things.

Chase bank restricts you from holding more than one of the Southwest personal credit cards. That means that the easiest way to earn the Companion Pass is by getting one of the personal Southwest card and one Southwest business card. 

So if you aren’t eligible to open a Chase business card, this method won’t work. You’ll have to focus on earning more points from one of the personal credit cards. That’s certainly feasible, though not as easy as stacking bonuses from both a personal and business Southwest credit card.

 

southwest credit cards

 

Keep in mind that you don’t need to own a massive corporation to be eligible: If you own or are starting even a small business (without an official structure), you may be able to get approved for a Chase business card. That said, Chase is more strict than some others with their business card application approvals.

And there are other caveats to keep in mind.

For starters, you won’t be able to earn a sign-up bonus on one of the Southwest personal cards if you have earned a sign-up bonus on any of the three Southwest Airlines personal credit cards in the past 24 months. Chase only allows you to hold one of the personal Southwest credit cards at a time.

Finally, all of the Chase co-branded Southwest Airlines credit cards also fall under Chase’s 5/24 rule. If you have more than five new credit card accounts (from any bank, not just Chase) within the last 24 months, you will be declined for a new Chase card – regardless of your credit score or history with Chase bank.

Watch our YouTube video to learn more about the Chase 5/24 rule.

 

 

The Southwest Airlines Credit Card Portfolio

The portfolio of Southwest airlines credit cards has something for everybody. In total, there are three different personal credit cards and two business cards. But critically, the sign-up bonus offers on all of the personal credit cards is the same.

So deciding which one is right for you will largely come down to the other benefits the card offers and the annual fee. Here’s a breakdown of each card.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card

  • Sign-Up Bonus: Earn 65,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points after spending $2,000 in the first three months of card membership. This is a limited-time offer that ends July 14, 2021. 
  • Anniversary Bonus: Each year on your cardmember anniversary, you will receive 7,500 Rapid Rewards points.
  • Priority Boarding: Each cardmember anniversary, you will receive four upgraded boarding positions. Simply purchase an upgrade on the day of your travel with the Priority card. You’ll receive a boarding number between A1 and A15, and be reimbursed via statement credit within eight weeks.
  • Annual Travel Credit: Receive an annual travel credit of $75 to use on Southwest Airlines flights.
  • 20% Back on In-Flight Purchases: Receive 20% back via statement credits for in-flight purchases. This can be used for drinks, movies, and purchasing Wi-Fi and messaging.
  • Earn 2x Rapid Rewards Points: Per dollar spent on purchases with Southwest Airlines and its hotel and rental car partners.
  • Earn 5x Rapid Rewards Points: Per dollar spent on Southwest purchases between Dec. 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, on up to $2,000 per month.
  • Earn 1x Rapid Rewards Points: On all other spending on the card.
  • Chase 5/24 Rule: The card will be subject to the Chase 5/24 rule, so you may not be approved for the card depending on how many credit cards you’ve opened in the last two years.
  • Annual Fee: The card has an annual fee of $149, which is not waived for the first year of card membership.

 

Southwest Credit Card

 

Click Here to learn more about the Southwest Priority Credit Card.

 

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

  • Sign-Up Bonus: Earn 65,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points after spending $2,000 in the first three months of card membership. This is a limited-time offer that ends July 14, 2021.
  • Anniversary Bonus: Each year on your cardmember anniversary, you will receive 6,000 Rapid Rewards points.
  • Earn 5x Rapid Rewards Points: Per dollar spent on Southwest purchases between Dec. 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, on up to $2,000 per month.
  • Earn 2x Rapid Rewards Points: Per dollar spent on purchases with Southwest Airlines and its hotel and rental car partners.
  • Earn 1x Rapid Rewards Points: Per dollar on all other spending on the card.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Chase 5/24 Rule: The card will be subject to the Chase 5/24 rule, so you may not be approved for the card depending on how many credit cards you’ve opened in the last two years.
  • Annual Fee: The card has an annual fee of $99, which is not waived for the first year of card membership.

 

Southwest Credit Card

 

Click Here to get more details on the Southwest Premier Credit Card.

 

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

  • Sign-Up Bonus: Earn 65,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points after spending $2,000 in the first three months of card membership. This is a limited-time offer that ends July 14, 2021.
  • Anniversary Bonus: Each year on your cardmember anniversary, you will receive 3,000 Rapid Rewards points.
  • Earn 5x Rapid Rewards Points: Per dollar spent on Southwest purchases between Dec. 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, on up to $2,000 per month.
  • Earn 2x Rapid Rewards Points: Per dollar spent on purchases with Southwest Airlines and its hotel and rental car partners.
  • Earn 1x Rapid Rewards Points: Per dollar on all other spending on the card.
  • Chase 5/24 Rule: The card will be subject to the Chase 5/24 rule, so you may not be approved for the card depending on how many credit cards you’ve opened in the last two years.
  • Annual Fee: The card has an annual fee of $69, which is not waived for the first year of card membership.

 

Southwest Credit Card

 

Click Here to get more details on the Southwest Plus Credit Card.

 

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Card

If you can get approved for a Chase business card, there is no easier path to the companion pass than the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Card. You’ll earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months of card membership. See the full details below.

  • Sign-Up Bonus: You’ll earn 80,000 points after spending $5,000 within the first three months of card membership.
  • Anniversary Bonus: Each year on your cardmember anniversary, you will receive 9,000 Rapid Rewards points.
  • Earn 3x Rapid Rewards Points: Per dollar spent on Southwest purchases.
  • Earn 2x Rapid Rewards Points: Per dollar spent on social media and search engine advertising, internet, cable, and phone services.
  • Earn 1x Rapid Rewards Points: Per dollar on all other spending on the card.
  • Four upgraded boardings per year (when available).
  • Up to a $100 statement credit every four years for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.
  • Up to 365 Inflight WiFi Credits each year.
  • Chase 5/24 Rule: The card will be subject to the Chase 5/24 rule, so you may not be approved for the card depending on how many credit cards you’ve opened in the last two years.
  • Annual Fee: The card has an annual fee of $199, which is not waived for the first year of card membership.

 

southwest credit card

 

Click Here to get more information on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Card.

 

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card is the other option on the business card front. And while the sign-up bonus offer isn’t quite as big as it is on the Performance card – the spending requirement is also much smaller. That makes it a great option to pair with one of the personal cards to get over the needed 125,000 point hump to earn the pass.

  • Sign-Up Bonus: You’ll earn 60,000 points after spending $3,000 within the first three months of card membership.
  • Anniversary Bonus: Each year on your cardmember anniversary, you will receive 6,000 Rapid Rewards points.
  • Earn 2x Rapid Rewards Points: Per dollar spent on Southwest purchases.
  • Earn 1x Rapid Rewards Points: Per dollar on all other spending on the card.
  • Chase 5/24 Rule: The card will be subject to the Chase 5/24 rule, so you may not be approved for the card depending on how many credit cards you’ve opened in the last two years.
  • Annual Fee: The card has an annual fee of $99, which is not waived for the first year of card membership.

 

southwest credit card

 

Click Here to get more information on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card.

 

Earning Method #2: Be a Southwest Frequent Flyer

Frequent Southwest flyers can also earn the Companion Pass by flying 100 one-way revenue flights in a single calendar year. Regardless of how many Rapid Rewards points you earn on these flights, hitting that 100-flight threshold will unlock the Companion Pass.

For example, a paid, round-trip flight with a connection each way counts as two total segments toward the Companion Pass.

This certainly isn’t the easiest way to earn your Companion Pass – I would guess that more than 90% of Southwest Companion Pass holders earned it through credit card sign-up bonuses. But this is still a strong option for Southwest Airlines road warriors.

 

Do Chase Points Transfers Count Towards Companion Pass?

Southwest credit cards aren’t the only way to pile up Southwest Rapid Rewards points fast.

You can also transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to your Southwest account from cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve. These points transfer on a 1:1 basis, so every 1,000 Chase points will net you 1,000 Southwest points.

Unfortunately, these transfers will not count toward the 125,000 points you need to earn the Companion Pass.

That doesn’t mean these transfers are useless. Once you’ve earned your pass, you can transfer Chase points to Southwest to book a flight, then add your companion for only the cost of the taxes and fees.

Read Our Master Guide to Earning & Burning Chase Ultimate Rewards Points. 

 

Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve

 

Other Ways to Earn Miles for the Companion Pass

Though credit card sign-up bonuses are the easiest way to get to the required 125,000 miles needed to earn the companion pass, there are a few other points-earning methods that will count towards earning it.

For starters, any miles earned from referrals of any of the Southwest credit cards mentioned above will count towards the 125,000 points needed to earn the pass. Seeing as you can earn up to 10,000 miles for reach referral (capped at 55,000 each year), these can add up quickly.

Additionally, both the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal, and Rapid Rewards Dining Portal will count towards your 125,000 point total. We are a huge fan of shopping and dining portals as they allow you to earn additional points and miles for spending you are going to do anyhow.

You can also earn companion pass eligible Southwest Rapid Rewards points by booking hotels through Southwest Hotels. Generally speaking, you will earn one Southwest point per dollar you spend on hotels. But you can also find bonuses like the one pictured below.

 

Southwest Companion Pass

 

Finally, you can even earn companion pass eligible miles by renting a car through one of the Southwest Rapid Rewards rental car partners.

If you are only a few thousand points short of earning your Southwest Companion Pass, these methods can be a great option to get you over the 125,000 point hump.

 

How to Use the Southwest Companion Pass

Most airlines limit how you can use a companion certificate – how often you can use it, where you can fly. Southwest isn’t like that.

The Southwest Companion Pass is eligible for unlimited flights – both domestic and international. And while Southwest doesn’t have a huge international route network, you can use it to fly you and your companion all over the U.S., Mexico, the Carribean, and even the airline’s relatively new flights to Hawaii.

Compare that with an airline like Delta, which limits companion certificates to one use and domestic locations within the continental U.S. only. You also can’t use Delta SkyMiles and must book it with the card that it was issued from.

Whether you are paying cash or using Southwest points to book your ticket, use the Southwest Low Fare calendar to find the best deal. Once you book, you can simply add your companion for just the price of taxes and fees. And you can do it an unlimited number of times each year you hold the pass.

If you pay cash for your ticket, only you will earn Southwest points on the flight. Your companion will not be eligible to earn miles.

Check out Southwest’s Route Search Tool here to see everywhere the airline flies. 

 

Bottom Line

There really is no better deal in the travel world than the Southwest Companion Pass.

If you can earn it at the beginning of a year, you will enjoy the benefits for almost two full years. Seeing as it’s almost 2021 and Southwest is out with credit card bonuses that are as high as ever, why not start your march to the Companion Pass now?

Just make sure that you don’t get your sign-up bonus until the start of 2021.

 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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