Update January 10, 2019: Southwest and Chase are currently offering an amazing deal. You can earn the Companion Pass plus 30,000 Rapid Rewards points by signing up for just ONE of the Southwest Rapid Rewards personal credit cards! Click here for more details.
With the recent announcement that Southwest will be flying to Hawaii next year, now is a great time to think about earning the Southwest Companion Pass!
Note: Some offers mentioned in this post are no longer available. Click here for an updated list of current credit card sign up bonuses.
What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
The Southwest Companion Pass allows a designated companion to fly with you for free anytime you book a Southwest flight. There are so many great benefits to this:
- You can add your companion to any ticket booked on Southwest. Yes, that includes tickets booked on points! It also includes Southwest’s international destinations in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. At this point, no one can say for sure, but it seems like Hawaii will also be eligible for the Companion Pass.
- Generally, you will only pay $5.60 in taxes and fees for your companion each way. This may be slightly higher if you’re booking an international trip due to departure taxes and other fees imposed by foreign governments.
- The pass is good for the year in which you earn it, plus the entire following year. This means that if you earn the pass in January, it is good for almost two years!
- You can only designate one companion at any given time but you can change your companion up to 3 times per year
- The companion does not have to be a family member, it can be anyone you choose
- You must be present in order for your companion to fly. In other words, you cannot book a flight, add a companion, and then cancel your flight but still have the companion fly.
- If you earn the pass after you’ve already booked a trip, you can go back and add the companion to your reservation
- There are no blackout dates or seat restrictions
How can I earn the Southwest Companion Pass?
There are two ways to earn it:
- Fly 100 qualifying one-way flights in one calendar year
- Earn 110,000 qualifying points in one calendar year.
Now, I realize most people are not going to fly 100 flights in a year. I also realize that 110,000 points is an intimidating number. But it may be easier than you think.
If you have a Southwest Rapid Rewards® credit card, the points you earn qualify for the Companion Pass. At one point per dollar, it would mean that you have to spend $110,000 in one calendar year. The good news is, that’s NOT the case!
There are ways to earn the Southwest Companion Pass without flying 100 times and without spending $110,000 on a credit card!
How to Earn the 110,000 Rapid Rewards Points needed for the Southwest Companion Pass without flying (or spending $110,000)
Points that will count toward the Southwest Companion Pass:
- Sign-up bonuses earned from Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® credit cards.
- Points earned from spending on Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® credit cards
- Points earned from the Southwest Shopping portal
- And of course, the old fashioned way: flying on Southwest flights (revenue fares only. In other words, you do not earn points on flights that you paid for with points.)
The easiest and quickest strategy to earn the Southwest Companion Pass is to apply for 2 Southwest credit cards. You can get 1 personal card and the business card, but currently Chase does not allow you to have both versions of the personal card.
Update 6/2018: In the past, you could open both versions of the personal card, but that is no longer the case. Also, you could open two cards on the same day. While you may get approved for 2 cards in the same day, I would play it safe and wait about 3 months before applying for the 2nd card. I wouldn’t want to get flagged or even worse, have my Chase accounts shut down! They’ve been a little strict lately. I updated the above paragraph accordingly.
Note that you will not be approved for a Southwest credit card if you are on the wrong side of the Chase 5/24 rule.
The current offer (June 2018) for each of the Southwest personal cards is 40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
- As of July 2018, a new personal version of the card is available: Rapid Rewards® Priority credit card. Click here for details.
For the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card, the offer is 60,000 points after spending $3,000.
If you get 2 of these credit cards in one calendar year, you’re already at 100,000. Getting the other 10,000 points is pretty easy.
A few suggestions to earn more Rapid Rewards points:
- Put all of your spending on your Southwest cards until you get the remaining points needed for the pass
- Earn points faster by shopping through the Southwest Rapid Rewards shopping portal. You can earn 1-20 extra points per dollar (on top of the point per dollar you get from using the credit card). There are hundreds of retailers, so remember to use this when shopping online. A few of my favorites:
- Petsmart-2 extra points per dollar.
- Sephora-2 extra points per dollar
- Nordstrom Rack-2 extra points per dollar
- Click here to learn more about how I use shopping portals to earn more miles and points!
- Use Plastiq to pay your bills that you would not normally pay with a credit card. Yes, there is a fee of 2.5% but if you get enough use out of the companion pass, this is worth it. 2.5% of 10,000$ is $250. So even if you used Plastiq for the entire remaining 10,000 points, you’re only paying 250$ to potentially get thousands of dollars in value.*
- Remember that these cards will have minimum spending requirements. So if you get a personal card and a business card, that’s $4,000 total that you will need to spend in the first 3 months. That puts you at 104,000 points, then you only need 6,000 to earn the companion pass. If you need ideas to help meet minimum spending requirements, click here.
*Use referral code 573475 to get $500 in fee-free payments on Plastiq after spending your first $500!
A few important things to remember if you want to sign up for 2 credit cards to receive 2 sign up bonuses:
- Sign up bonus points will only be awarded to the cardholder. When you sign up for your card, the name on the Rapid Rewards account must match the cardholder name. For example, Ryan and I each sign up for a Southwest credit card. He cannot attach my Rapid Rewards number to his credit card. In other words, one person must sign up for both cards if that’s the method you plan to use to earn the points.
- The bonus points will generally post to your Rapid Rewards account after the statement in which you meet the minimum spend closes. For example, you apply for the card in December. You quickly meet the minimum spend, but your first statement will not close until about a month after opening the card. You will receive the bonus in January. So at the very minimum, plan for at least a month after applying for your card or cards.
- Southwest cards are subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule, so please click here to read about that policy before applying for any credit cards! It is important to plan your applications around this policy.
Earning the Southwest Companion Pass is not as easy as it once was
- Chase 5/24 rule has really made this more difficult than ever.
- While it is still possible to get 2 of these cards in one year, if you have your eye on other cards such as a Chase Sapphire card, you need to consider the 5/24 rule.
- Southwest does not count points earned several different ways, some of which did previously qualify for CP:
- Purchased points
- Transferred points between members
- Points converted from car loyalty programs
- Points earned from e-Rewards, e-Miles, Valued Opinions and Diners Club
- Bonus points earned from Rapid Rewards program enrollment
- Tier bonus points
- Flight bonus points
- Partner bonus points (with the exception of the Rapid Rewards credit cards from Chase)
- Points transferred from hotel programs no longer qualify for the Companion Pass. In the past, points transferred from hotel programs to Southwest counted toward the CP. It is almost never a good idea to transfer hotel points to airlines* because in most cases the ratios are in the hotel’s favor and you will lose points. But in the past, if you were just a few thousand short of the 110,000 points needed, you were able to transfer to get those last few thousand points.
- *An exception to this is transferring Starpoints to airlines, but since SPG does not partner with Southwest, it does not even matter for this scenario.
- Points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest do NOT count toward the Companion Pass. I am constantly trying to convince people that having transferrable points such as Ultimate Rewards gives you more flexibility. It’s no secret that Chase Ultimate Rewards is one of my favorite loyalty programs. Southwest is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards. But, Ultimate Rewards transferred to Southwest DO NOT count towards the Southwest Companion Pass. In other words, you cannot transfer 110,000 Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest to earn a companion pass. So for those of you interested in a Companion Pass, Southwest card(s) are more important than a Chase Sapphire card. This is pretty much the only reason I would ever suggest signing up for a Southwest credit card over a Chase Ultimate Rewards earning credit card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve. If you’re not trying to earn the Companion Pass, it makes more sense to get CSP or CSR since those points can transfer to Southwest OR other programs.
When will I receive the Companion Pass after earning the points required?
You should receive the physical Companion Pass in the mail 1-2 weeks after earning it. You do not have to have the physical CP to book your companion, though! As soon as your points post that put you over the 110,000 threshold, you will receive an email from Southwest. The email will instruct you to log in to your account where you can designate your companion. After designating your companion, you will have the option to add a companion to existing or future reservations. Just click ‘Add Companion’ on your existing reservation.
Do I have to redeem the 110,000 Rapid Rewards points for the companion pass?
NO. You do not have to “redeem” your points for the pass. You get the pass, and then you still have 110,000 points to spend, but now your 110,000 points are even more valuable since every flight you book is 2 tickets for the price of 1!
What are 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points worth?
For ‘Wanna Get Away’ fares (the lowest fare on Southwest), 110,000 RR points is equal to a little over $1,500. But then if you earn the Companion Pass, that number immediately doubles! So 110,000 RR points and the Companion Pass will net your companion and you over $3,000 in plane tickets!
When should I try to earn the pass?
Note that this was originally written in October 2017 but updated in June 2018.
The best time to earn the companion pass is as early in the year as possible. When you earn the pass, it is valid for the year in which you earn it, plus the next year. So if you were to earn it in 2018, it is valid through the end of 2019. But if you wait until early next year, you will have most of 2019 plus all of 2020!
I realize it is October, so I obviously would not suggest working toward earning the companion pass at this time. Plus, the signup bonus on the personal cards is currently only 40,000. Southwest often increases the bonus to 50,000 or 60,000 on the personal cards. For those reasons, wait until early next year!*
*An exception: if for some reason the bonus increases on these cards, it may be wise to go ahead and get them. Remember that the points post to your Southwest account after the statement in which you meet the minimum spend closes. Remember that you have 3 months to meet the minimum spend. Since it is October, even if you applied for the card before the end of the year, you can still time it so that your points post in January. If you do sign up for a Southwest card or 2 cards before the end of the year make sure you DO NOT meet the minimum spend before the end of the year! Timing the the minimum spend so that points post for next year is crucial!
Again, you want to earn as many points as possible in January! I am posting this now because it is something to keep in mind when you’re deciding which cards you want.
Get unlimited 2-for-1 plane tickets for almost 2 years AND ~$3,000 worth of plane tickets after just 2 credit card bonuses and some strategic spending!
The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the best deals available for those interested in saving money on travel! It is most valuable when it is earned early in a calendar year, since that gives you almost 2 years of the Companion Pass.
With 2 credit card sign up bonuses and some strategic spending, you can buy 2 tickets for the price of 1 for almost 2 years! But it gets better because you can use your 110,000 points for the first $1,500 worth of flights. If you’re traveling with your companion on these flights, that value goes up to $3,000 because you’re getting both flights for the price (or points) of one!
Where are you going fly with your companion?!