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The Southwest Companion Pass is the holy grail of award travel. It’s one of the best ways to stretch your points because they go twice as far.
Southwest Rapid Rewards is the frequent flyer program of Southwest. In recent years, Southwest has expanded its presence to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and most recently, Hawaii! Southwest Rapid Rewards points are easy to earn and the redemption process is very simple.
As a price-based redemption program, Southwest Rapid Rewards makes it simple to redeem your points for flights. The amount of points required depends on the paid fare. If the paid fare is low, the amount of Rapid Rewards points required for an award ticket is going to be low. If the fare is higher, more points are required. Click here for more information about the different ways airline loyalty programs price award tickets.
Fare-based award ticket pricing programs like Southwest Rapid Rewards have pros and cons, but one great thing about Southwest is that availability isn’t going to be an issue. If a seat is available, you can use Rapid Rewards points to book it. In general, you can expect to get about 1.5 cents out of each Southwest Rapid Rewards point. To give an example, 10,000 points are going to be worth about $150 in Southwest plane tickets. If you have the Southwest Companion Pass, that value doubles since you can book your companion’s ticket for free.
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 Hawaii and Southwest’s international destinations.
- Generally, you will only pay $5.60 in taxes and fees for your companion each way. This will 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 (as long as a seat is available)
- 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 125,000 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 125,000 points is an intimidating number. But it may be easier than you think. Points earned from Southwest Rapid Rewards co-branded credit cards qualify for the Companion Pass.
There are ways to earn the Southwest Companion Pass without flying 100 times and without spending $125,000 on a credit card!
How to Earn the 125,000 Rapid Rewards Points needed for the Southwest Companion Pass without flying (or spending $125,000)
Points that will count toward the Southwest Companion Pass:
- Welcome bonuses earned from Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards co-branded credit cards.
- Points earned from spending on Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards co-branded credit cards
- Points earned from the Southwest Shopping portal
- Partner car rentals and hotel stays
- Points earned from the Rapid Rewards Dining program
- Points earned from Rocketmiles
- 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.)
For a full list of ways to earn Companion Pass qualifying points, click here.
The easiest way to earn the Southwest Companion Pass
Note: Southwest has given 25,000 Companion Qualifying points to all Rapid Rewards members who opened an account by December 31, 2020. To clarify, these points are not redeemable, but they do put you closer to earning the Companion Pass for 2021. Instead of 125,000 points, now you need 100,000 points.
The easiest and quickest strategy to earn the Southwest Companion Pass is to apply for 2 Southwest credit cards and earn the welcome bonuses. You can get 1 personal card and 1 business card.
The current bonus on all three personal cards is 40,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months. Also, new cardmembers will earn 3 points on dining, including eligible takeout and delivery services for the first year.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card
In the past, you could open 2 versions of the personal cards, but that is no longer the case. Also, you could open two Chase 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 2-3 months before applying for the 2nd card. Wanting to open both a business card and a personal card can be easily explained (you want to keep your business and personal expenses separate), but you don’t want to raise any red flags for Chase by applying for too many cards too quickly.
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 business cards have different bonuses:
- The bonus on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card is 60,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months.
- The bonus on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card is 80,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months.
- If you were to spend the $5,000 to earn the 80k points, you would need 40k more points for the Companion Pass.
- You would have the 80,000 bonus
- Plus at least 5,000 from the $5k spend
The bonus from the Performance business card plus the bonus from a personal card (currently 65k after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months) puts you at 125,000 points total.
If you need ideas to help meet minimum spending requirements, click here.
A few suggestions to earn more Companion Pass qualifying Rapid Rewards points:
- Put all of your spending on a Southwest card until you get the remaining points needed for the Companion 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.
- 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 could be worth it if you’re just short of the points needed.
Use referral code 573475 to get $500 in fee-free payments on Plastiq after spending your first $500!
When should I try to earn the pass?
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 2021, it is valid through the end of 2022.
Timing is important
Companion Pass points reset January 1. Remember that the points post to your Southwest account after the statement in which you meet the minimum spend closes. Also, keep in mind that you have 3 months from opening the card to meet the minimum spend (then 9 months to earn the rest of the points with the current offer on the personal cards).
A few important things to remember if you want to open 2 credit cards to receive 2 welcome bonuses:
First of all, if you’re new, please read this post before applying for any credit cards!
- Welcome bonus points will only be awarded to the cardholder. When you open your card, the name on the Rapid Rewards account must match the cardholder name. For example, if 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.
- 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 January. You quickly meet the minimum spend, but your first statement will not close until about a month after opening the card. So you will receive the bonus in February.
- 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
The Chase 5/24 rule has made this more difficult than it previously was. While it is still possible to get 2 of these cards, if you have your eye on other Chase cards such as a Chase Sapphire Preferred 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 or hotel loyalty programs
- Bonus points earned from Rapid Rewards program enrollment
- Tier bonus points
- Flight bonus points
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 anyway, 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 125,000 points needed, you were able to transfer to get those last few thousand points.
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 125,000 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 an Ultimate Rewards earning card such as Chase Sapphire Preferred since those points can transfer to Southwest OR other programs. Click here for 4 reasons why the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card is better than a Southwest Rapid Rewards co-branded credit card.
Current offer: Earn 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.
Earn 2 points per dollar on travel and dining, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. The annual fee is $95, but the welcome offer alone is worth a lot more than that.
You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to 10 different airline frequent flyer programs or 3 different hotel loyalty programs. You can also redeem the points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards redemption portal. Each point can be redeemed for 1.25 cents. That makes the welcome bonus of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points worth $1250!
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 125,000 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 125,000 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 125,000 points to redeem for flights, but now your 125,000 points are even more valuable since every flight you book is 2 tickets for the price of 1!
How much are 125,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points worth?
For ‘Wanna Get Away’ fares (the lowest fare on Southwest), Rapid Rewards points are generally worth somewhere between 1.5 and 1.7 cents per point. So at a rate of 1.5 cpp, 125,000 RR points would be redeemable for over $1,800 worth of airfare. But then if you earn the Companion Pass, that number doubles! So 125,000 RR points and the Companion Pass will net your companion and you over $3,600 in plane tickets!
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 validity.
By opening just 2 credit cards and earning the welcome bonuses, you can book 2 tickets for the price of 1 for almost 2 years! But it gets better because you can use your 125,000 points for the first $1,800 worth of flights. If you’re traveling with your companion on these flights, that value goes up because you’re getting both flights for the price (or points) of one!
Where are you going fly with your companion?!
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