Earning the Southwest Companion Pass

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This is post #5 in a series discussing the Southwest Rapid Rewards program:

This series contains:

  1. Southwest Credit Card 50,000 Point Offer
  2. Earning and Redeeming Southwest Rapid Reward Points
  3. Earning Status with Southwest and the Benefits
  4. Changing and Canceling a Southwest Ticket
  5. Earning the Southwest Companion Pass
  6. Converting Southwest Credits to Free Flights
  7. Transferring Points to Southwest
  8. Transferring Points/Credits between AirTran and Southwest
  9. Extending the Life of Free Flights from Rapid Reward 1.0 Program
  10. Booking Southwest Flights with Chase Ultimate Reward Points
  11. Canceling a Flight Booked with Points
  12. Changing a Flight if Booked as a Roundtrip
  13. Getting Money Back if the Flight Goes Down in Price

 

To earn the companion pass you must have 100 qualifying one-way flights or 110,000 Qualifying Points in the same calendar year. You can earn Qualifying Points with credit card spend, Rapid Reward partners (i.e., Marriott, Avis, Hyatt), and flying Southwest. The easiest option, in my opinion, is to earn these points by applying for a Southwest Airlines credit card. The offers are typically 25,000 points or 50,000 points after meeting the minimum spend requirements. The bonus points earned DO count towards the 110,000 points needed to earn the companion pass. There are four versions of the card and you are able to apply for more then one card offer.

Getting the remaining points to earn the companion pass is easy with partner activity and credit card spend. You can also transfer points from hotels to get these additional points (Chase Ultimate Reward transfers will not count). While there is always the chance that the credit card bonus points will eventually not count towards the companion pass, as of today it does.

If you do not believe you’ll have need for the companion pass the remainder of the year, you can let this offer pass and hope this higher bonus offer makes a re-appearance at the end of the calendar year/beginning of next year.

I personally took advantage of this credit card offer in November 2011 and did not hit my minimum spend until 2012. Because of that I had the companion pass all throughout 2012 and continue to have it through the rest of the year. I’ve actually earned the companion pass prior to this in 2010, 2011, and 2012. Due to this, Mr. Deals has been able to fly with me for FREE on many flights. I’ve also had my mom and sister fly with me as well. I’ve been able to use the companion pass on the following flights: New York – Detroit, Hartford – New Orleans, New York – New Orleans, New York – Ft. Lauderdale (3x), New York – Los Angeles, New York – San Francisco, New York – Salt Lake City. If you value each round-trip at around $300, this companion pass has saved me $2,800! Of course, other airlines might have been slightly cheaper for the paying passenger, but not much.

Southwest Companion Pass FAQs

Flying limitations: With the companion pass there are no black out dates or seat restrictions – if there is a seat available for purchase, it is available for your companion. The companion pass can even be used if points were redeemed for a free flight. This can result in both passengers going FREE (plus the ~$5 taxes/passenger)!

Number of times the companion pass can be used: Unlimited! There is no cap on the number of times the pass can be used.

Who can be a companion: Anyone can be your companion – friends, family, a complete stranger. However, the companion pass can only be switched up to three times during the validity of the pass. Since you need to allocate your companion when getting the pass, this allows you 4 people to use the pass (those people can be repeated and put back on as the companion as well but counts as one of your allowed changes). To change your companion pass, call Southwest Customer Service (1-800-IFLYSWA) and they will easily assist you on the spot.

Companion pass expiration: The companion pass is valid the remainder of the year it was earned plus the following calendar year. For example, if you earn the pass April 3013, you will have it for the rest of 2013, plus 2014. If you were to put it off and hopefully earn the pass in January 2014, you will have it for the rest of 2014, plus 2015.

Current Southwest Credit Card Offer (which counts towards the companion pass): There are four different Southwest credit cards in total, two personal and two business versions. The main differences is that the cards have different annual fees and bonus points after each year. ALL of them have the same bonus offer. You can view all four cards and the differences in this prior blog post. You can also apply for the Southwest card here. 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. While my goal for you is to travel on a deal, this is one I highly support as I’ve had the companion pass for many years!

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Comments

  1. Can you designate yourself as the companion and basically be assured of an empty seat next to you everytime you fly?

  2. Nice deal however, I would want to emphasize the changing companions is a bit more complicated according to their rules. The current pass has to be turned in and then wait on a new pass to be issued. Have you found it to be less complicated?

    • @John – I’ve always been able to change my companion pass over the phone in no time. You must call the Southwest customer service number, not the generic 1-800-I-FLY-SWA number. When changed over the phone, the new companion goes into affect immediately. However, any reservations with the old companion tied to it will be cancelled, so keep that in mind. I’ve also never had to show my companion pass card at the counter.

  3. @Charlie – Yes, but only if you are a verified Passenger of Size.

    @John – I have changed companions in as little as 2 days. The trick to expediting is to call the toll-free number and give the RR# of the new companion. It seems that the fact the they are already in the Southwest system removes some verification barriers.

  4. I think you can actually designate yourself if you are overweight and would use two seats otherwise. Check T&C on Southwest website, there is that option.

    Best,

    PedroNY

  5. Looks like item #7 may go into this, but can you provide any more suggestions or tips on how to earn the additional 6,000 points after the first 10,400 points are achieved via the $2,000 minimum spending?

    Also, can you confirm if the annual charge for having each SW credit card counts towards the minimum spending?

    • @Carey – here are some ways you can earn the points: 1) fly southwest; 2) transfer hotel points (Chase Ultimate Reward points will NOT count); 3) have partner activity (hertz, avis, hotel stays credited to Southwest, etc.).

      The annual charge will NOT count towards meeting the minimums spend. Great question and I actually just posted about this as it is a common issue people face.

  6. I want to clarify something. In 2013, we’re fully booked for travel – I wouldn’t be able to make use of the Pass. But in 2014 and 2015, I might. So, if I get my 2nd SWA card in a later round of cards, and then finish my spend off in 2014, will that still count? I’m referring to the “in a calendar year” stipulation. Does that apply to flights, or miles earned into your account, or both?

    • @tscatch – If the 50k offer appears again in the fall you can absolutely take advantage of this for the 2014/2015 calendar year. If you get your card in November lets say, typically you have three months to meet the minimum spend requirements. If you charge the required amount Jan 1, 2014, then the points will not hit your account until 2014 thus giving you the points towards companion pass status for 2014/2015. Now, this is assuming that Southwest doesn’t change their terms.

  7. One question I do not see is- I have companion pass for 2013 now and both cards because I did this last year. What are your suggestions for keeping it in 2014? I currently fly 14-15 times a year on SWA and we use the card that awards 1500 teir points for every $10000 spent, however even paying cell phones, groceries, everything- there is no way we will be close to 110,000 points for 2014. What next to keep the companion pass?

    • @john – I am not sure who your companion currently is, but they can apply for the two cards at the end of the year and then be the holder of the companion pass. Also, purchasing vanilla reloads with the cards can help.

  8. Ok, thanks. I had seen somewhere that the miles earned that count towards the Companion Pass resets to zero on Jan 1, so that made me anxious!

  9. I have a similar situation as john in post #13 and am wondering if transferring hotel points would assist in the process of accruing 110,000 pts this year?

  10. The Southwest site states that the bonus points from the credit cards do not count towards the companion pass. How can this work if they don’t count these points?

  11. I literally just got my Companion Pass (CP) today and I earned it mainly from the 50k points from both the Rapid Rewards Personal and Business credit cards. I also just pulled up the Terms and Conditions of the CP and it states: “Companion Pass Qualifying Points are earned from revenue flights, points issued on Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Cards, and points earned from Rapid Rewards Partners.”

    Note the part that Rapid Rewards Credit Cards DO count.

    • What are “revenue flights”? Are these flights booked purely with money or can I use travel funds, points, etc?

  12. can one get the 110,000 points, get the companion pass, then use the 110,000 points to book rewards travel for the main passenger, or are all 110,000 points “used up” by the companion pass application?

  13. The companion pass is not “bought” with the points earned. So the points ARE available to still use as long as they do not expire due to inactivity

    • @joe – can the person you are traveling with mostly open the two credit cards in his or her name? I’m assuming/hoping that this fall the 50k offer will be available.

  14. Hey,
    I need 3000 rr more for me to qualify for CP before the end of December 2013.. May I know is there any ways to get the rapid rewards…I can’t pay rent thru my cc..is there any other ideas??

    • @Coolbird – The easiest way is to purchase Vanilla Reloads at CVS, load them to Bluebird, and then pay your credit card bill with Bluebird.

  15. I got my SW companion pass in January and I’ve only used it twice… feeling the pressure to get traveling!

    One thing I wanted to pitch in was that when I used it, I did not have to show the companion pass at the check-in desk like they told me I would. I had forgotten it and was freaked that they wouldn’t let us board. Still probably a good idea to have it in hand.

  16. I am planning to apply for 2 cards and transfer points to meet the extra 10000 requirement. Do you recommend that I spend some $$ on the card now since the holiday season is coming up and then spend the rest to meet the $2000 min spend requirement by Jan 2015 or do I wait to spend $2000 on the card in Jan 2015 to meet the spending requirement? Thanks for your help.

    • @Hugh – It is really up to you. Ideally spending the entire amount in 2015 is best because then the points earned will count towards the companion ticket.

  17. I was planning on charging my property tax on the card when it is due on Dec. 10th. Hopefully it will be in my Jan statement. Do you know if the points get posted for Jan if I do this?

    • @Hugh – It depends on when your statement close date is. If it is the 10th through the 28th then there is a good chance that the points will hit your account in December 2014. If it is the 1st through the 9th then chances are it will hit the January statement. I really would suggest just making the charges January 1 to ensure nothing goes wrong.

  18. I’m expecting to hit qualifying points for CP within the next month. I have a popular trip coming up in October that I fear may sell out soon. Can i purchase the two seats with points now, and cancel one when CP is received and rebook it with the CP?

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