Ways to Earn the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass

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Last week I wrote about a more unconventional way to earn the Southwest Airlines companion pass. As I mentioned, I earned it by transferring 336,000 Wyndham Reward points to my Southwest Airlines account and purchasing $10,000 worth of Vanilla Reloads on my Chase Southwest Airlines credit card. This gave me the 110,000 points needed to earning the pass. I will now have the pass all of 2014 and 2015 and will allow Mr. Deals (or someone else) to travel with me for free on every Southwest flight I take! Note: Unfortunately, Wyndham has changed the transfer ratio and it will require double the amount of points to earn the same number of Southwest points.

So here are some alternative options for earning points towards the companion pass without actually flying Southwest.

  • Opening Southwest airlines credit card – The bonus points earned from opening a new Southwest credit card and meeting the minimum spend requirements DO count towards the companion pass. There are three credit card options to apply for in total (2 personal and 1 business). Remember, this is only for new cardholders and typically with Chase it must be two years since you cancelled the card to re-apply and get the sign up bonus. You can learn more about this here.
  • Transferring hotel points to your Southwest account – You can transfer your hotel points to Southwest, but remember, you will most likely be devaluing the value of each point. Remember, transferring Chase Ultimate Reward points to Southwest will NOT count towards the companion pass.
    • Club Carlson: Can only transfer in increments of 2,000, 50,000, and 100,000 – all have the same transfer ratio:
      • 2,000 Club Carlson Gold Points = 200 Southwest Rapid Rewards points
      • 50,000 Club Carlson Gold Points = 5,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points
      • 100,000 Club Carlson Gold Points = 10,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points
    • Hyatt: 5,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points = 2,400 Southwest Rapid Reward points; additionally for every 50,000 points transferred from Hyatt you’ll receive an additional 6,000 points (this is the case when transferring to any partner airline from Hyatt).
    • Marriott: The more points you transfer, the better the ratio will be. However, Marriott has Hotel + Air packages which ultimately end up being a better transfer ratio (more about that below). 
      • 10,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 2,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
      • 20,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 5,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
      • 30,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 10,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
      • 70,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 25,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
      • 140,000 Marriott Rewards Points = 50,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
    • Marriott Hotel + Air Packages: Marriott offers Hotel + Air packages which ultimately ends up being a better value for your points (if it works for you with redeeming a Marriott hotel). There are four different packages depending on the number of Marriott nights you need – you can check them out here. This will give you the biggest bang for your buck, although you have to have a Marriott redemption in mind for it to work.
    • Wyndham Rewards: 8,000 Wyndham Rewards points = 1,200 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
  • Purchasing Vanilla Reloads – If you are not able to get the Southwest credit card again (or do not want to) and already have a Chase Southwest credit card, purchasing Vanilla Reloads at CVS can help you earn points. Purchasing 220 $500 Vanilla Reload cards over the course of the year will get you the companion pass. This comes out to spending $869 in Vanilla Reload fees, but will give you over $1,500 in Southwest points and a companion will be able to fly for free. While you are coming out ahead, I only recommend this option if you are able to deplete your Bluebird funds and pay off that amount in bills every month. Vanilla Reloads might be a better way to top off your account instead. UPDATE: This option is now much harder as purchasing Vanilla Reloads with a credit card is much harder to come by these days. For example, you can no longer purchase VR’s at CVS with a credit card. This option, however, can be done with the Target REDCard.
  • Using the Southwest Airlines shopping portal – Like any other airline, Southwest also has their own shopping portal where you will earn bonus Southwest points for each purchase through a partner merchant. Right now there is no great bonus through the shopping portal, but last year, for example, there was a bonus where you’d get 15x points when shopping at Sears through the portal. While you still need to spend over $7,000 to get the 110,000 points needed, if you are already looking at big purchases this could help. You can also make a slew of purchases and re-sell the items. While this results in a lot of effort and money loss, the amount of money actually spent out of pocket could be well worth it for the companion pass and the points earned. You can always redeem your points for gift cards to re-coup the loss. This can also work with purchasing gift cards and re-selling them to one of the online re-selling gift card sites (keep in mind though that not all gift card purchases earn points).
  • Setting your preference as earning Southwest miles when staying at a hotel – I personally hate doing this since the hotel points earned are typically more valuable then the airline miles earned, but this could be a good way to top off your account.
    • Hotel Stays: You will earn 600 Southwest Rapid Reward points per stay (NOT per night) with the following hotel chains: Best Western, Club Carlson, Choice Hotels, Hyatt, LaQuinta, Marriott, MLife, Starwood, Wyndham. Keep in mind that typically earning the hotel points is a much better option, but for a really inexpensive one night stay, you might find that earning partner miles is better.
    • Car Rentals: You will earn 600 Southwest Rapid Reward points per rental with the following car rental companies: Alamo, Avis*, Budget*, Dollar, Hertz, National, Thrifty. With Avis and Budget, only participating locations allow you to earn partner miles/points, which is typically just onsite airport locations.
    • SupperShuttle & ExecuCar: You will earn 150 Southwest Rapid Reward points for each one-way trip on ShupperShuttle’s shared-ride airport shuttle and ExecuCar’s private sedan service.

How have you earned your Southwest Airlines companion pass? Comment below!

Current Southwest Airlines Credit Card Offer: You can apply for the Southwest card here. There are three cards in total, two personal and one business versions, with the main differences being that the cards have different annual fees and bonus points after each year. ALL of them have the same bonus offer after meeting the minimum spend requirements. Typically the offer goes back and forth between 25,000 points and 50,000 points after meeting the minimum spend requirement. I personally would hold out until a 50,000 point offer is available. You can view all three cards and the differences in this prior blog post.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As always, thanks for supporting the blog and enjoy traveling on a deal.

Comments

  1. Just wondering, with the southwest credit card they give 2 points per dollar spent on southwest flights. And Southwest also gives 1 point per dollar for purchasing flights (regardless of payment type). So do you get both (essentially 3 points per dollar spent on southwest flights with the southwest credit card)?

  2. Help! I feel like an idiot, but I cannot find the status tracker on the SWA www page! I see where I can track my A-list status, but not one for companion pass. 🙁

    I know I’ve seen it before, but where is it?? (And why is it so hard to find??)

  3. As of June 30 Southwest Airlines reduced there Bonus points to 25k for new credit card applicants.

    If you are interested email me at patomaha@yahoo.com and I will send you the promo info to still get the 50k.

    I have an offer from Southwest for the Plus Credit Card. You will get 50000 bonus points. The annual fee is $69.00. There is no blackout dates and you can use the points to book someone else a flight if you want. This offer is good till Sept 30, 2014.

  4. First thanks for all the practical information on your website. I a just retired and a newbie to the points game. A few questions if you don’t mind, I applied and received a SWA premier card today and plan on doing the same in a few weeks for the regular or if necessary the business card (opinion?) to clarify I can start using the 50000 points when I hit the spending level and it won’t affect them counting on the companion pass? Points from that travel would then count towards the 110000. Is there a best way to get the other 10000 points needed above the 100000 bonus points. How many dollars will it take to get the 10k points?

    Looking at getting the IHG card, the SPG card, and the CSP card, already have a Discover it, a Citi that you preferred, and a Amex true earnings for Costco. Plan on keeping all since no fees. Any thought on the new Discover It miles card?

    Lots of questions, but it will help me get a running start. Any editorial comments you care to make would be appreciated.

    Thank you

    Gary

  5. If anyone would like a referral for the 50K bonus for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card just email me at mari. king. 55@ gmail. com (no spaces, trying to avoid spam…) and I will email you the referral code!

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