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The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is by far my favorite thing in the entire points and miles world. It allows a companion to fly with you for FREE (plus minimal taxes) and UNLIMITED number of times during the length of the pass. To earn the Southwest Airlines companion pass, you need a total of 110,000 qualifying points. Points can be earned from multiple sources (which I have listed below). You must earn the 110,000 points within the calendar year. On January 1st of every year your qualifying points earned reset and anything earned the year prior do not cary over. Once you earn the pass, it is valid for the remainder of the calendar year, PLUS the entire following calendar year. So if you earn the pass today, for example, it will be valid until December 31, 2018.
Overall, it is pretty awesome and I’ve been a proud companion pass holder for about 9 years now. For those interested in getting this sweet pass, here are my top 10 ways to earn the pass!
1. Get two Southwest Rapid Reward credit cards
This is probably the #1 easiest way to earn the companion pass. The points earned from the sign up bonus currently count DO count towards the companion pass. As of right now, the Southwest business card is offering a 60,000 point bonus and the two Southwest personal cards are each offering 50,000 point bonuses. If you are able to get a business and personal card that will give you 110,000 points and give you the companion pass right off the bat. If you are able to get the two personal cards, that will give you 100,000 points. You’ll then need to use one of the methods below to earn another 10,000 qualifying points. You can learn about all Airline credit card offers here.
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Card: Earn 50,000 points after spending $2,000 on the card within the first 3 months; $69 annual fee. This card will earn you 3,000 bonus points on your account anniversary.
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card: Earn 50,000 points after spending $2,000 on the card within the first 3 months; $99 annual fee. This card will earn you 6,000 bonus points on your account anniversary.
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Business Premier Card: Earn 60,000 points after spending $2,000 on the card within the first 3 months; $99 annual fee. This card will earn you 6,000 bonus points on your account anniversary.
2. Spend a lot of money throughout the year!
If you already have a Southwest credit card and are not eligible to earn another sign up bonus, all spend put on your card counts towards the sign up bonus. Unfortunately, the Southwest credit card is not one that would be my typical go-to card since there are no category bonuses (except for purchasing a Southwest flight), if your goal is to earn the companion pass, then this could be a good option. With that being said, since every dollar spent earns 1 Southwest points, you’ll need to put a total of $110,000 on your Southwest credit card! That is a ton of money for most people. For those that have a business or are into manufactured spend, this could work. Probably not so obtainable for the everyday person! Remember though, while points earned are for the calendar year, any purchases made after your December statement close date will count towards the following year. For example, if your statement close date is on the 15th of every month, all purchases made between December 16 and December 31st will not hit your account till the following year.
3. Use the Southwest online shopping portal
Southwest has their own shopping portal, where if you go through the site first, you’ll earn bonus points for your every day online shopping. While I do not find the Southwest portal as competitive as some of the other points, miles, and cash back shopping portal sites, all points earned DO count towards the companion pass. If you do a ton of shopping online, the points definitely add up! Keep in mind that some stores take about 8-10 weeks to report the sales, while others might only take a week or two. While getting 110,000 points online on shopping portals might be aggressive, if you are committed to it and shop during high payouts, you could do well. Keep in mind though that bonuses throughout the year, such as spend X amount earn Y bonus points do NOT count towards the companion pass.
4. Buy and sell
While this is a lot of effort, I know there are many people out there who earn the companion pass through a “buying and selling” method. When there is a really good online shopping portal payout (read #3) you can purchase items online and then resell. And if you use your Southwest credit card, that will only increase the number of points you earn. While you will probably not break even and still be out some money, the cost to purchase the pass will probably be extremely insignificant compared to the savings you’ll receive by buying the pass. While I have never earned the pass by this method, there was a great Sears payout a few years ago where a few blogger friends took advantage. You can read their stories here: The Frequent Miler purchasing and reselling gift cards and Points with a Crew earning 19x points per dollar spent. But keep in mind, Southwest portal payouts have not been so great lately.
5. Fly Southwest
While this works great for those that fly Southwest often on paid fare, most likely business travelers, the every day person will not be able to earn the companion pass solely on flying. Although, when you do fly, the points earned can help you continue to earn qualifying points. The amount you earn depends on fare class.
- Wanna Get Away Fare: 6 points per dollar spent
- Anytime Fare: 10 points per dollar spent
- Business Select Fare: 12 points per dollar spent
Earning the companion pass just by flying requires you to spend over $18,000 over throughout the year (assuming you are flying on a “Wanna Get Away Fare”! There are times that they ofter double points towards the companion pass, but many times there are targeted offers and few and far between.
6. Transfer points from a hotel program
Through March 31, 2017, all points transferred from partner hotels to Southwest WILL qualify towards the companion pass. After this date, transfers will no longer qualify, and your transfer must hit your Southwest account by this date, not just initiated by this date. Also as an FYI, points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards DO NOT count towards the companion pass, this has always been the case.
- 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 points: 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 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
- 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. The least expensive option that will get you the companion pass right off the bat is redeeming 270,000 Marriott points which will give you 120,000 Southwest points plus a 7-night stay certificate at Marriott category 1-5 hotel
- Best Western: 5,000 Best Western points = 1,200 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
- Choice Hotels: 6,000 Choice Privileges points = 1,800 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
- La Quinta: 6,000 La Quinta Returns points = 1,800 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
Overall, Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages are by far the best transfer option. And now that you can freely transfer points from Starwood to Marriott, you can transfer 90,000 SPG points to Marriott which equals 270,000 Marriott points. If you do not have any Marriott or SPG points you are looking to transfer over, the next best option is Hyatt. Or, if you have any orphaned points from any of the programs, you can transfer them over to help you out overall.
7. Book hotel stays through Rocketmiles
Rocketmiles is a third-party booking system which means you will not earn hotel points for the hotel you are staying. Instead, you’ll earn airline miles of your choice and the number of miles earns depends on the specific hotel usually tied to the price of the stay. You can earn anywhere between 1,000 and 10,000 airline miles per stay, and Southwest is one of the partners. All regular points earned through Rocketmiles that are credited towards Southwest DO count towards the companion pass. However, any bonus points earned do NOT count. I recently stayed at a hotel booked through Rocketmiles and selected Southwest as my airline of choice. I have shared my experience with what counts/does not count here.
8. Refer your friends to the Southwest credit card
Many times throughout the year, Southwest will give existing card members a bonus for referring the card to friends and family members. If the person you referred applies, gets approved, and meets the minimum spend requirement, you will receive a 5,000 point bonus. Currently, these bonus points DO count towards the companion pass.
9. Credit your hotel stays to Southwest
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, La Quinta, Marriott, MLife, and Starwood. 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.
10. Credit your car rentals to Southwest
You will earn 600 Southwest Rapid Reward points per rental with the following car rental companies: Alamo, Avis*, Budget*, Dollar, Hertz, National, Payless, and Thrifty. With Avis and Budget, only participating locations allow you to earn partner miles/points, which is typically just onsite airport locations.
As you can tell, I am a pretty big fan as it has allowed me to save a ton of money throughout the years. What are some ways you’ve earned the pass? Feel free to comment below…