The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is by far my favorite perk in the entire travel industry. I’ve personally been a companion pass holder for 8ish years (I’ve lost track at this point) and it has saved me many of thousands of dollars. Upon earning the companion pass you can have a traveler fly with you for FREE an UNLIMITED number of times during the life of the pass. The pass is valid during the year it is earned plus the entire next calendar year. The only out of pocket cost is the taxes for the flight.
To earn the companion pass you must have 100 qualifying one-way flights or 110,000 Qualifying Points in one calendar year. If you do not fly Southwest often, your only option is the 110,00 Qualifying Points which can be earned a number of ways. One of the easiest ways to earn Qualifying Points is through the Southwest Airlines credit card. Both the sign up bonus and credit card spend count towards the required points. Currently, the sign up offer is 50,000 points after meeting the minimum spend requirements of $2,000 within the first three months. That sign up offer is for all four of their credit cards – there are two personal and two business cards. And Chase allows you to have two Southwest credit cards and if approved, you’ll get the sign up bonus for both cards. You can learn more about this current sign up offer in this prior blog post.
That means, right now you have access to one of the easiest ways to earn the companion pass. If you apply and get approved for two cards and meet the minimum spend requirement, you’ll only need to earn another 6,000 qualifying points to obtain the companion pass. If you apply and get approved for one card and meet the minimum spend requirement, you’ll need to earn another 58,000 qualifying points to obtain the pass.
There are a bunch of ways to earn these additional points, such as:
- Credit card spend: With the Southwest credit card you earn 2 points for Southwest purchases and 1 point for all other purchases. All points earned count as qualifying points.
- Transferring hotel points to your Southwest account: You can transfer your points to Southwest, although your points will most likely get devalued along the way. Points transferred from your Chase Ultimate Rewards account will NOT count towards the companion pass. You can transfer your points with the following transfer ratio:
- Club Carlson: Can only transfer in increments of 2,000, 50,000, and 100,000 – all have the same transfer ratio, where 2,000 Club Carlson Gold Points = 200 Southwest Rapid Rewards points; 50,000 Club Carlson Gold Points = 5,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points; and 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
- 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. So let’s say you are able to find a merchant offering 10x points per dollar spent, that means spending $600 will give 6,000 points. The best scenario is if you already have a big purchase you need to make, but I know folks have also purchased items when there is a big bonus and then re-sold them on eBay.
- Using Target’s RedCard or Serve: With Target’s newest RedCard you can load up to $5,000 a month on a given credit card and the points earned count as any regular spend.
If you fly Southwest often or live near a Southwest hub I highly suggest looking into earning the Southwest Companion Pass. The Southwest Companion pass can even be used if the companion pass holder is using points for their flight! So the 50,000 points earned from the sign up bonus are worth about $714. And if a companion flies with you on every flight using those points, that is equal to $1,428 for that one bonus! If you are eligible for two cards then you can double the savings. Here is a prior blog series that goes through many questions you might have on the Southwest Airlines companion pass.
Just remember, the cards have different annual fees and bonus points after each anniversary year. You can read more about all three cards in this prior blog post.
Feel free to comment with any other questions!