The Southwest Companion Pass is one of my favorite airline benefits in the entire travel world! With this pass, a companion can fly with you an UNLIMITED number of times for the calendar year it is earned plus the following calendar year. So if you were to earn the pass in January of 2018, that means you’ll have the pass the rest of 2018 plus all of 2019, through December 31, 2019. With the companion ticket, you only pass for taxes/fees which is only $5.60 per segment of a domestic flight. International fights will cost you slightly more. A companion can be anyone from a business colleague, a family member, or a friend.
To earn the pass, you must earn 110,000 qualifying points within the calendar year. Points reset at the end of the year and do not roll over year after year. You do not actually have to “redeem” your points earned for the companion pass. You’ll earn the companion pass qualifying points in addition to the points which you can then redeem for a free flight.
Top 9 Ways to Earn the Southwest Companion 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. Typically the Southwest Credit Cards offer somewhere between 40,000 and 60,000 points per card. If you are able to get two of these cards, the points earned from the sign up bonus will get you that much closer to earning the companion pass. IF you are able to sign up during their highest offer, that could potentially give you the companion pass right off the bat. Each card serves as their own product, so you can receive the sign up bonus per card you are approved for. The sign up offer is only eligible to those that are not a cardmember for that particular card and haven’t received the sign up offer in the past 24 months. This card is also subject to Chase’s “5/24” rule which means if you’ve been approved for 5 or more credit cards in the past 24 months they will not approve you for another card.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card – Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Receive a $75 Southwest travel credit every year + 7,500 bonus points every year after your Cardmember anniversary (worth about $110). You’ll also receive four upgraded boardings per year when available, plus 20% back on inflight purchases made with the card. $149 annual fee.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card – Earn 40,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Receive 3,000 bonus points every year after your Cardmember anniversary (worth about $45). $69 annual fee.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card – Earn 40,000 bonus points when you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Receive 6,000 bonus points every year after your Cardmember anniversary (worth about $90). $99 annual fee.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Business Premier Credit Card –Earn 60,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Receive 6,000 bonus points every year after your Cardmember anniversary (worth about $90). $99 annual fee.
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), but 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 point, 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 high credit card spend, this could possibly work. Probably not so obtainable for the everyday person! But this can be a way to earn points towards the pass along with some of the other methods detailed in this post.
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.
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 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 they are targeted offers and few and far between. But if you are just shy of earning the pass, make sure to pay for your upcoming ticket instead of using points since reservations using points will not earn points.
6. 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 earned 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.
7. 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 5,000-10,000 point bonus (depending on the promotion). Currently, these bonus points DO count towards the companion pass.
8. 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.
9. 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.
Southwest Companion Pass FAQs
Here is a quick FAQ I put together to help answer all your questions regarding the pass:
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 flying for FREE (plus the 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 per year. Since you need to allocate your companion when getting the pass, this allows you 4 people to use the pass per year (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 in 2018, you will have it for the rest of 2018, plus all of 2019.
How quickly does my designated companion go into affect? Immediately. To change your companion pass, call Southwest Customer Service (1-800-IFLYSWA) and they will easily assist you on the spot. You can then book a flight for your companion right away.
What if I need to change my reservation, will the companion still be able to fly without the primary person? No. If you need to cancel or change your flight, your companions flight will also be cancelled. I’ve actually screwed myself over before as I needed to change my flight last minute and my companion had to buy a new ticket (at a much higher price since it was only a few days in advance of the flight). You can always use your points to book your companion a flight ahead of time just in case a change in the primary persons travel plan. Just remember to cancel that flight prior to.
Can I use the companion pass on international flights? Absolutely!! You can currently use your companion pass on any route Southwest flies. Of course with international flights you are going to pay a little more in taxes/fees, but it is so worth it!
My Experience with the Southwest Companion Pass
I’ve had the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass for about 10 years now, saving me thousands of dollars on both business and personal travel! I’ve used it for flights to Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa, Costa Rica, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Aruba, Cancun, Washington DC, Denver, Chicago, Detroit, Salt Lake City, etc. I love that I can use the pass while redeeming points for my flight and Southwest flights can be canceled with no fee, which is huge for me!!