The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is by far my favorite perk in the entire points and miles world. It allows a companion to fly with you for almost FREE (plus minimal taxes) an UNLIMITED number of times during the length of the pass. To earn the Southwest Airlines companion pass, you need to earn a total of 110,000 qualifying points within the calendar year. Points can be earned from multiple sources (which I have listed below). On January 1st of every year your qualifying points 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, 2019.
Fortunately, there are many other ways to earn the pass in addition to flying Southwest. Here are some top ways:
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. If you are able to get a business and personal card many times that will give you close 110,000 points and give you the companion pass right off the bat, or at least very close to it! If you are still in need for some more qualifying points, you can use one of the methods below to earn the remaining amount. Unfortunately, Southwest no longer allows you to have two personal Southwest cards open at the same time, so you will not be able to apply for two personal cards to earn the bonus offer – it must be a business and personal card.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card – Earn up to 60,000 bonus points: Earn 40,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, plus earn another 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 on purchases within your first year. 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 up to 60,000 bonus points: Earn 40,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, plus earn another 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 on purchases within your first year. Receive 3,000 bonus points every year after your Cardmember anniversary (worth about $45). $69 annual fee.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card – Earn up to 60,000 bonus points: Earn 40,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months, plus earn another 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 on purchases within your first year. 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!
All spend put on your new or existing Southwest credit card counts towards the Companion Pass. While 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. Remember, every dollar spent earns 1 Southwest point, so this could be a decent amount of spend on the card to earn the pass.
Also, all points earned from credit card spend will post to your Southwest account a few days after your statement close date.
3. Use the Southwest online shopping portal
Southwest has their own Rapid Rewards 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 shopping portal bonuses, 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 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. Book hotel stays through Rocketmiles
Rocketmiles is a third-party booking system which means you will not earn hotel points for the hotel where 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. This bonus is actually going on right now! If the person you refer applies, gets approved, and meets the minimum spend requirement, you will receive a 10,000 point bonus, which is amazing! Although Southwest does cap the number of points you can earn at 50,000 points. 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.
By far the easiest way to earn the pass is by applying for the Southwest credit cards – you can read more about the current sign up bonus here. Of course, you cannot just apply year after since Chase has put some pretty restrictive rules in place for applying for their cards. I’ve personally had the Southwest Companion Pass for the past 10 years – you can read how I’ve earned the pass year after year here.