UPDATE: This offer has expired.
Flying with a family of four is expensive. And even when using points and miles, it still requires a lot of points to fly my entire family on vacation. Up until 6 months ago my youngest was still under the magic age of 2 where he would fly for free as a lap infant. Now that he has hit “big boy” status it requires us to pay or use points for another child. Fortunately though, this is where the Southwest Companion Pass comes in handy — it is also my favorite money saving perk 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. This can be your spouse, your child, a different family member, or a friend. Since we are a big Southwest Airlines family, this means I now only have to buy 3 tickets instead of 4 on every single vacation we take. For us, this is huge and allows us to save a lot of money and Southwest points every single year.
Earning the Pass Can Be Easy!
While there are many ways to earn the pass, the easiest way is by signing up for their credit card. Right now you can earn up to 60,000 points with each card and the points DO count towards earning the pass. You need to earn 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year, so if you are able to get approved for two cards and meet the minimum spend, that will earn you enough points for the pass right away! Or, if you are only eligible for one card you can still be over half way there! The best is that you can use the companion pass in addition to the points you earn from the credit card sign up and you can use the companion pass on a flight that is paid for with points! 60,000 Southwest points is worth approximately $900 and then your companion flies for free as well, which is giving you $1,800 in value just from one credit card sign up! If you are able to get two credit cards, that is giving you $3,600 in value! And of course your companion is still able to fly for free after you use up all of your points!
The kicker is that you want the points to post as early into the year as possible. The pass is valid for the rest year in which it is earned plus the entire following calendar year. This means if you earn the pass in January 2019, the pass will be valid through December 31, 2020 — someone can fly with you for free for nearly two years! The bonus points for the credit card do NOT post until you meet the minimum spend, which means if you were to apply now and hit the minimum spend in January 1, 2019 or later, the points will post for your 2019/2020 qualification. Of course you can earn the pass at any point throughout the year, it will just decrease how long you are able to use the pass!
Southwest Credit Card Eligibility
As you can see from above, there are a total of four Southwest credit cards. Unfortunately, earlier this year, Chase has put some limitations on applying for Southwest credit cards and you are now only allowed to have one personal and one business card open at a given time. This means you are no longer able to apply for two personal cards and have them both count towards the companion pass as you have been able to in previous years. But if you are able to get approved for a Chase business card, then you can still go the one business card and one personal card route, although Chase has definitely gotten more stringent on approving customers for business cards. You are eligible for the sign up bonus on these cards if you are not currently a cardmember and have not received the sign up bonus for that particular card in the past 24 months. Remember, all four cards are entirely different products, so if you’ve had the Southwest Plus card in the past and are no longer a card member, regardless of when you earned the bonus on that card, you can now go ahead and apply for the Southwest Premier card.
So let’s say you apply and are approved for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card OR the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card OR the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card AND the Southwest Rapid Rewards Business Premier Credit Card, upon meeting the minimum spend for each respective card, that will currently get you 120,000 bonus points from the sign up bonus (60,000 points for the personal card and 60,000 points for the business card) — since you only need 110,000 points in a calendar year to earn the pass, the pass is automatically yours! No additional points required which is amazing!
If You Can’t Spend $12,000 on Your Card…
If spending $12,000 on your card is challenging (which is absolutely understandable!), you can still earn earn the 40,000 bonus points on the personal card by just spending $1,000. With the personal card + business card bonuses, that will still net you 100,000 points between the two. Since you also need to spend $4,000 between the two cards to earn the bonus points that will give you a total of 104,000 points (40,000 bonus points on the personal card + 60,000 bonus points on the business card + 1,000 bonus points for regular spend on the personal card + 3,000 bonus points for regular spend on the business card). This means you are then only 6,000 points shy of earning the pass. While on paper spending $12,000 on the personal card and $3,000 sounds like a lot, you really only need to spend $10,000 in total, NOT $15,000 to earn the pass. You can then spend the remainder of the year to earn the additional 20,000 points on your Southwest personal card. Remember, credit card spend is not the only way you can earn qualifying points — points can be earned from partner offers, renting cards, staying at hotels, flying Southwest, etc. This prior post will list out all the other ways to earn points towards the companion pass.
Southwest Companion Pass FAQs
While this prior post lists out Everything You Need to Know About the Southwest Companion Pass, I put together an FAQ section to help answer all your questions.
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 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). You can easily change your companion online or by calling Southwest Customer Service.
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 January 2019, you will have it for the rest of 2019, plus all of 2020.
My Experience with the Southwest Companion Pass
I’ve had the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass for about 12 years now. Prior to having kids, my husband and I were essentially flying as a buy-one-get-one on every single fight we took. Then when we had my daughter and she was under two, we were flying as a buy-one-get-two which was awesome — my husband flew for free with the companion pass and my daughter flew for free as a lap child. One she hit 2 years old, we had to add another paid ticket to our cost, but my husband was still flying for free! Then we added my son to the mix, and we were at a buy-two-get-two — we paid for mine and my daughters flight, while my husband flew for free on the companion pass and my son for free as a lap infant. Now that my son is over two, we will be flying as a buy-three-get-one free family from here on forward. While the ratio is not as good as it used to be, it still allows for a family member to fly for free on every single flight we take. I think of it as a 25% savings for our families total airline cost (in cash or points) on every Southwest flight we take!
I personally love the Companion Pass as it has saved me a ton of money throughout the years — we are somewhere in the 5 digits of saving money due to the pass! I also love that Southwest flights can be cancelled with no fee and if you are using points, the points go straight back into your account with no added on costs. With Southwest’s flexible policies on top of a free flight, Southwest is my favorite go-to airline! Let me know if you have any questions!