I took advantage of this opportunity last year and now have had the Southwest companion pass all of 2012 and will have it all of 2013. Mr. Deals have flown with me for free many times this year!
To earn the companion pass you must have 100 qualifying one-way flights or 110,000 Qualifying Points in one calendar year. You can earn Qualifying Points with credit card spend, Rapid Reward partners (i.e, Marriott, Avis, Hyatt), and flying Southwest. The easiest option is to earn these points by applying for a Southwest credit card when there is a 50,000 point offer. Typically the offer is either 25,000 points or 50,000 points after meeting a certain spend requirement. The points earned from the sign up bonus points also count towards the companion pass and typically hit your account a few days after your statement closes.
For example, if you apply during the 50,000 point offer that is worth a cut and dry $714 towards a Southwest “Wanna Get Away” fare ( 70 points = $1 of travel). There is an annual fee is not waived the first year), however, you will get an additional points on your cardmember anniversary which is almost worth the same as the annual fee (it depends on which card you apply for).
NOTE: This post was written in November of 2012, but the same holds true as of today, you’ll just have to adjust for the year to see when you’ll earn the pass.
So if you are looking to earn the points in 2013, you can get the card now and make sure not to spend the $2,000 per card required amount until early 2013. Getting an additional 10,000 points is easy with partner activity and credit card spend. You can also transfer points for hotels to get these additional points (Chase Ultimate Reward transfers will not count). While there is always the chance that credit card bonus points will eventually not count towards the companion pass, as of today it works and I am 99% confident it will continue to work – just want to make you aware of that 1% uncertainty. The terms and conditions do not include whether these points do or do not count, but MANY others have reported they count recently, and no one has reported otherwise.
Southwest Companion Pass FAQs
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 going FREE (plus the ~$5 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 during the validity of the pass. Since you need to allocate your companion when getting the pass, this allows you 4 people to use the pass (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 November 2012, you will have it for the rest of 2012, plus 2013. If you earn the pass in January 2013, you will have it for the rest of 2013, plus 2014.
Credit card to help earn the companion pass: As mentioned previously, there are three different Southwest cards – ALL of them have the same bonus offer after meeting the minimum spend requirements, but different annual fees and annual bonuses. You can view all three cards and the differences in this prior blog post. You can learn more about all Airline credit card offers here.
I know many are anti-Southwest, but I personally LOVE LOVE LOVE the Southwest Companion Pass. Feel free to comment with any other questions!
Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links. Thanks for supporting the blog and enjoy traveling on a deal!