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 a total of 110,000 qualifying points. Points can be earned from multiple sources (which I have listed below). You must earn the 110,000 points within the calendar year. On January 1st of every year your qualifying points earned 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, 2020.
Of course, my preference is to earn the pass as early in the year as possible, for some that is just not possible! So, if you have been working hard this year to earn the points and are only a few points shy of the 110,000 point requirement, here are some tips to earn the remaining points needed. Remember though, the points MUST post to your account by December 31st of that year. Just completing the activity in the specific year does not qualify if the partners do not post the points until the following year. (Some partners might take a few weeks for the points to post).
1. Get a 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 about half way to earning the pass for this calendar year, just getting one of the credit cards could put you over the 110,000 point requirement.
A few things to keep in mind though — the bonus points do not post until a few days after your statement close date for the month when you meet the minimum spend. That means you’ll want to meet the minimum spend right away within the first billing cycle of receiving the card. Any points earned after your December statement close date will not count towards your 2019 points accrued, but instead will be posted in 2020. Also, Southwest only allows you to have one personal Southwest card open at the same time. And finally, you are only eligible for the sign up bonus if it has been 24+ months since you have received the sign up offer in the past for the exact same card.
NOTE: If you are far from earning the pass for the year, the easiest (and my recommended way) to earning the pass is to apply for one personal card and one business card and wait until 2020 for the bonus points to post. This will then get you pretty close to earning the pass in 2020 which means the pass will not expire until December 31, 2021!
Southwest Credit Card Links:
- 1. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. Plus, an additional 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 on purchases in the first 12 months of account opening. ($69 annual fee)
- 2. Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. Plus, an additional 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 on purchases in the first 12 months of account opening. ($99 annual fee)
- 3. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. Plus, an additional 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 on purchases in the first 12 months of account opening. ($149 annual fee)
- 4. Southwest Rapid Rewards Business Premier Credit Card: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. ($99 annual fee)
- 5. Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card: Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months. ($199 annual fee)
2. Spend more money on your Southwest credit card!
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. I personally have been able to use the bill pay system Plastiq to pay some bills on my credit card. (While there is a fee associated with using Plastiq, it can be worth it to earn the Companion Pass!)
But as I mentioned above, the points do not hit your Southwest account until a few days after your statement close date. So only spend made until your December statement close date will count towards this years qualifying point progress.
3. Use the Southwest online shopping portal
Southwest has their own Rapid Rewards shopping portal. 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. I personally have been making a lot of purchases recently at Bloomingdales and the points have posted within just 2 weeks. While getting 110,000 points online on shopping portals might be aggressive, if you are just a few points shy, this could be a great way to get there. 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
Although if you are just slightly shy of earning the pass, I’d recommend some of the other methods to earn the points required.
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. If you have an upcoming hotel stay, booking your hotel through Rocketmiles and forgoing any benefits by booking through the hotel itself might be beneficial.
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. Fortunately, this referral bonus is not going on right now for the limited time offers. If you are able to refer a friend though during a different time period, you’ll receive 10,000 bonus points. Southwest does cap the number of points you can earn at 50,000 points.
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, Radisson Rewards, Choice Hotels, World of Hyatt, Marriott Bonvoy and MLife. Keep in mind that typically earning the hotel points is a much better option. Although, 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. If you are very close to earning the pass, find a few cheap one day rentals and call it a day!
I’ve had the Southwest Companion Pass for the past 11 years and earn it through different methods every single year. The last thing you want to do is look at your account at the end of the year and realize that you were just shy of earning the pass! The pass can save you a ton of money if you plan on flying Southwest a decent amount next year!
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