The Southwest Companion Pass is considered by many to be the holy grail of travel rewards. By letting you bring along a second person for free on all Southwest flights (except for a few dollars in tax), it can be a huge money-saver!
Not only that, but the airline makes the Southwest Companion Pass extremely easy to use. It’s simply a matter of booking a reservation and once confirmed, tacking on your companion to it after.
We’ve had the Companion Pass since April of 2019. They extended the expiration due to the pandemic, but it’s due to expire at the end of this year. So it’s time for us to start looking at getting it again (this time under Lisa’s name).
Many of you are ready to get out and start traveling again. Normally, the Southwest Companion Pass can be a little tricky to get.
However, with the record-high bonuses that Chase is offering, the Southwest Companion Pass can be easier to attain right now. Taking advantage of this promotion can make traveling about half price for close to two years!
Let me take you through the details of the Southwest Companion Pass and the easy path we’ll be taking to get this coveted treasure again.
What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
The Southwest Companion Pass is a benefit that allows you to designate a companion who can fly for free with you anytime you book a Southwest flight. You can use it an unlimited amount of times while you have the pass. There is still a cost for taxes and fees but it’s generally very small. For our trips, that’s usually amounted to about $10-15 for a roundtrip flight.
How long is it good for?
The Companion Pass is valid for the remainder of the calendar year you attain it plus the entire following calendar year. So if you earn it in October, it’s valid for October, November, and December plus the next year (January through December).
Hopefully, you’re seeing something important here. It’s more valuable to earn the pass at the beginning of the year than it is to earn it at the end of the year.
This is where you can make the magic happen. By attaining the pass in January or February, you can have the pass for close to two years!
Can you change your companion?
Per the Southwest FAQs:
“You may change your designated Companion up to three times each calendar year that you maintain Companion Pass privileges. Any reservation with the current designated Companion would need to be cancelled before changing your designated Companion. To change your Companion, you must call 1-800-435-9792. Please allow up to 21 business days for processing.”
As you can see, the idea is that you stick with one person as your companion for the most part. However, it’s nice that they do give you a little flexibility to change it if needed.
How do you use the Southwest Companion Pass?
Adding a companion to a trip, couldn’t be easier (I speak from experience!).
The Southwest Companion Pass Tips page sums it up pretty well:
Reservations are required for all Companion Pass travel. You must book your flight prior to booking your designated Companion’s flight.
After booking your flight, visit the My Trips section of your account. Find your flight in the Upcoming section and click on Add Companion link. Click Continue to proceed to the purchase screen and review your Companion information. Click Purchase to complete your Companion’s flight reservation. A Companion’s reservation is not considered a purchased flight, and therefore, another Companion Pass reservation cannot be booked from it.
If you would like to book through a Customer Representative, call 1-800-248-4377 and notify him/her that a Companion Pass will be used.
As long as there’s an available seat on the flight, you can quickly add your best pal, spouse, or whoever is the lucky companion to your reservation.
As you can see, this pass can be extremely valuable. Two people traveling for the price of one! And with the promotions that Southwest regularly offers, flying around to fun places around the U.S., Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean can make for some relatively inexpensive adventures!
How do you qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass?
There are two ways to earn the Southwest Companion Pass:
- 100 one-way qualifying flights
- 125,000 Companion Pass qualifying points
Now, option number one is a tough one. Unless you travel a lot for work – and specifically on Southwest – flying 100 one-way flights is pretty unlikely to happen.
That means that most of us would need to look at option number two for qualifying for the Southwest Companion Pass. But even so, 125,000 qualifying points is a lot.
You can earn a chunk of points by flying – that’s a gimme. But let’s say you earn 2,500 on a roundtrip flight you take… that would mean you’d need to take 50 of those in a calendar year to qualify. Ugh.
You can earn some additional points through Rapid Rewards partners with hotel stays, rental cars, and even shopping. Still, it’s not going to easily bring you up to the requirement.
The big helper for us though is that points earned through Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards also count (including signup bonuses!). That’s going to be what we’re going to use to score our next Southwest Companion Pass and that could be your go-to as well.
The easy way to get the Southwest Companion Pass
When we earned the Southwest Companion Pass the first time around in the spring of 2019, it required a little more effort. We opened a personal card, acquired the bonus, and then opened another card (a business card) to get that bonus. Between the two cards and our spending, we were able to qualify and get the Companion Pass within about 5 months.
But, we have a very exciting yet limited opportunity in front of us, folks (and this goes for me as well).
Chase is offering the highest bonus it’s ever offered on each of the Southwest co-branded personal credit cards… 100,000 points!
That’s broken down as earning 50,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months. Then you can earn an additional 50,000 points after spending $12,000 on purchases in the first 12 months.
I’ve updated my recommended credit cards page with the current offers on these cards from Chase.
Although getting any of the available cards will put you on the road to this bonus, we’re going to sign up for the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Priority Card. It does carry an annual fee of $149 but the benefits make it worth the cost…
- No foreign transaction fees
- $75 Southwest annual travel credit each year
- 4 upgraded boardings per year when available
- 7,500 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
Considering we’ll be in Panama until mid-April and then spending a couple of weeks in Mexico right after that, having no foreign transaction fees is a must. We want to keep chipping away at that $12,000 spend needed so we don’t want to wait until we’re back in the U.S.
The $75 Southwest annual travel credit speaks for itself. Being reimbursed for spending $75 on a Southwest flight drops the cost of the annual cost of the card down to $74… not bad!
The upgraded boardings are interesting. The Plus and Premier cards each come with two EarlyBird Check-Ins per year but if you’re familiar with those, they give you a bump hopefully to an “A” boarding position, but no guarantee.
The upgraded boardings you get with the Priority card though work a little differently:
“Each anniversary year you will be reimbursed for the purchase of up to 4 Upgraded Boardings which are positions A1-A15. Upgraded Boardings may be purchased at the departure gate or ticket counter on the day of travel only, when available.”— Chase offer details
That means that you can wait until you’re at the gate to decide if you want to use it. If you already have a good boarding spot, no need to waste them. If not, head to the counter and see if an upgrade to A1-A15 is available… cool, right?
And the 7,500 bonus points each year is more than the other cards offer. That’s a really good chunk of miles toward a free flight.
So for us, this card is a no-brainer – at least for the time being. We can always downgrade it later if it no longer makes sense down the line.
But Jim, is that going to be enough to earn the Southwest Companion Pass?
That depends. If you’re a big spender, one card may be all you need to make the Companion Pass happen. Here’s why…
While using your card to try to reach the amount of spend-through needed to get the Southwest Companion Pass, you’re also accruing miles along the way. In other words, you’re getting all the miles from the spending you’re doing to reach the bonus, too. That’s important – here are a few examples…
Example 1 – The “Big” Spender
Let’s say you meet the 3-month deadline on spending $2,000. That means you’ll earn 50,000 points. Then, let’s say that you spend a total of $25,000 from the time you sign up for the card and earn the next 50,000 point bonus.
That means you’ll have earned 100,000 points for your bonus plus you’ll have earned points from the spending that got you the bonus along the way. So spending $25,000 on purchases should have given you roughly another 25,000 points. That brings you to 125,000 points… you’re golden. Enjoy your newfound Southwest Companion Pass in all its glory!
Otherwise, you’ll need to look at a way to top things off.
Example 2 – The “Low” Spender
Same example but less spending… you meet the 3-month deadline on spending $2,000. That means you’ll earn 50,000 points. Then, you spend the bare minimum of a total of $12,000 from the time you sign up for the card and earn the next 50,000 point bonus.
But the qualification to get the Companion Pass is that you have to earn 125,000 points in a calendar year. As a side note, Rapid Rewards points you’ve already accrued in your account from previous years don’t count – the 125,000 points need to be earned in a single calendar year.
With this example, you’ll still be short of the requirement by about 13,000 points. That means you’re going to need to make that up somehow. With our 2,500-point flying example, that would mean you’d need to take 5 or 6 round-trip flights to meet the 13,000 points you need. That’s still a lot of flying for most folks.
So, you’ll need to consider other qualifying points options and figure out what works best for you. That might be using Rapid Rewards partners for hotel stays, rental cars, experiences, or surveys. That could also be through leveraging Rapid Rewards Dining or Rapid Rewards Shopping while shopping or eating out like you normally would.
If you’re really struggling to hit that milestone though, you’ll want to look at opening the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card once you’ve hit the bonuses on the personal card. You don’t need to have a registered business to apply for a business card either – you just need some income coming in from sources outside of a traditional W2 job. That’s how we were able to reach the Companion Pass requirements the first time around.
Example 3 – The Middle of the Road Spender
Many of us will likely fall somewhere in between these examples though. If you concentrate all your spending on your Southwest card as soon as you get it, you might be surprised what your spend-through turns out to be.
For us, I would anticipate that we’ll be putting about $1,500-2,500/month on the card. It’ll fluctuate more than normal since we’ll be leaving Panama, taking a vacation in Mexico, taking a big road trip, and then finding a new place to live. So it’s possible our spending might be quite a bit more as well.
But if we were looking at $2,000/month, that means it would take us over 6 months to hit the $25k spend needed to have earned what we need on one card (100,000 bonus points + 25,000 in dollars spent).
Since almost all our flights are booked for the spring plans, we won’t need the Companion Pass right away, so this is ok for us. But we can always expedite things by using the options mentioned in Example 2.
Pro Tip — We only get one card and pass it back and forth when we know one of us is going to be out somewhere spending money. You’re generally inserting the card or tapping the card on the machine yourself most of the time. And when we hand the card over to a store or restaurant to run it, no one’s ever questioned that the card is for our spouse.
Getting a second card for your spouse as an authorized user is almost a penalty in a way. That will count against your spouse’s opened credit cards and can hinder earning travel rewards in the near future because of Chase’s 5/24 rule.
When to sign up?
Remember, the qualifying points need to be earned within a single calendar year. That means if you sign up right now, the clock starts ticking and any points credited to your statements in 2021 will be sort of waste. Once 2022 starts, you’ll be stuck starting from scratch.
Ideally, you’ll want to apply for the card in December. That way your first statement should close in January and any money spent on the card in December will be credited as points in the 2022 calendar year.
But the big question is, will this offer still be available in December? Bad news… I don’t know the answer to that, unfortunately.
However, when I click through on my own Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Priority Card and then click “Apply Now”, it does state that the “Offer ends 12/7/2021.”
I can’t guarantee that’s going to be the actual date when it’ll change, but I would guess it will be right around then. You’re taking a chance by waiting, but if it’s pulled, it’s pulled. My advice would be to put a reminder in your calendar and plan on applying a few days before December 7. That’s going to be my plan.
We’ll be in the U.S. and hopefully, we’ll get the card before we head back to Panama. Any dollars spent on the card then won’t be posted as points until our January statement, which is exactly what we want.
And then, just make that’s the card that you put all your spending on. Don’t forget that once you reach 125,000 qualifying points, you’ll get the Southwest Companion Pass for the remainder of the current year plus the entire following year.
So if you’re in a hurry to reach that number in 2022, that might become another reason to still consider signing up for the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card mentioned in Example 2 above. If so, you only want to do that after you’ve hit all your bonus points on the Southwest personal card you applied for. That can expedite the process of reaching the needed points much quicker.
Travel rewards and wrap-up
Travel rewards can provide tremendous amounts of value. It just takes a little organization to stay on top of your cards. I use a spreadsheet to track our credit cards and it’s worked well for us. Sign up for my email list and I’ll send that right over to you, along with some other cool spreadsheets to use…
Come on… you know ya wanna! I won’t bother you much and you can unsubscribe anytime.
And, hopefully, you already know this, but don’t work on travel rewards unless you know that you can pay off your credit cards every month. Consumer debt is no joke and I’m speaking from experience on this.
But, if you’re on top of things, the Southwest Companion Pass is an excellent travel reward that can save you thousands of dollars.
Not only that but don’t forget that you’ll have accrued all those points along the way in earning it. You can then use those 125,000+ points to book your flights for free and then add your companion to be able to fly for free as well. Essentially, your flights for both you and your companion can be free except for a few bucks for taxes.
The amount of money you’ll save while enjoying the world is unbelievably awesome!
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Thanks and good luck on getting your Southwest Companion Pass!
Have you had the Southwest Companion Pass before or do I now have you motivated to get it?
Plan well, take action, and live your best life!
Thanks for reading!!