Airplane in the sky

Even though I hate Southwest’s boarding process, they’ll always be my preferred airline for one reason: the Companion Pass! With the Southwest Companion Pass, your travel companion can fly for free for a minimum of a year. All you have to do is pay the taxes! My husband and I always make sure one of us has the Companion Pass so we can take advantage of the best frequent flyer perk out there. How could you not want to earn it yourself? Here’s a complete guide to earning the Southwest Companion Pass.

What is the Southwest Companion Pass and How Do I Earn It?

The Southwest Companion Pass is a benefit from Southwest Airlines that allows you to bring a pre-designated travel companion on every flight you book on Southwest. You just have to pay for the taxes which are $5.60 one-way in the United States.

Earning a Companion Pass sounds like a daunting task; to qualify, you have to fly 100 one-way flights or earn 125,000 Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year. Getting 125,000 points is actually quite doable with the right credit cards. You can even have it for two full years if you time it right, but more on that later.

Earning the Southwest Companion Pass with Credit Cards

The easiest way to earn the Companion Pass is by signing up for Southwest credit cards from Chase. Chase restricts you to only one sign-up bonus on a personal Southwest card every two years. However, you will be able to get the sign-up bonus on both business cards. Remember, you won’t be approved for any of the cards if you opened five or more credit cards at any bank in the past 24 months (the 5/24 rule).

Here are your options for Southwest credit cards:

  • Personal Cards (pick one):
    • Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority
    • Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier
    • Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus
  • Business Cards (pick one or both)
    • Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business
    • Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business

For details on the Southwest credit cards, check out my Southwest credit card comparison guide here.

Depending on the sign-up bonus, you will have to open two or three credit cards to earn the Companion Pass. You can check the current offers here. For example, I was able to get the Companion Pass this year by opening two cards. At the time, the Southwest Performance Business card had a 70,000 point sign-up bonus, and the Southwest Premier Business card had a 60,000 point sign-up bonus.

Each card comes with an annual fee, but this is a small price to pay for tons of Southwest points and free flights for your Companion.

cheese plate and wine tasting in Sonoma
We used the Companion Pass to visit Sonoma!

Other Ways to Earn Companion Pass Qualifying Points

If the sign-up bonuses on the Southwest cards are low, you may have to earn additional Rapid Rewards points to get the Companion Pass. You can do the following to earn qualifying points:

  • Book revenue flights on Southwest
  • Spend money on your Southwest credit card(s)
  • Earn points from Rapid Reward Partners (e.g., shopping or dining)
    • Note: Only base points will count (e.g., a shopping portal bonus will not count towards the Companion Pass)

These methods of earning points DO NOT count toward the Companion Pass:

  • Points converted from hotel and car loyalty programs
  • Points transferred between members
  • Purchased points
  • Points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards or other programs
  • Points earned by taking surveys
  • Points earned from program enrollment, tier bonus points, and flight bonus points

How Do I Use the Companion Pass?

Using the Companion Pass is easy. For any ticket you book on Southwest with points or cash, you can add a Companion to the ticket. You can add a Companion as long as there is a seat available on the plane. For example, if you bought a Wanna Get Away ticket, you can add a Companion even if Wanna Getaway is sold out but other fare classes are available.

You can also book tickets for yourself before your Companion Pass has posted. Once you earn the Companion Pass, simply add your Companion. If you are worried that the flight might sell out, you can buy a refundable ticket for your Companion. Once you earn the Companion Pass, cancel the ticket to free up the seat and then add your Companion to your ticket.

How Do I Get the Companion Pass for Two Years?

Timing the Southwest Companion Pass to get it for two years sounds tricky, but it’s simple.

Opening the Cards and Meeting the Spending Requirement

Follow these steps to get the Southwest Companion Pass for two years:

  • Sign up for the Southwest credit cards any time between the beginning of October and the beginning of the next year.
    • By opening cards in October, you will have until January to meet the spending requirement to earn the sign-up bonus.
  • Time when you meet the spending requirement so that the sign-up bonuses post in the new year.
    • You’ll want the points to post as close to January 1st as possible to maximize the time you have the Companion Pass.
    • Technically, you can meet the spending requirement any time after your December statement closes since those points won’t post until the January statement closes.

An Important Note on Earning the Companion Pass

You will also need to be careful with returning purchases. Once you pass the spending requirement, the bonus will be triggered and the points will post with the next statement. In other words, total spending triggers the bonus, even if you make returns that put your actual spending under the spending requirement! This small but crucial fact can cause you to earn one or both bonuses in December instead of January. If this happens, it will be much harder to earn the Companion Pass. For this reason, try to only buy things you are sure you won’t return.

Final Thoughts

Earning the Southwest Companion Pass is a rite of passage for credit card churners. You can save so much money by getting half off your travel on Southwest for up to two years! Keep these pointers in mind when earning the Southwest Companion Pass and you’re on your way to unlimited BOGO flights:

  • Transferring points from a friend’s Southwest account to your own costs money and will not count toward the Companion Pass.
  • All credit cards used for earning the Companion Pass need to be in your own name.
  • Annual fees do not count toward the spending requirement.
  • Avoid returns! If you exceed the spending requirement and then make a return that puts you back under the threshold, the bonus will still post with that statement.

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