Southwest Airlines Companion Pass: Best and Fastest Ways to Earn

Southwest Airlines Companion Pass: Best and Fastest Ways to Earn

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer.

Southwest Companion Pass Overview

Southwest Airlines offers what is arguably the most valuable feature within the travel industry: The Companion Pass. Through this earned perk, Southwest flyers are able to essentially get a two-for-one deal on every single flight they take. Does that sound too good to be true? Keep reading to find out all the details on the Companion Pass, including the fastest and least expensive ways to qualify.

What is the Companion Pass?

Southwest's Companion Pass is arguably the greatest promotional offer within the travel industry. Companion Pass holders can book an additional ticket on any Southwest flight for a designated companion for nearly free of charge; all you need to pay are taxes and fees. These fees begin at $5.60 one way, which is a small fraction of what you would be paying without the pass.

You can use the pass to receive an additional ticket on any class of service or flight, including award flights booked through Rapid Rewards® points. There is no limit to the amount of times you can use this feature besides its expiration date. There are also no blackout dates or seat restrictions. It's valid from the date it's earned until Dec. 31 of the following year.

southwest companion pass description

It's worth noting, though, that the Companion Pass is a feature most appreciated by domestic travelers, because Southwest has a very limited offering of international destinations. If you mostly travel international, then it may not be worth it for you to qualify for the Companion Pass.

Designating a companion

How to designate a companion
  • Log in to your Rapid Rewards account at Southwest.com.
  • On your snapshot tab, locate "Choose Your Companion," then click "Enter Companion Info" and follow the provided instructions.
  • You could also call Southwest directly at 1-800-435-9792 to do this process.
  • You will receive a Companion Pass Member kit and membership card in seven to 10 business days after completing the designation process.

After you qualify for the Companion Pass, you will be asked to set up a companion. Your companion will be the one who will travel with you at the cost of only taxes and fees. You'll need to provide your companion’s name, birth date, email address and Rapid Rewards account number to proceed. You're also able to change your designated companion up to three times per calendar year. If you have a Companion Pass for the duration of two years, this would mean you can have up to seven different companions who have travelled with you for free. Choose strategically, because you will not be able to change your companion once you use the allotted three changes per year.

How to book a Companion reservation

Although your companion is essentially flying for free, reservations are still required for all Companion Pass travel. Southwest fortunately made the process of booking a Companion flight simple and straightforward.

You can also complete the entire process of booking a companion flight reservation through the phone with a Southwest customer representative. Call 1-800-248-4377 and notify the representative that you want to use your Companion Pass. They will handle the rest with your input.

  • Book your own flight first
  • Visit "My Trips" tab of your account
  • Locate your flight in the "Upcoming tab"
  • Click the "Add Companion" link
  • Finally, click "Purchase" to complete your companion's reservation

Qualifying mileage and spending

You can earn a Companion Pass by accumulating either 100 one-way flights or 125,000 Rapid Rewards points within one calendar year. In almost all cases, reaching 125,000 Rapid Rewards points will be the preferred means of qualifying. However, not all points count. It's important to understand which forms of spending will contribute points toward earning a Companion Pass and which methods you should be avoiding altogether.

Common misconceptions: Purchased points, those transferred from other programs like Chase Ultimate rewards or hotel partners and tier bonus points for Rapid Rewards members all DO NOT count toward earning a Companion Pass.

All of the following means count toward earning a Companion Pass: Southwest flight bookings, welcome bonuses on Southwest Airlines co-branded credit cards and base points earned from Rapid Rewards partners. Regarding flights and partnered services, you should note that only base points — not any bonus points included in the booking — count toward earning a Companion Pass. Partner services that do count include shopping, dining, home and lifestyle partners.

Companion Pass timing

The Companion Pass is valid from the date earned to Dec. 31 of the following year. If you were able to qualify for a Companion Pass in January, then you would enjoy the pass benefits for nearly two full years. However, earning all the points needed to qualify in January is difficult. We suggest you aim to qualify within the first three calendar months. It may seem crazy to think you can earn 125,000 points within three months, but we'll show you how easy it could be.

Southwest co-branded credit card welcome bonuses

The most efficient way to reach the minimum amount of points to qualify for a Companion Pass is to use credit card bonuses of Southwest Airlines co-branded Chase credit cards. These cards provide Rapid Rewards points as a welcome bonus, with amounts ranging between 40,000 and 100,000 points. If you were to secure the latter bonus, you would be more than two-thirds of the way toward a Companion Pass. These credit cards will be the key to achieving the Companion Pass in record pace while also spending the least amount possible.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

  • On Chase's Secure Website

$99

15.99% - 22.99% Variable

Excellent

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 6,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • No blackout dates or seat restrictions.
  • Redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, gift cards, access to events, and more.
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The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card provides cardholders with the chance to Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. After qualifying for the welcome bonus, you would be one-third of the way toward achieving the pass.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

  • On Chase's Secure Website

$149

15.99% - 22.99% Variable

Excellent

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 7,500 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
  • $75 Southwest® travel credit each year.
  • 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available.
  • 20% back on in-flight drinks and WiFi.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
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The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card provides a similar welcome bonus as the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. Cardholders may Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

$99

17.49% - 24.49% Variable

Excellent

  • Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 6,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn points on employee spending
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • No blackout dates when you redeem points, no seat restrictions, bags fly free®, and no change fees
  • No foreign transaction fees
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The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card provides a more robust welcome bonus, albeit with more difficult requirements to activate. Cardholders will Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.; the bonus alone will place individuals more than half the way toward achieving a Companion Pass.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

$199

17.49% - 24.49% Variable

Excellent

  • Earn 70,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $25,000 on purchases in the first 6 months.
  • 9,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
  • 3 points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines® purchases.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable and phone services and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available
  • Inflight WiFi Credits
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit
  • Employee cards at no additional cost, earn points on employee spending.
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The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card provides by far the best welcome bonus among the various Southwest co-branded credit cards available. Earn 70,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $25,000 on purchases in the first 6 months.

Remember: Use your Southwest co-branded credit card on your day-to-day transactions. Simply using the credit card will return Southwest points to you at a steady rate. While you may not be getting as many points as a flight booking, these points still count toward earning the pass. Racking up points this way may not be the fastest method, but it's easy and can only help.

Companion Pass trick: Overlapping welcome bonuses

The various welcome bonuses on Southwest co-branded credit cards each make significant dents in the required amount of points for the Companion Pass, but none are enough to completely qualify for the pass. There is, however, a way to qualify for the Companion Pass solely through overlapping welcoming bonuses; this is the secret to earning the pass in record time.

Tip: You should apply for credit cards with welcome bonuses toward the end of the year, start racking up points, but hold off on reaching the qualifying amount for the welcome bonus until the start of January. You could then access the welcome bonus points immediately at the start of the year instead of having to work toward it during the calendar year and losing time on your Companion Pass duration.

Southwest treats personal credit cards as separate from business credit cards. Therefore, you could theoretically qualify for both a personal and business credit card, earn the welcome bonus of both and rack up the total points of those two promotions. If you apply for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card as your business credit card, then any personal credit card option will provide you with enough points to qualify for the Companion Pass if you meet the welcome bonus qualifications of both.

Companion Pass trick: Qualifying for a business credit card

It's now easier than ever to be considered a business owner. Any means of earning income outside of your full-time job will provide you with a strong claim toward being a small-business owner. If you tutor, sell items on eBay, resell clothing or get paid for a service like babysitting, you have a great chance toward qualifying for a business credit card. On card applications, you can state that you're a sole proprietor of a business — in other words, you're running a business by yourself without formal registration — and offer your social security number as a replacement for your business's tax ID or employer identification number.

Be completely honest on your business credit card application. Your additional income source does not have to be substantial for it to be considered as a valid business meriting a business credit card.

If you truly want to maximize value on your Companion Pass and have it as soon as possible, there's no harm or risk in trying this approach. If you end up qualifying, you will have the chance to earn an additional 20,000 or 60,000 Rapid Rewards through the higher welcome bonuses of Southwest's co-branded business credit cards.

5/24 Chase Rule

Southwest’s co-branded credit cards follow Chase's 5/24 rule. Regardless of your credit score, you won't qualify for additional credit cards if you've opened five or more new credit card accounts within the last 24 months. This rule is designed to prevent individuals from continuously opening credit card accounts and racking up welcome bonus promotions. If you think you might have opened up five credit cards in the past two years, it might be worth checking your history before you submit an application.

There are also a few other restrictions you should be aware of when applying for any of Southwest's Rapid Rewards credit cards. Co-branded cards for personal use are only available if you do not already have a current Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card. Additionally, the welcome bonus on any of these cards is only available if it has not been earned by you in the past 24 months. Similarly, co-branded cards for business use have bonus offers only available to those who are not current cardholders of a Southwest business card and have not received a new cardholder bonus for the business card within the last 24 months.

Companion Pass and Hawaii

Southwest recently added several new travel routes to popular destinations in Hawaii, including Kona, Honolulu and Kahului. You can use a Companion Pass without restrictions on these route as well. Southwest is arguably offering the best deal to Hawaii currently available, because you're getting two tickets for the price of one through the pass.

southwest hawaii route map

If you choose to redeem your Rapid Rewards points for an award flight to Hawaii, then both you and your companion would be flying to Hawaii for free.

Frequently asked questions

Rapid Rewards Shopping portal is one of the partner services provided by Southwest that does count toward earning Companion Pass. Purchasing products through this service that you would have otherwise bought elsewhere is a great way to accrue points.

All of the following count toward earning a Companion Pass: Southwest flight bookings, welcome bonus on Southwest co-branded credit cards and base points earned from Rapid Rewards partners. Bonus points on flight bookings, partner services or credit cards don't count toward the pass.

Book your own flight first, then visit the "My Trips" tab of your account. Locate your flight in the "Upcoming tab." Click the "Add Companion" link, and lastly click "Purchase" to complete your companion's reservation.

You cannot buy points toward a Companion Pass. That's a means of accruing points that Southwest does not consider as contributing toward earning a Companion Pass.

Southwest asks for you to allow up to 21 days for companion changes to take effect. You also need to cancel or complete any upcoming reservations booked with a companion before being able to change that designated individual.

Companion Pass can only be used on flights within Southwest's network, and Southwest is predominantly a domestic airline. They travel to a few locations outside of the United States, such as the Caribbean, but there are generally very few international routes offered. You will not benefit much from Companion Pass if international travel is your priority.

You can redeem your points while earning toward Companion Pass. You will qualify when you earn a total of 125,000 points within one calendar year, regardless of how many points are actually in your account at the time.

Final thoughts

Southwest's Companion Pass is one of the best loyalty benefits available in the travel industry for good reason. You can receive an unlimited amount of two-for-one flights with no blackout dates or seat restrictions for up to two years. Frequent domestic flyers would easily rack up enough value to outweigh the minimum spending required.

There are also ways to spend less and earn more qualifying points. In particular, you should try to qualify for Southwest's co-branded credit cards. These cards provide great welcome bonuses that will have you well on the way toward earning the pass. You can also overlap welcome bonuses by qualifying on both personal and business co-branded cards; this is by far the fastest and least expensive means of achieving the companion pass. Although earning 125,000 points in a calendar year seems daunting, it's actually more reasonable than you might think.

Terms apply to Chase credit card offers. See chase.com for more information.

Joe Resendiz

Joe Resendiz is a former investment banking analyst for Goldman Sachs, where he covered public sector and infrastructure financing. During his time on Wall Street, Joe worked closely with the debt capital markets team, which allowed him to gain unique insights into the credit market. Joe is currently a research analyst who covers credit cards and the payments industry. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, where he majored in finance.

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).