Southwest Airlines Companion Pass: Best and Fastest Ways to Earn in 2022

Southwest Airlines Companion Pass: Best and Fastest Ways to Earn in 2022

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Southwest Airlines offers what is arguably one of the best perks within the travel industry: The Southwest 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 Southwest Companion Pass?

With the Southwest Companion Pass, you can choose a designated companion to fly with you nearly for free for as long as you hold the pass.

Your companion must pay taxes and fees, which start at $5.60 one way.

If you often fly with a companion on routes that Southwest covers, the Southwest Companion Pass is one of the greatest promotional offers in the travel industry.

What is the Southwest Companion Pass?

You can earn the Southwest Companion Pass by either flying 100 qualifying one-way flights or accumulating 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year. Once you earn the pass, it's valid for the remainder of the year as well as the entirety of the following year. There is no limit to the amount of times you can use your Companion Pass.

You'll choose a designated companion when you earn the pass, and you can only have one designated companion at a time, although you can change your designated companion up to three times per calendar year. When you book flights, whether you pay with cash or Rapid Rewards® points, you can use the pass to receive an additional ticket for your designated companion. If you don't usually fly with a companion, or if you don't often fly on Southwest's routes (they have limited international flights, for example), the Companion Pass might not be worth it for you.

How does the Southwest Companion Pass work?

Once you earn the Southwest Companion Pass, it's valid for the rest of the calendar year and all of the next year. This means that the earlier in the year you earn the Southwest Companion Pass, the better.

Of course, this can be challenging, as you have to complete the required flights/earn the required points within the calendar year. No matter how close you are to earning the pass in December, your earnings reset on Jan. 1.

If you earn the pass, you'll be asked to designate a companion. This is the only person who can fly with you on your Southwest Companion Pass, and if for some reason you end up not traveling together, your companion will be asked to pay for their ticket. You can change your designated companion three times each calendar year according to Southwest's rules.

Any flights that take advantage of your Southwest Companion Pass benefit must be booked by you, the passholder, and they must be booked directly with Southwest. You also have to complete the flight while your pass is still valid.

Southwest Companion Pass rules

  • You must earn 125,000 qualifying points or fly 100 qualifying one-way flights with Southwest in one calendar year to get the Companion Pass.
  • The Southwest Companion Pass is valid from the date it's earned until Dec. 31 of the following year.
  • You can only have one designated companion at a time, but you can change your designated companion up to three times per calendar year.
  • You and your companion must check in and fly together.
  • The Companion Pass can only be used on flights you book through Southwest and complete while the pass is still valid.
  • There are no blackout dates or seat restrictions when using the Southwest Companion Pass.
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How to get the Southwest Companion Pass

As mentioned, you have to earn at least 125,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards® points or fly 100 qualifying one-way flights with Southwest in a calendar year to earn the Southwest Companion Pass in 2022. You can't earn the pass through a combination of points and flights; you must choose one or the other. It's almost always easier to earn the pass by accumulating qualifying points as there are multiple ways to do this.

You can earn qualifying Rapid Rewards® points toward the Southwest Companion Pass with:

  • Revenue flights booked with Southwest
  • Points earned using Southwest credit cards
  • Base points earned with most Rapid Rewards® partners

Only base points, not bonus points, will count toward earning the Southwest Companion Pass. Additionally, points you purchased, points that were gifted or transferred to you and points transferred in from other programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards® DO NOT count toward your Southwest Companion Pass.

How to get Southwest companion pass with credit cards

The best way to boost your earnings toward a Southwest Companion Pass is to get one or more of Southwest's co-branded credit cards. There are three Southwest personal credit cards and two Southwest business credit cards, and the sign-up bonus on any one of these is enough to get you at least a quarter of the points you need to earn a Companion Pass.

Savvy traveler tip: Southwest doesn't allow you to own multiple personal Southwest cards. However, you can own a Southwest personal card and a Southwest business card at the same time. If you have a small business, you might consider getting one personal and one business Southwest card in the same year to earn all the required points for the Companion Pass.

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Card
Sign-up bonus
Earning rate
Annual fee
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
On Chase's Secure Website
Earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.Earn 2X points on Southwest® purchases. Earn 2X points on Rapid Rewards® hotel and car partners. Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare. Earn 2X points on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming. Earn 1X points on all other purchases.$69
Show All Rows

While most of these cards come with similar sign-up bonuses and earning rates, the cards with higher annual fees offer extra perks that offset their fees:

  • The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, for example, comes with a higher 7,500-point bonus on every cardmember anniversary, a $75 Southwest annual travel credit, four upgraded boardings per year and the ability to earn qualifying points toward preferred status with Southwest.
  • The Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card has the highest annual fee but can also be the most lucrative. You'll get a higher earning rate, 9,000 bonus points on each cardmember anniversary and four upgraded boardings per year. It also comes with up to a $100 credit toward Global Entry or TSA Precheck.

Chase 5/24 Rule

All of Southwest's co-branded credit cards are issued by Chase and follow the Chase 5/24 rule. This is an unpublished rule that restricts you from opening a new credit card with Chase if you've had five or more credit card inquiries on your credit report in the past 24 months. In other words, you should only apply for a Southwest credit card if you're sure you haven't applied for more than four credit cards, from any issuer, in the last 24 months.

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Referral bonuses

If you have a Southwest credit card, you can earn up to 100,000 points toward your Southwest Companion Pass by referring friends to any of Southwest's co-branded credit cards. You'll get 20,000 points for each friend who applies for a Southwest credit card through your referral link as long as they're approved.

Southwest flights

Every time you fly Southwest, you'll earn Rapid Rewards® points that can be used toward qualifying for the Southwest Companion Pass. The amount of points you earn on each flight depends on how much you spend and your fare class.

Fare class
Earning rate on base fare
Wanna Get Away?®6 points per $1
Anytime10 points per $1
Business Select®12 points per $1

Southwest partners

From hotel chains and rental car agencies to online retailers and restaurants, when you earn points through Rapid Rewards® partners, they count toward earning a Companion Pass. You'll find a list of Rapid Rewards® partners below. In most cases, you'll have to enroll in the listed loyalty program and then link your Rapid Rewards. Earn rates vary by partner.

Hotels
Southwest Hotels, Best Western, Radisson Rewards, Choice Hotels, World of Hyatt, Marriott Bonvoy, MGM Resorts, Rocketmiles
Rental carAlamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz, National, Payless, Thrifty
Shopping & diningRapid Rewards shopping portal, Rapid Rewards dining portal, 1-800-flowers.com, Laithwaites, Harry & David, Home Chef
Home & lifestyleNRG Energy, Reliant Secure 24 plan, Marathon gas stations

Rapid Rewards Dining

The Rapid Rewards® dining portal gives you the chance to earn qualifying points every time you dine out. You first join the program and link a debit or credit card. Then, you can search the portal for participating restaurants near you. When you dine at those restaurants and pay with your linked card, you'll earn Rapid Rewards® on every dollar you spend. At most restaurants, you'll earn:

  • 3 points per dollar if you opt in to emails
  • 1 point per $2 if you don't

Southwest shopping portal

You can shop with a long list of online retailers through the Southwest shopping portal and earn extra qualifying points on purchases you'd already make anyway. Retailers include everything from cell phone companies and office supply stores to department stores, grocery stores and major name brands. Rates at specific stores change often, so be sure to check before you shop online for current rates and any promotions that may be active.

What's the best time to get the Southwest Companion Pass?

Because the Southwest Companion Pass is good for the rest of the calendar year in which you earn it and the next year, you should consider timing in earning it. Ideally you want to earn it as close to the beginning of the calendar year as possible. If you earn the Companion Pass in January or February, you'll have it for nearly two entire years. If you're planning on using credit card sign-up bonuses toward your Companion Pass, you might want to consider signing up in December of the prior year, so that your bonus points post in January.

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Southwest Companion Pass tricks

You can earn the Southwest Companion Pass through flying, earning points with Southwest credit cards or a combination of both. One of the fastest ways to the Companion Pass is by taking advantage of at least one credit card sign-up bonus.

Keep in mind that you can't earn the sign-up bonus on more than one Southwest personal credit card. This means that you'll need to earn the Companion Pass through one of the following three ways, which we'll walk through in detail below.

  • Personal credit card sign-up bonus + flying
  • Personal credit card sign-up bonus + business credit card sign-up bonus
  • Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

Savvy traveler tip: December may be the optimal month for earning qualifying points on your Southwest credit card. Points earned with a credit card don't qualify for the Companion Pass until they've posted to your Rapid Rewards® account. Points earned with your credit card in December would post to your account in January, counting toward next years' earnings.

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Companion Pass trick: Combining a welcome bonus with flying

In the past, the Southwest personal credit cards have offered 65,000 points if you spend $2,000 in the first three months. Southwest periodically raises the offer on these cards to this amount, so you should keep an eye out for an elevated offer. When you count points earned through regular spending for this offer, you actually earn at least 67,000 points. After that, you can earn the remaining 58,000 points through a combination of flying with Southwest and paying with your Southwest credit card, essentially "double-dipping" your earnings.

  • Credit card sign-up bonus = 65,000 points (when available)
  • $2,000 spent to earn sign-up bonus = 2,000 points (at least)
  • $4,200 on on Southwest Business Select® flights x 12 points/$1 = 50,400 points*
  • $4,200 spent on Southwest credit card x 2 points/$1 = 8,400 points

Total points earned = 125,800

If you choose to fly in a lower-fare class, it'll take significantly longer to reach this goal.


Companion Pass trick: Overlapping welcome bonuses

To speed things up, you can earn the points you need without flying at all. If you earn the sign-up bonus on any of the Southwest personal credit cards plus the bonus on the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card, you'll earn most, or all of the points that you need (depending on the current offers).

  • Southwest personal card sign-up bonus = 65,000 points (sample amount)
  • $2,000 spent to earn the sign-up bonus = 2,000 points (at least)
  • Southwest business card sign-up bonus = 60,000 points (sample amount)
  • $3,000 spent to earn the sign-up bonus = 3,000 points (at least)

Total points earned = 130,000


Companion Pass trick: Qualifying for a business credit card

Finally, if your spending is high enough, it's possible to earn the Southwest Companion Pass with just one credit card: the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card. You'll Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. On top of this, depending on your purchases, you'll get at least 5,000 points for your spending in the process of earning the bonus.

And with the excellent category bonuses on the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card, you could earn the companion pass with as little as $11,250 in spending. That's if you spent all that on Southwest Airlines purchases, which earn 4 Rapid Rewards points per dollar spent. There are a variety of ways you could earn the Southwest Companion Pass with just spending on the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card — here's one example:

  • Credit card sign-up bonus = 80,000 points
  • $3,000 on Southwest Airlines purchases x 4 points/$1 = 12,000 points
  • $2,000 on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners x 3 points/$1 = 6,000 points
  • $6,000 on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable, and phone services or local transit, commuting and rideshare x 2 points/$1 = 12,000 points
  • $15,000 in other credit card spend x 1 point/$1 = 15,000 points

Total points earned = 125,000


How to use the Southwest Companion Pass

Once you earn the Southwest Companion Pass, you'll need to designate a companion and go through the process of reserving a seat for your companion each time you want to fly with them.

Designating a companion

  • When you log on to your Rapid Rewards® account and go to the "Snapshot" section of your account page, you'll be able to track your progress toward earning the Companion Pass.
  • Upon earning the Southwest Companion Pass, you'll receive a welcome email within a few days that includes a link to the page where you can designate your companion.
  • You can also get to this page by going back to the "Snapshot" section of your Rapid Rewards® account. You'll see an option titled "Choose Your Companion." Once selected, it will ask you to enter your companion's information, which includes their name, birthdate, email address and Rapid Rewards® account number.
  • You can change your companion up to three times per year by calling Southwest directly at 1-800-435-9792 and providing your new companion's information.
  • Once you've designated your companion, a Companion Pass kit and membership card will come in the mail within seven to 10 business days.

Booking a flight with the Southwest Companion Pass

Each time you want to fly with your companion, you must go through the process of booking your flight and then adding them as a companion. You can do this over the phone by calling a customer service representative at 1-800-248-4377 or online by following the process below.

Because you're required to book your flight before adding a companion, it's wise to check flight availability first. You don't want to book your ticket only for the flight to sell out before you add a companion.

You can do this by searching for your preferred flight on the Southwest website and setting the number of passengers to two (or however many passengers are traveling with you).

Check flight availability for you and your companion

Be careful about flights that are on the brink of selling out, as people tend to snatch up high-demand routes during peak season quickly. If a flight has limited seating left, it should be displayed in the search results beneath the price.

Check flight availability for you and your companion

Once you've found the flight you want, go ahead and book your ticket. You won't be able to add your companion until your reservation is booked.

After your flight is booked, go into your Rapid Rewards® account and select the "My Trips" tab. Locate your flight, and select the "Add Companion" option. Click through the confirmation page, which will include price details like taxes and fees, and select "Purchase" to complete this process.

Southwest Companion Pass FAQs

Can I use the Companion Pass for a flight I booked with points?

Yes, the Companion Pass can be used both for award flights that are booked with points and flights purchased with dollars.

How do you change a flight that you booked with the companion pass?

You will need to change your flight first before going into your companion’s flight to make changes. Once you've made the necessary changes to your flight, you can go in and add your companion again.

Do Southwest bonus points count toward the Companion Pass?

Southwest bonus points DO NOT count toward the Companion Pass. This includes tier bonus points, flight bonus points and partner bonus points.

Do transferred points count toward the Companion Pass?

Transferred points DO NOT count toward the Companion Pass. This includes points transferred between members as well as points converted from outside programs such as the Ultimate Rewards program or hotel and car loyalty programs.

Can I buy points to earn the Companion Pass?

Purchased points DO NOT count toward the Companion Pass, so it's not possible to buy points toward earning the Companion Pass.

Can I use the Companion Pass on Southwest vacations?

It would be difficult to use the Companion Pass on Southwest Vacations packages as flights and hotels are booked as a package, and you're asked upon making the reservations how many occupants will be in the hotel room. If you still want to try booking a Southwest Vacation package and adding an extra person via the Companion Pass, you can call Southwest and ask whether or not that's possible.

Does Southwest Rapid Rewards shopping count toward the Companion Pass?

Yes, the points you earn while shopping through the Southwest Rapid Rewards shopping portal count toward the Companion Pass.

Can you change your designated companion?

Yes, you can change your designated companion up to three times per calendar year.

Can I use Southwest points with a companion pass?

Yes, your companion can fly with you on any Southwest flight as long as it has not sold out. This includes flights that you book by paying cash as well as flights where you redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards points.

How many points do you need to get the Southwest Companion Pass?

You need to earn 125,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards points in one calendar year to earn the Southwest Companion Pass. You can also earn the Companion Pass by taking 100 one-way flights in one year.

How do you keep the Southwest Companion Pass?

There isn't a way to keep the Southwest Companion Pass. The Companion Pass is good for the duration of the calendar year in which you earn it and the following calendar year. Once the Companion Pass expires, you'll need to earn it again by meeting either the flight or point criteria.

Does the Southwest Companion Pass work on international flights?

Yes, the Southwest Companion Pass works on all flights that Southwest flies, including international flights. Keep in mind that you do have to pay the taxes and fees for your companion ticket, and those can be higher on international flights.

How do you change your Southwest Companion Pass companion?

To change your Southwest Companion Pass companion you'll need to call Southwest customer service at 1-800-435-9792. There you can provide your new companion's information to make the change. You can change your companion three times per calendar year.

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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).