Southwest Airlines Companion Pass: Best and Fastest Ways to Earn

Southwest Airlines Companion Pass: Best and Fastest Ways to Earn

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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 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.

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 2020. 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 any 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.

Southwest 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 more than half of the points you need to earn a Companion Pass.

CardSign-up bonusEarning rateAnnual fee
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit CardEarn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.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.$69
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit CardEarn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.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.$99
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit CardEarn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.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.$149
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit CardEarn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.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. and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases. 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.$99
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit CardEarn 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. for a total of 100,000 points3 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases. 2 points per $1 spent on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable, and phone services. 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.$199

While most of these cards come with similar sign-up bonuses and earning rates, the cards with higher annual fees offer extra perks. The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, for example, comes with a 7,500-point bonus on every cardmember anniversary, compared with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card's 6,000-point anniversary bonus and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card's 3,000-point bonus. The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card also comes with 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. Not to mention you can earn the Southwest Companion Pass with just one credit card by earning both of this card's sign-up bonuses, when you include the points you earn from the $30,000 in spending necessary to qualify.

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.

Referral bonuses

If you have a Southwest credit card, you can earn up to 50,000 points toward your Southwest Companion Pass by referring friends to any of Southwest's co-branded credit cards. You'll get 10,000 points for each friend who applies for a Southwest credit card though 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 classEarning 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.

HotelsSouthwest 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. You'll earn 1 point per $2 spent at most restaurants.

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 cellphone companies and office supply stores to department stores, grocery stores and major name brands. Currently, you can earn up to 20 points per $1 on purchases made through this portal. This includes 5 points at Under Armour; 4 points per $1 at Bass Pro Shops and Nike; 3 points per $1 at Burberry and Uniqlo; and 1 point per $1 at Macy's, Safeway, Petco and Apple.

Southwest Companion Pass tricks

You can earn the Southwest Companion Pass through flying, earning points with Southwest credit cards or a combination of both. To maximize the use of your Southwest Companion Pass, you want to earn it as early in the year as possible, and the best way to do this 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

According to Southwest Companion Pass Rules, the points you earn with a credit card aren't available for qualification for the pass until they've been posted to your Rapid Rewards® account. This means that if you earn qualifying points with your credit card in December 2020 but they don't post to your account and/or billing statement until January 2021, they'll count toward your 2021 earnings.

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 from 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.

If you spend $4,200 on Southwest Business Select® flights using your Southwest credit card, you'll earn 50,400 points on your flights ($4,200 x 12) and 8,400 points on your credit card ($4,200 x 2), which puts you at 125,800 points. 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).

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 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. On top of this, depending on your purchases, you'll get at least 30,000 points for your spending in the process of earning the bonus ($30,000 x 1 point per dollar on general purchases = 30,000 points) — that's a total of 130,000 points for spending $30,000.

Coronavirus and the Companion Pass

The coronavirus pandemic has made it more difficult to both earn and take advantage of the Southwest Companion Pass in 2020. Thankfully, Southwest has adjusted their Southwest Companion Pass rules slightly to account for this.

If you currently have a Companion Pass that's valid through Dec. 31, 2020, it's now valid through June 30, 2021, extending your Companion Pass benefits by six months.

If you've been working toward earning a Southwest Companion Pass in 2020, Southwest is giving Rapid Rewards members 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points and 25 qualifying one-way flights toward the Companion Pass.

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.

Designating a companion

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 ten 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.

1. Check flight availability for you and your companion

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

2. Book your ticket.

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.

3. Add your companion.

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.

Can I use the Companion Pass for a flight I booked with points? {#faqs}

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.

Elizabeth is a personal finance writer specializing in credit cards, student loans, financial planning, and small business. Her work has appeared on The Motley Fool, Business Insider, Yahoo! Finance, and Bankrate. She’s an avid credit card points collector and ex-business traveler who now enjoys frequent trips abroad for leisure.

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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).