At A Glance – A Southwest Airlines Companion Pass allows you to take one person with you on Southwest flights for free. This is a great way to stretch you travel dollars!
What is a Southwest Airlines Companion Pass?
A Southwest Companion Pass is sometimes considered the “Holy Grail” of the credit card rewards world. It is a pass issued to one individual after you have earned 125k Southwest Airlines points in one calendar year. When you qualify, the companion pass allows you to take another person on a flight with you for free (plus taxes/fees, usually $5.60/leg). Yes, I said FREE! Not just once or twice, but for the life of the pass which can be as much as 2 years.
After you have earned the pass, you can designate your “companion”. The companion can be changed up to 3 times each calendar year. Once earned, the pass is good for the remainder of that year and the following year.
Why Would You Want One?
If Southwest flies to any of the destinations you travel to, this is a great deal. Two for one travel. Plus the flights can be booked with points or dollars. There are no restrictions. If there is a seat available, you can take a companion.
How Do You Get A Companion Pass?
- You must earn (as of this writing) 125,000 qualifying points or fly 100 qualifying one-way flights in one calendar year to qualify.
- Qualifying points include flights booked through Southwest, points earned on Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Cards, and base points earned from Rapid Rewards partners.
- Qualifying points don’t include purchased points; points transferred between Members; points converted from hotel and car loyalty programs, e-Rewards®, Valued Opinions, and Diners Club®; Rapid Rewards reward flights or any travel with any portion of the purchase price paid for with Rapid Rewards points.
- You may change your designated companion up to three times each calendar year.
- Once you qualify, you can begin booking flights with your Companion Pass immediately. The pass is good through the remainder of that year and the next calendar year (up to two years, depending on when you qualify).
- Your companion can’t fly without you – they must be booked on the same flight and dates. If you cancel your ticket, their ticket will also be canceled. Also, they will be charged for the fare if you don’t make the flight.
- You have to pay for your ticket to bring a companion (i.e., you can’t use a Companion Pass to fly with a partner also using a Companion Pass).
Ok, that was a lot of details. The short version is: You can earn a pass with 125k points. You can designate a companion to fly with you for free. Your ticket must be paid for with either dollars or points. They have to fly with you. You can’t buy the points to qualify. Please check out the Southwest Airlines website for all terms and conditions.
Can You Earn The Pass Without Actually Flying All Those Miles?
I can hear you saying, “125k points is a LOT of flying!” Yes, it is and it would take a long time to get there. But, there is a better way. Here’s where the credit card rewards come into play.
If you are not familiar with credit card rewards, pause here and read my article, Credit Card Rewards and Travel Hacking.
You can earn the125k Southwest Airlines points by opening two SWA credit cards and earning the sign-up bonuses. It’s actually pretty easy to do with a little planning.
The sign-up bonuses from two Southwest credit cards should be nearly enough to earn the 125k points needed. At the time of this writing, Chase offers three personal cards and two business cards. The personal cards are currently offering 40k points each for a sign-up bonus and the two business cards offer 60k or 80k points as a sign-up bonus.
Opening two credit cards will get you nearly there. Southwest only allows you to hold one personal card at a time, so the two cards to open will need to be one personal card and one business card. The combined sign-up bonuses plus the points earned on the dollars spent to earn those bonuses would get you close to your goal.
- Signing up for one personal card = 40,000 points
- Minimum spend of $1,000 = 1,000 points
- Signing up for one business card = 60,000 points
- minimum spend of $3,000 = 3,000 points
- This totals 104,000 points for spending a total of $4,000.
If you chose the higher-earning business card, your total points accumulated would be 126,000. This would include 80k in sign-up bonus and a $5,000 minimum spend.
What If You Don’t Have A Business?
I currently have a personal card and a business card with SWA through Chase. Many of you may already have a business. If not, you may have a side-hustle you are already doing or one that you are thinking about starting. Most people have some kind of side-hustle in their life, and you can apply for a business card for that side-hustle. If you have a business name, great, if not, just use your name as the business. You will be asked for a tax identification number on the application. If you don’t have one of those, use your social security number.
My personal experience with Chase is that sometimes I get approved for business cards and sometimes I don’t. Most of the time I have been approved. I know one person who was turned down for the business card, but they kept going anyway. They qualified for the sign-up bonus early in the year and only used the SWA card until they had accumulated the 125k points with regular spending. They spent most of the first year accumulating the miles. After earning the companion pass, they still had a little more than a year to use it.
How Often Can You Earn A Companion Pass?
Chase allows for a sign-up bonus to be earned once every 24+ months. A word of caution, just because you are approved for a credit card does not mean the sign–up bonus is automatically yours. It has to have been longer than 24 months since you last earned one before you qualify for the next. (The Chase Sapphire products have a 48-month window.) That means you can recycle these cards once every two years. This is nice because the companion pass is good for almost 2 years. The year you earn it and the next full calendar year.
Stephen and I trade earning the pass. He held the pass and I was the companion for 2020 and 2021. I applied for the two credit cards in late 2021 and earned the pass in February of 2022. My pass will be good till December 2023. At that time, Stephen will apply for a new set of cards. Be sure to look at the Timing Your Card Opening paragraph in the Special Considerations section below for when to apply.
Normal Spending Only Please!
Please don’t do extra spending to get these bonuses. If you spend money you were not going to anyway, your travel is not free! I have spent ahead to get the bonus, but not extra.
Timing Your Card Opening
Most will want to open these cards and earn the pass at the beginning of the year to get the most from the pass. This is a great idea and what I do myself. Be aware, all 125k points must be earned in the same calendar year. If you want to try and get a head start on the process, you can open the cards in November or December, but you MUST NOT earn the sign-up bonus until January. Points are added to your account after the statement close date. You will need to be very careful if you open these two cards early. I would suggest opening the cards in December so you will have the physical card in your hand to start using on or just before January 1. Please read all the terms and conditions for your cards.
Register Your Companion
After earning your Companion Pass, go to southwestairlines.com and register your companion. Your designated companion can be changed three times per calendar year.
Credit Card Offers Change
The bonuses offered by Chase on any of their credit cards change over time. Right now the personal cards offer 40k points as a sign-up bonus, but that can change. I’ve seen 50k, 60k, or even 80k on the same card. Watch the Chase website for details.
You’ve Got A Lot Of Points There!
When you earn your Companion Pass, you have just accumulated 125k points to spend on Southwest Flights. And the points go farther with the Pass because you are flying at a rate of 2-for1. The paid-for flight can be bought with dollars or points and Southwest does not charge you a change fee if you need to change or cancel your flight. If you do need to change a flight that includes a Companion Pass ticket, I would call Southwest’s Customer Service. This helps make sure the change is accomplished without any problems or frustrations.
Note: Flights booked with points are easier to cancel. The points are simply added back into your account. If you bought the flight with dollars, you will get a credit for the amount paid. There are two things to know about a credit. 1. They expire in one year. 2. Only the person named on the original ticket can use the credit. These two items are not deal-breakers, you just need to be aware.
Buy Your Flights With Your SWA Card
If you book a SWA flight and pay dollars for the flight, use your SWA credit card. You will earn bonus points for buying anything from Southwest if you use their credit card.
Refer A Friend
Referral bonuses are another great way to accumulate points toward the Companion Pass. Chase offers 10,000 points per friend who is approved for a Southwest card, up to 50,000 points per year. You can log in to the Chase site to grab your Refer-A-Friend link to share with friends and family.
Transferred Or Purchased Points
Points purchased from SWA or transferred from another person DO NOT count toward earning your Companion Pass.
Check For Other Types Of Companion Passes
Southwest Airlines has twice offered a modified version of the Companion Pass in recent history. One was a one-year CP with one credit card open and the most recent was a 2-month pass with a certain spending limit on your existing card. Keep your eyes open for limited-time offers from Southwest.
Key Takeaway – A Southwest Airlines Companion Pass allows you to take one person with you on Southwest flights for free. This is a great way to stretch your travel dollars!
Assignment – If opening two new credit cards make sense for you, check into earning a Companion Pass for you and a friend or family member. If you already have a SWA credit card, check when the sign-up bonus was earned so you can plan when you will be eligible for another card.