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Guide to the Southwest Companion Pass

Last Updated, March 31, 2020

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WHAT IS THE SOUTHWEST COMPANION PASS?

The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most valuable statuses available to frequent travelers. A perk exclusive to Southwest Airlines, Companion Pass status can be earned through a variety of methods, but effectively, it allows you to choose one person to fly with you whenever you book a flight with Southwest, at no additional cost (other than taxes and fees). Essentially, this status gains you access to two-for-one tickets.

For instance, if you book a round trip ticket to Hawaii on Southwest, with the Companion Pass you could add your designated companion on those flights with you for no charge other than taxes and fees. As there isn’t a maximum number of flights that you can use this benefit on, you can derive tremendous value from this benefit if you frequently travel with a companion approximately lowering your airline costs by half.

HOW DOES THE SOUTHWEST COMPANION PASS WORK?

Once you have earned the Companion Pass (more on this below), you are allowed to immediately begin utilizing its benefits. First, you will designate an individual to fly with you on Southwest flights purchased by you, booked through Southwest, and completed during the Companion Pass validity period (flights that take place in the calendar year the pass was earned or the year after).

After you have purchased airfare for yourself, you can then add your designated companion on to the flight as long as there is still a seat available. For the companion ticket you’ll only pay for the taxes and fees (from $5.60 one way) and not the full fare for the flight.

You also have the ability to change your companion (with certain restrictions and limitations) if you would like to have a different person accompany you on a particular trip, so you are not locked in to only having the ability to travel with the initial companion that you chose.

Additionally, there are no blackout dates or seat restrictions on Companion Pass travel. If there is a seat available on a flight, you can add a companion to it.

HOW DO YOU GET THE SOUTHWEST COMPANION PASS?

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO QUALIFY FOR THE SOUTHWEST COMPANION PASS?

With a benefit this valuable, it should come as no surprise that it is going to take some effort to qualify. In order to earn the Southwest Companion Pass you will need to earn 125,000 qualifying Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® points or travel on 100 qualifying one-way Southwest flights in a calendar year.

There are many different points earning activities that qualify for the 125,000 Rapid Rewards® points that are required to be earned in a calendar. These activities include:

  • Points earned from revenues flights booked through Southwest Airlines
  • Points earned by making purchases with Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® credit cards
  • Base points earned from Rapid Rewards® partners

Qualifying partner activities that count towards Companion Pass include points earned through co-branded Southwest Rapid Rewards® credit cards, shopping with partner online retailers as well as dining with participating restaurants, and home and lifestyle partner purchases.

Activities that do not count towards Companion Pass status include points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards® and hotel partners as well as points purchased from Southwest.

WHICH CREDIT CARDS EARN RAPID REWARDS® POINTS?

CONSUMER CREDIT CARDS THAT EARN RAPID REWARDS® POINTS

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Enjoy 3,000 bonus points after your cardmember anniversary.
  • Earn two points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases, and one point on everything else.
  • $69 annual fee
  • See our Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card review to learn more.


Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Enjoy 6,000 bonus points after your cardmember anniversary.
  • Earn two points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases, and one point on everything else.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • $99 annual fee
  • See our Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card review to learn more.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Enjoy 7,500 bonus points after your cardmember anniversary.
  • Earn a $75 Southwest travel credit each year.
  • Enjoy 20% back on in-flight drinks and WiFi.
  • Earn two points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases, and one point on everything else.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • $149 annual fee
  • See our Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card review to learn more.

BUSINESS CREDIT CARDS THAT EARN RAPID REWARDS® POINTS

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

The information related to this credit card has been collected by CardRatings and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

  • Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Enjoy 6,000 bonus points after your cardmember anniversary.
  • Earn two points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases, and one point on everything else.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • $99 annual fee
  • See our Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card review

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

The information related to this credit card has been collected by CardRatings and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

  • Earn 70,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months. Plus earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $25,000 on purchases in the first six months.
  • Enjoy 9,000 bonus points after your cardmember anniversary.
  • Earn three points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases; two points per dollar spent on social media and search engine advertising, internet, cable and phone services; and one point on everything else.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre✔® fee credit.
  • $199 annual fee
  • See our Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card review to learn more.

Using a Southwest credit card is an excellent way to quickly rack up Rapid Rewards® points, especially thanks to hefty welcome bonuses, but with limitations on bonus earnings, the best way to earn the Southwest Companion Pass involves a mixture of different points earning activities.

For example, let’s say you sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card and make it your go-to card while you’re working towards Companion Pass status. Let’s play with some hypothetical numbers...

If you spend $5,000 on purchases in your first three months as a cardholder (which is likely easier than you might think, especially if you’re using your card for all of your everyday purchases - think gas, groceries, office supplies, dining out, bills, etc.) you’ll pocket 70,000 points. Within just three months you’re already over halfway to your 125,000 goal.

Say $2,000 of those purchases were on social media and search engine advertising, internet, cable and phone services – that’s an additional 4,000 points. And then 3,000 points for those $3,000 worth of “other” purchases.

So three months in and you’re already up to 77,000 points.

This card also offers an additional 30,000 points after you spend $25,000 in the first six months. If that’s a realistic threshold, you’re already 107,000 points in at six months, and that’s not even including the majority of the points you’d earn on that $25,000 spend.

For the sake of this example though, let’s say that $25,000 threshold isn’t realistic, and you miss out on those extra 30,000 points. All hope is not lost.

Say you spend just $10,000 over the next three months, but this time $2,500 of that is on Southwest purchases, Business Select tickets in particular. You’ll earn 7,500 points on your everyday purchases, and 7,500 points on your Southwest purchases. That’s an extra 15,000 points. But better still, because Southwest offers 12X points for every base dollar spent (excluding taxes and fees) on Business Select flights, you’ll add approximately* 30,000 extra points (*this figure does not account for taxes and fees) to your Rapid Rewards® account. In this scenario, in your first six months as a cardholder, you’re already up to approximately 122,000 points—just 3,000 points shy of your 125,000 point goal.

If you were to refer just one person to a Southwest Rapid Rewards® card, that would earn you an additional 10,000 points bringing the total over 125,000. Or those last remaining points could easily be earned through a combination of continued credit card spend, Rapid Rewards® dining purchases, Southwest Hotel bookings, or any of the qualified earning activities.

Once earned, you will maintain Companion Pass status through the remainder of the calendar year that it was earned in as well as the following calendar year. If you can qualify early in a calendar year, you can effectively get two years of adding on an additional traveler to your Southwest flights for just the cost of taxes and fees.

With all of this said though, we never recommend spending beyond your means with a credit card just to obtain a bonus. The fastest way to make a credit card bonus decrease in value is to pay interest on the amount you spent just trying to earn the bonus. If you can't pay for what you're putting on the card, no amount of rewards or bonuses is going to be worth it.

CHASE'S 5/24 RULE

Southwest Rapid Rewards® credit cards are all issued by Chase bank. Chase has instituted some stipulations to ensure that individuals signing up for cards are using them in legitimate ways and not just trying to take advantage of signup bonuses only. One of those stipulations is their 5/24 rule, which states that an individual who has signed up for credit cards in excess of five in the past 24 months will have their application denied by Chase if applying for a new credit card.

In addition to this stipulation, the personal Rapid Rewards® credit cards have recently added language that limits how often you can sign up for and receive the new card member bonus on these cards. The recent change, in summary, doesn’t allow you to open a Southwest personal card if you already have one in your possession and you can’t earn the signup bonus from a personal card if you have received a bonus in the past 24 months.

The good news, however, is that applying for one of the Rapid Rewards® business cards won't add to your 5/24 count. Let's say, for instance, that you've applied for four cards in the past two years, and now you want a Rapid Rewards® business card to use for business travel. Go ahead and apply! You'll still only be at four applications in the past 24 months as far as Chase is concerned. One final note on this: Chase doesn't specifically describe this rule; rather, all we know about it is anecdotal. In other words, think of this as a guideline rather than a hard and fast rule. There's enough evidence out there to suggest it's true and accurate, but Chase hasn't publicly discussed it so they could make changes at any time.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Can I still redeem 125,000 Southwest points for flights once I earn the companion pass? If I use my Rapid Rewards® points will I still earn the companion pass?

Yes, you can use the points after you have earned the Companion Pass as well as use them as you are earn them. The qualifying points activity for Companion Pass are tracked as you earn them and do not diminish if you redeem them in the calendar year that you earn them.

For instance, if you earned the 40,000 bonus points from the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card in the first three months and then redeemed 20,000 points for a reward flight, your progress towards earning Companion Pass will not be affected by the points that you redeemed.

It can be a useful strategy, however, to save your points to be redeemed after you earn Companion Pass. That way you can use all those points you earned to book a flight for yourself and then add on a companion for just the cost of taxes and fees.

If I cancel my Southwest card, will I lose my Companion Pass?

While there are numerous benefits to maintaining the Southwest Rapid Reward® credit cards in your wallet, including the ongoing Rapid Rewards® points earning on all purchases, bonus points earned on Southwest purchases, yearly bonus points and relatively low annual fees, you will not lose your Companion Pass if you cancel your Southwest credit cards.

So if you, for instance, signed up for one of the cards and achieved the Companion Pass status through earning the 125,000 qualifying points from a combination of credit card spend and flights booked, you would not lose the pass if you were to close the card at a later date.

How many times can I change my companion?

One of the nice features of the Southwest Companion Pass is that you are not locked in to maintaining the same companion for the entire time that you have the pass. Maybe you have a best friend who you normally travel with and have designated as your companion, but want to take your mom on a dream beach vacation to Hawaii. Southwest allows you to change your designated companion up to three times each calendar year that you maintain Companion Pass status.

So, you could change your companion from your best friend to your mom (1st change), go sit oceanside with a coconut cocktail, and then come back with a new suntan and change your designated companion back to your bestie (2nd change).

Are there restrictions on where I can travel or when I can go?

This is another wonderful benefit of the Southwest Companion Pass. You are not limited by blackout dates or route restrictions; any flight booked on a Southwest route with additional seats available can be used for a companion. In other words, if it’s a Southwest operated flight with seats available, you can use your companion pass.

Can I use the Southwest Companion Pass for award flights that are booked with points?

Your Southwest Companion Pass can be used for any flight booked with cash or award flights booked with Rapid Rewards® points.

Do transferred points from Chase Ultimate Rewards® and travel partners count towards the Southwest Companion Pass requirement?

Points transferred from other Chase accounts or from hotel/travel partners do not qualify for the Companion Pass earning threshold. While this is a limitation of these partnerships, the transfer activities do have legitimate benefits. For instance, if you have already earned the Companion Pass but have utilized all of your Rapid Rewards® points in your account, you can transfer points from another Chase account to book an award flight that you can add a companion on to.

Some notable Chase credit cards that allow you to transfer rewards to your Rapid Rewards® account include:

CONSUMER CREDIT CARDS THAT EARN ULTIMATE REWARDS® POINTS

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® or transfer your points to one of multiple airline or hotel loyalty partners for possibly even more value.
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn two points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, and one point on all other purchases.
  • Earn five points per $1 spent with Lyft through March 2022.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • $95 annual fee
  • Read our full Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card review.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

  • Points are worth 50% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. Earn 3X points on dining at restaurants and 1X point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select.
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®.
  • Enjoy a complimentary Lyft Pink membership, a $199 minimum value.
  • $550 annual fee
  • Read our full Chase Sapphire Reserve® review.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

The information related to this credit card has been collected by CardRatings and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • New cardholders can earn $150 cash back once spending $500 in the first three months from opening an account. 
  • Enjoy a 15 month 0% intro APR period on purchases and balance transfers, then 16.49% - 25.24% Variable.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠.
  • $0 annual fee
  • Read our full review of Chase Freedom Unlimited®.

Chase Freedom®

The information related to this credit card has been collected by CardRatings and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter. Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Enjoy a 15 month 0% intro APR period on purchases and balance transfers, then 16.49% - 25.24% Variable.
  • $0 annual fee
  • Read our full review of Chase Freedom®.


BUSINESS CREDIT CARDS THAT EARN ULTIMATE REWARDS® POINTS

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

The information related to this credit card has been collected by CardRatings and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That's $1,250 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn three points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary. Earn one point on all other purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Employee cards at no additional cost.
  • $95 annual fee
  • Read our full Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card review.

Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card

The information related to this credit card has been collected by CardRatings and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

  • Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year.
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on everything else.
  • Employee cards at no additional cost.
  • Enjoy 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases, then 14.74% - 20.74% Variable.
  • $0 annual fee
  • Read our full Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card review.

Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card

The information related to this credit card has been collected by CardRatings and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

  • Earn $500 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase made for your business.
  • Employee cards at no additional cost.
  • Take advantage of a 0% introductory APR for 12 months on your purchases, then 14.74% - 20.74% Variable.
  • $0 annual fee
  • Read our full Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card review.

 

IS THE SOUTHWEST COMPANION PASS WORTH IT?

Yes, the Southwest Companion Pass is truly one of most valuable perks for frequent travelers. Coveted membership to this club allows travel for two by paying for the full fare (cash or points) for only one traveler and only the taxes and fees for the other. However, if you do not frequently travel with other people or you are not able to easily fly on Southwest, the Companion Pass may not be as valuable to you.

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