How to earn a Southwest Companion Pass for free companion travel

Choncé Maddox
Written by
Choncé Maddox
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The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the best ways to have a friend or family member fly with you for free (after taxes and fees). Several Southwest credit cards offer welcome bonuses that can help you earn the Southwest Companion Pass which is valid for the remainder of the year you earn it as well as the following year.

Southwest had a great Companion Pass welcome bonus offer earlier this year which enabled new cardholders to earn the pass once opening an eligible credit card account. If you missed this promotion, don’t worry. Bonuses aren’t guaranteed so if you don’t catch them, there are still several ways to earn enough points to qualify – especially if you have some large trips on the horizon.

How the Southwest Companion Pass offer works

The Southwest Companion Pass truly is a golden ticket for travelers who are looking to bring someone else on their trip as it allows you to bring a designated companion to fly with you free of airline charges. Instead, you just need to pay taxes and fees (from $5.60 one way).

Another perk of the Southwest Companion Pass is that you can change your companion up to three times per year. It’s also worth noting that Southwest does not limit how many times you can use the pass, making it a lucrative option for those who frequently travel with a companion.

How to get the Southwest Companion Pass every year

The Companion Pass is valid for the rest of the year in which it was earned, as well as the entire following year. This means if you earn it in January, you’ll have almost two full years to enjoy the benefits so you technically won’t need to try to earn it each year.

To earn the Companion Pass, you have two main options:

  • Fly 100 qualifying one-way Southwest flights
  • Earn 135,000 qualifying bonus points in a calendar year

Base points earned through spending with certain Rapid Rewards partners can also be applied to the points needed for a Companion Pass.

Unless you are a frequent flier, booking 100 one-way Southwest flights in a single year is not realistic for many people. However, you can also earn the Companion Pass with points earned from Rapid Rewards partners as well as points earned for spending with Southwest credit cards. Here are some credit card strategies to consider:

Earn the welcome bonus (no matter what it is)

Let’s say you happen to sign up for a Southwest credit card when the bonus reward isn’t so high and there’s not a special offer to earn a Companion Pass right away. You should still try to earn your welcome bonus so long as you can afford to pay off your credit card balance in full.

For example, if the welcome bonus is 40,000 points for spending $1,000 during the first three months, this can still help you get closer to the 135,000 points you need to earn Companion Pass status. Just be mindful that Chase’s 5/24 rule states that a person who has signed up for more than five credit cards in the past 24 months will not be approved for a new credit card. Also, you cannot earn a Southwest sign-up bonus from a personal Rapid Rewards card if you already have that card in your possession or have received another personal Southwest bonus in the past 24 months.

Apply for a personal and business Southwest credit card around the same time

This strategy will only work if you are self-employed or have a small business, but if you do, you can apply for the card_name or the card_name and earn the welcome bonus. If you plan strategically and apply for both a personal and business card around the same time, it’s possible to meet the Southwest Companion Pass requirements, or at least earn enough points to get very close.

Earn more points in select categories with your Southwest cards

Each Southwest credit card earns bonus rewards in select categories. For example, the card_name earns 2X points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases; local transit and commuting (including rideshares); on internet, cable, phone services and select streaming services. If these are regular expenses for you, make sure you’re using your Southwest card to pay for them. You’ll earn bonus points as you do so, helping you rack up rewards toward Southwest Companion Pass status. Just remember, only charge to your card what you can afford to pay off as interest rates can quickly outweigh any rewards you may earn.

Use Rapid Rewards partners for travel and online shopping

Base Rapid Rewards points can be used to qualify for the Companion Pass and two of those main categories are hotels and rental car purchases. Some hotel partners include Best Western, Choice Hotels, Marriott, Hyatt, and MGM. For rental car services, you can book with most of the common rental car companies with your card including Alamo, Avis, Budget, and Hertz to earn rewards points.

You can also earn Rapid Rewards points when you shop online through the Southwest Rapid Rewards portal. There are more than 800 retailers to shop with including stores like Macy’s, Sephora, and Staples. Once you place an online order, you’ll receive an email confirming that points have been added to your Rapid Rewards shopping account.

You can track the points you’ve earned by visiting your shopping account page. Downloading the Southwest Shopping browser extension may also make it easier to earn points for online shopping since it lets you activate offers and earn points while staying on a store’s website.

There are some restrictions when it comes to whether Rapid Rewards points can count toward your Companion Pass. Rapid Rewards points that are purchased, transferred from other members, or transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards don’t count as qualifying points to go toward earning the Companion Pass.

The bottom line

While earning the Southwest Companion Pass through a sign-on bonus is undoubtedly ideal, it’s not the only way to obtain this valuable perk. You don’t have to wait around for a Southwest Credit Card Companion Pass promotion if the timing doesn’t align with your goals and spending needs at the time.

With strategic spending and taking advantage of partner programs, you can still earn enough points to qualify for the Companion Pass. Plan early, use your Southwest credit cards wisely, and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying free flights.

Choncé Maddox
Cardratings Contributor

Choncé is a personal finance freelance writer who enjoys writing about credit cards, business loans, debt management, and helping people achieve financial wellness. Having a background in journalism, she decided to enter the world of content writing in 2013 after noticing many publications transitioning to...Read more

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