Southwest is my go-to airline to fly.
I love the boarding process and how quickly I can earn free flights with their Rapid Rewards Program.
For that reason, I have always been intrigued by their Companion Pass.
With this pass, a companion can fly with you for free! Oh heck yes!
Because Mr. Taco and I try to fly Southwest whenever we travel and we have a few trips in the works for the next few years, we decided to take a shot at earning the pass in early 2020.
I’m happy to say we were successful!
As of January 16th, 2020, Mr. Taco can fly free with me on any Southwest flight for almost two full years! Little did we know that a global pandemic would hit and we would only use our pass once in 2020. We are hoping to feel comfortable traveling by the end of 2021 so we can use the pass at least one more time.
But even though we haven’t been able to use the pass as much as we would have liked, I learned a few tricks for getting the pass that I will likely when we try for it again in the future.
In this post, I’ll share all of the steps and the exact timeline of the entire process from accumulating points to earning the pass in order to help you earn your own in the most efficient way possible.
What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
The Southwest Companion Pass is a reward benefit for members of Southwest’s free Rapid Rewards program.
This benefit allows a companion to fly free with the Southwest Companion Pass holder. All you have to do is pay the fees, which are currently $5.60 per domestic flight.
The best part about the pass is that it is good for the remainder of the year the pass is earned and also the entire following calendar year. Depending on which month you earn the Companion Pass, you could have almost two full years of free companion travel.
With this pass, you are able to cut the cost of airfare for two in half, whether you are using points or money.
Is the Southwest Companion Pass right for you?
While this may sound like an amazing deal, it may not be right for every traveler.
Here are some things to consider before pursuing the Southwest Companion Pass:
- Does Southwest have a strong presence at your home airport? If Southwest doesn’t have a lot of flights from your home airport, you will likely struggle to use the pass, making the process of obtaining it not worth your time, energy, and money.
- Do your future travel plans include places that Southwest flies to? If you plan to spend your vacations in Europe, or locations that Southwest doesn’t fly to, then the Companion Pass is probably not worth it at this time.
- Do you frequently travel with a companion? If you often fly alone, then the Southwest Companion Pass may not be for you.
If you frequently travel Southwest, with a companion, and are looking to save money and points on flights, then the Southwest Companion Pass is something to consider.
One of the main reasons we began researching the Southwest Companion Pass is that Mr. Taco and I are looking at going to Hawaii in 2020.
With the Southwest Companion Pass, we basically buy one flight and get one free for our flights to Hawaii, which is a HUGE savings.
How to earn your Southwest Companion Pass
To earn the Southwest Companion Pass you have to earn 125,000 Rapid Rewards points, or fly on 100 qualifying one-way Southwest flights in a single calendar year.
It may seem like an unrealistic amount of flying, but fortunately, there are easier ways to earn the points in order to earn the pass.
Ways to earn Southwest Rapid Reward Points that count towards the companion pass
- Fly Southwest
- Credit Card Bonuses, Spending and Referrals
- Book Hotels and Rental Cars through Southwest
- Shop Through Southwest Rewards Shopping
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining
The easiest and fastest way to earn the Southwest Companion Pass is by taking advantage of the bonus points you can earn by meeting spending requirements on the co-branded Chase Southwest Rapid Reward Credit Cards.
These credit cards do come with an annual fee so it’s not completely free to earn the Companion Pass if you use this credit card bonus point strategy.
Earning the pass through credit card bonus points is simple in theory, and in this post I’ll offer a few tricks to help you earn the pass as quickly and efficiently as possible.
And I’ll also give you a few words of caution to help you avoid missing out on earning the pass altogether, because it’s not completely cut and dry.
Southwest Companion Pass Trick #1
Stacking Credit Card Bonuses
Currently, you will need a total of 125,000 points to earn the Companion Pass.
Opening one credit card and meeting the initial spending requirements will get you on your way to reaching this goal. But opening two credit cards will get you even closer.
Disclaimer: Before using credit cards to travel hack, please make sure you are able to use credit cards responsibly. At the very least, this means you pay your bill in full each month and only purchase what you can afford.
Currently, Chase is offering five co-branded Southwest Rapid Reward credit cards with varying annual fees, perks, and bonus offers.
Three Personal Cards:
Plus Credit Card – $69 annual fee
Premier Credit Card – $99 annual fee
Priority Credit Card – $149 annual fee
Each of these cards had a 40,000 point bonus after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months. You can find information on their different perks here.
Two Business Cards:
Premier Business Credit Card – $99 annual fee
60,000 point bonus after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months
Performance Business Credit Card – $199 annual fee
70,000 point bonus after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months
Note: These offers change frequently. Please refer to Chase for up-to-date offers
Things to note when choosing which credit cards to sign up for:
- For Personal Cards, you can only earn the bonus if you are not currently a cardholder of any Southwest Rapid Reward Credit cards or have earned a new cardholder bonus within the past 24 months. This restriction does not include cardholders of the Southwest Business Cards.
- For Business Cards, you can only earn the bonus if you are not currently a cardholder of the business card or have earned the business credit card bonus within the last 24 months.
- You must fall under the Chase 5/24 rule. The rule states that you can not open more than 5 credit cards (from any credit card company) within a 24-month period to be approved.
Since you can’t open more than one personal Southwest Credit Card, to get close to earning the necessary 125,000 points with credit card bonuses you will have to be able to qualify for one of the business credit cards.
But how many of us own our own business?
The good news is that any sort of side-hustle you may have may allow you to qualify for a business card.
Anything from dog sitting, selling through E-bay, Etsy, or Amazon, or freelance work could be used on your business credit card application. I used my small income from selling goods on Amazon on my application.
With the bonuses from two Southwest Rapid Reward Credit Cards, you will be well on your way to the Companion Pass.
Southwest Companion Pass Trick #2
Earn more bonus points by applying for a credit card while on a Southwest flight
While currently personal Southwest Rapid Reward credit cards are offering 40,000 point bonuses online, you can earn a 50,000 point bonus if you apply at select airports or during a Southwest flight.
Therefore, it may be worth it to wait until your next Southwest flight to apply for the personal card. The 10,000 extra points will get you that much closer to that 125,000 point requirement.
Southwest in-flight magazine
Southwest Companion Pass Trick #3
Pay attention to timing
Timing is extremely important when working your way towards the Southwest Companion Pass. Especially, if you are trying to earn the pass as early in the new year as possible.
You do not want to take the risk of points being added to your account too soon or too late.
The key to this timing is understanding when the points you earn will be added to your Rapid Rewards account.
Remember that you have to earn 125,000 points in a calendar year. This means that the clock starts over on January 1, so anything earned in the previous year will not count.
Here are some guidelines for when points will be added to your Rapid Reward Account:
- Any earned points from your credit card through purchases will be added to your account up to 30 days after your statement closes (My experience 1-5 days)
- Credit Card Bonuses can take up to eight weeks to post (My experience 1-5 days after statement closes)
- Points earned after a flight are deposited within 72 hours of flight completion (My experience 1 day)
- Points earned while booking through a rewards partner for hotels or cars are deposited within 72 hours of completion (No experience)
The biggest thing to keep in mind when trying to earn the Companion Pass through credit card bonus points, is the date when your statement closes.
This is because all points earned from purchases and bonuses will be added to your account after your statement date. In my experience, it was 1-5 days after statement closes.
Southwest Companion Pass Trick #4
Use Southwest Hotels to earn points fast
If it is getting towards the end of the year and you are close to earning the Companion Pass, you may want to consider renting a hotel room through Southwest Hotels.
You can earn up to 10,000 bonus points by booking a hotel through their site and completing the stay.
In my experience, 10,000 bonus points offers seem to be offered occasionally. But I typically find 1,000 to 3,000 point offers, which would still help significantly if you are trying to reach that 125,000 points.
Southwest Companion Pass Trick #5
Book a flight now and add a companion later
Although this trick doesn’t help you earn the Companion Pass, it’s a trick that came in handy for us.
You can book the pass holder’s flight before earning the Companion Pass to secure the flight and avoid potential fare increases.
Once the pass is earned, you can go back and add a companion to any flight you already have booked.
How I Earned Almost Two Years of Free Companion Travel
I earned my Southwest Companion Pass on January 16th.
With Southwest being one of the main airlines in my hometown, the Companion Pass has been on my radar for a few years.
I read all I could about earning the Southwest Companion Pass and finally decided to go for it at the end of 2019.
We are planning a trip to Hawaii, and with Southwest’s expansion into Hawaii, we knew the Companion Pass would help us keep costs down significantly.
What also makes it worth our while is that our other travel plans for 2020 include domestic travel to other places that Southwest flies.
Step 1: Decide What Credit Cards to Open
My strategy was to open up two credit cards, one personal and one business.
- Plus Personal Credit Card- $69 annual fee – 40,000 points after $1,000 spent within 3 months
- Performance Business Credit Card – $199 annual fee – 80,000* points after $5,000 spent within 3 months *Bonus no longer offered
With these two cards, I would earn 120,000 points after meeting the spending requirements.
This meant I needed to figure out a way to earn an additional 5,000 points in 2020 to get me to the required 125,000 points.
Step 2: Open first credit card
I opened the Performance Business card first, on October 11th.
Since it had the largest spend requirement, I wanted enough time to spend $5,000, but I also knew some large expenses were looming.
I used the card for annual one-time large expenses like my insurance premium as well as my normal day-to-day spending.
As I got within $50 of the minimum spend requirement, I stopped spending on the card.
Step 3: Open Second Credit Card
Since it can take up to two weeks to receive a new card in the mail, I applied for my second card on November 15th, a few weeks before I thought I would need to stop spending on the first card.
The second card, Southwest Rapid Reward Plus personal card, only had a $1,000 minimum spend requirement, so it didn’t take long before I was within $50 of the spending requirement and stopped using the card.
Step 4: Complete Spending Requirements after January 1st
Within the first week of January, I completed the spending requirements for both cards.
Now all that was left to do was to wait until my statements for those periods closed and the bonus points, as well as any points I earned from spending on the cards, were added to my account.
I unfortunately became a little obsessed with checking several times a day.
And within a few days for the statements closing (1 day for personal card and 5 days for business card), the points were added to my account
Total points earned in 2020 from credit card bonuses and spending was: 123,658
STEP 5: Earn 1,342 additional points to get to 125,000
I lucked out on this one.
Thankfully, I had to travel for work, so I made sure to travel Southwest.
With the points earned from taking the flight, I was able to bank an extra 1,950 points towards the Companion Pass, which hit my account on January 16th.
Companion Pass earned! And Mr. Taco flies free for almost two years.
Timeline of process and point earning
Optional Step: Change Credit Card Due Dates
This above steps seem pretty straight forward, but there was a little manipulating on my end to help ensure my points were earned as early in the year as possible.
To ensure you earn the pass quickly in the new year, I discovered that you can change your credit card due date.
By changing your due date, you change the date your statement will close. Thereby, triggering your points to be deposited into your Rapids Reward account.
This can get a bit confusing so, here is what you need to know.
Credit cards have two important dates: the statement closing date and the due date.
The statement closing date is when the credit card company adds up all of your spending between the previous statement closing date and the current one to determine the amount due.
Statement closing dates are typically 2-4 days after your due date.
The due date is simply when you must pay your bill.
The key here is to remember that any points earned during a statement cycle will typically be posted a few days (but up to 30 days) after the statement closing date.
How can manipulating the due date help earn the Companion Pass Faster?
The trick is to schedule your credit card due dates so that your statement closes early in the month instead of at the end of the month.
This way the points earned from bonuses and spending on the card will be added to your Rapid Rewards count earlier than they would if you due dates are at the end of the month.
I used this strategy by changing my due date for the personal card from the 26th of the month to the 10th. This allowed me to earn the card about two weeks earlier and get the Companion Pass in time for an upcoming trip.
If you are trying to earn the Companion Pass as quickly as possible in the new year, my advice to you is to pay attention to your due dates make sure they are towards the beginning of the month.
Additional Southwest Companion Pass Tips
Open the Credit Cards In the 4th quarter of the year
Opening credit cards in mid-October gives you ample time to spend the required amount of money while still being able to have the bonuses be added to your Rapid Rewards account in the new year.
Open Credit Cards Just Before Large Expense are Due
In order to help meet the spending requirements for the cards, strategically wait until large bills or expenses like annual insurance premiums or car maintenance.
Keep and Eye out for Credit Card Bonus Specials
Using credit card bonuses is the easiest and quickest way to earn the Companion Pass.
Unfortunately, the standard bonus offerings for the credit cards (40,0000 points for Personal and 70,000 points for business) is only going to get you 110,000 points.
That means you will have to figure out a way to earn an additional 15,000 points. That’s a lot of points and a lot of spending.
To help close this gap, keep an eye out for increased credit card bonus offerings throughout the year. The extra 10,000 points being offered on the Business Card is what helped me get the pass earlier in the year.
Leave a Spending Buffer
If you are trying to get your points to hit your account at the start of the new year, do yourself a favor and leave a buffer.
Leave enough room between what you have already spent and the spending requirement so that an accidental purchase doesn’t ruin your plans.
You just never know what could happen.
Our plans were almost ruined by an auto-payment that we forgot about.
If I didn’t keep that buffer, our Companion Pass dreams may have been squashed. The 80,000 points bonus would have been posted in 2019, and the 40,000 points bonus would have been posted in 2020, which are not the same calendar year.
Annual Fee Does Not Count Towards the Required Spending
While you are working your way towards your spending requirement, remember that the annual fee charged in the first few weeks does not count towards that requirement.
Thankfully, the Chase app has a nice feature that shows your progress so you know exactly where you are on your spending journey. But if you aren’t using the app, this is definitely something to keep in mind.
As I was working my way to earning the Southwest Companion Pass, I came across a great resource for all things Southwest Airlines, Go To Travel Gal.
If you want to stay up-to-date on new bonuses and flight info for Southwest, then check out Go To Travel Gal and sign up for her newsletter.
By being on her newsletter, I found out that I could call Chase and ask to be eligible for an additional bonus that is currently being offered for new applicants even though I applied months ago. That’s an extra 35,000 points I can now earn!
You Got This
Earning 125,000 points or taking 100 flights to get the Companion Pass seems like a daunting task. Only people who travel for work could earn it, right?
But with the co-branded Chase Southwest credit cards, earning 125,000 points can be attainable for less than frequent fliers, and without spending an arm and a leg.
With a little planning and some upfront money for the annual fees, you can earn your Southwest Companion Pass and cut your airfare costs in half for two people for up to two years.
Get out there, make some travel plans and earn that Companion Pass