Signing-up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.
Here at Million Mile Secrets, there’s good reason why we rank the Southwest Companion Pass as the best deal in travel. The Southwest Companion Pass allows you to add your companion to your paid or award flights for nearly free (just the cost of taxes and fees). You and your companion can travel anywhere that Southwest flies (which includes Hawaii soon) an unlimited number of times while your pass is valid!
Earning the coveted Southwest Companion Pass requires a bit of planning. You need to earn 110,000 qualifying Southwest points or fly 100 flight segments in a single calendar year to qualify for the Companion Pass.
But right now is the absolute best time to work towards earning the Southwest Companion Pass thanks to increased welcome offers on the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card.
If you start RIGHT NOW, and time everything right, you can actually earn the Southwest Companion Pass for nearly 2 years without ever stepping onto a Southwest plane.
Why Now Is the Best Time to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass for Early 2019
If you start planning right now to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, you’ll enjoy its benefits for nearly 2 years (early 2019 through the end of 2020).
Understanding the Southwest Companion Pass
The Southwest Companion Pass has just a few simple requirements to earn. You must earn either 110,000 qualifying Southwest points or fly 100 qualifying one-way Southwest flights within a single calendar year.
Southwest counts any of the following points as qualifying towards the Companion Pass:
- Points earned from paid flights on Southwest
- Points earned from Southwest credit cards
- Base points earned from Southwest Rapid Rewards partners (hotels and rental cars)
- More ideas to earn qualifying Southwest Companion Pass points
The highlight here is that Southwest points earned from Southwest credit cards will count towards the Companion Pass. And earning 110,000 Southwest points with credit cards is relatively easy thanks to recently increased welcome bonuses. These bonuses can now earn you up to 60,000 Southwest points per card after meeting minimum spending requirements!
You can check your progress towards the Companion Pass by logging into your Southwest account online at any time. This makes it easy to see how close you are to earning this incredible travel perk!
The Southwest Companion Pass is good for the remainder of the year you earn it and the entire next calendar year that follows. This means that if you earned the Companion Pass in January or February of 2019 that you would get to use it for all the rest of 2019, plus ALL of 2020. That’s nearly 2 full years of free flights for your companion.
Using Southwest Credit Cards to Launch Yourself Towards Earning an Easy Southwest Companion Pass
The easiest way to earn the Southwest Companion Pass is by earning welcome bonuses from one personal and one small business Southwest card. You’re no longer able to have 2 personal cards at one time.
When you apply for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, or Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, you’ll earn up to 60,000 Southwest points after meeting tiered minimum spending requirements:
- 40,000 Southwest points after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
- 20,000 additional Southwest points after spending $12,000 on purchases in the first year
And with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card, you’ll earn 60,000 Southwest points when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.
So earning 2 welcome bonuses from one of the personal cards and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card could net you 120,000 Southwest points (60,000 points X 2 bonuses) which is more than enough to earn a Companion Pass.
Note: The Southwest credit cards are subject to the Chase 5/24 rule. If you’ve opened 5+ credit cards from any bank (with the exception of certain business cards) in the past 24 months, you won’t be approved.
While the business credit card also requires you to be within the 5/24 requirement, opening it will NOT increase your total. For this reason, if you are sitting at 4 credit card opens in the last 24 months, I recommend applying for the business card first. This way you would still be within Chase’s 5/24 rule (with just 4 opens). After you apply for the business card, you can apply for a personal card which should still only show a count of 4 cards (since the business card didn’t contribute to the total). This way you can get approved for both.
Applying for the personal card first might put some folks at risk of not getting approved for the business card if the personal card was enough to throw them above the 5/24 rule. So for folks looking at both cards, apply for the business card first.
Timing Your Welcome Bonuses Is Crucial
Before you start working towards meeting the minimum spending requirements on the Southwest cards, it is very important that you have a plan. It is smart to start your spending in 2018 so that you can earn your welcome bonuses as early into 2019 as possible, which will give you the most time to enjoy your Companion Pass.
But be very careful not to earn your bonus too quickly. Chase’s terms of service state that you should allow up to 8 weeks after completing your spending requirements to receive the Southwest points in your account. But in reality, these points usually post shortly after your statement (in which you met the minimum spending requirement) closes.
So if you rush to earn the bonus in 2018, it is possible you could earn your 60,000 Southwest points welcome bonus during the 2018 calendar year. Unfortunately, this will do you no good towards earning the Companion Pass in 2019 because all progress towards Companion Pass earning will be reset on January 1, 2019. So make sure that you don’t meet the full minimum spending requirements until after 2019 begins.
If you can complete the spending requirements during your first 2019 monthly statement then you should have all the miles needed for the Companion Pass available to you as early as late January or early February. This will give you ~23 months of unlimited use from your Companion Pass.
Enjoying Your Companion Pass
Once you have the Southwest Companion Pass, you can use it an unlimited number of times while it is active. The Companion Pass holder must purchase a ticket for themselves with either cash or points and then they can simply add their designated companion to their reservation to fly with them for just the cost of taxes and fees (~$6 on domestic flights).
Plus, you can still redeem your points earned from the Southwest credit cards towards free flights after earning the Companion Pass. You’ll be able to stretch the welcome bonuses twice as far, because you and a companion will be able to travel for just the cost of 1 ticket (plus taxes and fees for the companion ticket).
Because Southwest is a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, you can move your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest if you need more Southwest points for an award flights. However, transferring points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest will NOT contribute any progress towards earning the Companion Pass.
If you earn the Companion Pass in early 2019, then any more points earned throughout 2019 will not apply towards any future Companion Passes. But starting in 2020 you can again start working towards your 2021 Companion Pass by putting everyday spending on your Southwest credit cards.
Just remember that you can only have one Companion Pass at a time per person. But you and a partner could both earn Companion Passes. This can make family travel extremely cheap!
Right now is the best time to apply for Southwest credit cards and start working towards earning a Southwest Companion Pass in 2019. If you earn a Companion Pass in early 2019, you can enjoy its benefits for nearly 2 years, until the end of 2020.
By earning the welcome bonuses on the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card and one of the personal Southwest cards (Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, or Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card), you’ll have enough Southwest points to earn a Companion Pass for free – without ever stepping on a Southwest plane.
Just remember to complete the minimum spending as early in 2019 as possible so the welcome bonus points post to your Southwest account in January or February. Then you can use the Companion Pass for almost 2 full years.
Are you planning on earning the Southwest Companion Pass next year?