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There’s a good reason why we rank the Southwest Companion Pass as the best deal in travel. The Companion Pass allows you to add a 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 (even to Hawaii) an unlimited number of times while your pass is valid.
Earning the coveted Southwest Companion Pass requires a bit of planning because you need to earn 125,000 Southwest points (110,000 points required if you earn the Companion Pass before 2020) or take 100 qualifying one-way flights in a single calendar year to qualify. For most people, it’s easier to earn 125,000 Southwest points in a calendar year, so let’s take a look at how to do that.
The good news is it’s easy to rack up Southwest points with any of these Southwest credit card sign-up bonuses:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card – 40,000 Southwest points after you meet minimum spending requirements
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card – 40,000 Southwest points after you meet minimum spending requirements
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card – 40,000 Southwest points after you meet minimum spending requirements
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card – 60,000 Southwest points after you meet minimum spending requirements
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Card – 70,000 Southwest points after you meet minimum spending requirements
Any points you earn with these offers will count toward the Companion Pass.
How to earn Southwest points for a Companion Pass
When you earn the Southwest Companion Pass you’ll enjoy its benefits for the remainder of the year you earned it in through the end of the following year. So at this point in the year, it makes the most sense to wait to earn your Companion Pass in early 2020 so you can use your pass through the end of 2021.
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)
Southwest credit card strategy: Double up
The easiest way to earn a large number of points that count toward the Southwest Companion Pass is by earning welcome bonuses from both one personal and one small business Southwest card. Note that you’re no longer able to have two personal cards at one time.
When you apply for the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, or the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, you’ll earn 40,000 Southwest points after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
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 three months. And with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card you’ll earn 70,000 Southwest points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months.
With a bonus from one of the personal cards and one business card, you’ll have 100,000 or 110,000 Southwest points (40,000 points + 60,000 points or 70,000 points). So you’ll be well on your way to earning the Companion Pass.
Just remember, The Southwest credit cards are subject to the Chase 5/24 rule, where they will not approve you for their cards if you’ve opened five or more cards from any bank (not counting Chase business cards and most other business cards) in the past 24 months.
While the business credit cards also requires you to be within the 5/24 requirement, opening one will not increase your total. For this reason, if you have four credit card opens in the last 24 months, I recommend applying for a business card first. This way you would still be within Chase’s 5/24 rule (with just four opens). After you apply for the business card, you can apply for a personal card.
Timing your welcome bonuses
Before you start working towards meeting the minimum spending requirements on the Southwest cards, it is important to have a plan. Chase’s terms of service state that you should allow up to eight weeks after completing your spending requirements to receive the Southwest points in your account. In reality, these points usually post shortly after the close of your statement in which you met the minimum spending requirement.
If you can complete the spending requirements early in the year, you should be well on your way to having the miles needed for the Companion Pass. The earlier in the year you earn the 125,000 points required (110,000 points if you earn the Companion Pass in 2019), the longer you’ll have unlimited use of your Companion Pass.
Enjoying your Southwest 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 him- or herself with either cash or points and then simply add a designated companion to their reservation. Check out this detailed guide for more on how to use the Southwest Companion Pass.
You can still redeem your points earned from the Southwest credit cards for free flights after earning the Companion Pass.
Because Southwest is a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, you can indirectly earn Southwest points with cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve and Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, then move your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest if you need more Southwest points for an award flight. Just note, the points you transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest will not count toward earning the Companion Pass.
Also, don’t forget that you can only have one Companion Pass at a time per person, but you and a partner could both earn Companion Passes — which could make family travel extremely cheap.
The easiest way to earn Southwest points (and in turn, the Southwest Companion Pass) is to earn bonuses from the Southwest credit cards. If you earn the welcome offer from one of the personal cards, like the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, and the bonus from a business card, like the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Card, you’ll be well on your way to earning the 125,000 points required for the Companion Pass.
Even better, if you earn the 125,000 points needed in early 2020, you can use the Companion Pass through the end of 2021. So now is a great time to lay out your strategy.
Featured image by Fominayaphoto/Shutterstock.