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Lyn writes about how she flies her family of 4 nearly free on Southwest and wrote a free guide that shows you step-by-step how to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, which Emily and I believe is the BEST deal in travel.
I’ve asked her to review the best ways to earn your NEXT Southwest Companion Pass if you’ve already had one.
Lyn: If you’ve had the Southwest Companion Pass, which lets 1 person fly almost free with you for up to 2 years, then you know how great it is! You probably got spoiled as my family has, knowing that 1 person in your group never needs to use points or cash for their ticket. That’s a HUGE savings!
The thought of not having a Southwest Companion Pass when it expires is almost too much to bear! You mean that person has to PAY for their ticket? No thanks! 😉
Not to worry! You CAN earn the Companion Pass again.
How to Earn Your SECOND Southwest Companion Pass
Let’s quickly review the Southwest Companion Pass. This amazing perk from Southwest lets a friend or family member fly free with you from the time you earn the pass until the END of the following year. So if you earn the pass in January 2018, it will be good through December 2019.
That is the ideal scenario: earn it early in the year, so it’s good for nearly TWO full years. Pair that with 2 free checked bags per person and no change or cancellation fees and you’ve got a heck of a deal!
To earn the Southwest Companion Pass, you’ll need to accumulate 110,000 qualifying Southwest points in a calendar year. Earn qualifying points through:
- Chase Southwest credit card sign-up bonuses and purchases
- Referring others to the Chase Southwest cards
- Paid fares on Southwest – 6 points per $1 for Wanna Get Away fares, 10 points per $1 for Anytime fares and 12 points per $1 for Business Select fares
- Shopping through the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal (except for “bonus” points)
- Earning through the Rapid Rewards Dining program (except for “bonus” points)
- Base points for paying your electric bill, booking a hotel room, or renting a car through Southwest
Anything marked as “bonus” points – aside from those earned after meeting the minimum spend on a Southwest credit card – DO NOT count toward the Southwest Companion Pass. Nor do points transferred from hotel loyalty programs or flexible travel programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards.
The Easiest Way to Earn Your Second Southwest Companion Pass
The quickest and simplest method for earning the pass is to open 2 Southwest credit cards when sign-up bonuses are 50,000 points or higher per card. Right now, ALL 3 Southwest cards are offering 60,000-point sign-up bonuses upon approval and meeting the minimum spend (the offer on the personal cards ends October 4, 2017!). But there are a couple of caveats:
- To earn the sign-up bonus, you cannot have received a sign-up bonus for that card in the last 24 months
- Chase will NOT approve you for most cards if you’ve opened 5+ credit cards in the last 24 months, with a few exceptions.
If you received a Southwest card sign-up bonus within the last 24 months, you can either apply for one of Chase’s other Southwest credit cards (you CAN be approved for BOTH personal cards!). Or you could rotate holding the Companion Pass between 2 people.
For example, one spouse, partner, or friend could earn the Companion Pass for 2 years (say 2018 and 2019) by applying for 2 Chase Southwest credit cards. And when the pass expires, the other spouse, partner or friend could earn the pass for the next 2 years (say 2020 and 2021). By the time the SECOND pass expires, the first person will be well beyond the 24-month mark and able to earn the sign-up bonus points for the credit cards the next time they are available.
If you’ve been approved for 5+ new credit cards in the last 24 months, first check to see if all of your cards are included in the Chase 5/24 rule and also check your status to make sure you really have reached the limit. If you’re out of luck, you will simply have to wait until you are past that mark or use the partner rotation method above.
Other Ways to Earn Your Second Southwest Companion Pass
If applying for 2 Southwest credit cards is not an option, you’ve got several other scenarios to earn your next Southwest Companion Pass. First, if you are able to sign up for at least 1 more Southwest card, that will get you almost halfway there and you can make up the rest with 1 of the below options. Though you can also do it without any credit card sign-ups!
1. Rack up Referral Points
This is a big part of how I earned my second Companion Pass! Share your referral link with friends and family, on social media or start your own travel blog! You can earn 10,000 points for each referral up to 50,000 Southwest points across ALL Southwest credit cards per calendar year.
2. Spending on Your Existing Southwest Cards
I have several readers who tell me they earn their Southwest Companion Pass each year through spending on their Southwest cards combined with flying on Southwest. All Southwest purchases on the cards earn 2 points per dollar spent. And combining those with points earned for booking a Southwest flight can add up. Wanna Get Away fares earn 6 points per dollar, which nets you a total of 8 points per dollar if you purchase the flight using your Southwest credit card.
Then use your card on your everyday expenses, which earn 1 point per $1 spent, using services like Plastiq to pay for bills, such as rent or car payments, that you cannot typically pay using a credit card. Don’t forget about expenses like:
- College tuition
- Medical or dental bills
- Business expenses for which you can be reimbursed
- Home improvements
- School fees, like textbooks, lunch costs, or athletic fees
- Sports or activities outside of school
- HOA dues
- Technology upgrades like new computers, routers, or printers
- Gas and groceries
3. A Mix of Options
You can also combine all of the above plus spending through Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal, Rapid Rewards Dining, booking hotel rooms through Southwest and car rentals through Southwest. This is typically how I earn my pass each year; I actually have not applied for the Southwest cards more than once and only hold 1 business card and 1 personal card and currently hold my second pass.
Should You Earn It This Year or Next?
While it’s certainly ideal to earn the pass early in the year, if you’ve already accumulated a significant number of points toward the pass this year, you may want to go ahead and earn it in 2017. All points for the Southwest Companion Pass must be earned in 1 CALENDAR YEAR – January 1 through December 31 – so the points you earned this year will NOT qualify for a 2018 Southwest Companion Pass. You’ll have to start from scratch starting January 1.
For example, I have 81,000 points right now toward a 2017 Companion Pass, so I will likely finish up my remaining 30,000 points this year, so they don’t go to waste. I have actually earned BOTH of my passes in December each year! Whether you decide to earn it in 2017 or 2018, there are some key timing issues you’ll want to consider, including when to complete the minimum spend on your credit cards to ensure it’s credited to the right year.
You can continue to earn the Southwest Companion Pass after it expires so 1 person in your group can always fly almost entirely free! Decide if you want to earn it 2017 or 2018 and then put together a strategy – with or without credit cards – to get your 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year.