One of the most coveted perks in travel is the Southwest Companion Pass, which allows qualifying Southwest customers to fly with a free companion an unlimited amount of times for at least a year.
But given the potential savings, it can be difficult to earn. Luckily, there are some easy strategies to help you take advantage of bonuses and maximize this sought-after bonus.
Here’s what a Southwest Companion Pass is and how to get one.
What Is the Companion Pass?
The Southwest Companion Pass is a benefit offered to Southwest Rapid Rewards members who earn a certain number of Rapid Rewards points by flying or spending with a Southwest credit card. When you have the Companion Pass, you can choose another person to fly with you. It’s good for at least a year, depending on when you qualify. Your companion’s ticket is entirely free, with the exception of a $5.60 government security fee.
How to Earn the Companion Pass
There are two different ways you can earn the Southwest Companion Pass. First, you can fly 100 qualifying one-way flights within a calendar year. The other way to earn the pass is to earn 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year using the Rapid Rewards credit card.
Southwest’s credit card bonuses are the easiest way to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, but you can only take advantage of them once. Time them in or right before a year where you’ll be traveling often with a companion to get the most out of the Companion Pass.
You can earn points by making purchases directly from Southwest, as well as through their partner companies, which include hotels, car rentals, and more.
While it’s certainly possible to earn the Companion Pass by taking 100 flights or spending enough to hit the 125,000 points, the easiest way to achieve the coveted status is to take advantage of sign-up bonuses on the company’s credit cards. You can earn up to 40,000 points as a sign-up bonus for one of the Rapid Rewards personal credit cards and up to 80,000 points on one of the business cards.
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Intro bonus:60,000 points
- Annual fee:$95
- Regular APR:15.99%-22.99% Variable
- Recommended credit:670-850 (Good to Excellent)
- Apply Now At Chase’s secure site
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
“Oftentimes, you’ll see credit card promotion websites that will encourage you to get both the personal and business version of the Southwest credit card,” said Jamie Larounis, Travel Industry Analyst with UpgradedPoints, a travel website. “The bonuses are high enough that if you were to get both of them, it requires just a minimal amount of flying or spending on top of that. For someone who wants an easier way to get it without actually getting 125,000 points, the credit card bonus route is the easiest way to do it upfront.”
That’s exactly how Allison Baggerly earned her Companion Pass. Baggerly, the founder of the personal finance site Inspired Budget, earned the Southwest Companion Pass for the first time in 2019: by combining the bonuses on both the personal and business credit cards. Her family was able to use the cards to pay for trips and other expenses they already had planned to help them earn the pass in about six months.
“It can be easy to fall into the trap of ‘I want to spend more because I’ll get this money back in another way,’” Baggerly said. “We made a decision not to inflate our spending to earn the points. We lived the way we normally would. It did take us six months to get the Companion Pass, but it was worth it because we didn’t go into debt, overspend, or inflate our lifestyle.”
How to Use the Companion Pass
Once you earn the Companion Pass, you can use it for the remainder of the current calendar year, as well as the entire following calendar year.
You can use your pass by booking your flights the same way you normally would. Southwest doesn’t offer booking through any third-party vendors. Instead, you have to buy your tickets on the company’s website or over the phone.
If you’re booking over the phone, you can simply let the customer service representative know you’ll be flying with your companion. For online booking, book your ticket first. Then head to the “Upcoming” section of your online account, where you’ll be given the option to add your companion.
If you cancel or change your flight, it will automatically cancel or change the flight for your companion. Southwest doesn’t allow companions to fly free without the Companion Pass holder.
Maximizing the Pass
As soon as you’ve earned enough qualifying points or flights, you’ll have the Companion Pass until the end of the following calendar year. As a result, the earlier in the year you can earn the pass, the more you can take advantage of it.
To make the most of this travel perk, it will require a bit of planning on your part. First, take a look at the Southwest credit card bonuses. If you’re eligible, you can combine the bonuses from both the personal and business cards. However, you can only have one of each type of card, and you can only earn those bonuses as a new cardholder. If possible, earn both bonuses in the same calendar year and as early in the year as possible.
“Your best interest is to hit that goal earlier in the year,” says Nathan Grant, Senior Credit Industry Analyst at Credit Card Insider. “If you hit it in November 2021, you have it through December. If you hit in in May 2021, you’d still have it through December 2022.”
Can You Change Your Companion?
You don’t necessarily have to keep the same companion the entire time.
Southwest allows you to change your companion up to three times in each calendar year that you have the pass. So depending on when you earn the pass, you may be able to change your companion up to six times overall.
This is an excellent bonus for those who travel with more than one person throughout the year. But keep in mind that changing your companion back to your original companion does count as one of your changes.
You can designate or change your companion in your Southwest account. Visit the My Rapid Rewards section, and you’ll find a button that reads Choose Your Companion in the Snapshot tab.
The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most sought-after credit card rewards, especially for avid travelers. It allows you to bring a companion on all Southwest flights, free of charge (with the exception of the fee). But this perk doesn’t come easily and will require some planning on your part. Take advantage of the Southwest credit card bonuses, as well as any spending with Southwest or partners, to earn your points early in the year and fully maximize the benefit.