(Possibly) Get a Southwest Companion Pass
For many people, The Southwest Companion pass is an incredible deal. It lets you and a companion fly for the price of one, whenever you travel together on Southwest Airlines. It can be used an unlimited number of times, on both paid and award travel, for up to two years.
If you are part of a couple or family, do much of your travelling in the North America, and live in a city well served by Southwest Airline, you should try to get the Southwest Companion Pass. The easiest way to get the Pass, plus around $3,500 of free Southwest Airline tickets, is by signing up for two separate Southwest Airline credit cards.
Using the pass is easy. Every time you buy a ticket or book one with points, your companion gets a ticket for only the cost of the fees and taxes (typically $5.60 per segment). With the price of flying cut in half, many couples find themselves jetting around the country much more than they would otherwise.
While most Southwest flights are domestic, Southwest has been expanding internationally and are about to expand to Hawaii. With the companion pass, two people can fly, for the price of one, to Aruba, Belize, Cabo, Cancun, Liberia and San Jose in Costa Rico, Montego Bay, Nassau, Puerto Vallarta, and Punto Cana, as well as to locations all over the United States.
This strategy isn't for everyone. If you mostly fly internationally, only fly a couple of times per year, aren't well served by Southwest Airlines, don't have a frequent travelling companion, don't like Southwest, or otherwise aren't going to have the opportunity to take a few Southwest Airlines flights per year, it isn't worth the effort to qualify for the pass. But, if you and a companion have an opportunity to take several Southwest flights per year, getting the pass is one of the most valuable things you can do to get more for your travel dollar.
- 1 The easiest way to qualify for a pass is by signing up for two Southwest Airlines credit cards
- 2 You don't have to spend your points to get the pass—You get to spend them on 2-for-1 travel instead
- 3 Timing your credit card applications to maximize your Companion Pass
- 4 Additional Tips for using the Southwest Companion Pass
The easiest way to qualify for a pass is by signing up for two Southwest Airlines credit cards
It is very hard to earn the Companion Pass the “normal” way. It would require flying 100(!) qualifying one-way flight segments, or purchasing enough Southwest flights to earn 125,000 base points during a single calendar year (110,000 points in 2019). Points you earn from spending with a Southwest credit card also count, but depending on the number of additional points you need, it can be very difficult to spend your way to 125,000 points.
For many people, the only realistic way to qualify for the pass is by collecting the sign up bonus for at least one Southwest Airline credit card.
- The easiest way to qualify for the Companion Pass is to earn the signup bonus for both versions of the Southwest Business card (or one of the business cards and one of the personal cards). By the time you qualify for the signup bonuses, you will have almost enough (or more than enough) points to qualify for the pass. And you'll still be able to use the points for over $3,500 in free flights.
- The good news is that even the smallest business entitles you to apply for business credit cards. You don’t need to be incorporated, you don’t even need to have earned any money yet. If you have some sort of business—consulting, selling stuff through eBay, working on your novel, etc.—you can qualify for a business credit card. If you don't have an EIN, just use your personal social security number on your application, and then fill in your business revenue (even if its zero).Unlock Extra Reward Points with Business Credit Cards.
- If you aren't willing and able to get business credit cards, it is much harder to qualify for the pass. Chase will only allow you to earn a single signup bonus from a Southwest personal credit card during any 24 month period. Earning one of these signup bonuses will only get you about 30-50% towards qualifying for the pass. Signup bonuses vary over the course of the year, but typically range between 40-60,000 points. You'll need to find a way to earn the extra points you need.
The Performance version of the card has an 70,000 point signup bonus, with a $5,000 spending requirement. By the time you are done qualifying for the signup bonus, you'll have earned at least 75,000 points and be less than 50,000 points away from qualifying for the pass. If can earn the extra points by flying, additional credit card spending, or the other methods described below, you don't necessarily need to sign up a second Southwest credit card (and you can save some money in annual fees). But signing up for an additional card makes it simple and frequently lets you qualify more quickly, so you can start using your pass.
If you are shooting for the pass, we recommend choosing the "Priority" version of the card. It gives you 7,500 anniversary points each year, a 20% discount on inflight purchases, and four free upgraded boarding groups each year. While it has a $149 annual fee, you'll receive a credit for the first $75 of Southwest purchases each year, which drops the effective annual fee to $74. For anyone earning the Companion Pass, the Priority version is a better option than the "Plus" or "Premier" version.
If you are not willing and able to get the business card, there are some other ways to earn the extra points you need. This may make it possible to earn the extra 60-80,000 points you'll need, with less flying and credit card spending. Just be aware that any special promotional points you earn, beyond the regular points offered for these activities, usually doesn't count.
- You can earn extra points for many online purchases, by using the Rewards shopping portal. Visit this site first, click on the store you want to want to shop at, and shop like you normally would. You'll earn extra Southwest points with every purchase, plus whatever you earn from your credit card. Promotional reward rates DO count towards the pass.
- You can earn 10,000 points for each person you can get to sign up for the Southwest card (up to 50,000 points per calendar year). To earn these points, you need to go to Chase's Refer a Friend website], invite your friend, and they have to apply by clicking your "referral link".
- You can earn thousands of points every time you make a hotel reservation. You'll need to book through Rocketmiles.com or SouthwestHotels.com. Rocketmiles tends to have a lot more options, but SouthwestHotels.com sometimes has some higher bonuses. It is worthwhile to check them both. Prices are competitive with other online booking sites, but can be higher than a discounted rate you can get from the hotel or through some other site, so make sure you aren't overpaying for your points.
- You can earn points when you dine at many restaurants through the Rapid Rewards dining program. Just register your card, and whenever you eat at a participating restaurant you'll earn extra Southwest points.
Unfortunately, points you transfer to Southwest from other programs (such as your Ultimate Rewards points) don't count. Check out this page for more details on what does and doesn't count.
You don't have to spend your points to get the pass—You get to spend them on 2-for-1 travel instead
While you need to earn 125,000 points (in a year) to qualify for the pass, you don't need to actually spend any of your points to get it. As long as you accumulate enough points, the pass itself is free.
That means that you get to spend the points for free airplane tickets instead. 125,000 points is worth around $1,750 of "Wanna Get Away" fares (without needing to worry about award availability). The value per point is basically fixed, but because of the way taxes are handled, you'll get slightly more value from less expensive flights and slightly less value from more expensive flights.
If you wait to spend your points until you've earned your pass, your companion will get a free ticket for every one that you get with your points. 125,000 points will be worth a total of around $3,500 in free tickets.
For example, a $150 Southwest flight normally requires around 10,000 points. But, with the companion pass, you'll get two tickets for the same number of points. With 125,000 points, you could purchase at least 12 of these tickets for yourself, and 12 more for your companion.
Timing your credit card applications to maximize your Companion Pass
You'll need to plan carefully if you want to have nearly continuous access to a Southwest Companion Pass, rather than just getting one as a one-off event.
- If you qualify towards the beginning of the year, your companion pass will be valid for almost two years. When you qualify for the companion pass, it is valid for the remainder of the year that you qualify, and the entire following year.
- If it is already later in the year, you might want to wait until next year to qualify. Set a calendar reminder for December, to remind yourself when it is time to sign up.
- Because Chase lets you earn signup bonuses every 24 months, you can repeat the process around every two years. Once 24 months have passed, you can cancel, wait a month, reapply, and start over. If you start at the beginning of the year, there will only be a short gap between the expiration of your first pass and the qualification for your next one.
- To further reduce the gap, you can alternate getting a pass with your partner. This eliminates the time wasted between cancelling the previous cards and signing up for new ones.
If you are applying for two business cards, you won't need the points you'll earn from meeting the initial spending requirements to qualify for the pass. The signup bonuses from the two cards will be more than you need. You can sign up for the cards in October or November, get most (but not all!) of the initial spending done before the end of the year, and then finish the required spending to earn the bonuses very early in the following year.
If you are applying for a combination of cards with a lower total signup bonus, you can apply in mid-December and wait till January 1st to start your spending, so that the points you earn for spending will help qualify you for the pass.
It is even possible to completely eliminate the gaps, if you and your partner apply more often. Person A signs up for two cards and qualifies at the beginning of Year 1 for a pass for Year 1 and 2. Person B qualifies at the beginning of Year 2, for Year 2 and 3. At the end of Year 2, Person A needs to spend a few months to qualify again for Year 3 and 4, but Person B's pass is still good. Then at the end of Year 3, person B is ready to qualify again, and so on. Even though the qualification date shifts out a few months each cycle, the passes overlap so there is no loss off coverage for many years.
If you've received 5 new credit cards in the last 24 months, Chase won't approve you for either a personal or the business version of the Southwest Airline credit card, regardless of your credit rating or income (business cards you get don't count against your 5 card limit). This is often called the Chase 5/24 rule.
If you want the Companion Pass, and you've already gotten a few new credit cards in the past two years, you need to prioritize getting the Southwest Airline cards before you hit this limit. You may need to postpone getting the Sapphire Reserve, Freedom Unlimited, or other credit cards, until after you've signed up for the Southwest Airlines card. If you are going to utilize business cards, get the Southwest cards first, and choose the Ink Unlimited card instead of the Freedom Unlimited card, as neither card will count against the 5 card limit (although they don't count against the limit, you won't be able to get them once you are over the limit via other cards).
If you want to re-qualify for the pass via signup bonuses, one person will need to stay under the 5 card limit. When you hit your 24 month anniversary, you'll need to have only had 4 new non-business cards since you got your Southwest cards, to be able to sign up for new Southwest credit cards.
Additional Tips for using the Southwest Companion Pass
- If you fly for work, you can book your ticket through a corporate travel portal, and then add your companion to your reservation.
- If you frequently fly as part of a family, two adults can each qualify for a companion pass, allowing 4 people to fly for the price of 2.
- When you get the pass, you must designate a companion. You can then change your companion up to three times each calendar year. If you are taking a trip with someone other than your normal companion, you can adjust your pass to have them fly for free, and then switch back to your normal companion.
- You don’t have to get your companion’s ticket at the same time that you purchased your original ticket—you can call to add them later. So, if you have already booked an upcoming trip with your current companion, you can lock in your price for a new trip with a different companion, and then wait to switch the person on your pass, until after the earlier trip is completed.
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