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If you're new to using points and miles to book flights, you may ask, “What is the Southwest Companion Pass?” The Southwest Companion Pass allows you to fly with another person for free (just pay taxes and fees). You may think of it as a buy-one-get-one-free coupon.
Many travel experts consider the Companion Pass among the industry's best travel perks because this isn't a one-time pass. You can use it as much as you fly, as long as there's a seat available. It doesn't even matter whether you use points or cash.
To help design your strategy, we’ve summarized ways to accelerate your progress to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.
How Do I Get It?
You can earn the Companion Pass by reaching the required number of flight segments or qualifying points in a calendar year.
Earn the Southwest Companion Pass via flights
For those who fly a lot, it's possible to earn the Companion Pass by taking 100 one-way flights on Southwest. This qualification method is completely separate from earning the required number of points. If you earn the pass via flight segments, it doesn't matter how many points you earn.
According to Southwest:
“A one-way qualifying flight is defined as a one-way revenue trip on Southwest Airlines from an origin city to a destination city, including any intermediate stops and/or connections on Southwest Airlines.”
While it's great that you can earn the Companion Pass via flights alone, flying 100 segments in a calendar year isn't practical for most people.
Earn the Southwest Companion Pass via points
The easier path to the Companion Pass is by earning 135,000 qualifying points in a calendar year. You can earn these points through sign-up bonuses and spending on Southwest co-branded credit cards, which is a much more likely path for many.
But where should someone start to earn this sum of points?
Strategies to Earn 135,000 Southwest Points
Earning 135,000 points can feel like a huge goal to hit. Fortunately, Southwest provides several different methods to earn the required 135,000 points, and you can mix and match the earning strategies that best suit your needs. Here are the most widely used options:
- Spending on co-branded Southwest credit cards
- Welcome bonuses on Southwest credit cards
- Flying on Southwest Airlines
- Booking hotel stays and car rentals through Southwest
- Rapid Rewards Shopping
Southwest co-branded credit cards
All of the ways listed above can help you incrementally earn points toward the Southwest Companion Pass, but the fastest way is using the co-branded Southwest credit cards issued by Chase in the U.S. There are three personal and two business Rapid Rewards cards.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
- Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card
- Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
- 3,000 anniversary points each year.
- Earn 2X points on Southwest® purchases.
- Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare.
- Earn 2X points on internet, cable, and phone services; select streaming.
- 2 EarlyBird Check-In® each year.
- Earn 1 point for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
- Member FDIC
- 2X points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases
- 2X points per $1 spent on local transit and commuting, including rideshare
- 2X points per $1 spent on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming services
- 1X point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Each of these cards provides an array of benefits tailored to your budget and needs. We think the Southwest Priority Card is the clear winner of the group for providing long-term value for Southwest flyers. Check out our full review of the Southwest Priority Card for more details.
In addition, members with an open Southwest co-branded credit card (must be open on the first business day of each calendar year) receive one boost of 10,000 Companion Pass qualifying points each year. If you are not a Southwest cardholder but open a new card during the year, you will receive the boost of 10,000 qualifying points up to 30 days after opening your card. Only one boost can be earned each calendar year per account, no matter how many Southwest credit cards you have.
If you decide to make one or more of the co-branded cards part of your Companion Pass strategy, make sure that any bonus points post to your account in the calendar year you intend to qualify. For example, if you sign up for an offer of 40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first three months, you want to make sure you don't cross the $1,000 spending threshold until you are ready for the full bonus to post to your account. Earning your Companion Pass early in the year is the most ideal strategy as it will give you the rest of that year and all of the next year to use it.
It's also important to note that all of the points for earning the Companion Pass must post in the same calendar year. If you earn 70,000 points from shopping and flying offers in 2023 but don't receive the welcome bonus from a credit card until January of 2024, this won't work. It's based on a calendar year, and you start back at 0 on January 1 every year.
Even if you won't reach 100 flight segments, flying with Southwest can help you qualify with points. Southwest awards points for flying based on the type of fare you choose and the amount you spend:
- Wanna Get Away Fares: 6 points per dollar
- Wanna Get Away Plus Fares: 8 points per dollar
- Anytime Fares: 10 points per dollar
- Business Select Fares: 12 points per dollar
Given that Southwest pays 6X per dollar on the base fare (excluding taxes), you would earn ($236.80 X 6) 1,421 redeemable points for booking the above flight.
While these points can add up quickly, it's important to remember that travelers only earn Rapid Rewards points when they fly. That means you won't get any closer to your goal with flights booked for family members. Fortunately, the other strategies listed below will work regardless of who is traveling, as long as you attach your Rapid Rewards number to the reservation.
The cheapest reservation for a Queen bed non-refundable room would earn 6,000 points and cost $411. However, be sure to look through the different room types since pricing varies and some rates are non-refundable; others include breakfast. Sometimes, there are special offers to buy additional points, too, though there are not any offers in this case.
Unfortunately, the price you see on the page where you select the hotel and room type doesn't include the taxes. When I went to complete the reservation, the cost jumped from $411 to $482.
Make sure to compare the Southwest Hotels price with other options. The same room shown above could also be booked directly with Marriott for $434, which would save you $48. However, don't forget to factor in the value of the Rapid Rewards points and progress toward the Companion Pass. Rapid Reward points are generally worth 1.3-1.5 cents each (and AwardWallet users tend to redeem them at the upper end). 6,000 extra Rapid Rewards points would have a minimum value of $78, and the Companion Pass itself could be invaluable.
Keep in mind that most of the major hotel loyalty programs don't award points or recognize elite status when you book through a third-party site.
While I personally have found that AutoSlash works best for rentals, you might want to search the Southwest Book a Car service. With some agencies offering 4X and others offering 2X plus upfront bonuses, every point helps toward the Companion Pass.
Before you start your search, have a look at the Special Offers page to see what deals will work with your trip.
This promotion is tiered for point earning, but all bookings offer savings of up to 30% off the base rate:
- Rent for one to two days to earn 600 points.
- Rent for three to five days to earn 1,200 points.
- Rent for six days or longer to earn 1,800 points.
According to the offer terms, any points earned over 600 per rental will be considered bonus points and they do not count toward A-List, A-List Preferred, or Companion Pass qualification, so keep that in mind when shopping for a car rental.
Rapid Rewards Shopping
Being a Southwest Loyalist, you won't want to miss out on these opportunities either. Many of the places you shop online could help pad your balances when clicking through Rapid Rewards® Shopping. You can find many of your favorite retailers among the 1,100+ shopping partners available. Popular stores include Home Depot, Macy's, Nike, and so many more.
To earn credit for your purchase, just visit the shopping portal page before clicking on the merchant's website. The shopping portal will track the value of your purchase and award points based on the multiplier shown for the merchant. Here's a helpful video explaining the shopping portal.
Which Points Do Not Count Towards the Companion Pass?
The list of points that do not qualify isn't surprising, but is important to know:
- Purchased points
- Points transferred between members
- Points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Points converted from hotel and car loyalty programs (such as Marriott Bonvoy)
- Points earned from e-Rewards, Valued Opinions, and Diners Club
- Points earned from Rapid Rewards program enrollment
- Points earned from tier bonuses
- Flight bonus points
- Partner bonus points
- Rapid Rewards Dining
You should remember what points qualify and work under the assumption that everything else does not. When in doubt, check Southwest.com or run a small test before you commit to an earning strategy. You also won't earn toward the Companion Pass on any flights where you paid with points.
The Southwest Companion Pass is easily one of the most valuable perks available in award travel, and it can potentially save you thousands of dollars on flights while you hold it.
Earning the 135,000 points required for the Companion Pass can appear daunting, but Southwest offers various ways to accumulate the points you need to secure the pass for 2023 & 2024. And once you've earned the Companion Pass, here's how to select your companion and start using your new perks.
Are you trying to earn the Companion Pass this year? Let us know in the comments.
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