Southwest Raises Requirements for Companion Pass, Program Changes Southwest Raises Requirements for Companion Pass, Program Changes

Southwest Raises Requirements for Companion Pass, Program Changes

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Southwest Airlines recently made changes to the Rapid Rewards program that include increasing the Companion Pass requirements, a bonus for Rapid Rewards cardholders, and tweaks to when you can cancel and refund tickets.

Thankfully, these changes aren't as bad as they seem — at least for those earning the Southwest Companion Pass through credit cards. Changes took effect on January 1, 2023.

Southwest Companion Pass Change

Southwest Companion Pass Change

Since January 2020, the Southwest Companion Pass only required 125,000 qualifying points. On January 1, 2023, that increased to 135,000 qualifying points. This is only an increase of 8%, so perhaps not really something to be worried about.

As covered in our Southwest Companion Pass guide, the Companion Pass is good until the end of the following calendar year in which the pass was earned. Passes earned at any time in 2023 will be good until the end of 2024. Passes earned in 2024 will be good until the end of 2025, etc.

Another change is that Companion Pass holders can now board with their Companions  –unless the Companion Pass holder purchased a Business Select fare, purchased Upgraded Boarding, or added the Companion after being assigned a boarding position.

Rapid Rewards Cardholder Bonus

To offset the increase in Companion Pass requirements, Rapid Rewards cardholders now get a bonus of 10,000 qualifying points at the beginning of each calendar year, starting on the first business day of 2023. This bonus applies to cardholders of the following cards:

An Example of Earning the Companion Pass Using Credit Cards

Traditionally, the easiest way of earning the Southwest Companion Pass would be to combine the 80,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points from the Southwest Performance Business Card with the bonus from one of the personal Southwest cards. This will typically land you enough points to secure the Companion Pass for the year in which you earn it, plus the following year.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
Annual Fee$69
Welcome Bonus Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • 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

When the personal cards run the traditional points bonus, these bonuses, combined with the points earned from the minimum spending requirement and the business card, are enough to reach the new requirement. That doesn't include the 10,000 bonus Companion Pass points you'll receive for holding a Southwest card.

Please note that the 10,000 bonus points are for the Companion Pass only. These are not Rapid Rewards points that can be redeemed. Instead, these are only qualifying points for the Companion Pass.

Remember that you can only open one credit card in the same rewards program every 24 months. As the Companion Pass-qualifying points must be earned within a single calendar year, it's a good idea to open a new Rapid Rewards card just before the end of the year. That way, you can claim the 10,000 bonus qualifying points after the New Year, and then meet the spending threshold within the first three months.

No-Show Policy Change

Another small change that will happen in the summer of 2023 is that Wanna Get Away or Wanna Get Away Plus booked with Rapid Rewards points must be canceled at least 10 minutes before the flight. Otherwise, your points will be forfeited.

Currently, you have until after the flight departs to cancel and receive a refund on your points. Again, not a big change, and it makes sense on the administration side of things.

Our Take

It makes sense that Southwest is making this change to the Companion Pass, considering all the recent changes with rewards programs, inflation, etc. And, for travelers that primarily earn the Companion Pass through credit cards shouldn't be affected, thanks to the new bonus for Rapid Rewards cardholders.

The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the best perks among airline rewards programs, so these changes are good to know about.

Do you think the 10,000 points increase is a big deal?

5 / 5 - (5 votes)
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  • If I have a business SW credit card and a personal SW credit card am I eligible for two 10,000 bonus qualifying points after the New Year? Thanks!

    • Unfortunately not. “Members with an open Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Card on the first business day of each calendar year will earn one boost of 10,000 Companion Pass qualifying points each calendar year.”

  • Heather Whiting says:

    SInce SW is giving a card holder the 10,000 points to compensate for the increase, it’s not a big deal. Thank you for the very clear summary explanation! I appreciate how you always mention what the new requirements are and then state what the current requirements are. The concise explanation is ALWAYS so helpful!