fly free with the southwest companion pass

The Southwest Companion Pass is a benefit from Southwest Airlines that allows you to bring a pre-designated travel companion on every flight you book on Southwest, giving new meaning to “you are now free to move about the country”. Earning a Companion Pass sounds like a daunting task; to qualify, you have to fly 100 one-way flights or earn 110,00 Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year. Getting 110,000 points is actually quite doable with the right credit cards, and you can even have it for two full years if you time it right.

Let me explain: the Companion Pass is good for the remainder of the calendar year in which you earn it PLUS the entire next calendar year. For example, qualifying for the Companion Pass in January 2017 means you get to use it for all of 2017 AND all of 2018.

My Southwest Companion Pass
My boyfriend’s Companion Pass. Lucky me, I’m his companion!

My boyfriend got his hands on a Companion Pass last year, and I’m sad to see it expire this December since it’s so easy to use. Once a flight is booked by the Companion Pass holder, all you have to do is log on to your Rapid Rewards account and click a button to add the Companion. The Companion then receives their own ticketing information. So far it’s allowed us to go to weddings we would have missed out on due to the cost of the flight. It’s also been great for visiting family and friends. Here’s what you need to know about getting your own Southwest Companion Pass.

Southwest Credit Cards

Note: Bonus offers on the Southwest credit cards from Chase are known to fluctuate. I will do my best to keep the links updated with the best offers. If you notice that an offer link is broken or less than 50,000 points, please comment or send an email to [email protected] and I will update it ASAP.

My boyfriend got a Companion Pass by applying for two Southwest Cards from Chase, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus. Each card has a 50,000 point bonus after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months.

southwest-premier-credit-card
The Southwest Premier Card has a $99 annual fee

These cards charge an annual fee on the first billing statement, but at $99 and $69, respectively, it’s well worth it. I found it hard to believe that you could get two cards that seem almost identical from the same bank, but this was the method he used to get his 104,000 points (4,000 earned by hitting the spending requirements).

southwest-plus-50k
This is the offer you want for the Southwest Plus card!

Instead of opening two personal cards, you may have the option to open a business credit card. Opening one personal and one business card through Chase can be less risky if you’re approaching five credit cards in 24 months. The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business card is currently offering a 60,000 point bonus after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months with a $99 annual fee. This is higher than the usual 50,000 point offer and can make it really easy to get the Companion Pass.

The point bonuses on these cards can decrease so make sure that both cards have at least a 50,000 point bonus before signing up!

Other Options for Earning Points

Update 4/1/2017: Transfers from hotels will no longer count towards the Companion Pass. You will still be able to use the sign-up bonus points, but will need to earn the additional 6,000 points through other means such as regular spending on the Southwest credit cards.

The transfer ratios from hotel partners are not ideal, but transferring hotel points is an option for getting the extra 6,000 points needed to earn the Companion Pass. Points can be earned from hotel stays or they can be purchased. For example, 20,000 Choice Hotels points will get you the extra 6,000 points for $220.

Hotel points can also come from other credit cards. Chase Ultimate Rewards is a transfer partner with Southwest but transferring points WILL NOT count toward a Companion Pass. Instead you can transfer points to a hotel partner such as Hyatt and then transfer to Southwest. Starwood Preferred Guest does not list Southwest as a transfer partner but you can link your Starwood and Marriott accounts, transfer points to Marriott, and then transfer points to Southwest. You also can open another hotel credit card to earn points that can be transferred to Southwest.

The table below shows details of Southwest hotel partners. Please note that some programs may offer a better rate if you buy more points.

HotelTransfer RatioCost per 1,000 pointsPoints need to get 6,000 Southwest pointsChase Ultimate Reward PartnerCredit card with sign up bonus?
Hyatt2.1 to 1 (5,000 Hyatt points = 2,400 Southwest points)$2412,500YesNo
Choice Hotels3.33 to 1$1120,000No32,000 points after spending $1000 in 90 days
Best Western4.2 to 1 (5,000 Best Western points = 1,200 Southwest points)$1025,000NoPremium card: 50,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in first 3 billing cycles
Marriott5 to 1$12.530,000Yes80,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
StarwoodMust transfer through Marriott where 1 Starpoint = 3 Marriott points = 0.6 Southwest points $3510,000No25,000 points after spending $3000 in the first 3 months
La Quinta5 to 1$1130,000NoYes but probably not worth it for this  
Club Carlson10 to 1$760,000No50,000 points after your first purchase plus 35,000 points once you spend $2,500 within the first 90 days

Marriott Hotel + Air Package

Marriott Hotel + Air Package
Select the 270,000 point Marriott Hotel + Air Package option to earn enough Southwest points for the Companion Pass

If you have a lot of Marriott or Starwood points, you can also purchase a Hotel + Air Package as a way to earn the Companion Pass. You’ll need 270,000 Marriott points or 90,000 Starpoints (transferred to Marriott = 270,000 points). When selecting Hotel + Air Package 3, you will end up with 120,000 Rapid Rewards points AND a 7 night stay at a category 1-5 Marriott property. It can take up to six weeks to receive your Southwest points, and be sure to redeem your hotel certificate within 12 months. This method currently works for the Companion Pass but it is possible that this will change in the future.

Final Thoughts

It may sound confusing, but getting the Companion Pass is definitely doable. Just remember the following:

  • Never transfer points to Southwest from Chase Ultimate Rewards to get the Companion Pass. You’ll get some free flights, but no Companion Pass.
  • Transferring points from a friend’s Southwest account to your own costs money and will not count toward the Companion Pass.
  • All credit cards used for earning the Companion Pass need to be in your own name.

With these tips in mind, you’ll be on your way in no time. So far with our Companion Pass, we’ve flown round trip Boston to Chicago four times (visiting family and weddings) and round trip Boston to San Francisco. Best of all, since the Companion Pass is good for purchased and rewards flights, you’ll have 110,000 Rapid Rewards points ready to send you and your companion on your way! How would you use your Southwest Companion Pass? Any other creative ideas for how to earn 110,000 points?

Last updated: 4/1/2017

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