Update 4/5/2018: You can no longer earn the sign-up bonus on both personal cards. To earn the Companion Pass through sign-up bonuses, you will need to apply for one personal card and the business card.
I first wrote about the Southwest Companion Pass in 2016. While not much has changed about the actual process of earning it, I wanted to include additional tips I learned including how to time it to earn the pass in January, ensuring two years of free travel for your companion. The Southwest Companion Pass has saved us so much money since we travel to the midwest frequently to visit family. With three weddings and holidays to fly to this year, we’re feeling especially lucky to have the Companion Pass for 2018 and 2019. Here’s everything you need to know about earning the Companion Pass yourself!
What is the Southwest Companion Pass and how do I earn it?
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.
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, but more on that later.
The easiest way to earn the Companion Pass is by signing up for two Southwest credit cards from Chase. There are three options available:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business
The sign-up bonuses on these cards vary from 40,000 to 60,000 depending on current promotions. Since you need 110,000 points, the best time to sign-up is when there are 50,000 and/or 60,000 point offers available. You can check the current offers here.
Remember, you won’t be approved for any of the cards if you opened 5 or more credit cards at any bank in the past 24 months (the 5/24 rule). Also, even if you are under 5/24, you can’t earn the bonus on the same card within 24 months.
Each card comes with an annual fee — $69 for the Plus card and $99 for each of the Premier cards. However, this is a small price to pay for tons of Southwest points and free flights for your Companion.
Other Ways to Earn Companion Pass Qualifying Points
If you were to sign-up with two 50,000 point offers, you’d earn an additional 4,000 points by meeting the spending requirements. Then you’ll need to earn another 6,000 points to get the Companion Pass. You can do so in the following two ways:
- Book revenue flights on Southwest
- Spend money on your Southwest credit card(s)
These methods of earning points DO NOT count toward the Companion Pass:
- Points converted from hotel and car loyalty programs
- Points transferred between members
- Purchased points
- Points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards or other programs
- Points earned by taking surveys: e-Rewards, e-Miles, Valued Opinions, and Diner Club points
- Points earned from program enrollment, tier bonus points, and flight bonus points
How do I use the Companion Pass?
Using the Companion Pass is easy. For any ticket you book on Southwest with points or cash, you can add a Companion to the ticket. You can add a Companion as long as there is a seat on the plane, regardless of which tier ticket you purchased. For example, if you bought a Wanna Get Away ticket, you can add a Companion even if Wanna Getaway is sold out but other fare classes are still available.
You can also book tickets for yourself before your Companion Pass has posted and then add your Companion once it becomes available to you (if the flight hasn’t sold out). We recently took advantage of this by buying a refundable fare for me and a Wanna Get Away fare for my fiancé. Since the Companion Pass is in his name, I was able to ensure there was a seat left for me on the plane. Then, we cancelled my flight for a full refund and added me as his Companion.
How do I get the Companion Pass for two years?
This is the most important part of this article. Timing the Southwest Companion Pass to get it for two years sounds tricky, but it’s simple if you follow these steps.
1. Depending on the bonus, sign up for two cards any time between the very end of September and the beginning of the New Year
You’ll want to sign up for the cards in this time frame to ensure that the bonuses post as close to January 1 as possible to maximize the time you have the Companion Pass. While you need to spend $2,000 on each card within 90 days of opening the cards, Chase usually offers a grace period that extends this timeframe to 115 days. That makes it possible to open the cards more than three months out from January 1.
However, I’d only open it this early if a 60,000 point bonus is set to expire at the very end of September or beginning of October. This fall, we opened the two cards on October 2 since the 60,000 point offer was due to expire on the 4th. Even without the grace period from Chase, our 3 months to meet the spending requirement extended into January, which is really important since all points must be earned in the new year to get the Companion Pass for two years.
Technically, you can meet the spending requirement any time after your December statement closes since those points won’t post until the next statement closing in January. Some people have reported their points posting early so I think it’s best to play it safe and not go over $2,000 until January.
2. Send Chase a secure message to confirm when you need to meet the spending requirement
This message should give you a date that is 115 days out from the date of account opening. Make sure to take a screenshot since Chase secure messages get deleted after a certain number of days. You really just want this as proof in case something goes wrong with your bonus posting. Remember, transactions need to post by this date in order to qualify, so meet the spending requirement earlier to give yourself some wiggle room.
3. Change your statement closing date if necessary
You will only need to do this if the date Chase tells you is before your December statement closing date. For example, if Chase says you need to spend $2,000 by December 21, but your statement closes on the 29th, the bonus points will post in December which will only get you the Companion Pass for one year. Since the points shouldn’t post until the close of the next statement, you should try calling Chase to move your statement close date to before the spending requirement date. If you apply for the cards late enough in the fall, this won’t be an issue, but you can’t control when the 60,000 point bonuses are available.
Some people also like to move the statement close date to earlier in the month so they earn the Companion Pass at the very beginning of January. We won’t be getting ours until around the 20th, but I’m okay missing out on those extra three weeks.
4. Spend the money in the correct time frame
I’ve already highlighted the importance of meeting the spending requirement AFTER the close of the December statement. Again, I’d still wait until January if possible, just to be certain. The annual fee on the card does not count towards the spending requirement.
This is probably the most important piece of information for making sure you don’t mess up the timing of the Companion Pass. Once you pass the spending requirement of $2,000, the bonus will be triggered and the points will post with the next statement. In other words, all spending counts for triggering the bonus, even if you make returns that put your actual total spending under $2,000! This small but crucial fact can cause you to earn one or both bonuses in December instead of January.
Try to only buy things you are sure you won’t return. If you do have returns, make sure to count them as actual spend for the purposes of tracking your progress toward your spending requirement. However, I’d still try to make sure to spend over $2,000 once the calendar turns to January…just in case.
5. Send a secure message to Chase to make sure you met the spending requirement
Once you think you’ve correctly hit the spending requirement on both cards, send another SM to Chase to confirm. Then all you have to do is wait for your January statements to close. A few days later the point should deposit in your Rapid Rewards account. Once you get an email from Southwest saying you earned the Companion Pass, you’re ready to start booking free flights for your Companion!
The Southwest Companion Pass is by far one of my favorite benefits of credit card churning. You can save so much money by getting half off your travel on Southwest for up to two years! Keep these points in minds and you’re on your way to unlimited BOGO flights on Southwest:
- 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.
- Annual fees do not count toward the spending requirement.
- Avoid returns! If you exceed the spending requirement and then make a return that puts you back under $2,000, the bonus will still post with that statement.