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  • Writer's pictureCrystal

Southwest Companion Pass

The Southwest Companion Pass has been a huge part of our first year of travel hacking. With a Southwest Companion Pass, you can book a free ticket for a named companion with any ticket you purchase for yourself using either cash or points. You can change your companion up to three times per calendar year.

How long is the companion pass valid?

The Companion Pass is valid for the remainder of the calendar year in which you earn it, plus the whole next year. For example, I earned my companion pass in February 2023 so it's good through December of 2024. To maximize the value of the companion pass, you'll want to earn it as early in the calendar year as possible. (See below)

How do you earn a Companion Pass?

To earn a Companion Pass, you need to accumulate 135,000 qualifying Southwest points in one calendar year. This is easy to do by opening a Southwest personal credit card and a Southwest business card.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card earns 60,000 bonus points upon meeting the minimum spend of $3,000. There is a $69 annual fee. You also get two free Early Bird check-ins per year. There are two other personal credit cards with various perks, but they have higher annual fees and earn the same SUB, so if your goal is just to obtain the Companion Pass, this is the best choice.

For business cards, there are two choices. The easiest for meeting the qualifying point requirement is the Southwest Performance Business card, which earns 80,000 points upon meeting the minimum spend of $5,000. It has an annual fee of $149 and includes various perks like 4 upgraded boarding per year, $100 toward TSA precheck or Clear registration, and in-flight wifi credits. With the personal card and this business card, you'll earn 140,000 points in SUBs, plus a minimum of 8,000 points in minimum spend (1 point per dollar) bringing you to 148,000 points -- more than enough to qualify for the Companion Pass.

The other option is the Southwest Premier Business card, which earns 60,000 points after a minimum spend of $3,000. This plus the personal card will take you to 120,000 points in SUBs, plus at least 6,000 points in dollars spent. This means you'll need an additional 9,000 points to qualify for the Companion pass. You can earn those points by referring one friend or family member for any Southwest card (they must apply and be approved), booking hotel stays through the Southwest travel portal, earning 9,000 points in Southwest flights purchased with cash, or by spending $9,000 more dollars on your card.

When should I open my first Southwest card?

You might be happy getting just one year of companion travel. In that case, open your first card at any point in the year so long as you'll be able to meet both minimum spends by the end of the calendar year. But if you want to maximize the amount of time you have your Companion pass, up to 23 months, you can do what I did.

I opened the Southwest Rapid Rewards card in late November and started spending on it until I was about $1000 from the minimum spend. DO NOT meet your minimum spend on this card before the following year. You want the points to post to your account in January, in this case on your second month's statement.

Then in early January, I opened the Premier Business card and met my minimum spend as quickly as possible. All of my points posted by mid-February and I was able to start booking tickets with my Companion Pass right away. (I had an additional 13,000 points that I had earned through hotel stays.)

Do you buy the Companion Pass with your points?

No! This is the best part. All of the points that you accumulate to earn the Companion Pass stay in your account and can be used to book flights. Those 135,000 plus points, combined with the Companion Pass, will allow you to book quite a bit of free travel. (You do pay $5.60 per person per way in taxes and fees.)

To maximize our points and to be able to book free flights before the Companion Pass was earned, I had my husband open the Rapid Rewards Plus card in October and then refer me for my card. In doing so, we ended up with an additional 83,000+ Southwest points from the SUB, referral, and dollars spent.

How do you use the Companion Pass?

To use the companion pass, you have to designate a named companion in your Rapid Rewards account. You can then add a companion ticket to any ticket that you have, purchased with cash or points. You don't even have to purchase your own ticket. I've used my husband's points to purchase a ticket for me and then added my daughter as a companion and that works just fine.

You can change your companion three times per calendar year. To do this, you need to call Southwest. Once your companion is changed, it works the same way. Simply find your reservation in your Rapid Rewards portal and click the Add Companion button.

Companion tickets are still subject to taxes and fees, which for domestic flights cost $5.10 per way. The only requirement for booking a companion ticket is that there must be a cash ticket available, though this can be in any tier. So if there is even one seat left on the plane, you can book that seat with a Companion Pass. You companion is entitled to two free checked bags and everything else that comes with a cash ticket.

The biggest thing that I didn't understand when I first got the Companion Pass is that the campion ticket will be on a separate reservation. This means you need to check-in with two different confirmation numbers when check-in opens 24 hours ahead of your flight. Because Southwest assigns boarding positions at check-in, I typically either purchase Early Bird Check-In for both or have my phone and my computer open and check in with both numbers at the same time.

How often can you earn a Companion Pass?

You can qualify for the Companion as many times as you'd like. The SUBs for Southwest cards can only be earned every 24 months. So to re-qualify, you would close your cards, wait at least 30 days, and then begin the process again.

How else can I earn Southwest points? Aside from SUBs, you can earn Southwest points from qualifying flights with a Rapid Rewards account (no cost), as well as booking other travel through the Southwest portal. For example, I've been able to earn upwards of 10,000 points for a two-night hotel stay booked through the portal, for the same price as booking direct through the hotel website.

**The links above are referral links. If you use any of these links to apply for a credit card and you are approved, I will receive a pre-determined number of points as a referral bonus. Always use referral links to apply when possible, either from a friend or from a valued content creator. And share your own referral links with family and friends once you open a card you love!

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