Southwest Airlines flyers can enjoy over a year's worth of free companion plane tickets - here's how to qualify for a pass

southwest airlines companion pass

Traveling can be a great adventure, but it's always better with a friend or loved one. Having a free plane ticket for your favorite travel buddy for up to two years could help you make even more travel memories. Sounds too good to be true? It's actually a thing.

The Southwest Companion Pass allows you to choose one person to fly with you, though taxes and fees are not covered, for up to two years (provided your timing is right).

If you can qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass, it's a worthwhile endeavor.

How the Southwest Companion Pass works

The Southwest Companion Pass allows you to book a friend or family member's airplane ticket, on the same flight as you, without needing to pay any cash or points for the ticket. You will be responsible for taxes and fees, but typically these do not amount to much.

After you earn the Companion Pass, you will be able to designate your companion. The good news is that you can change to a different companion up to three times per calendar year. This means that you can bring along different friends for different trips.

Read more: Tips for using the Southwest Companion Pass once you've earned it

How to time earning the Companion Pass

Once you've decided that you want to earn the Companion Pass, you need to plan out the timing just right. If you're going through the work of getting a pass, then you should maximize the amount of time you have to use it.

The pass will be good as soon as you earn it and for the rest of the year. Additionally, it will be valid for the entire year that follows. So if you earn it in November 2019, then you will only be able to use it until December 2020. However, if you earned it in January 2020 then you would be able to use it until December 2021, which effectively doubles the amount of time you have to use the Companion Pass.

With this in mind, the best time to start planning to get the Companion Pass is toward the end of a calendar year. If you plan properly, your sign-up bonuses and spending can help you hit the required mileage for the Companion Pass early in the next year. This can mean an active Companion Pass for almost two years.

How to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass

To qualify for the pass, you need to earn 110,000 Companion Pass qualifying points or fly 100 one-way flights per calendar year on Southwest Airlines, which must be earned and posted to your Rapid Rewards account.

You can earn qualifying points by:

Points you can earn on your Rapid Rewards account that do not qualify for the Companion Pass:

  • Purchased points
  • Points transferred between Rapid Rewards members
  • Points converted from hotel and car loyalty programs
  • Points converted from e-Rewards, e-Miles, Valued Opinions, and Diners Club
  • Points earned from Rapid Rewards program enrollment
  • Tier bonus points
  • Flight bonus points
  • Partner bonus points

Read more: We compared Southwest Airlines' 5 credit cards to help you decide which is best for you

Southwest Airlines

Earning 110,000 Southwest points with credit cards

Perhaps the easiest way to earn the Southwest Companion Pass is to earn credit card sign-up bonuses. Southwest has a handful of credit cards, and all their sign-up bonuses count toward earning a Companion Pass.

You can only earn a sign-up bonus for one personal Southwest card - regardless of which one you choose. However, you can earn the bonus for one personal card, plus one small business card, within one year. Keep in mind that just about anyone is eligible for a small business credit card - even if you're a freelancer, work a side gig, or occasionally sell things on eBay.

Personal Southwest credit cards

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, and Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card all offer a sign-up bonus of 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening your account, plus another 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 in the first 12 months. You also get 2x points on purchases made with Southwest and one point on all other purchases using these cards.

With 40,000 points (or really at least 41,000, factoring in the $1,000 you have to spend to earn the bonus), you'll still need another 70,000 to earn the Companion Pass. That's why adding a Southwest business credit card to the mix can help. (We're not factoring in the additional 20,000 points you can earn with the current sign-up bonus, because that requires spending $12,000 in the first 12 months, and there are time constraints to keep in mind for earning the Companion Pass.)

Click here to learn more about the Southwest Plus card from our partner The Points Guy.

Click here to learn more about the Southwest Premier card from our partner The Points Guy.

Click here to learn more about the Southwest Priority card from our partner The Points Guy.

Southwest Business credit cards

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card has a sign-up bonus of 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. So if you earn 40,000 points from one of the personal Southwest card bonuses and 60,000 from this card's bonus, you'd have at least 104,000 points toward the 110,000-point requirement (factoring in the points you'd earn from spending on the card).

To make up the remaining points, you can refer friends to sign up for Chase Southwest credit cards with your designated referral code, book hotels through Southwest Hotels, or use the Rapid Rewards shopping portal. Don't forget that you also can earn 1 point per dollar spent on other purchases made with the Rapid Rewards credit cards mentioned above.

There's also the more recently introduced Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Card, which has a higher annual fee of $199 but also offers a higher sign-up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months. So if you open this card and one of the personal Southwest credit cards and earn the sign-up bonuses on each, you'll have 120,000 points before you even factor in the points you'll earn from meeting the spending requirement - so more than enough to earn the Companion Pass.

If you're able to sign up for more than one card, you'll already be very close to the 110,000 points needed for the Companion Pass.

Click here to learn more about the Southwest Premier Business card from our partner The Points Guy.

Click here to learn more about the Southwest Performance Business card from our partner The Points Guy.

Bottom line

The Companion Pass is an incredibly lucrative benefit for those who can qualify. It may take some extra work and some strategy in your timing of purchases, but it could be well worth it to make precious travel memories with friends and family.

Learn more about the Southwest Companion Pass rules and regulations.

More credit card coverage

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. What you decide to do with your money is up to you. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.

Business Insider may receive a commission from The Points Guy Affiliate Network, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

{{}}
Add Comment()
Comments ()
X
Sort By:
Be the first one to comment.
We have sent you a verification email. This comment will be published once verification is done.