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The Southwest Companion Pass® is one of the most popular travel tools out there because it allows you to bring a friend with you on your trip for free. If you live in a Southwest Airlines hub and often travel with a buddy, the Companion Pass is the smartest way to fly and save. There are a few ways to earn the Companion Pass, and you can earn it without even stepping on a plane. Plus, it’s valid on paid and award bookings with no blackout date limitations, providing flexibility and convenience. 

Despite its ubiquity in the travel rewards space, there are still many misconceptions and things that the average consumer gets wrong about this benefit. Here are seven things you need to know about the Southwest Companion Pass.

1. You Can Earn a Companion Pass with a Southwest Credit Card

Earning the Southwest Companion Pass requires completing 100 flights or earning 135,000 points in a calendar year. However, you don’t have to fly to earn the required 135,000 points. Southwest counts virtually all spending toward this requirement, including credit card purchases, dining rewards, shopping portal activity, hotels, and rental cars booked through Southwest. Even the welcome bonus from the Southwest credit cards counts toward the Southwest Companion Pass.

Compare Southwest Consumer Credit Cards

Credit Card Annual Fee Intro Bonus Perks Learn More

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

$69 85,000Southwest Rapid Rewards Points More Info

Earn 85,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Dollar Equivalent: $1,190 (85,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points * 0.014 base)

  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Baggage delay insurance
$99 85,000Southwest Rapid Rewards Points More Info

Earn 85,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Dollar Equivalent: $1,190 (85,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points * 0.014 base)

  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Baggage delay insurance

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

$149 85,000Southwest Rapid Rewards Points More Info

Earn 85,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Dollar Equivalent: $1,190 (85,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points * 0.014 base)

  • $75 Southwest annual travel credit
  • 25% back on inflight drinks & Wi-Fi
  • 4 upgraded boardings when available

2. You Can Add Anyone as a Companion (and Change It Too)

Southwest allows you to designate anyone as your companion – you can choose a friend, family member, co-worker, or a complete stranger. The process is simple and can be done online. Once designated, you’re not stuck with your choice, either. You can change your companion up to three times per year, providing plenty of flexibility to accommodate your changing travel habits and plans.

3. It’s Valid on Both Paid and Award Flights

Southwest airlines plane

Unsplash

The great thing about the Southwest Companion Pass is that it’s valid on any flight. It can be used on paid and award tickets on any Southwest-operated route, with no blackout dates. When Southwest runs an airfare sale, you can save even more if you’re traveling with a companion. During times when airfare rises, the Companion Fare can help you redeem fewer points on these flights.

What Slickdealers Are Saying

“I’ve had the Southwest Companion Pass twice and I think it’s the best deal around when it comes to saving money on flights (unless you mostly travel outside of North America). Last year, my wife and I flew together three times and only paid for one ticket each time. We went to Hawaii, Washington D.C. and Santa Barbara (and we’re trying to sneak in one more quick trip before it expires).

“The value for the free tickets we got through the Companion Pass equated to about $1,000 for those three trips. Considering we got the pass through a credit card sign-up bonus, we didn’t really have to change our spending habits to get it. So all I really paid to get it was the $69 annual fee, which is a slick deal in my book.”

Johan Mengesha Vice President, Content

4. Earn It at the Beginning of the Year to Maximize Its Benefits

Once earned, your Companion Pass is valid for the remainder of the calendar year you earned it, plus the following full calendar year. For example, if you earn your Companion Pass in March 2025, it’s valid through December 2026. Therefore, the best time to earn the Companion Pass is January of each year. That way, your pass is valid for nearly two years, giving you plenty of opportunity to enjoy it.

5. You Can Use It Unlimited Times

There is no limit to the number of times you can fly with your designated companion. As long as a seat is available on your flight, you can add them to the reservation. You can do this as often as you’d like while your Companion Pass is valid. This differs from other airline companion passes, which are single-use only and sometimes subject to blackout dates or other restrictions.

6. A Companion Ticket Isn’t Exactly Free

iStock

Social media influencers often tout the “free” flight benefit offered to Southwest Companion Pass holders. It’s important to note that traveling with a companion pass isn’t exactly free. You will still need to pay the taxes and fees on the second ticket, even if you redeem points. Southwest award tickets incur a minimum tax of $5.60 each way – a relatively small cost but worth being aware of.

Recommended Travel Credit Cards

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Chase Sapphire Preferred®

60,000Chase Ultimate Rewards Points More Info

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠. Dollar Equivalent: $1,380 (60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points * 0.023 base)

$95 1x- 5xPoints More Info

Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases, $50 Annual Chase Travel Hotel Credit, plus more.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

85,000Southwest Rapid Rewards Points More Info

Earn 85,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Dollar Equivalent: $1,190 (85,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points * 0.014 base)

$69 1x - 2xPoints More Info

Earn 2X points on Southwest® purchases. Earn 2X points on Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partners. Earn 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare. Earn 2X points on internet, cable, and phone services; select streaming. Earn 1X points on all other purchases.

Citi Custom Cash® Card

$200Cash Bonus More Info

Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $1500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.

$0 1% - 5%Cashback More Info

Earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, 1% cash back thereafter. Also, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. Special Travel Offer: Earn an additional 4% cash back on hotels, car rentals, and attractions booked on Citi Travel℠ portal through 6/30/2025.

Citi Strata Premier℠ Card

70,000Citi ThankYou® Points More Info

Earn 70,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of account opening, redeemable for $700 in gift cards or travel rewards at thankyou.com. Dollar Equivalent: $1,260 (70,000 Citi ThankYou® Points * 0.018 base)

$95 1X-10XPoints More Info

10x on Hotels, Car Rentals, and Attractions booked through CitiTravel.com 3x -- Earn 3 Points per $1 spent on Air Travel and Other Hotel Purchases 3x -- Earn 3 Points per $1 spent on Restaurants 3x -- Earn 3 Points per $1 spent on Supermarkets 3x -- Earn 3 Points per $1 spent on Gas and EV Charging Stations 1x -- Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on All Other Purchases

7. You Can Save a Ton on International Flights and Peak Bookings

Some of the best uses of the Southwest Companion Pass include international flights or tickets booked during peak times. Southwest is one of the few airlines that don’t impose blackout dates on award bookings, meaning you can redeem points on any flight as long as there’s a seat open. Sometimes, this translates to steep airfare and will cost you more in reward points. However, using the Companion Pass takes the sting out of these increased prices. 

Southwest currently operates numerous international flights, including to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Fares to these destinations can be high, especially during peak travel season. With a Companion Pass, you can cut the cost of these flights in half when traveling with another person.

Bottom Line

The Southwest Companion Pass can offer tremendous value for Southwest Rapid Rewards members who want to save money and points on travel. By familiarizing yourself with the rules and limitations of the pass, you can make the most of this coveted perk. Most importantly, you’ll want to time it right so that you can use the pass for as long as possible.

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Ariana Arghandewal

Ariana Arghandewal is a rewards travel expert and founder of Pointchaser, an online publication dedicated to rewards travel topics. She brings over a decade of experience writing about travel, points, miles and credit cards. Her expertise includes her roles as an editor for distinguished travel and finance publications such as NerdWallet, The Points Guy and FlyerTalk. She has also authored many articles featured in major financial news & travel channels like Forbes, U.S. News Weekly, Business Insider & Fodor’s Travel.