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Many airlines offer companion passes, but none are as popular (or valuable to the average consumer) as the Southwest Companion Pass®. Often dubbed “the best deal in travel,” the Southwest Companion Pass lets you book two-for-one fares when traveling with a designated partner. Whether you’re traveling with a spouse or the whole family, the Companion Pass can help you save 50% on travel within the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean.

If you already have a card, you can also work toward earning the Companion Pass by leveraging Southwest points-earning credit cards, travel and retail partners. Here’s everything you need to know about earning and maximizing the Southwest Companion Pass.

What Is the Southwest Companion Pass?

The Southwest Companion Pass is a benefit Rapid Rewards members earn after 135,000 tier-qualifying points or flying 100 one-way flights on Southwest in a calendar year. Earning it through Southwest points is the easiest because nearly all transactions count toward the Companion Pass, such as spending through the Southwest shopping portal, the dining rewards program and more. 

The Companion Pass lets you fly a designated friend or family member free of charge (plus taxes and fees). What makes this so unique is that it’s valid on award travel, so you can potentially save a ton of points every year. 

All you have to do is book two people on the same itinerary and pay the taxes and fees on the companion ticket. It’s incredibly valuable, especially for families who want to minimize out-of-pocket travel costs 

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

5 Ways to Earn the Companion Pass 

The relative ease of earning the Southwest Companion Pass is part of its appeal. You don’t have to fly thousands of miles or spend loads of money to earn it. You can earn it by shopping online, dining out, booking hotels and rental cars or even using credit cards. It’s quite attainable if you’re aware of all the options available. Here are all the ways you can earn pass-eligible points.

1. Apply for a Southwest Card

When you sign up for one of these eligible Southwest consumer credit cards, you can earn points on qualifying purchases that can go toward your Companion Pass:

Compare Southwest Consumer Credit Cards

Credit Card Annual Fee Intro Bonus Perks Learn More

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

$69 50,000Southwest Rapid Rewards Points More Info

Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Dollar Equivalent: $700 (50,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points * 0.014 base)

  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Baggage delay insurance
$99 50,000Southwest Rapid Rewards Points More Info

Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Dollar Equivalent: $700 (50,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points * 0.014 base)

  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Baggage delay insurance

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

$149 50,000Southwest Rapid Rewards Points More Info

Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Dollar Equivalent: $700 (50,000 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. Fly Southwest

The most straightforward way is with Southwest flights. Make sure you’re logged into your account whenever you book a flight so you’re earning rewards. You also want to add the Rapid Rewards number for any companions on your reservation. That way, they’re earning points on their tickets and making progress toward their own status and Companion Pass goals. 

You have to earn 135,000 Rapid Rewards points or fly 100 one-way flights to earn the Southwest Companion Pass. The cost of earning the Companion Pass through flying depends on the fare type. Earnings range from 6-12 points per dollar spent.

Based on these earn rates, here's what you would need to spend to earn the Companion Pass:

Wanna Get Away Wanna Get Away Plus Anytime Fare Business Select

Earning Points With Flights

6 points per $1

8 points per $1

10 points per $1

12 points per $1

Spend Required to Earn Companion Pass

$22,500

$16,875

$13,500

$11,250

3. Sign up for Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining program is a great way to earn Rapid Rewards points without much effort. Simply join, register at least one credit card, use it to dine at participating restaurants, and earn bonus points. The best part? These are Companion Pass-eligible points. You’ll typically earn 0.5-3 points per $1 spent—plus, you’ll get 10 bonus points for every restaurant review you submit.

Southwest Rapid Rewards dining offers three bonuses:

  • New member bonus: 500 points when you create your account, link your payment card, spend at least $25 and complete an online review in the first 30 days
  • First step bonus: 500 points after earning 1,500 points and completing online reviews
  • Thank you bonus: 300 points once you've accrued 1,000 Rapid Rewards points from dining and completing reviews

4. Use the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping® portal is a great place to earn pass-qualifying points toward the Companion Pass. All you have to do is log in to the portal before shopping online and click through to the merchant you want to shop with. There are hundreds of popular merchants to choose from and at times, some might offer high rates like 15 Rapid Rewards points per $1 spent.

As you can imagine, you can make a great deal of progress toward the Companion Pass requirement this way. The great thing about shopping portals is that the multiplier counts toward the Companion Pass. So if Thrive Market is paying out 15 points per dollar spent and you place a $100 order, you’ll earn 1,500 points toward the Companion Pass. If you do quite a bit of online shopping, the Southwest Companion Pass might be more attainable than you would think. 

5. Book Partner Hotels and Rental Cars

Southwest partners with hotels and rental car companies, allowing you to earn Southwest points that count toward the Companion Pass. Before booking a rental car or hotel, make sure to compare the rates against direct bookings. Most hotel loyalty programs won’t issue points or elite night credits on third-party bookings. If you give those perks up for the sake of the Southwest Companion Pass, you at least want to ensure the rates are the same.

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Which Activities Don’t Count Toward the Companion Pass?

Several activities earn miles but are not pass-qualifying, such as:

  • Tier bonuses
  • Flight bonuses
  • Points earned with e-rewards, e-miles, Valued Opinions or Diners Club
  • Points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Points transferred from Marriott Bonvoy

Tips to Earn the Companion Pass Faster

Here are some tips that can make it easier to earn the Companion Pass:

  • Take advantage of sign-up bonuses: If you've earned a sign-up bonus with a Southwest credit card, you could already be making progress toward the Companion Pass. And if you want to apply for a Southwest card in the future, plan it around meeting the bonus requirements because those points typically count toward the pass.
  • Shop with rewards in mind: In many cases, earnings from the shopping portal and dining rewards programs typically count toward the requirements, too, so if you can shop that way, it could pay off.
  • Apply in October: Outside of getting a Companion Pass through a bonus offer, applying in October is the smartest choice. Southwest cards give you three months to meet the spending requirements. By applying in October, you’ll have until January to earn 135,000 points. This is the optimal time to earn the pass since it will then be valid for almost 24 months.
  • Make sure you can apply for the card you want: Chase’s application rules govern how many cards you can get and how many times you can get a specific sign-up bonus. If you’ve had a Southwest personal card in the last 24 months, you won’t be approved for another. You also can’t get a second personal Southwest card if you already have one.

Quick Tip

You can typically get one Southwest consumer card and one business card, which works out nicely since the business cards often offer higher bonuses than the personal ones.

How to Maximize the Southwest Companion Pass

inside Southwest plane
Unsplash

Here are some strategies I recommend to help earn the Companion Pass:

  • Earn through credit card sign-up bonuses: Unless you can score a Companion Pass with a new card sign-up bonus, I recommend getting the cards in October. That way, you have three months to meet the spending requirements—in time for January, which extends your Companion Pass validity to almost two years. 
  • Earn it in January: That way, you have almost two full years to take advantage of it because Companion Passes are valid for the remainder of the calendar year in which you qualified and the entire calendar year immediately following the year you qualified.
  • Fly international: Flying to one of Southwest’s international destinations, or to Hawaii, is a great way to maximize the Southwest Companion Pass. 
  • Pick the right companion: Designate someone who will make good use of the Companion Pass, like a spouse, child or friend.
  • See if your spouse can earn a pass: If you're a family of four and your spouse can get their own Companion Pass, you can each add a child as your respective companions. This can significantly reduce your travel costs, especially if you’re beholden to a school calendar. 

Is the Southwest Companion Pass Worth It?

The Southwest Companion Pass is absolutely worth it if you live near a Southwest Airlines hub and can fly Southwest to most destinations. It’s the closest thing to free travel you can get in the points and miles world, and the fact that you can get it without stepping foot on a plane is tremendous. Plus, you can save thousands of dollars (and points) by leveraging this benefit through credit card sign-ups alone.

Recommended Travel Credit Cards

Credit Card Intro Bonus Annual Fee Rewards Rate Learn More

Chase Sapphire Preferred®

75,000Chase Ultimate Rewards Points More Info

Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's over $900 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠. Dollar Equivalent: $1,725 (75,000 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

50,000Southwest Rapid Rewards Points More Info

Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Dollar Equivalent: $700 (50,000 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

Who Shouldn't Get a Southwest Companion Pass?

On the other hand, a Southwest Companion Pass might not be worth it if:

  • You don’t live in a Southwest city: You’d probably have to book positioning flights with another airline in this case and it might just not fit your lifestyle and travel habits.
  • You're a frequent solo traveler: You might be better off flying with one of the big domestic carriers that offer more traditional elite perks that you can use with a vast partner network.
  • You can’t qualify for Chase's Southwest card because of the 5/24 rule: You probably won’t be able to fast-track your way to a Companion Pass in this case.

Even if you don’t want the Companion Pass, it’s often still worth it to fly Southwest when it’s convenient and to use the shopping and dining rewards programs when the payout is highest. But you shouldn’t go out of your way to earn the pass if you’re not already a frequent Southwest traveler.

FAQs

  • Here's how you can typically get the Companion Pass:

    Earning 135,000 Rapid Rewards points for the Southwest Companion Pass requires spending between $11,250 and $22,500 on Southwest airfare. The exact amount depends on the type of fare you book (Wanna Get Away, Plus, Anytime and Business Select). You can earn status faster by obtaining personal and small business Southwest credit cards. The sign-up bonus from these cards is at least 50,000 and counts toward the 135,000-point Companion Pass requirement.

  • Typically, the Southwest Companion Pass is good for up to two years. Once you earn it, it’s valid through the following calendar year. January is the best time to complete the requirements. That way, you get almost 24 full months of use out of it. If you earn the pass in January 2024, it’s valid through December 2025. On the other hand, if you earn it in December 2023, it’s valid through December 2024.

  • You can use the Southwest Companion Pass as often as you’d like within the valid period. As long as you’re flying with a designated companion, you’ll only need to pay for your own flight and cover the taxes and fees for your companion. Taxes start at around $5.60, keeping your out-of-pocket cost minimal.

  • You can change your companion up to three times per calendar year by calling 1-800-435-9792. It’s worth noting that if you do change your companion, your previous companion will be dropped from any flights booked using the Companion Pass. So you should avoid switching companions if you have an upcoming trip booked with a Companion Pass.

  • You can designate your Southwest companion by logging into your account. Head to the “My Account” section and select “Choose Your Companion.” Enter your companion’s information and follow the instructions for finalizing your selection. You can also call Southwest at 1-800-248-4377 and speak to a representative.

  • You can't transfer your Southwest Companion Pass to anyone. The pass gets assigned to whoever earns it and that person can designate a travel companion to fly with them. You can, however, change your companion up to three times in a calendar year. This provides you flexibility so you can make full use of it throughout the year.

  • Southwest is a good airline if you live in a hub city and take advantage of its fare sales. The airline offers all guests free flight changes and two checked bags, which most airlines charge money for. This can save you a lot if you’re traveling with multiple people who bring checked bags.

    Their loyalty program is also straightforward. You earn 6-10 Southwest points per dollar spent on airfare, which you can redeem for Wanna Get Away fares at 1.3 cents each.

AA

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.