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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,” it enables you to 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 time it right, you can enjoy this benefit for up to two years. The best part? You don’t even have to step on a plane to earn the Companion Pass — you can do it in the comfort of your own home by leveraging Southwest points-earning credit cards, travel, and retail partners. So what does it take to get your hands on this magical tool? 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 125,000 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: the sign-up bonus from the Southwest cards, 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 

How 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 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: 

Fly Southwest

The most straightforward way to earn the Southwest Companion Pass is through 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 125,000 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:

  • Wanna Get Away/Wanna Get Away Plus: 6 Rapid Rewards points per $1
  • Anytime fare: 8 Rapid Rewards points per $1
  • Business Select Fare: 10 Rapid Rewards points per $1

Based on these earn rates, you would need to spend  $20,834 in Wanna Get Away/Plus fares to earn the Companion Pass. If you primarily book Anytime fares, you’d need to spend $15,625 to earn enough for a Companion Pass. Business Select fares earn the most points, so you’d need to spend substantially less ($10,417) to generate 125,000 Rapid Rewards points. 

However, you don’t have to spend $10,000+ on airfare or even fly to earn elite status. The sign-up bonus on Southwest credit cards and earnings from the shopping portal and dining rewards programs also count toward this requirement. 

Get a Southwest Credit Card

The fastest way to earn the Southwest Companion Pass is through co-branded credit cards. That’s because the sign-up bonus and every dollar you spend count toward Companion Pass. You can earn most of the required 125,000 points by signing up for two Southwest credit cards.

October is the best time to embark on your quest to earn the Companion Pass. That’s because the Southwest cards give you three months to meet the spending requirements. By applying in October, you’ll have until January to earn 125,000 points. This is the optimal time to earn the pass since your pass will then be valid for almost 24 months. 

Here’s a list of current Southwest credit card offers:

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

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Secure application on issuer’s website

  • Our Rating 4.0/5
  • APR20.24% – 27.24% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee$69
  • 50,000 50,000Southwest Rapid Rewards Points More Info

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

This entry-level Southwest card costs a reasonable $69 per year, the ability to earn points towards Companion Pass, and carries plenty of opportunities to earn Rapid Rewards points across a handful of bonus categories.

Overview

This is the entry-level card for aspiring Rapid Rewards point earners, and new cardholders can earn a 50,000-point sign-up bonus, which can help get you closer to booking flights for your next travel destination.

Above all, for a modest $69 annual fee, the Rapid Rewards Plus credit card helps you rack up points as cheaply as possible, and all points earned with this card get you closer to a Southwest Companion Pass®.

Pros

  • 2x points on Southwest purchases, local transit and commuting, select streaming and more
  • Annual fee that’s palatable
  • Earn points towards a coveted Southwest Companion Pass

Cons

  • In exchange for a lower annual fee, the card’s ongoing benefits may seem lackluster
  • 3% foreign transaction fee

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Apply Now

Secure application on issuer’s website

  • Our Rating 4.0/5
  • APR20.24% – 27.24% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee$99
  • 50,000 50,000Southwest Rapid Rewards Points More Info

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

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card makes it effortless to rack up bonus points toward award flights. Plus, all points earned on the card count toward unlocking the coveted Southwest Companion Pass or A-List status.

Overview

In addition to perks like no foreign transaction fees and being able to earn A-list flight status, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card also offers a generous 6,000 bonus points every cardholder anniversary. It’s these types of benefits that help round out the value of the $99 annual fee.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card also offers two EarlyBird Check-Ins each year, and all points earned with this card get you closer to a Southwest Companion Pass®.

Pros

  • Land A-List status faster with 1,500 TQPs for every $10,000 you spend
  • Earn points towards a coveted Southwest Companion Pass
  • 6,000 bonus points awarded every cardmember anniversary

Cons

  • $99 annual fee
  • Must fly Southwest often for this card to make sense

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Apply Now

Secure application on issuer’s website

  • Our Rating 4.0/5
  • APR20.24% – 27.24% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee$149
  • 50,000 50,000Southwest Rapid Rewards Points More Info

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

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card makes it effortless to rack up bonus points toward award flights. Plus, all points earned on the card count toward unlocking the coveted Southwest Companion Pass or A-List status.

Overview

When you look at benefits like a $75 annual travel credit, four upgraded boardings each year, free checked bags and discounts on in-flight purchases, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is probably the most affordable of all the Southwest credit cards. Similarly, the 7,500 bonus points each cardmember anniversary really pack on the value and offset this card’s $149 annual fee.

Pros

  • Although there’s a $149 annual fee, the $75 Southwest annual travel credit makes the card much more affordable for frequent flyers
  • 7,500 anniversary bonus points as a cardmember
  • Earn towards a coveted Southwest Companion Pass
  • 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available

Cons

  • Higher annual fee may not be a fit for some
  • Must fly Southwest with some frequency for card to make sense

Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

Apply Now

Secure application on issuer’s website

  • Our Rating 4.0/5
  • APR20.24% – 27.24% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee$99
  • 60,000 60,000Southwest Rapid Rewards Points More Info

    Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open Dollar Equivalent: $840 (60,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points * 0.014 base)

Entrepreneurs or self-employed individuals who want to unlock free Southwest flights can earn points faster with this card. Coupled with a few other important travel perks, the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card is a solid choice at the $99 price tag.

Overview

Southwest’s entry-level business card is a great option for business owners who want to maximize company spending to earn free Southwest flights. Like most business credit cards, there’s an annual fee to pay, but the signing bonus and travel and purchase perks provide enough value to negate the fee. The card offers employee cards at no additional cost and bonus points earned count towards earning a Southwest companion pass and also towards earning A-List and A-List Preferred status.

Pros

  • Receive 6,000 bonus points every year
  • Reasonable $99 annual fee for a business card–with free employee cards
  • Earn towards a coveted Southwest Companion Pass
  • Two annual EarlyBird Check-in passes for a better shot at selecting your preferred seat

Cons

  • Bonus spending categories may not be compelling for some business owners

Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

Apply Now

Secure application on issuer’s website

  • Our Rating 4.0/5
  • APR20.24% – 27.24% (Variable)
  • Annual Fee$199
  • 80,000 80,000Southwest Rapid Rewards Points More Info

    Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Dollar Equivalent: $1,120 (80,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points * 0.014 base)

The airline’s top credit card for business owners is a great way to dive deep in Southwest’s frequent flyer program, with upgraded boarding and inflight wi-fi credits, elite status boost opportunities and more. Even with the $199 annual fee, you’ll get free employee cards and earn points on their spend.

Overview

It’s perfect for small business owners who have employees who travel. This Southwest business card offers employee cards at no additional cost and provides perks like inflight WiFi credits, a TSA PreCheck fee credit and complimentary upgraded boardings. The business airline credit card also offers the most generous point rewards structure of any of the Southwest cards: 4x points per dollar spent with Southwest.

Pros

  • 4x points on Southwest Airlines flights, Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners
  • An array of exclusive Southwest benefits including free Wi-Fi passes and more
  • Shortcut to A-List elite status
  • TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee reimbursement

Cons

  • Higher annual fee may not be a fit for all

The annual fee on these Southwest cards ranges from $69-$149, which is very reasonable. Before applying for a Chase card, be sure to review the credit card application rules. Chase has rules governing the number of credit cards you can get approved for, as well as the number of 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 one. 

You also can’t get a second personal Southwest card if you already have one. You can do one personal and one business credit card, which works out nicely since the business card typically offers higher bonuses than the personal ones. 

Consulting these rules before applying ensures that you don’t waste a credit inquiry on a card you won’t get approved for.

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 earn 0.5-3 miles per $1 spent, depending on the number of times you’ve dined at a participating restaurant. Plus, you’ll get 10 bonus points for every restaurant review you submit.

Southwest Rapid Rewards dining offers three bonuses: The New Member bonus, First Step bonus, and the Thank You bonus. The New Member bonus consists of 1,000 points when you spend $25 in the first 30 days. With the First Step Bonus, you’ll earn 500 bonus points the first time you accrue 1,500 points from dining. You get 300 Thank You bonus points each time you reach 1,000 points by dining. 

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 you can earn up to 15 Rapid Rewards points per $1 spent or a flat rate of 7,900 points with participating merchants. 

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. 

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.

Which Activities Don’t Count Toward the Companion Pass?

Several activities earn miles but are not pass-qualifying. These include points earned with e-rewards, e-miles, Valued Opinions, and Diners Club. Tier and flight bonuses don’t count. Points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy also don’t qualify for the Companion Pass.

How to Maximize the Southwest Companion Pass

inside Southwest plane
Unsplash

The best way to maximize the Southwest Companion Pass is to earn it in January. That way, you have almost two full years to take advantage of it. If you plan on earning it through credit card sign-up bonuses, then 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. 

Flying to Hawaii or one of Southwest’s international destinations is another great way to maximize the Southwest Companion Pass. 

Another way is to designate a companion who will make good use of it. A spouse, child, or friend is a safe bet. If you’re a family of four and your spouse is able to get their own Companion Pass, you can each add a child as your respective companions. This strategy 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 in a Southwest hub city and fly the airline often. You can save thousands of dollars (and points) by leveraging this benefit through credit card sign-ups alone. 

If you have to book positioning flights with another airline because you don’t live in a Southwest hub city, then it’s not worth it. The Companion Pass might not provide much value to you if you’re a frequent solo traveler. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother — you just don’t need to go out of your way to be loyal to Southwest. In fact, you might be better off flying with one of the big domestic carriers that offer more traditional elite perks that you can utilize with a vast partner network.

On another note, if you can’t qualify for a Chase card because of the 5/24 rule, then you won’t be able to fast-track your way to a Companion Pass. It’s 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 or able to take advantage of the credit card sign-up bonuses. 

FAQ

Hopefully, this guide has been helpful in helping you learn about the Southwest Companion Pass. But you probably still have questions about some of the details of this perk. Here are some of the most common questions about the Southwest Companion Pass:

  • Earning 125,000 Rapid Rewards points for the Southwest Companion Pass requires spending between $10,417 and $20,834 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 125,000-point Companion Pass requirement.

  • 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 2023, it’s valid through December 2024. On the other hand, if you earn it in December 2022, it’s valid through December 2023. Clearly, earning it in January will help you maximize it for longer.

  • 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 cannot 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.

Bottom Line

The Southwest Companion Pass can offer tremendous value to couples and families alike. It’s the closest thing to “free travel” that you can get in the points and miles world. The fact that you can get it without actually stepping foot on a plane is tremendous. If you live near a Southwest Airlines hub and can fly Southwest to most destinations, getting the Companion Pass makes sense. You’ll save substantially on your travel and have lots of points to spare. 

AA

Ariana Arghandewal

Ariana Arghandewal is a rewards travel expert and founder of Pointchaser. She has covered all things points, miles and credit cards for over a decade and served as an editor at The Points Guy, NerdWallet, and FlyerTalk. Her work has also appeared in Forbes, Fodor's Travel, and U.S. News Weekly.