A few days ago, my wife and I earned our first ever Southwest Companion Pass. We’d set out to earn this perk last year when a deal came up that gave us the opportunity to earn the Companion Pass in the first few weeks of January. By timing it just right, we now have essentially free travel on Southwest flights for the next 24 months. It’s a pretty incredible perk.
The key to earning the Companion Pass is taking advantage of opportunities when Southwest Credit Card signup bonuses are higher than normal – that way, you can earn the Companion Pass just by meeting the minimum spending requirements on two credit cards. These opportunities seem to come up pretty regularly – I counted 3 or 4 times last year when it was possible to do this.
I’ve been on a kick recently trying to get people to earn the Companion Pass who I think could really get a lot of use from it. My buddy is a great example of someone who I think needs to take advantage of this deal – he’s a got a baby on the way, his parents live out on the east coast, and he has other family members scattered throughout the country.
If he snagged the Companion Pass right now (which wouldn’t be very hard for him to do), it would be possible for him to fly himself, his wife, and his baby to see his family anytime he wanted, completely free, for the next two years. What follows is hopefully a post that will convince him to do just that.
What Is The Southwest Companion Pass?
The basics of the Companion Pass are pretty straightforward. It works like this:
- When you earn the Companion Pass, anytime you buy a ticket, you get to designate a companion to fly with you for free. So, you basically buy one ticket, then once you’ve bought that ticket, you’ll get an option to designate a second person to fly with you. You can change your companion three times per year, so in theory, you can fly with multiple people, although you’ll probably want to fly with your spouse most often.
- You can use Southwest points to book your ticket and you’ll still be able to designate a companion with that ticket. Basically, the flight is free and your points go twice as far since your Southwest points can fly two people.
- The Companion Pass is good for the calendar year that you earn it in, plus the entirety of the next calendar year. At max, you could have the Companion Pass for 24 months (like what my wife and I have since we earned ours in January of this year). At worst, you can have the Companion Pass for 13 months. Obviously, you want the Companion Pass to last closer to 24 months then to 13 months.
The most important thing about the Companion Pass is that last bullet point – you want to earn the Companion Pass as early in the year as possible, ideally within the first 3 or 4 months of the year. That way, you’ll get somewhere between 20 and 24 months of free flights.
My wife and I basically played the Companion Pass game perfectly. We earned it in the second week of January, and as a result, our Companion Pass will be good for the next two years. That’s a lot of free flights over the course of 24 months. And when her Companion Pass expires, I’ll go ahead and earn it for myself, extending our Companion Pass for another 2 years.
How To Get The Southwest Companion Pass
Getting the Companion Pass is pretty straightforward. To earn it, one person has to earn 125,000 Southwest points in one calendar year. You can do this by spending your way to those points or flying your way to the Companion Pass – but that’s pretty much impossible for your normal traveler.
Instead, the best way to open two Southwest credit cards and earn your 125,000 Southwest points via signup bonuses.
There are currently five Southwest credit cards available as of the date this is written. Three are personal cards and two are business cards.
In order to get the Companion Pass, you will need to open a Southwest personal card and a Southwest business card, or open two Southwest business cards.
The first three Southwest cards in the above list are personal cards. Note that under the current Chase rules, you are only allowed to have one personal Southwest card open at a time. In the past, it was possible to have multiple Southwest personal cards open, but that is no longer the case. It’s up to you which of the cards makes more sense to you (they differ in their annual fees and in the benefits they offer).
The last two cards in the above list are business credit cards, and you will need to open at least one of them in order to earn the Companion Pass. A lot of people are scared of opening up business cards because they don’t think they have a business, but remember that if you do any side hustling, you absolutely have a business. In fact, if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably side hustling in some way, which means that you are a sole proprietor and have your own business. Take advantage of that fact!
With that said, here are the general steps to earn the Southwest Companion Pass in the most optimal way possible.
- First, set up a Southwest Rapid Rewards account. You’ll need your Rapid Rewards number so that your points can be designated to the right account.
- Next, decide whether you want to earn the Southwest Companion Pass by opening up 1 personal card and 1 business card, or by opening up 2 business cards.
- Once you’ve snagged both cards, make sure to hit the minimum spends in the required time. Once you hit the spend, you’ll earn your Companion Pass. If you start early in the year, you’ll have the Companion Pass for somewhere between 20 and 24 months depending on how fast you hit the spend. The optimal thing to do is to make sure the signup bonuses post as early in the year as possible.
One caveat to consider – make sure you understand the Chase 5/24 Rule. You can read more about that rule in this post. Basically, if you’ve opened up too many credit cards in the past 24 months, you won’t be able to snag these cards.
What Are Our Plans For Our Southwest Companion Pass?
Having this perk is pretty awesome – just a year ago, I’d never even thought of travel hacking as a viable money strategy. The way I see it, for most people who are good with money, flying anywhere can be very affordable (and free in many cases).
Minneapolis isn’t necessarily the best place to have the Companion Pass, but it still offers a lot of direct flights that we can take advantage of for weekend trips. I have family that lives out in DC, so flying back home shouldn’t be a problem – and it’s something I haven’t done as much since it was a little bit cost prohibitive just to fly home for a weekend. That’s not the case anymore.
I also have friends in Atlanta, which means a weekend jaunt out there shouldn’t be a problem either. In fact, my buddy has been bugging me to go visit him for months now, and this is something that my wife and I should be able to do now.
Other good destinations for us include Chicago and Denver – two places that we absolutely love. It’s amazing how close Chicago is to us – it’s pretty much only an hour away now, close enough to go there for a day trip even, in theory.
If you can, you need to take advantage of something like this. Probably the best people for the Companion Pass are people like my friend, who have a newborn baby on the way. Since babies fly for free until they’re 2 years old, someone snagging a Companion Pass in that situation can basically fly three people for free for 2 years. Just think about what a new family can do with all that travel.
If you have a use for it, the Companion Pass is just way too good to miss out on. And like with all things credit cards, you never know if it’ll stick around. My advice is to always grab what you can, while you can.
Safe travels everyone!