Ever since I started travel hacking, I’ve kept hearing about the Southwest Companion Pass and how beneficial it is to have. Many people consider it one of the best travel hacking perks you can earn, allowing you and a partner to travel for free for as long as two years. If Southwest flies out of your primary airport and you plan to travel domestically with two people, there’s incredible value you can get out of it.
Over the past few years, this is exactly how my wife and I have been able to travel domestically essentially for free. We first got the Southwest Companion Pass in 2017 when my wife earned it by opening up two Southwest credit cards and earning the signup bonus on both of them. We did the same thing again recently, with me earning it this time so that we can have it again for another two years.
If it makes sense for you, the Southwest Companion Pass is something that you should definitely look to get (especially if you’re reading this at the beginning of the year). Here’s how it works.
What Is The Southwest Companion Pass?
The Southwest Companion Pass is a Southwest travel perk that allows you to get buy-one, get-one-free tickets on every Southwest flight you take. In order to get the Southwest Companion Pass, you need to earn 125,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points in one calendar year.
If you reach 125,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year, you earn the pass for the remainder of the year that you earned it, plus the entirety of the next year. For example, if you earn the Southwest Companion Pass in 2020, you’ll have it for the remainder of 2020 plus the entirety of 2021.
With this in mind, the optimal way to earn the Southwest Companion Pass is to earn it as close to the beginning of the year as possible. If you time it right, you’ll have the Southwest Companion Pass for as long as two years.
As far as how it works, the Southwest Companion Pass is pretty straightforward. Once you’ve earned it, every time you book a flight on Southwest, you get to have a companion fly with you for free. In other words, you buy one plane ticket and you get a second plane ticket for your companion for free. All you have to do is pay the taxes and fees on your companion’s flight.
The great thing about the Southwest Companion Pass is that your companion flies for free even if you use Southwest points to book your own flight. That’s a big deal because it means that your Southwest points go twice as far since you can buy your own ticket using points, then book your companion for free.
How To Get The Southwest Companion Pass
In order to get the Southwest Companion Pass, you’ll need to earn 125,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points in one calendar year. The easiest way to do this is to open up two Southwest Credit Cards and earn the signup bonus on each one. If the signup bonuses are high enough, you’ll be able to earn your 125,000 Southwest points just from the signup bonuses.
As a bit of background, Southwest has five Chase co-branded credit cards. Three of these cards are personal credit cards and two of them are business credit cards. Below are the five cards with their associated annual fees. Note that each card comes with different benefits, so simply going by the annual fee is not the best way to think about these cards.
The process of opening up the cards is pretty simple – just apply for the cards like any other card. You can apply for the Southwest cards using my referral links if you feel like supporting this website.
You should also create your Southwest Rapids Rewards Account in advance so that your signup bonus can be properly credited to your frequent flyer account (when you apply for the cards, you’ll enter your Southwest Rapid Rewards Account number so that your points can be tied to your account).
Once you’ve been approved for the cards, I’d recommend sending a secure message to Chase to confirm when you need to meet your minimum spend. Then, put that information into your calendar so that you don’t forget.
Southwest cards are subject to the Chase 5/24 Rule, so you’ll need to know your 5/24 status to see if you’re going to be eligible to open up two Southwest cards. (Read the following post if you need more background about the Chase 5/24 Rule).
Who Should Get The Southwest Companion Pass?
So who should get the Companion Pass? There are three things to consider.
First, you obviously need a companion to fly with. If you don’t have one, then you’re not going to get much value from the Companion Pass. Instead, I’d recommend going for other cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card.
Second, you need to live somewhere that has Southwest flights. If you live in a Southwest hub, even better. If you live somewhere that doesn’t have Southwest flights, your Southwest points will not be very helpful to you.
Finally, you need to be planning to do a decent amount of domestic travel in the next year or two. Southwest does fly to the Carribean, Mexico, and parts of Central America, but otherwise, its main routes are domestic flights. They also have flights to Hawaii which can be very useful for Companion Pass holders. If you don’t fly domestic flights very often, then I wouldn’t recommend going for the Companion Pass.
As one last comment, the annual fees for cards like these are something that I used to worry about, but in reality, they shouldn’t worry you too much. That’s because these cards all offer yearly anniversary points for each year that you have the card open. These points help to offset the annual fee, making the effective cost of the card lower. In addition, if you consider how much value you’ll get from the Southwest Companion Pass, any initial annual fees you pay are well worth it. If you travel and use your Southwest Companion Pass, you’re likely going to come out ahead.
When Is The Best Time To Apply For The Southwest Companion Pass?
The best time to go for the Southwest Companion Pass is towards the end of the year or as close to the beginning of the year as possible so that your points post early in the year. In a best-case scenario, you want to time it so your signup bonus posts in January or February, which means you’d want to apply for your Southwest cards in late October through December, with the goal of having your points post in January. That means you’ll want to make sure you hit the minimum spend at the beginning of the year.
As an example, if you sign up for the cards in November, you’ll want to make sure you hit the minimum spend on January 1st or later. That way, your points will be credited to the current calendar year you’re in, which makes it possible for you to have the companion pass for close to two years. In other words, your ideal timeline would look something like this:
- Late October to November: Sign up for two Southwest credit cards that will enable you to earn 125,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points.
- January 1st: Hit minimum spend requirement on this date or later. Once you reach 125,000 Southwest Rapid points, you’ll have the Companion Pass for the remainder of the current calendar year and the entirety of the next calendar year.
You’ll also ideally want to wait until Southwest is offering elevated signup bonuses. Since you need 125,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points, you’ll need an average of 62,500 Southwest points per card in order to earn the Companion Pass. Do the math to make sure it makes sense to get the card.
And this happens a lot, but remember the most important thing. You need to earn all 125,000 Southwest Points in one calendar year in order to qualify for the Companion Pass (in other words, you can’t earn half the points in one year, then half the points in another year – all 125,000 points need to be earned in the same year).
Southwest Credit Card Choices And Limitations
Since we need two Southwest credit cards in order to earn the Companion Pass, we need to do a little strategizing to determine which cards to get. The one major limitation is that you are only allowed to have one Southwest Personal Credit Card open at a time. As a result, in order to get the Southwest Companion Pass, we’ll have two choices:
- Get one Southwest personal credit card and one Southwest business credit card; or
- Get two Southwest business credit cards.
I personally think it’s better to get two Southwest business credit cards since business cards don’t count to your 5/24 status, but which option you pick will depend on your personal situation and what the signup bonuses are at the time you apply.
Note that Chase does have a rule in which you are only allowed to get one business card every 30 days, so as a result, if you are applying for two business cards, you’ll have to wait at least 30 days between your applications. In general, it’s a good idea to space out your applications anyway when applying for Chase cards.
If you’re under 5/24, have a companion to fly with, and plan to do a decent amount of domestic travel in the next two years, then you should definitely go for the Southwest Companion Pass. It’s one of the most valuable travel perks in the travel hacking game right now and something that I plan to take utilize for as long as I can.
So as a quick recap, to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, you’ll want to do the following:
- Sign up for the Southwest Rapids Rewards Program on the Southwest Airlines website. You need to do this so that you can have the points credited to your Southwest frequent flier account.
- Get two Southwest credit cards (ideally when they have elevated signup bonuses). You can either get one Southwest personal card and one Southwest business card or get two Southwest business cards.
- Once approved for the cards, send a secure message to Chase to confirm your minimum spend date. This isn’t required but I like confirming this information just in case.
- If you’re trying to optimize the Southwest Companion Pass, then aim to apply for the cards sometime in late-October and hit the minimum spend after January 1st. That way, your signup bonus will post in the next year, allowing you to earn the Southwest Companion Pass for the maximum amount of time possible.
Any questions? Feel free to hit me up.
*Addendum: One thing to remember is that you need to earn all 125,000 Southwest points under one person’s name. You can’t combine points between two different people.
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