The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is one of the best airline perks available today. It lets you add a companion to your purchased flight for just the price of taxes and fees, which can be as low as $5.60 for a domestic one-way flight. And there's no limit to how many times you can use it while it's still active.
If you regularly fly on Southwest flights, or simply want a way to fly with a companion for (nearly) free, the Southwest Companion pass is one of the best options on the market.
But earning this special perk takes a bit of work.
In this article, we’ll cover the details of the Southwest Companion Pass, show you a few ways to earn it (including earning it without ever stepping on a Southwest flight), and some tips and tricks for maximizing how you use it. Plus, we’ll show you how to earn it as soon as the beginning of the year, letting you get a full two years out of the pass, instead of just one.
Erika Taught Me
- The Southwest Companion Pass lets you add a companion to your flight for just the cost of taxes and fees, which can be as low as $5.60.
- To earn the Southwest Companion Pass, you need 135,000 qualifying points or 100 flights in a calendar year.
- You can earn qualifying points through credit card welcome bonuses and spending.
- The Southwest Companion Pass is good for the remainder of the year you earned it in, as well as the following calendar year.
How the Southwest Companion Pass works
Southwest's Companion Pass allows you to add a companion ticket to your reservation for only the cost of taxes and fees. The catch is that it must be a paid ticket (with cash or qualifying points) that has at least one available seat in the same fare class you purchased to use the companion pass.
You can name your companion after earning the pass, and then are allowed to change it up to three times each year. If you earn the pass at the beginning of the year, this means you can potentially name a companion, then change that companion three times that first year, and three more times the second year. This means you can have up to seven companions for the duration of the pass.
And probably the biggest benefit is the ability to add the companion pass to an award ticket. This means taking advantage of the Southwest “Wanna Get Away” fares, getting incredible value for your points, and then doubling that value by attaching a companion ticket.
All in all, the Southwest Companion Pass lets you stretch your dollars (and points), and can save you hundreds per year on ticket purchases.
How to get the Southwest Companion Pass
There are several ways to earn this appealing bonus with Southwest:
- You can fly a LOT of Southwest flights
- You can get a Southwest credit card and spend a LOT
- You can get multiple credit cards and spend just enough
The easiest way to get the pass is through multiple credit card welcome bonuses. But let’s break down each way to obtain a pass so you can pick one that works for you:
Earning by flying
To get the Pass through flying, you must earn 135,000 qualifying points or fly 100 qualifying flights within a calendar year. This means flying at least one round-trip flight per week (2 x 50 flights), or flying over 2,500 miles per week.
If you’re a business traveler or travel frequently with Southwest, you can earn the companion pass as soon as you cross one of those thresholds. The downside is that your flights and points earned don’t roll over year-to-year, so if you don’t quite hit the 135,000 points or 100 flights minimum, it will reset each calendar year.
Earning with personal credit cards
An easier way to earn the companion pass is by signing up for a Southwest credit card. The points earned through the sign-up bonus and regular spending on the card count toward your 135,000 annual qualifying Southwest points, making it a fast way to earn the pass.
For example, if you sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card and spend $1,000 within the first three months of account opening, you can earn a 50,000-point sign-up bonus. You'll also earn one point per dollar spent. This means you’d have 78,000 qualifying points toward your companion pass.
Here’s a list of personal Southwest credit cards that can help you qualify for the companion pass:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card. Read our full review.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. Read our full review.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card. Read our full review.
All three of these cards offer 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases within three months of account opening.
If you focus on just the personal credit cards, in addition to the 50,000-point sign-up bonus, you can earn Rapid Rewards points through regular spending. This means you’d need to spend $60,000 on a Southwest personal credit card within a calendar year to get the 135,000 qualifying points needed for a companion pass.
If you’re a frequent Southwest flier, you can combine your credit card earning power with flying, and make up the additional 60,000 points through both flying and credit card spending. But you must earn all 135,000 qualifying points within the calendar year, otherwise, it resets at the beginning of the following year.
There are some rules to be aware of with Southwest personal credit cards:
- You can only have one open Southwest personal credit card at a time
- You can only earn one Southwest personal credit card welcome bonus within 24 months
- Since it’s a Chase card, you can only have opened four personal credit cards in the last 24 months (Chase “5/24” rule)
So, while it would be convenient if you could just get all three card welcome bonuses, that is not possible. You’ll need to make up the difference with spending, or perhaps sign up for a business card.
Earning with personal + business cards
With the restrictions on Southwest personal cards, the only other way to get a big sign-up bonus is getting one of the Southwest business credit cards. Here are the two business card options:
- Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card. You can earn 60,000 bonus points if you spend $3,000 on purchases within three months of account opening.
- Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card. You can earn 80,000 bonus points if you spend $5,000 on purchases within three months of account opening.
First, you’d need to open a Southwest personal card and meet the minimum spending requirement to get the welcome bonus. The Southwest Plus, Southwest Premier, and Southwest Priority cards are all offering a 50,000 points welcome bonus after spending $1,000 within three months of account opening.
Next, you can open the Southwest Premier Business or Southwest Performance Business card to earn an additional bonus.
If you open a personal card and then the Southwest Performance Business card, for example, you can earn the Companion Pass with just the minimum spending on those two cards. Here’s how it works:
- Get a Southwest personal card and spend $1,000 within three months — you’ll earn 50,000 bonus points, plus 1,000 points from spending
- Get the Southwest Premier Business card and spend $3,000 within three months — you’ll earn 60,000 bonus points plus 5,000 points from spending
After hitting the welcome bonuses and minimum spend on each card, you’ll have earned 138,000 qualifying points, instantly giving you access to the Companion Pass!
Note: To qualify for a business card, you’ll need to own a business. But this can be as simple as selling items on eBay or Facebook Marketplace. You don’t need an LLC or an established business set up to qualify for a business card.
Southwest Partner bonus spending
In addition to the welcome bonus and regular spending, you can earn additional points by using the Southwest shopping portal. If you’re online shopping, Southwest allows you to earn additional points per dollar spent by clicking through their shopping portal to partner retailers. These extra points count toward your companion pass.
Points that don’t qualify
While flying on Southwest and spending on Southwest credit cards helps you qualify for the Companion Pass, you can’t simply buy your way into a companion pass. There are a few activities that do not count toward Southwest qualifying points:
Transfers. Some credit card partners (such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred) let you transfer points to your Southwest account. These transferred points do NOT count as companion pass qualifying points.
Combining points. Southwest does not allow you to combine points between Southwest accounts, so you cannot boost your qualifying points through another Southwest account transfer.
Buying points. Buying Southwest points aids in booking award flights, but these acquired points don't contribute to earning your Companion Pass.
Southwest Companion Pass timing
If you’re reading this near the end of the year, you can maximize the time you own a Southwest Companion Pass by timing your credit card applications and signup bonuses. Here’s the breakdown:
- Sign up for a personal Southwest credit card and a business card from mid-October through December
- Do NOT hit the welcome bonus spending for either until the first week of January the following year
- The personal card allows up to $999 in spending, while the business card permits $4,999, not exceeding these limits.
- Once January comes, complete your welcome bonus minimum spending on both cards
- You will earn 136,000 qualifying points in January
- This gives you access to the companion pass until December 31 of the following year
This effectively gives you access to the Southwest Companion Pass for two full years instead of just one.
Given unlimited use of the pass, you now possess twice the chance to book companion flights, maximizing your travel flexibility. This kind of travel hacking can save you thousands in travel over that two-year span.
How to use the Southwest Companion Pass
Now that you know how to earn the pass quickly, here’s how to use it.
Before booking a flight, you’ll want to add your companion to your account. Here’s how:
- Log in to your Rapid Rewards account at Southwest.com
- On your Snapshot tab, locate Choose Your Companion, click Enter Companion Info, and follow the posted instructions.
- Upon finishing the designation process, anticipate the arrival of your Companion Pass Member kit and membership card within ten business days.
Now that your companion is added, you can book your flight. You can either pay cash or book an award flight with Southwest Rapid Rewards points. Since you have over 135,000 of them, you may as well use rewards to save money!
Once the flight is booked, here’s the process of adding your companion to the flight:
- Log in to your Rapid Rewards account at Southwest.com.
- Visit the My Trips section of your account.
- Find your flight in the Upcoming section and click on the Add Companion link.
- Click Continue to proceed to the purchase screen and review your Companion information.
- Click Purchase to complete your Companion’s flight reservation.
And that’s it! You’ll only have to pay the taxes and fees, which can be less than $6 on domestic flights. But remember, Southwest also flies internationally, and you can add a companion to those tickets too.
How long is the Southwest Companion Pass good for?
The Southwest Companion Pass remains valid for the year earned and the entire subsequent calendar year, providing extended benefits. For example, if you earn the pass in March of 2024, it is valid until December 31, 2025.
What is the value of the Southwest Companion Pass?
The Southwest Companion Pass is as valuable as you make it. You can book a companion flight for just the taxes and fees, which can save hundreds of dollars per flight. This means using the companion pass frequently could literally net you thousands of dollars in free travel.
Is the Southwest Companion Pass worth it?
If you fly Southwest regularly or are near an airport that has multiple Southwest routes, the Southwest Companion Pass is one of the best deals in the travel industry. Sign up for both personal and business Southwest credit cards, hit the minimum spend amount, and earn the pass, you can get free companion flights for up to two years. It is most definitely worth the effort to get it.
Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.