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How I Earned My 2017 Southwest Companion Pass

Several readers have asked exactly how I earned my Southwest Companion Pass this year (my third), which will be good through the end of 2018. Especially because I did not sign up for any Southwest credit cards this year!

Here is a breakdown of how I earned the 110,000 qualifying Southwest points (currently 125,000 points) required to earn my pass so one person can fly free with me for up to two years. 

My grand total came to 119,998 but not ALL of these points qualified for the Companion Pass. I believe numbers 9 and 10 did not and some of the Rapid Rewards Shopping points also did not.


2017 Southwest Companion Pass Points

2018 Southwest Companion Pass

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1. Referrals to Southwest Credit Cards – 65,000 points

Each person can earn up to 100,000 points for referring friends and family to any of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa credit cards. Currently, you can earn 20,000 points per person you refer. These points DO count toward the Southwest Companion Pass. Somehow, I think I managed to earn 65,000 referral points last year, 15,000 more than they usually allow.

Of course, clearly my blog was a huge help on this front! But you can also share the link with spouses, family members and friends as well as on social media!

Here’s how to find your Chase referral link — and if you have one. You may not have them for all cards.


2. Anniversary Credit Card Points – 12,000 points

Here is a reason to keep your cards instead of closing them.

While you will have to pay the $99 annual fee, you end up with 6,000 anniversary points each year for the Premier cards that DO qualify for the Companion Pass, and, of course, can also be used for free flights. You’ll get them on the closing date after the date you originally were approved for the card.


3. Booking a Hotel Through SouthwestHotels.com – 11,250 points

Andaz Napa Hotel
The Hip Andaz Napa Hotel

We booked one hotel this summer to earn 1,250 points, but we earned the other 10,000 points in December of 2017 — just in time to complete the points we needed for our pass.

We booked a hotel in our city, which offered 10,000 points for a two-night booking and did not even stay there (not the most desirable area :)); we just checked in and left!


4. Flights Booked for Business and Reimbursed for Business or By Travel Insurance – 10,296 points

These include two flights paid for by others to research travel articles I was writing for national media outlets, as well as a flight we had to book after Aer Lingus left us in Detroit (instead of Chicago) coming home from Europe. We were later reimbursed by the awesome Allianz travel insurance. 🙂


5.  Rapid Rewards Shopping – 9,622 points

Most of these points come from offers like 700-1100 points for subscribing to Barron’s, Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Motley Fool and more. The rest is from holiday and other spending that we started at the shopping portal.


6. Spending on the Southwest Credit Cards – 5,672 points

travel credit cards

I hold two Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa cards: Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa Premier (personal) and Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa Premier Business. This total came from spending on these cards for which I mostly earned 1 point per dollar.

When using a credit card to spend on travel and dining, we usually defer to my husband’s Chase Sapphire Reserve, which earns 3X points on those categories, or my Chase Sapphire Preferred (read my full review of this card), which earns 2X points on those categories.

We can then transfer those points to Southwest, though when transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points, they DO NOT qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass.


7. Bonus Points for a Tweet – 5,000 points

When tweeting about Southwest early this year, the social media team at Southwest kindly granted me 5,000 points! So tweet about Southwest when traveling and be sure to say something nice :-). Tag them at @SouthwestAir.


8. Rental Car Booking With Hertz – 600 points

We booked one rental car by starting at Southwest.com. Here’s more information about booking car rentals through Southwest.


9. Rewards for Opinions – 506 points

This was a special offer in November that only lasted for a few hours and then they closed it down. I was lucky enough to get in, but I do not believe these qualified for the Companion Pass. Rewards for Opinions lets you earn small numbers of points for filling out surveys.


10. Rapid Rewards Dining – 52 points

Chicago Hotel Allegro 312 Chicago Italian Restaurant
Dining at Hotel Allegro’s 312 Chicago Italian Restaurant

I did not do a good job of keeping new cards we had opened and were using for dining updated in this system, so we did not take full advantage. Make sure you update all your cards in Rapid Rewards Dining!

Rapid Rewards Dining allows you to earn small amounts of points automatically when dining at participating restaurants and using cards you have registered with the program.

The biggest benefits of Rapid Rewards Dining are at the beginning when you have the opportunity to earn a big start-up bonus. However, it never hurts to earn a few extra points with absolutely no effort :).


Takeaways From This Year

This was a great review for me to see the most impactful ways I was able to earn points toward the Companion Pass this year.

  • Clearly, referral points were the most important contributing factor toward my pass this year – more than signing up for one card. I think it was an accident I ended up with 65,000, so next year I’ll hope for the max of 100,000.
  • The anniversary points – totaling 12,000 – were also VERY valuable.
  • The bulk of the rest of my points were divided almost equally between: anniversary points, Southwest Hotels, Rapid Rewards Shopping and reimbursable flights.
  • Next year, I am going to plan to use the Southwest cards for non-travel and dining expenses (because those I can earn more points by using a Chase Sapphire card) to earn more points toward my pass.
  • I also hope I can do a bit better on Rapid Rewards Dining since my cards are now updated.
  • I will continue to book as much as possible through Rapid Rewards Shopping, taking advantage of all several-hundred-point low-price offers and try to remember to start MORE online shopping through the portal.
  • Before booking a hotel, I am going to be more diligent about comparing prices and points offers with the Southwest Hotels portal.
  • And, of course, it never hurts to tweet!

What do you think? Are you surprised?


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20 thoughts on “How I Earned My 2017 Southwest Companion Pass”

  1. Do the hotel point offers on booking.com through southwest change? Do they have certain “brands” on there that are always higher points?

    • Hi Kori-
      Thanks for your question. The points DEFINITELY change, like every few minutes or every hour in my experience. So if you see a good deal, grab it because it likely won’t be there when you come back. I have noticed certain “brands” don’t usually have good deals and in my experience, it seems the “deals” go away the more the hotel gets full. I’m not sure which brands always have good deals, but we booked a Holiday Inn last year for more than 10,000 points. Hope that helps! Thanks.

  2. The Rewards for Opinions points do qualify for the Companion pass. I just signed up 2 weeks ago and the 500 welcome points and 52 points from two surveys pushed me over the top! It was a surprise to me because I’d read the other survey opportunities don’t qualify.

  3. If I book a hotel and check out on 12/31 to hit the points needed for Companion Pass — will it count towards my 2018 points?

    • Hi Lyndzi, no that would not work. The points don’t credit until at least the day AFTER you check out and usually take a few days. I just did it and they credited 4 days after I checked out. So we’re kind of down to the wire! 🙂

  4. I am a bit confused, do the dining and travel points you earn on the Chase Sapphire card count towards the companion pass?

    • Hi Dora, no problem! But no, no Chase Sapphire points (or any Chase Ultimate Rewards points) ever count toward the Companion Pass. Unfortunately… 🙂 But you CAN use them to book free flights on Southwest!

  5. I currently have a personal Southwest credit card. I want to apply for 1 business and 1 personal card to earn the points for a companion pass. Since Chase only allows 1 personal card, should I cancel my current Southwest personal credit card so that I can apply for both to earn the companion pass?


    • Hi Elizabeth,
      So keep in mind you can only earn the bonus on any personal Southwest card once every 24 months. So to earn it again, it would need to have been 24 months since you earned your bonus on your current personal card. If that is the case, then yes, cancel and reapply for the new one. If it has not been 24 months, then you might hang on to your current one to get the anniversary points and to use to earn points on everyday spending until you are eligible again for the bonus. Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks for using the TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS link in the main menu of GotoTravelGal.com for your card applications!

  6. I currently have a Southwest Companion Pass that will expire in December 2019. I applied for the business southwest card for 80,000 points which I should receive the points in September and then will have my Southwest Companion Pass for 2020. If I get it in September, will I be able to use both companion passes through the end of 2019?

  7. So apparently our personal credit cards were “grandfathered” in when Southwest took over AirTran as we pay no annual fee. We’ve never gotten any “anniversary points.” Any advice on what we could do to earn points? Thanks!

    • Hi Chad,
      Super interesting! I have not heard of that. I would suggest closing those cards and opening new ones if you want to earn points. You’ll be able to take advantage of any current bonus offers, but you will have to pay the annual fee (which I think is well worth it for the points you earn + the ability to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, so 1 person can always fly free with you – worth WAY more than the annual fee!).

      Otherwise, you’ll only be able to earn card points through spending on the cards. Of course, you can also take advantage of things like Rapid Rewards Shopping, SouthwestHotels.com, Rapid Rewards Dining, etc.

      If you do decide to apply for any cards, I’d super appreciate it if you’d use my Travel Credit Cards link in the main menu of GotoTravelGal.com above. It allows me to earn a commission — at NO COST TO YOU — to help support the blog and my free content. Thanks!

  8. Hi Lyn,

    Recently discovered your site, and decided to go for a companion pass! Anxious to read through all of your website. LOOKS great and I have already sent your website to a few friends.

    Opened a business card in Oct. 2019 (card 1), and a personal card Nov 19 (card 2). Thought I would check with you on my plan, as SW increased the points required around the time I applied for the first CC and I want to be sure I hit my required (within 3 months of opening/approval) spending NEXT year (2020).

    I called Chase, and they said I have until Feb. 9 to spend the amount needed to earn points on card 1, with a close date of 8th of each month, and due date of the 5th of each month. I know what the due date is, but how does the close date impact this plan?

    Card 2 (personal) I applied for Nov. 19, and it closes on the 18th of the month, with due date on 15th.

    Am I safe to complete my required spending AFTER Dec. 5th (but well before Feb. 9) on card 1, and AFTER Dec. 15th (but well before Jan. 19) on card 2, so that the bonus could be earned for 2020? Then I could earn additional points as needed as quickly as possible.

    Thanks Lyn!

    • Hi Vicki!
      So glad you found Go to Travel Gal and are enjoying the site :). The main thing you need to keep in mind here is that you don’t want to complete a minimum spend on EITHER card until AFTER your December “close date” on each card. The close date is basically when they close out charges for that billing period. Anything charged AFTER your December close date will count toward the next billing period, which will close in January and thus your points will credit in 2020. Shout if you have any more questions. Good luck!


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