How to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass: The Definitive Guide
Are you ready to fly free around the U.S with your family, best friend, spouse or any person of your choice? Enter the Southwest Companion Pass!
Flying free is incredibly easy and my goal here at Go to Travel Gal is to show my readers the simplest ways to travel nearly free or save significantly. I want to open the doors of travel to you — whether what’s holding you back is money, time or something else.
One of the EASIEST WAYS to get started flying — and traveling free — is to earn this amazing pass, which here forward I will refer to as the SWCP. The SWCP offers a huge return in the form of travel for just a small investment in time and effort. I am currently on my third SWCP and I intend to hold it every year going forward!
In just a few steps, you can be on your way to free plane tickets across the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean!
Watch the below video for an introduction to the SWCP.
Table of Contents
- Top Questions About the SWCP
- What Is the SWCP?
- Why Should I Earn It?
- What Will I Learn in Your Free Guide?
- How Do I Earn the Pass?
- Which Points Qualify for the Pass?
- When Should I Start?
- How Long Does It Take to Earn?
- How Will I Know When I’ve Earned It?
- Is the Pass Easy to Use?
- Support Go to Travel Gal
My family of four flew to six destinations within one year, the first year I earned a SWCP, all for less than $100 per flight for all of us — and you can do it even more cheaply — with the help of this handy benefit.
Over a period of that one year we traveled to San Diego; Marco Island, Florida; Anaheim, California; Beaver Creek, Colorado; New York City and Orlando — and we’re still going strong, rarely ever paying for a flight FOR FOUR PEOPLE.
I am now on my third Southwest Companion Pass, so I’ve pretty well figured out all the ins and outs of this awesome perk :).
I’ve figured it all out for you, so you don’t have to do any of the legwork. You simply need to download my free guide in the box above, which takes about an hour to read — perfect for your next flight! — to learn the exact process to earn it and start seeing all that our great country has to offer.
Oh, and did I mention Southwest is going to fly to Hawaii soon? Not a bad way to use the pass!
I’ll show you step-by-step how to earn this perk, pick your Companion, accumulate tons of Southwest points and stretch each point as far as possible to extend your travels.
But, before you start reading, I’ve put together an overview along with some commonly-asked questions to get you started.
Top Questions About the Southwest Companion Pass
What Is It Exactly?
It is the best deal in travel and one of the easiest ways to begin traveling nearly free. Southwest Airlines allows travelers to bring along one Companion of their choice for up to two years once they have earned 110,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards (the airline’s frequent flyer program) points in ONE CALENDAR YEAR (that’s January 1-December 31, folks :)).
The trick is earning those 110,000 points. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it?
It’s actually quite simple to quickly accumulate these points, and it can be done in literally TWO STEPS. I’ll show you exactly how in my free guide.
It’s almost too good to be true, and that’s why I’ve made it my mission to let as many people know about it as possible! No secret here!
The SWCP is valid from the time you earn it until THE END of the FOLLOWING YEAR. If you earn it in 2018, it’s good until the end of 2019. So the earlier in the calendar year you earn it, the longer you will be able to use it. If you earn it in February 2019, it’s good until December 2020, which is almost TWO FULL YEARS. Yes, please!
Please note that while the SWCP does not require you to pay any money or use any points for your companion, you WILL have to pay a mandatory $5.60 government security fee per person per way, or if you’re traveling to international destinations, there may be higher taxes and fees. That’s the “nearly” free part of it ;-).
Why Should I Earn the Pass?
You should earn it if you want to travel and vacation more — especially in the U.S. (Southwest’s international flights include Mexico, Cuba and the Caribbean, and Hawaii is coming soon!) — but don’t have the money to do it.
Before my family discovered this awesome tool, we took one car trip and maybe one plane trip every couple years. In the first two years we held the pass, we flew to 12 destinations!!
The other reason I advise earning the pass is because it’s really EASY to do! Here at Go to Travel Gal, I don’t recommend complicated miles and points scenarios that require you to be a mathematician or spend hours to check for award flight availability.
I look for the simplest and easiest ways to get you and your favorite peeps traveling more. This perk is tops on that list for me.
All you have to do is download my free guide, follow the steps and bada bing, bada boom, you’ll have a pass in hand, 110,000 Southwest points to spend on free flights and one person who flies free with you, no points or cash needed. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
What Will I Learn in Your Free Guide?
In “The Step-by-Step Guide to Earning the Southwest Companion Pass and Flying Free Around the U.S.” I’ll take away all the guesswork and research on other blogs and sites like Reddit and FlyerTalk needed to earn this awesome perk. You’ll have it all laid out in ONE place. Skip hours of Googling…
I’ll show you:
- The Benefits of Flying Southwest (no change fees, no checked bag fees, anytime award availability)
- Different Ways to Use the Pass (Retirees, Families, Couples and Singles)
- A Step-by-Step Walk Through of Exactly What to Do
- How to Book a Flight With Your Companion
- Planning How You Will Use It (multiple small trips or one big trip)
- Getting the Most Out of Your Pass and Stretching Your Southwest Points as Far as Possible
- A Timeline for Which Steps to Take When
- Additional Resources Once You Have Earned It
How Do I Earn It?
While I’ll carefully walk you through the process in my free guide, the basics include applying for 2 of Southwest’s Chase Rapid Rewards credit cards when they have high sign-up bonuses of at least 50,000 points.
Just by signing up for two cards (one business and one personal), you can quickly net between 90,000 and 110,000 points. That’s either ALL the points you need, automatically qualifying you, or between 10,000 and 20,000 points shy of what you need to reach Companion Pass status.
To apply for and review these cards, please use the TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS links in my main menu above or the Compare Credit Cards link below. My blog depends on affiliate income and these links allow me to earn a commission — at no cost to you — to pay the blogging bills, so I can continue to bring you great information FREE! Thank you for your support!
There are easy ways to earn additional points (beyond credit card bonuses) through everyday spending on these credit cards, starting all shopping at the online Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal, earning points automatically when dining out through Rapid Rewards Dining, booking hotels through SouthwestHotels.com and even by easy tasks like subscribing to the Wall Street Journal or Barron’s for 3 months for $12 to earn up to 1400 points!
Check out my weekly updated Rapid Rewards Shopping Deals where I share the cheapest and easiest ways to earn Southwest points on the airline’s shopping portal like 1,100 points for a $12 Barron’s subscription!
Which Points Qualify for the Pass?
When it comes to earning the pass, unfortunately, not all Southwest points are created equal :). Some qualify toward the pass and some do not. While there are not quite a million ways to earn points, there are plenty of opportunities to earn qualifying points.
The following points count toward the 110,000 Southwest points you will need to earn. They include points earned via:
- Paid flights on Southwest (6X points per $1 for Wanna Getaway fares, 10X points per $1 for Anytime fares and 12X points per $1 for Business Select fares). They’ve even been known to offer promotions where you can earn DOUBLE points on any paid flights.
- Points earned after meeting the minimum spend on Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards
- Through spending on Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa credit cards
- Base points (not BONUS points) earned via transactions with Rapid Rewards partners, which may include the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal, car rentals, paying your electric bill, Rapid Rewards Dining, booking a hotel through SouthwestHotels.com, and other programs.
Here are the points that DO NOT count:
- Anything that says “bonus” points (excluding the “bonus” points you earn with the Southwest credit cards after meeting the minimum spend)
- Points that you purchase
- Points that you transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards or another rewards program (Note: Until March 31, 2017 points transferred from some hotel loyalty programs like Marriott, which had various package options, DID count toward the SWCP, but don’t any longer.) You CAN transfer points from cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred and use them for FREE travel on Southwest, but they DO NOT count toward the pass.
- Transferred points from another Rapid Rewards account
- Points earned via e-Rewards, e-Miles, Valued Opinions (points you earn from answering surveys) and Diners Club
A Note About Credit Cards
To fully take advantage of the ability to travel nearly free, you’re going to have to adopt a positive attitude about credit cards. While most of us have had it drilled into our heads that credit cards are BAD (and, of course, they can be!!), turn your thinking upside down and realize that YOU can leverage credit to YOUR ADVANTAGE.
By properly and responsibly using travel credit cards, you can earn a return on the money you would be spending anyway in the form of free travel. Why wouldn’t you want to do that?! It doesn’t cost you any more and you end up with free trips.
I never advocate getting into debt or spending more on the cards than you have in the bank to cover the charges. I always advise paying your cards off AT LEAST every 30 days, if not every couple days, to keep yourself on top of the spending and OUT of debt.
And it’s also a good idea to slowly apply for cards so you don’t end up with more minimum spends than you can meet or more cards than you can manage.
Spread your card applications apart by a few more than 30 days and keep the number of cards to no more than four max at the beginning.
You also want to make sure your credit is at least in the high 600s. If you need to improve your credit, the quickest method I have found to increase your score is to get all balances down to one-third of the credit extended to you. So if you have a card with $1,000 credit, get your balance owed down below $333.
It’s also not a great time to start the process if you’re applying for a major loan in the near future like a mortgage, home equity line or car loan.
While inquiries to your credit when applying for credit cards only result in a minor drop of your credit score, you still want to get the best interest rate possible for these loans, which will be affected by your score.
So it’s best to wait until after any major loans are approved.
When Should I Start the Process?
As early in a calendar year as possible is the ideal time to start the process, as it will allow you to use it the longest (through the end of the following year). But so long as you earn your 110,000 points before the END of a calendar year, the pass will be good for the following year.
You can alternately apply for the Southwest Chase Rapid Rewards Visa cards the year PRIOR to when you want to earn the pass, but you will have to ensure that the points you earn for meeting the minimum spend don’t credit to your Rapid Rewards account until the following year.
You accomplish this by ensuring you do not meet your minimum spend until AFTER your December credit card close date (call and ask the bank if you are not sure when that is) or to be absolutely certain, you can wait to meet the minimum spend until January 1.
EXAMPLE: If I want to earn a pass good for 2019 and 2020, I can apply for the cards at the end of 2018, ensuring I do not meet the minimum spend until after Jan. 1, 2019 (or after my December 2018 credit card close date).
I don’t advise starting to collect your 110,000 points anytime after October, because if you DO NOT have all points earned by Dec. 31 AND credited to your Rapid Rewards account, you’ll have to start all over.
I have too many people email me who’ve earned a bunch of points — but not all 110,000 — by year’s end and realize they have to start over January 1. Don’t make that mistake!
How Long Does It Take to Earn?
The process could go as quickly as two to three months if you earn the majority of your points through two Southwest credit card sign-ups, which now must be one business and one personal card.
Even if you are unable to earn all 110,000 points via credit card bonus points, you can start earning additional qualifying points as mentioned above, such as everyday spending on the cards, which earn 1 point per dollar; by using the Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal; etc.
In 2016 and 2017, I earned the pass without ANY card sign-ups. Here’s how I did it.
How Will I Know I’ve Officially Earned the Pass?
The airline will send you an email as soon as you have completed earning 110,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards points. You can then go into your Rapid Rewards account and add your companion, which I show you how to do in my free guide.
You can even change companions up to three times in one calendar year!
After you get your email, you’ll get a plastic card in the mail, the size of a credit card, that lists your companion and shows you hold the SWCP.
You will need to carry this with you on any flights where your companion is flying with you in case an airline employee asks to see it, though I’ve yet to have this occur.
Is the Southwest Companion Pass Easy to Use?
Yes, it is extremely easy to use! Book your flight online at Southwest.com, ideally using your 110,000 points you have accumulated for free flights.
Within 24 hours, you can log back in, find your scheduled flight and click on the option to “Add a Companion.”
Simply fill out your companion’s info, then pay $5.60 per direction for the government’s mandatory security fee and the companion is added with no additional point redemption or money required.
Support Go to Travel Gal as Thanks for the Free Guide
I have decided to make this incredibly useful guide — that takes all the research and work out of earning this amazing Southwest perk — entirely free, because I want as many people to learn about this as possible.
All I ask in return is if you do decide to apply for any travel credit cards after reading the guide that you kindly start at the TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS links in the main menu above or the Compare Credit Cards links in this post.
Of course, you do not have to use these links, but I sincerely appreciate it if you do!
Visit Southwest.com for the full Companion Pass rules and regulations.