Readers continue to ask about the best time to begin the Southwest Companion Pass process. This is an important question, as I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone tell me they DID NOT GET all of their 125,000 required Southwest points earned by the end of the calendar year. That means you have to start ALL OVER Jan. 1! You don’t want to do that, right?!
First things first…
What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
The Southwest Companion Pass is an amazing DEAL from Southwest Airlines that allows one person to fly free with you (aside from the government-required $5.60 security fee per way) from the time you earn the pass until the END of the FOLLOWING year. So if you earn it right now (2021), it’s good through the end of 2022.
You earn this pass by accumulating 125,000 Southwest points, also called Rapid Rewards points, within ONE CALENDAR YEAR, which means to earn the pass THIS YEAR, you must have ALL POINTS earned by Dec. 31.
The quickest and easiest way to earn the 125,000 qualifying points is to sign up for TWO of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Chase credit cards, each offering you a bonus of 40,000-70,000 points for meeting a minimum spend of either $2,000 or $3,000 – both in three months.
Please be sure you responsibly use credit cards only paying for everyday expenses for which you already have money in the bank and can pay off within 30 days, if not every few days.
Note: To apply for the credit cards included in this post and to help support Go to Travel Gal at NO COST to you, please click Credit Cards on the main menu above. This allows us to earn a commission to support our small business. I sincerely appreciate you taking this step!
When Should I Begin Accumulating Points for the Pass?
In an ideal world, you would begin earning points for the Southwest Companion Pass in January 🙂 or even apply for the credit cards in October through December of the year prior, but it DOES NOT have to be done this way.
The reason this is the best path is because the pass is good from the TIME YOU EARN IT until the end of the following year, so the EARLIER YOU EARN IT, the longer you can use it, making it good for almost TWO FULL YEARS.
That said, it is best to begin as early as you can. If you earn the pass by applying for two of Southwest’s credit cards with at least 50,000-point sign-on bonuses, you can knock it out in about two months. That’s the quickest way.
But if you plan to earn your points in other ways, such as via actual flights on Southwest, by starting your online shopping at the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal, via everyday spending on your Southwest Chase Rapid Rewards credit cards (if you already hold them) or other means, you’ll need as much time as possible to accumulate those points.
Again, ALL POINTS MUST BE EARNED — AND CREDITED TO YOUR RAPID REWARDS ACCOUNT — BY DECEMBER 31 of the calendar year you BEGAN earning the points.
What If I’m Starting Later in the Year?
That’s OK! You can still do it! I’ve earned my Companion Pass four times right at the end of a calendar year, so mine is basically good for one year only: the following year.
The first time I earned the pass, we were purchasing a home and I needed to wait until all mortgage processes were complete before applying for any cards (I did not want to mess with my credit even by a tenth of a point, so we could get the best interest rate possible). You, too, may want to wait to begin this process if you have a major purchase coming up.
So while I did apply for one card in April of that year, I had to wait until after September to apply for the second card to complete the 110,000 points (currently 125,000) I needed.
What is the Absolute Latest I Should Start Trying to Earn the Companion Pass?
I would not start any later than early October. You DO NOT want to accumulate a bunch of points only to NOT get to 125,000 and have the points you DID accumulate NOT count toward the Companion Pass. Of course, you can still use them for free flights either way.
An Ideal Timetable for Earning the Southwest Companion Pass
October-November: Start the planning process to earn your Companion Pass and/or apply for Southwest credit cards
- Conduct research on the Companion Pass
- Get an idea for the average cost of the flights you will be looking for and determine what is a good fare
- Get your credit score to the upper 600s to low 700s (most easily by getting all card balances down to a third or below of their credit limit so long as you don’t have a bankruptcy, etc. and paying all bills on time). Here’s how to quickly improve your credit score.
- Sign up for a Rapid Rewards account.
- Sign up for Rapid Rewards Dining
At this point, you can also begin applying for two Southwest credit cards if the bonuses are at least 50,000 points. However, if you want the pass the FOLLOWING year, be sure you do NOT complete the minimum spend until AFTER your December close date, but you will need to be sure you complete your minimum spend within the 90-day deadline they allott to you. Here is more about timing a Southwest Companion Pass using this method.
- Alternately, you can watch for 50,000-70,000 point bonus Southwest credit card offers early in the year and sign up as soon as possible for 2 of the 3 cards. Southwest usually has some good card offers in January.
- Collect points in other ways, such as through the Rapid Rewards Dining Program, SouthwestHotels.com and the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal for things you would already be purchasing. Here are the top weekly deals for Rapid Rewards Shopping checked each Monday.
- Complete your minimum spend requirement for the above cards and wait for the points to be added to your Rapid Rewards account no more than 30 days after the close of your credit card business cycle.
- Use your credit cards to pay for everyday expenses, which will translate into points that qualify for your Companion Pass. Pay your balance every 30 days so you do not accumulate interest.
- If you need more points to reach 125,000, continue to follow previous tips to earn points, read my Southwest Companion Pass ebook (see above), and subscribe to GotoTravelGal.com to stay up to date on cheap and easy ways to earn points.
- Wait for the exciting email that you have earned a Companion Pass!
April of the CURRENT Year through December of the FOLLOWING Year
- Travel the U.S., Caribbean and Mexico with a Companion FREE
- Begin planning how you will earn the Companion Pass again by either having a spouse or friend earn it and make YOU the Companion, waiting until you are able to earn the credit card bonuses again or earning points through referring friends to the cards, Rapid Rewards Shopping, paying everyday expenses on the cards, etc.
Have you started the process to earn your Southwest Companion Pass this year? How far along are you?