How to Get The Southwest Companion Pass

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There’a a lot of buzz surrounding the Southwest Companion Pass lately, especially with Southwest opening up flights to different destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean. However, when it comes to the Companion Pass, it can get a little confusing as to how to earn it and what points count for what. This article will explain the perks of the  Southwest Companion Pass and explain in detail how to best go about earning it.

What is the Southwest Companion Pass?

The Southwest Companion Pass is a pass where you’re allowed to bring along one “companion” on all of your Southwest flights for free for two calendar years! Southwest allows you to change who your companion is up to three times and allows them to ride for free whether you pay for the tickets with cash or Rapid Rewards. This can be an extremely valuable benefit to have if you know how to maximize the value.

Southwest Companion Pass

How do you earn the Companion Pass?

There are several ways to earn it and I will discuss the easiest ways below, but first, the “traditional” way to earn the Southwest Companion Pass is to meet one of the following requirements:

  • Complete 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year
  • Earn 110,000 Rapid Rewards points in one calendar year

Both of those requirements require a lot of flying. In addition, unless you fly a ridiculous amount in a short time-span, by the time you would meet the requirements for the companion pass you would likely be closer to the end of a calendar year. That means you’d have less time to take advantage of the pass if you earn the pass the traditional route.

So what is the best route for earning the Southwest Companion Pass?

The best way to to earn the Southwest Companion Pass is to utilize the sign-up bonuses from Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® credit cards from Chase.

There are three different Southwest credit cards that you can use: 2 personal and 1 business. (The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Plus Business Card was discontinued last year.)

The three credit cards are listed below along with a few of their key benefits:

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Card

Southwest Premier Card

  • $99 Annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 6,000 anniversary points
  • Earn 1,500 Tier-Qualifying Points for every $10,000 in purchases, up to 15,000 Tier-Qualifying Points each calendar year
  • Best sign-up bonus: 60,000 Rapid Rewards

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Plus Card

Southwest Plus Card

  • $69 Annual fee
  • 3,000 anniversary points
  • Best sign-up bonus: 50,000 Rapid Rewards

 Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Card

Southwest Premier Business Card

  • $99 Annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 6,000 anniversary points
  • Earn 1,500 Tier-Qualifying Points for every $10,000 in purchases, up to 15,000 Tier-Qualifying Points each calendar year
  • Best sign-up bonus: 50,000 Rapid Rewards

Sign-up bonuses

As you can tell, with just two sign-up bonuses it would be possible to earn 100,000 to 110,000 Rapid Rewards, allowing you to earn the Companion Pass as soon as you hit your minimum spends for the two credit cards. The issue is that these 50,000 and 60,000 offers are not constantly offered.

If you check the Chase website, you’ll often find that the best offers are listed at 25,000.

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This means that you might have to do some searching for the 50,000 offers. The good news is that it’s not that hard to find them when they are out there. Simply google “Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card 50,000” and look what pops up:

Southwest Airlines 50,000 offer

Now do the same thing except for the business version “Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card 50,000” and look what pops up.

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Amazing right? Now, sometimes you will run into trouble when trying to find the 50,000 offer because they are only offered via a referral. That means that you need to get a referral from a current cardholder. You will then have to call in to apply and give the representative specific information, such as the cardholder’s name, Rapid Rewards account number, and zip code. It’s much more of a hassle, for sure.

If you don’t know anyone with a Plus card you’ll have to look around online to find forum threads or blog comments where people will be willing to send you a personal message with their referral information. Try searching for “Flyertalk southwest plus referral thread” or some variation of that and you should be able to find it.

So to recap there are three ways to pursue these 50,000 offers:

  • Wait for them to become the standard public offer
  • Search out “hidden links” by performing specific searches for the 50,000 offers
  • Try to see if there are special referral offers going around at the time

These offers are always changing so what I’m writing right now could be totally different from what’s going on 6 months from now or even one week from now. This brings me to my next point about the Companion Pass: timing.

Chase Southwest Cards
Your keys to the Southwest Companion Pass

When should you apply for the Chase Southwest credit cards?

Recall that the Chase Southwest Companion Pass is good for two calendar years. This means that if you earn the pass in say, November of 2016, you only get to enjoy the benefits for the rest of 2016 and all of 2017 (14 months). However, if you earned the pass in January of 2017, you’d get to enjoy the benefits for all of 2017 and 2018 (24 months). The latter scenario is obviously preferable because it gives you much more time to plan your trips.

So the goal is to get the Companion Pass as early in the year as possible. 

It’s actually possible to apply for the Southwest cards before the new year rolls around and earn the pass in the next year. All you would have to do is pay close attention so that you: 1) make your spend within the required 90 day period AND 2) you don’t hit your minimum spend before the wrong closing date.

So, for example, you could apply for both cards on October 5, 2016. This would give you 90 days to meet the minimum spend, so you’d get until January 3, 2017. It always varies, but let’s say your statement is set to close on October 21, 2016. Your next statement will close November 21, 2016, and your next December 21, 2016. That would mean that after December 21, 2016, (after the billing cycle ends) you would be able to start working toward hitting your minimum spend but beware.

If you hit your minimum spend before the new year, you run the risk that your Rapid Rewards might hit your account early — sometimes Rapid Rewards will hit an account well before a statement closes (this happened to me when I met the minimum spend for my second Southwest card).

Thus, to be 100% safe, you just have to make sure that you meet your minimum spend requirement: 1) after the new year and 2) during the billing cycle that closes in January.

Hitting the minimum spend in December, even after your December statement closes, is always risky and I wouldn’t advise anyone to do that.

Why don’t people just wait until the new year?

Timing your application months before the end of the new year sounds risky so you might be wondering why wouldn’t people just wait until the beginning of the new year to apply so that they don’t risk screwing anything up?

The reason is that the 50,000 sign-up promotions come and go very quickly sometimes. If they are available in September or October, you might not see them again (at the same time) for months. Thus, sometimes you might find yourself in a dilemma where you want to earn the points but you don’t want to apply too early.

If you think you are going to apply in the fall of any year for these cards, an easy way to know that you’ll be 100% safe it to make sure that you remember:

  • You have to meet your minimum spend after the new year, during the billing cycle that closes in January.
  • You have 90 days from the date of your application to meet the sign-up bonus. So If you count out 90 days from the date you’d like to apply and you do not end up on a date in the next year, you are not 100% guaranteeing that you’ll have enough time to ensure that your points will hit Southwest in the next year because you don’t know exactly when your closing dates will be.

Applying for both Chase Southwest cards at the same time?

You can be approved for two Chase Southwest cards at the same time. Consider that Chase combines hard pulls so it often makes sense to apply for two credit cards at the same time.

Topping off

If you find yourself not able to meet the 110,000 Rapid Rewards requirement via a sign-up bonus and points from credit card spending then consider some additional methods for topping off your earnings.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining

Every time you dine out you could be earning points to count towards your Companion Pass. Because there are often sign-up specials for new accounts (e.g., earn 750 miles for spending $25 within your first 30 days of joining), I would try to hold off on opening up an account with Rapid Rewards Dining until I’m able to earn a special bonus for joining.

Southwest Dining Bonus

Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal

In addition to dining, whenever you shop online you could be earning points to count towards your Companion Pass. And the same rule applies about timing your sign-up for the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal, if possible, I’d wait until there’s a special offer for joining and try to get an extra 500-1,000 points that could go toward the Companion Pass.

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Points transferred to Southwest Rapid Rewards from Ultimate Rewards do not count towards the Companion Pass!

This is a bummer I know, but it’s definitely worth remembering. Any points transferred straight from your Ultimate Rewards account to your Rapids Rewards account will not count towards a companion pass! Also, points purchased from Rapid Rewards or points transferred from other Rapid Rewards accounts will not count toward your companion pass either.

Transfer from Hotel Partners

Update: As of March 31, 2017 this will no longer be an option.

While Ultimate Rewards transferred directly to Southwest Airlines do not count towards the Companion Pass,  if they are first transferred to a hotel partner and then to Southwest they can count toward the Companion Pass.

Here’s a list of the hotel partners with Southwest where you will notice the following hotels among others:

hyatt-gold-passport logo

  • Hyatt (Ultimate Rewards Partner)
  • Marriott/Ritz Carlton (Ultimate Rewards Partner)
  • Club Carlson
  • Choice Privileges
  • Best Western
  • La Quinta Returns

As for the Ultimate Rewards partners in bold above, transferring from Hyatt will preserve the most value of your points so if I had to choose one of the hotels I would go with Hyatt. If you’re going to funnel Ultimate Rewards through Hyatt, however, be sure that you’re not losing out on a lot of value with your Ultimate Rewards. For example, you might be better off purchasing miles from a hotel versus using your Ultimate Rewards via Hyatt. More on that later.

In conclusion, try to not make the process more confusing than it needs to be. If you’re able, just try to apply for the Southwest cards at the very end of a calendar year or beginning of new year to make things easy. But if you must apply earlier, pay close attention to your dates with the above rules in mind and you should have no problem earning your Southwest Companion Pass.