How To Get The Southwest Companion Pass – The Holy Grail of Travel Rewards

How To Get The Southwest Companion Pass – The Holy Grail of Travel Rewards

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The Southwest Companion Pass is up there as one of the most coveted travel perks. And there’s no question why; it allows you to book travel on any Southwest flight, and take a companion for free regardless of how you pay for your own flight. If you time it right, you can end up with nearly two years of free travel for you and your favorite travel companion, essentially doubling the value of your Southwest Rapid Reward Points, or cash (if you’re one of those people).

Southwest Companion Pass

There are some really cool things you can do with the pass. If it’s just you and your spouse traveling together, it would make sense for only one of you to get it, and live high on the hog until it expires. Then you could get a second one in the other spouse’s name, and do it all over again. If you have kids, you could both go for it at the same time, and then be able to take the whole family (assuming that a whole family is four people). Or if you have another couple whose company you enjoy enough to travel together, you could both get it at the same time and take some couples retreats together. Either way you go about it, it’s going to be an awesome deal for you.

How to Get the Southwest Companion Pass

So, how to get the Southwest Companion Pass? That’s an excellent question… well ya, it was mine. It’s really quite simple: you just need to acquire 110,000 Rapid Reward points in a calendar year. Just so we’re being precise, that means that you must earn 110,000 points at any point between January 1 and December 31 of a given year. You will not qualify if you rack up the required amount between say, February 1 and January 31 of the following year. It’s very important to keep that in mind, because nothing would suck worse than earning so many points throughout the year, only to have such a huge disappointment when you don’t get your pass in February.

I’ve heard of some people being under the misconception that the Companion Pass costs 110,000 points, as in once you have 110,000 points you redeem them for the Companion Pass and then have no points left. The good news is that is NOT the case. You qualify for the Companion Pass once you have acquired 110,000 in a calendar year, and those points are yours to keep. And now they’re really 220,000 points since you’ve just doubled their value.

Well that seems like a lot of points to earn in a year, and it is. There are some fancy ways of going about it, though, that I promise will not break the bank. In good old Triumphant Adventures fashion, the answer is credit card sign-up bonus points. Southwest counts not only the regular points you earn by using their co-branded credit cards for every day purchases, but the sign-up points that Chase offers as well. This means that if you sign up for the cards and spend the minimum amount to get the bonus, then you’ll only need to spend the difference to make it to 110,000 points.

Chase/Southwest Co-Branded Credit Cards

Chase Southwest Cards

The good news is that Chase has three co-branded cards that you can choose from listed in the chart below.  Currently, both personal Southwest cards have an elevated bonus of 60,000 points, which means it’s an excellent time to sign up. However, keep in mind that we are coming up on year end. If you acquire the 110,000 by the end of 2017, it will only be valid until December 31, 2018, which would only give you a little over a year to use it. Whereas if you wait until January, you could probably acquire it in the first quarter of 2018 and then have it until December 31, 2019, which would give you almost two years to use it. The downside is that the higher bonus might not last until January, so it’s a tradeoff.

Credit CardTypical Sign Up BonusElevated Sign Up BonusAnnual FeeForeign Transaction Fees
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus
40,000 Rapid Rewards Points after spending $1,000 in 3 months60,000 Rapid Rewards Points after spending $2,000 in 3 months$69Yes
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier
40,000 Rapid Rewards Points after spending $3,000 in 3 months60,000 Rapid Rewards Points after spending $2,000 in 3 months$99No
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business
60,000 Rapid Rewards Points after spending $3,000 in 3 monthsNo Elevated Sign Up Bonus. See Typical Sign Up Bonus column to the left.$99No

You may be wondering if you can apply for, and get all three cards within a calendar year. Absolutely you can. Now, I can’t tell you if Chase will approve or deny your credit card applications, but I can tell you that I did it, and hundreds of people have as well. Some have applied for both personal cards at the same time, while others have applied for a personal and a business card at the same time. Still others have spread their applications out over a few months.

 

Francisco
Take a weekend getaway to San Francisco, and see the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge.

If you get them a few months apart, you should apply for the Southwest Plus first; here’s why. If a bank offers two different versions of a co-branded card, there’s usually one that’s a higher status than the other. It will generally have a higher annual fee and additional perks. Often Chase will not automatically approve you online, and that may result in having to speak with an actual human being on the phone about why you want both versions of the card. It’s much easier to explain why you want a card that is considered an upgrade form the card you currently have. So, if you apply for the Southwest Premier when you already have the Southwest Plus, you can tell them that you will be overseas and want to have a card with no foreign transaction fees. You can even add that you like the increased 6,000-point anniversary bonus instead of the Plus’s 3,000. You may run in to similar questions when you apply for the business card; but that’s easy, you want to separate your business and personal expenses. We’ll be writing a post about how to qualify for business cards in the future, and we’ll be sure to share a link here once it’s done.

Chase 5/24 Rule

Another thing to remember is the ever-despised Chase 5/24 rule. If you have been approved for five or more cards in the last twenty-four months from any bank, then your chance of getting approved for any Chase card plummets dramatically. So if you’ve been acquiring credit card points heavily for the last few years, that would definitely put a dent in things. This is one of the reasons we tell everyone to do the Chase cards before they do anything else. If you’ve been doing this for a while, there will be a point where you run out of cards to apply for, and you’ll have to back off for a couple years to let the 5/24 rule reset. But don’t worry, if you do it right, you’ll still have a stock pile of points to use for vacations during this time. In fact, that’s the stage we’re in right now. We’ve got about another 5 months before we can apply for Chase cards again, and we have a ton of American Airlines, Delta, and Ultimate Rewards points left to take our New England trip next month. Anyway… 5/24 Rule. Just remember it, and plan accordingly.

The Numbers

Now, let’s talk math. If you sign up for the elevated 60,000 sign-up bonus offers, you’ll earn 120,000 points. Easy peasy. However, the elevated bonuses come and go. I’ve seen the bonuses be 40,000, 50,000, and 60,000, with the spending requirements being either $1,000, $2,000, or $3,000. So, let’s assume that both personal cards are 40,000 points after spending $2,000 and the business card is 60,000 points after spending $3,000. So you sign up for and are approved for one personal and one business card. You spend $5,000 ($2,000 + $3,000) to qualify for the sign-up bonuses. You’ll now have 105,000 points (40,000 bonus points + 60,000 bonus points + 5,000 spending points). Now you’ll just need to continue spending with the card until you’ve spent an additional $5,000 which will put you at 110,000 total points. This is totally doable in a calendar year. Like I said, the amount of the sign-up bonuses and spending requirements changes often, but you can plug in the math for whatever offer is current when you decide to go for it.

New York
Finally take that trip to New York that you’ve always dreamed of.

Points That Do Not Qualify Towards the Companion Pass

While spending and bonus points count toward your 110,000 qualifying points, it’s important to remember that there are some other ways to get points. And these other ways DO NOT qualify for your 110,000 points.

  • Points transferred from Ultimate Reward Points
  • Points purchased from Southwest
  • Points earned through Southwest partners
  • Points earned from the Southwest shopping portal
  • Points earned from the Southwest dining club

The only other source of points that does qualify for the 110,000 points are those that you earn by flying, and actually paying for it with cash… something I don’t do much of, but still worth mentioning.

Designate Your Companion and Start Flying

So you got both cards, earned a shit load of points, and are now the proud owner of the Southwest Companion Pass. Now what?

Log in to Southwest.com and click on My Account. Then you can enter all the necessary details for your travel companion. A few days later, you’ll receive the pass in the mail. Generally speaking, you don’t actually need the physical pass. It’s stored in your account, so any time you book a flight online, you can go back in and add your companion to that flight for free. Keep in mind, your companion can only fly if you are flying. I have read a couple stories of people who have been asked to present their physical pass, and then were not allowed on the flight when they didn’t have it, so Dustin and I always make sure we have it with us. As of now, no one has ever asked to see it.

Costa Rica
Southwest also serves many international destinations in Central America and the Caribbean, including Costa Rica.

Let’s say you don’t have a committed travel buddy and you just want to be able to take whomever willy-nilly. Southwest does allow you to change your companion. You have to call in to their customer service to do so. Plus, you can only do it three times in a calendar year. To be honest, I’m not sure if that means you can change it three times (and thus have four total distinct companions per year) or if it means you’re allowed to have three different companions. Luckily my husband has always been my companion, so that’s an issue I haven’t had to experience.

So, long story short. The Southwest Companion Pass kicks a considerate amount of travel ass. It will allow you to fly with a companion for free for up to two years if you are able to acquire 110,000 points in a calendar year. You can do so with the help of the three Chase/Southwest credit cards and their associated sign-up bonuses. If you have any questions I didn’t answer, please leave me a comment. Until then, go out there and get the Companion Pass.


6 Replies to “How To Get The Southwest Companion Pass – The Holy Grail of Travel Rewards”

  1. Hey, Kendra
    How cool! I didn’t know how a person can take advantage of this program. Your post is informative and motivating.
    I love to travel and will be investigating your information you shared. And I will be coming back to the website to gain better insight on the plans.
    Thanks,
    Kevin

    1. Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for reading. We look forward to seeing you around here. If you have any questions as you read through our info, pleas don’t hesitate to leave a question in the comments. We love discussing this stuff!

  2. The Southwest Companion pass sounds wonderful! I’m always up for any excuse for more holidays with family and friends.

    I do have a couple questions though. How realistic is it to achieve the 110,000 points in one year?
    And is this card available worldwide or just in the US?
    Can it be used for any trips or are there restrictions?

    1. Hi Nik,

      Thanks for the comment.

      Yes, if you follow the steps outlined in this article, acquiring 110,000 is 100% attainable.

      The only way someone outside of the United States could get the Companion Pass would be to acquire the points by flying, as the credit cards are only in the US. It would be much harder that way. Also, with a few exceptions in Central American and the Caribbean, Southwest just serves domestic flights in the US anyway. So I’m not sure how much use it would be for a people outside the US anyway.

      There are no restrictions on when the companion pass can be used. It can be used on any Southwest at any time.

      Hopefully this helps. Take care.

  3. Years ago we had a Visa card for Alaska Airlines and they offered the free companion fare. We used that companion fare every single year. That was when it was just my wife and I. Over the years, the program changed and so did the annual fee. Anymore it just didn’t make sense for us to use it. Now we have kids and aren’t able to travel as much, so we ditched the card. This Southwest Companion Pass sounds like a fantastic deal. I didn’t realize there are still some good plans out there. Are there restrictions on using the pass? So many airlines have black out dates, or other restrictions like you can only fly on every other third Tuesday at 2 am. Thank you so much for this review!

    1. Hi Steve,

      Yes there are still a lot of great programs out there. We have been taking advantage of them for the last four years. It’s only been this past year that we’ve had the companion pass though, and it has been a lot of fun. While award travel usually does have a more restricted calendar, that is not so with the Southwest Companion Pass. As long as there is an available seat on a flight, you can use it to book.

      Thanks for the comment,
      Kendra

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