Southwest Airlines Companion Pass Guide: (Credit Cards, Rules, Tricks) [2019]

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. 

Getting the Southwest Companion Pass was one of the best decisions I ever made, as there’s nothing quite like being able to fly around with a companion for free for up to two years.

But how do you get the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass and what are the rules?

This article will walk you through the different ways that you can get the Southwest Companion Pass with flying or my favorite trick: with credit cards.

I’ll also go into detail about the different rules and regulations for the pass and show you how to maximize your time with the pass.

Update: Some offers are no longer available — click here for the latest deals!


What is the Southwest Companion Pass?

The Southwest Companion Pass is a pass that allows a companion to fly for free with you on Southwest flights for up to two calendar years — it’s generally considered one of the most valuable travel perks available.

Two calendar yers means if you If you hit 110,000 Rapid Rewards in October of 2018. You’ll have the Companion Pass for the remainder of 2018 and all of 2019.

I held the Companion Pass from 2016 through 2017 and during one summer Brad and I spent almost every other weekend venturing down to the Caribbean and Mexico doing things like swimming with whale sharks and scuba diving.

Those things were possible because be were using Rapid Rewards to cover my ticket and then the Companion Pass to cover Brad’s ticket. We literally got thousands of dollars worth of free travel from the Companion Pass and it was one of the most unforgettable summers I’ve ever had.


Southwest Companion Pass rules (FAQ)

Here are the Southwest Companion Pass rules that you need to know about.

Qualifying points for the Companion Pass

Companion Pass Qualifying Points are earned from your revenue flights booked through Southwest Airlines and a few other different ways.

Chase Credit cards

Points earned by making purchases with a Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card count towards the Companion Pass, as explained below.

Rapid Rewards Shopping portal

Southwest has a shopping portal that you can use to earn extra Rapid Rewards and thankfully these points do count towards the Companion Pass (but special promotions will not).

You can read more about the Southwest shopping portal here

Rapid Rewards Dining portal

Southwest also has a dining portal that you can use to earn extra Rapid Rewards when out dining. These points do count towards the Companion Pass (but once again special promotions will not).

Non-Qualifying points

It’s really important to know which type of points don’t qualify for the pass, too.

Ultimate Rewards

Ultimate Rewards transfer to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio so logically, you’d be tempted to transfer your points to earn the Companion Pass.

Unfortunately, Ultimate Rewards transferred to Southwest do NOT count towards the Companion Pass.

Thus, if you earned points with your Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Chase Freedom, those points cannot be used towards the Companion Pass.

The good news is that if you do get the Companion Pass then that will essentially double the value of your future transfers to Southwest, though.

Hotel points

Points transferred from hotel partners to your Southwest account do not count towards the Southwest Companion Pass.

This is a bummer because they used to count and it was very easy to funnel points from hotels like Marriott, Hyatt, etc. to meet the requirements for the Companion Pass.

Rental cars

Points transferred from rental car partners to your Southwest account do not count towards the Southwest Companion Pass.

Purchased points

Purchased points do not count toward the Companion Pass.

Purchased points and points earned from Rapid Rewards program enrollment,

Do bonus points count?

There are a lot of ways to earn bonus points with Southwest.

For example, you might earn extra “tier” bonus points for having A-List or A-List Preferred or you might score some promo where you earn additional Rapid Rewards for taking Southwest flights.

However, you should note that bonus points do not count toward Companion Pass.

Southwest Companion pass “companion change” rules

Southwest allows you to change who your companion is up to three times which means that a total of four people could potentially be your companion over the course of two years.

To change your companion call Southwest at 1-800-435-9792.

Note Southwest states you should allow up to 21 days for the changes to take effect, so don’t wait too long.


Companion pass work for cash or award flights?

The Companion Pass will allow your companion to fly for free whether you pay for the tickets with cash or Rapid Rewards.


How do you get the Southwest Companion Pass?

There are two requirements you can meet to earn the Southwest Companion Pass: flying and with Chase credit cards.

Earn the pass by flying

To earn the Southwest Companion Pass by flying you’ll need to:

  • 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.

The trick with Chase Southwest Visa credit cards

Whenever you earn a sign-up bonus or earn points by spending on your Southwest credit cards, those Rapid Rewards will count towards the Companion Pass.

This means that one of the best (and fastest) ways to get the Companion Pass is to through Southwest credit cards. 

Take a look at the cards below and you’ll see that times some of them come with sign-up bonuses of up to 60,000 Rapid Rewards. That makes it much easier to earn enough Rapid Rewards for the Companion Pass.

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards 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

  • $69 Annual fee
  • 3,000 anniversary points
  • Best sign-up bonus: 60,000 Rapid Rewards

Southwest Airlines Priority Card

  • Bonus spending:
    • 2X Rapid Rewards on Southwest purchases
    • 2X Rapid Rewards on hotel and car rental partner purchases.
    • 1X Rapid Rewards on all other purchases
  • $75 Southwest annual travel credit
  • 7,500 anniversary points each year
  • Four Upgraded Boardings per year when available.
  • 20% back on in-flight drinks, WiFi, messaging, and movies
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Earn tier qualifying points towards A-list Status
  • $149 annual fee applied to your first billing statement

 Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards 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: 60,000 Rapid Rewards

The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Business Card was discontinued in prior years.

Can I get more than one Southwest credit card?

You used to be able to get approved for two personal Southwest credit cards at once but that’s not longer the case. However, Chase changes the rule so that you’d only be allowed to hold one personal Southwest credit card at a time.

The good news is that you can still get a personal and a business version at the same time! 

You don’t have to have a traditional business to get a small business credit card, either. You might be surprised to know that even selling items on eBay or doing tutoring could qualify. Read more about tips for getting small business credit cards here. 

One last thing — these credit cards are all subject to the Chase 5/24 rule. That means that if you’ve opened five or more accounts in the last two years, you won’t be eligible. Read more about that policy here. 


 

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 2018, you only get to enjoy the benefits for the rest of 2018 and all of 2019 (14 months).

However, if you earned the pass in January of 2019, you’d get to enjoy the benefits for all of 2019 and 2020 (24 months).

The latter scenario is obviously preferable because it gives you much more time to plan and take 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, 2018. This would give you 90 days to meet the minimum spend, so you’d get until January 3, 2019.

It always varies, but let’s say your statement is set to close on October 21, 2018. Your next statement will close November 21, 2018, and your next December 21, 2018.

That would mean that after December 21, 2018, (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 but luckily I wasn’t attempting this).

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, always comes with some level of risk and I personally wouldn’t advise anyone to do that but the risk is up to you.

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 or 60,000 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 for 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.


Southwest Companion Pass for international flights?

The Southwest Companion Pass can also be used for international flights.

The big thing to be aware of is that many of the international destinations in the Caribbean will impose fees so instead of paying $5.60 in fees for your companion, you might be paying $60+, so always look into what the fees are for flying in and out of these international destinations.


Southwest Companion Pass in California

Southwest has a lover affair for California and has offered some fantastic Companion Pass promotions to California residents.

For example, they offered the Companion Pass to Southwest cardholders after making a single purchase in addition to granting them 40,000 Rapid Rewards for spending $1,000.

That’s basically getting the Companion Pass for free.

However, you have to watch out for some of these promotions because sometimes they’ll only give you the Companion Pass for a single year. 


How to Book the Southwest Companion Pass

The first thing that you need to do is designate who your companion is going to be.

How designate your companion

You can designate your companion for the Southwest Companion Pass in two easy steps:

Step 1: 

Log in to your Rapid Rewards account at Southwest.com.

Step 2: 

On your Snapshot tab, locate Choose Your Companion, click Enter Companion Info, and follow the posted instructions. Or if you’d prefer, you can call Southwest Customer Service at 1-800-435-9792.

Once you complete the designation process, a Companion Pass Member kit and membership card will arrive in seven to ten business days.

How to book your companion’s ticket

After you have designated who your companion is going to be, you’ll be able to book a ticket and add them to it.

Southwest does not allow you to add the companion when making your initial booking. Instead, you’ll need to make a reservation and then add them to your reservation.

Here’s how that works: 

Step 1: 

After booking your flight, visit the My Trips section of your account.

Step 2: 

Find your flight in the Upcoming section and click on Add Companion link.

Step 3: 

Click Continue to proceed to the purchase screen and review your Companion information.

Step 4: 

Click Purchase to complete your Companion’s flight reservation.


Do I need my Companion Pass card?

No, you will not need to bring along your Companion Pass card in order to take advantage of the benefit.


Re-qualifying for the Companion Pass

As stated earlier,  if you hit 110,000 Rapid Rewards in October of 2018. You’ll have the Companion Pass for the remainder of 2018 and all of 2019.

This means that if you wanted the Companion Pass in 2020, you’d need to re-qualify in 2019 and hit your 110,00 Rapid Reward.


Southwest Companion Pass Boarding

If you’re not familiar with Southwest boarding, it’s based on a first-come, first-serve check-in basis.

Unfortunately, Southwest has not implemented a system where Companion Pass passengers can board together, either.

They state that they are working on such an implementation but it’s been a while since they’ve been working on it, so I’m not sure when it’s going to become a reality.

You can find out more about the Southwest boarding policies here. 


Booking Business Select and A-List

One important thing to note is that if you purchase a Business Select ticket, your companion will not get a Business Select ticket with preferred seating.

The same logic applies to if one member is A-List — the companion will not get the A-List privileges.


Southwest tips

I suggest that you read my tips for flying Southwest to find out ways to snag the best seats on the plane and other helpful tips.

When flying with a companion, it’s often the case that the two of you can snag an emergency exit row so you have a row of seats to yourself.

I recommend looking into how to do that to make your trips a little more enjoyable.


Baggage

The same standard baggage policies apply to Companion Pass passengers. They’ll receive a free personal item and carry-on and also get two free checked bags.

Read more about the Southwest baggage policy here.


Final word

The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most valuable travel perks out there and it’s easy to see just why it’s so popular. I suggest going the credit card route for the quickest way to get the Companion Pass but just pay attention to your statement closing dates if you’re cutting it close.

Cover photo by Tom Hart via Flickr.

Sign-up below to receive all my tricks like how to find the best credit card offers.

No more than once daily emails 

As Featured: