Southwest Airlines Companion Pass Guide: (Credit Cards, Rules, Tricks) [2021]

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 years means if you hit 125,000 Rapid Rewards in October of 2021. You’ll have the Companion Pass for the remainder of 2021 and all of 2022.

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!

I held the Companion Pass from 2016 through 2017 and during one summer Brad and I spent almost every 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.

In fact, we did so much flying, some friends and family literally thought we were sponsored by the airlines.

So don’t underestimate the value of this perk!

Picture of a diver and a whale shark
Use the Southwest Companion Pass to unlock adventure!

How to earn 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 125,000 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 at certain times some of them come with sign-up bonuses of up to 80,000 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 ever: 60,000 Rapid Rewards

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Card

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

 Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Performance Business Card

  • $199 Annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 9,000 anniversary points
  • 4 upgrades per year
  • in-flight wifi credits
  • 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 ever: 80,000 Rapid Rewards
  • Full review here

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

Tip: Check out the free app WalletFlo so that you can optimize your credit card spend by seeing the best card to use! You can also track credits, annual fees, and get notifications when you’re eligible for the best cards!

Southwest Companion Pass

Southwest Companion Pass rules

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 (review), 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.

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 the 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.

Southwest Companion Pass 2021 coronavirus changes

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Southwest made some temporary changes that can benefit people pursuing or currently holding the Companion Pass.

  • For current Companion Pass Members, Southwest is extending your current earned Companion Pass benefits through June 30, 2021.
  • Southwest is also giving all Rapid Rewards Members a “boost” of 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points and 25 flight credits toward Companion Pass status.

Companion pass 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.

Chase Southwest credit cards strategy tips

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 in California

Southwest has a love 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. 

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

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

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.

Southwest Companion Pass FAQ

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 changed 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. 

Can you use the Southwest Companion Pass for international flights?

Yes, Southwest flies to many international destinations and the Southwest Companion Pass can 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.

Do I need my Companion Pass card when traveling?

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

How do I re-qualify for the Companion Pass?

As stated earlier,  if you hit 125,000 Rapid Rewards in October of 2021. You’ll have the Companion Pass for the remainder of 2021 and all of 2022. This means that if you wanted the Companion Pass in 2023, you’d need to re-qualify in 2022 and hit your 125,00 Rapid Rewards.

How does boarding work for the Southwest Companion Pass?

If you’re not familiar with Southwest boarding, it’s based on a first-come, first-serve check-in basis. Instead of reserving a seat, you simply lineup at the time affording and then pick a seat as you enter the plane.

The position where you line up is based on your check in time and unfortunately, Southwest has not implemented a system where Companion Pass passengers can be guaranteed to board together.

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. 

Do Companion Pass passengers get Business Select perks?

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. This relates to the question above about being able to board the plane together — it’s not always possible.

Do Companion Pass passengers get A-List perks?

If one member is A-List, the companion will not get the A-List privileges which include priority boarding. Although other members on the same itinerary as an A-list member get the perks, when you add a companion the perks do not get offered to both passengers.

Baggage fees apply to the companion?

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.

What are the best seats to use for the Companion Pass?

The best seats on a Southwest plane for two companions depends on your preferences.

Typically, if you want the most leg room or if you want to sit in a row by yourself (a row with only two seats), you should head for the emergency exit area.

The exact seat numbers will depend on the type of plane you’re flying but you can read more about the best seats on Southwest here.

Are there any other 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.

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.