Why You Definitely Want The Southwest Companion Pass

Why You Definitely Want The Southwest Companion Pass

The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most valuable airline benefits available. And you can earn it before even stepping foot inside one of Southwest's planes.

Southwest is expanding rapidly and recently launched service to Hawaii and Cozumel, Mexico. Here's what the Southwest Companion Pass is, why it is so valuable, and how you can earn it.

What Is The Southwest Companion Pass?

The Southwest Companion Pass is a benefit that allows your designated companion to fly for free with you anytime you fly on Southwest.

How Do You Qualify For The Southwest Companion Pass?

There are two ways to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass–by flying or by earning points. Each of these methods must be completed within a calendar year to earn your pass.

  • Fly 100 qualifying one-way flights (or 50 round trips)
  • Earn 110,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards points (this is increasing to 125,000 points on Jan 1st, 2020)

Flying 100 one-way flights is pretty self-explanatory. However, earning 110,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards points requires more details. Here are several options for earning qualifying points:

Resource: Learn more about Travel Rewards with the free ChooseFI Travel Rewards Course.

How Many Points Do I Earn When Flying On Southwest Airlines?

Travelers earn differing amounts of points depending upon which class of ticket they purchase. Wanna Get Away fares are the cheapest and offer the least amount of points and benefits. Business Select costs the most, yet offers more benefits and earns the highest number of points.

Business SelectAnytimeWanna Get Away
12 points per dollar10 points per dollar6 points per dollar

Business Select benefits include guaranteed boarding in Group A 1-15, Fly By priority security access, and a free drink coupon.

A-List and A-List Preferred earn additional points when buying tickets. However, those additional points do not count towards qualifying for the Companion Pass.

Can You Earn The Companion Pass By Getting A New Credit Card?

There are many ways to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass, and getting the right credit card accelerates your progress.

Does The Sign-Up Bonus Count Towards The Companion Pass?

Yes, credit card sign-up bonuses do count towards earning the companion pass. Additionally, all of your spending on any of the Southwest credit cards also count.

Savvy Southwest fans will apply for one personal and one business card in the same year so they can earn their companion pass with very little flying or spending.

Which Credit Cards Earn Southwest Rapid Rewards Points?

Every Southwest credit card earns points towards the companion pass. Each of these three personal credit cards and two business cards are offered by Chase.

Consumers have three options to fit their budget and the benefits that are most important to them.

Personal Credit CardsSouthwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit CardSouthwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit CardSouthwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card
Annual Fee$69$99$149
Renewal Points3,0006,0007,500
Benefits2x points on Southwest.Everything above, plus…
No foreign transaction fees.
Earn A-List qualifying points.
Everything above, plus…
$75 annual travel credit.
4 upgraded boarding passes each year.
20% back on in-flight drinks and WiFi.
Learn how to apply hereLearn how to apply hereLearn how to apply here

Small business owners now have two credit card choices as well.
Business Credit CardsSouthwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit CardSouthwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card
Annual Fee$99 $199
Renewal Points6,000 9,000
Benefits2x points on Southwest.
No foreign transaction fees.
Earn A-List qualifying points.
3x points on Southwest.
2x points on select business categories.
No foreign transaction fees.
Earn A-List qualifying points.
4 upgraded boarding passes each year.
In-flight WiFi credits.
Global Entry or TSA Precheck reimbursement.
Learn how to apply hereLearn how to apply here

Under current rules, you cannot apply for another personal Southwest card if you already have one. However, you can apply for both a personal and a business Southwest credit card. In some cases, earning the sign-up bonus on both of these cards will be enough to qualify for the companion pass.

Which Is The Best Southwest Credit Card?

Each of the Southwest credit cards have their merits. My favorite is the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card. Although it has a higher annual fee of $149, the benefits give cardholders the best return.

After factoring in the $75 annual credit and four priority boarding passes, the net annual fee is actually less expensive than the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card, which has a $69 annual fee. And that’s not counting the 9,000 points you receive upon renewal.

Do Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Transfer To Southwest?

Yes, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest. As long as you have a Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, you can transfer.

Keep in mind that points earned from Chase Freedom, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card, and Ink Business Cash Credit Card cannot be transferred to airline or hotel partners without having one of the three Sapphire or Ink cards mentioned above.

Related: How Chase Ultimate Rewards Actually Work

Can You Convert Hotel Points Into Southwest Points?

Yes, some hotels allow members to convert hotel points into Southwest points. For example, Marriott Bonvoy points convert into Southwest points at a ratio of 3:1.

Do Point Transfers Count Towards Earning The Companion Pass?

Unfortunately, transfers of points from Chase Ultimate Rewards and hotel partners no longer count towards qualifying for the companion pass.

However, those points can be used to redeem for flights. And once you book your flight with those points, you can use the companion pass for your friend's flight.

Can you buy the Southwest Companion Pass?

Unfortunately, no. The companion pass must be earned; it is not for sale. You'll need to fly Southwest, get one of their credit cards, or spend with their partners to earn yours.

How Does The Southwest Companion Pass Work?

Once you’ve qualified for the companion pass, you’ll receive a message asking you to designate who your companion is. After selecting your companion, you can add them to any existing or future reservations.

How Do You Book A Companion Pass Flight?

Not only is the Southwest Companion Pass the best domestic airline benefit, but it is also incredibly easy to use.

  1. First, book your flight using cash, Rapid Rewards points, or vouchers.
  2. Once your flight is confirmed, click on the “Add Companion” link in the “Upcoming Trips” section of your Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards account.
  3. Confirm your companion’s details, then pay the taxes and fees. For domestic flights, you’ll pay $5.60 per flight ($11.20 round-trip). Taxes on international flights can be more expensive. For example, when we flew to Cancun from Nashville, the taxes for my wife's ticket were $79.42 round-trip.

Southwest Airlines Companion Pass add to reservation

Because your companion has to fly on the same flight as you, you do not need to pick a flight date or time when booking their ticket.

Is There A Limit To How Many Times You Can Use The Companion Pass?

No, there is no limit. The Companion Pass can be used an unlimited number of times each calendar year. Anytime you fly, your designated companion can fly with you for free.

As long as there is an open seat on the flight, simply book the companion ticket and pay the required taxes once you’ve booked your flight.

Can I Change Who My Companion Is?

Yes, you can change your companion up to three times per calendar year.

This year, my wife started out as my companion. I changed it to my daughter, then to my son, and will change it back to my wife before the end of the year.

What Makes The Southwest Companion Pass Better Than The Others?

A few other airlines offer a companion pass, but that benefit is limited to a single use per year. The benefit is usually tied to being a cardholder and paying the annual fee or reaching a certain spending threshold with its card.

Additionally, when you redeem the other airlines’ companion pass, you’re usually required to pay a fee and taxes. Here are a few examples of companion passes for other airlines:

  • Platinum Delta SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express: Up to $75 fee + taxes
  • Barclays Aviator Red: $99 fee + taxes
  • British Airways Visa Signature Card: approximately $682-$1250 per adult in economy or $1,250 in business class based on travel from Seattle to London

The Southwest Companion Pass can be earned without having any of the airline’s co-branded credit cards. However, having a Southwest credit card helps to accelerate the process.

How Do You Get The Most Out Of Your Companion Pass?

When you earn your Southwest Companion Pass, you have it for the remainder of the current year and all of the following year. If you earn it in November, you'll have about 14 months to use it. However, earning it in January means that you have almost 24 months to fly your companion for free.

Before getting the companion pass, I suggest reviewing Southwest's flight map to discover the possibilities for your trips. Then, make plans to hit as many of your desired destinations on their flight map as possible. Since most of Southwest's network is in the U.S., plan a bunch of long weekend trips to explore America, Mexico, and the Caribbean using your new benefits.

Two-Player Mode

The Southwest Companion Pass is incredible when it is just you and another person flying together regularly. But what if you have a family?

If you're an average family with a spouse and two kids, you can double up on the benefits by having BOTH spouses qualify for the companion pass. This way each parent can designate one kid as their companion to have them fly for free wherever the family travels.

When Is The Best Time To Apply For A Southwest Credit Card?

To maximize the cost-saving opportunities of the companion pass, you want to earn it as early in the year as possible.

If you hit credit card spending requirements quickly, then you should apply in January to ensure all of your points count towards qualification. However, some people apply for the credit card as early as November (if there is a great sign-up bonus available) then don’t spend on the credit card until January.

As described above, hitting the minimum spend late in the year will minimize how long you have the companion pass benefits. My advice is to apply early in the year to maximize your free flights.

The Bottom Line

In my opinion, the Southwest Companion Pass is the best domestic airline benefit available.

I‘ve had the Companion Pass since 2007 and have saved tens of thousands of dollars on flights over the years. If you're looking to fly within the continental U.S. or to more tropical destinations like Hawaii, Mexico, or the Caribbean, then the Southwest Companion Pass can save you money as well.

Learn more about Travel Rewards with the free ChooseFI Travel Rewards Course.

Related Articles:

Why You Definitely Want The Southwest Companion Pass

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ChooseFI seeks to uncover helpful services that help you be financially resilient. However, we may receive compensation, at no cost to you, from the issuers of some products mentioned in this article, including from CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Opinions are the author’s alone, and this content has not been provided by, reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of these entities. See our disclosures for more info.

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6 thoughts on “Why You Definitely Want The Southwest Companion Pass”

  1. Great details on the What/How of the companion pass, but I feel like this article kinda forgets its title: the Why. As a single person who does almost all of my flying solo, do I really want the companion pass or should I focus my energy elsewhere?

    • I suppose it depends. I’m also single and struggled with answering this question. Even as a single person, I do have a travel partner (platonic) who loves to get away as much as I do. Family is also a consideration, as I can also bring my mom along on trips as her life can get hectic. There are also travel groups on Facebook and beyond that can pair you with like-minded individuals who hate travelling by themselves (I’m also part of these groups). In the end, what do you want? Would you prefer to travel with a partner or do you like travelling solo? Both my travel partner and mom are pretty frugal, and this would go a ways to help us save even more, and possibly give reason for us actually travel more. If none of this applies, then I see no reason to try for this as the pass will sit unused. I’d go for the Capitol One Venture or the one of the Chase Sapphire cards if ya haven’t started that gauntlet yet.

      • Thank you! I’m a content solo traveler so I’ll officially move past the pass. I already have the CS Preferred but haven’t been able to decide on card #2 so I’ll definitely check out the Venture!

  2. My husband and I are nearing the end of our almost 2 years of both having SW companion passes. We have been able to fly with our 2 kids to 8 different destinations over that time, including both Hawaii and Costa Rica. And with all of these trips keeping our total travel expenses to about $10k/year!! Its been an unbelievable experience, and we will definitely be re-upping after we take 1 year off to stay closer to home.

  3. I read on another site that it’s possible to apply for both the personal and business cards at the same time. Is that advised?

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