Updated: April 2018
If you travel regularly with your spouse, friend or other special person in your life (or want to travel more), the Southwest Companion Pass can be a great way to save on flights within the U.S., Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. It has easily doubled our travel in the last year and saved us a ton of money. Many people assume it will be too expensive or time consuming to get one of their own, but it is actually much easier than you would expect – just another reason why we love the Southwest Companion Pass!
What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
The Southwest Companion Pass allows a designated person to add a companion to any flight that they book with Southwest for free. The pass is a bonus reward for earning 110,000 points with Southwest. It is automatically added to your account once you meet that requirement within one calendar year. The pass is good for the year you earn it and the year after. So ideally, you want to get one at the beginning of the year rather than towards the end. However, even if it takes you an entire year to earn it, you will still get a lot of use out of it the next year!
Why We Love It
1. It allows us to travel WAY more often.
After earning the points needed for the companion pass, you get to keep all of them – that’s 110,000 points! Our goal is to get the most trips possible out of our pass, so we usually try to find dates and locations that are under 10,000 points round trip to visit. The easiest way we have found to do this is by using the map search and flexible dates features on the Southwest Airline’s website and choosing points rather than dollars for the currency when searching. Since we get one of our flights for free, that’s about 11 trips that we only have to pay taxes and fees for (usually about $11 per person).
2. Southwest flies domestic and international.
In addition to the U.S., Southwest also flies to destinations in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. Unfortunately, the map search mentioned above is not available for international flights, but Southwest provides a list of other countries they fly to on their international page. (Note: taxes and fees for international flights are significantly more).
3. Bags fly free with Southwest (and other perks).
This is another great way to save – not having to pay to check your bags! With Southwest, you get up to two bags for free, plus a carry-on and a “personal item.” You also get a free alcoholic drink on certain holidays. And, you are able to cancel or reschedule your flight with no fee and use those points toward future travel, “as long as reservations are canceled at least ten minutes prior to the scheduled departure.” Plus, the Southwest team members always seem to be the happiest people at the airport and try to make your flight fun!
4. It is surprisingly easy to get a companion pass!
The Chase Southwest Credit Cards often have bonuses of 40,000 points or more! So, if you are able to qualify for two (either the Premier, Plus, Business Premier or Business Plus), you are already very close to your goal! (Earn 40,000 bonus points with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card by using our referral link, if you are approved.)
How to Get a Southwest Companion Pass
So, you’ve decided the Southwest Companion Pass is for you and want to know how to get one quickly? Just follow these 5 easy steps to get a pass of your own.
(Disclaimer: I am not a finance expert – heck, I’m not even very good at math. We take no responsibility for your personal actions. I am simply explaining the easiest way we have found to get a companion pass. I highly suggest only following these steps if you are in good financial standing and are able to pay off what you put on your credit cards monthly. This option is definitely not for everyone.)
Step 1: Sign up for a FREE Southwest Rapid Rewards Account
In order to earn points toward your companion pass, you must have a Southwest Rapid Rewards number. When you sign up for the Chase Southwest credit cards you will also be prompted to put in your rewards number. If you don’t have one already, you will need to create an account at www.southwest.com/rapidrewards.
Also, note that any points you have already earned within the current calendar year will go towards the total you need for the companion pass. However, anything earned outside the current calendar year will not count.
Step 2: Sign up for a Chase Southwest Credit Card
Southwest has four options for credit cards: Premier and Plus, as well as Business Premier and Plus. There are rapid rewards point bonuses for applying to these cards. The best bonus we have seen is 60,000 points, but a 40,000-point bonus seems to be pretty common. Make sure you can meet the minimum spend before applying, otherwise there is no point.
Also, note that there is an annual fee associated with these cards, but you should receive bonus points at the time the fee is due each year which helps balance it out (we get 6,000). Just read everything beforehand so you don’t have any surprises. These rules are always changing, and – again – I am not a professional.
Step 3: Spend the minimum amount to earn the bonus
In order to receive the bonus, you have to spend a certain amount within the first couple of months that you have the card. Currently, you have to spend $1,000 within the first three months to receive 40,000 points. When we applied, it was $3,000 in the first three months for 50,000 points. This obviously varies throughout the year.
The easiest way we found to spend the minimum is putting all of our usual expenses on our card and paying it off before the bill to avoid interest fees. It definitely helps if you can use the card to pay for a big expense or vacation.
A few creative ways to spend the minimum amount that we have read about:
- Use your card to pay for family/friends expenses and have them pay you back.
- Pay ahead on bills you will have to pay eventually anyway.
- Buy gift cards to use later (*I’d double check that they were activated correctly before leaving the store, though).
Step 4: Repeat steps 1-2, and earn any additional points needed
After spending enough to earn the bonus on your first card, repeat the process with another Chase Southwest card. Some people apply for both at the same time, but I think doing them separately is much safer to ensure you can meet the minimum.
If you were able to get 50,000-point bonuses each time, depending on your minimum spend, you need less than 10,000 more points to get your pass! (Since our minimum was $3,000 on each card we only needed 4,000). Just continue to use your card for everything, look for other bonuses for using certain Southwest partner companies, and see if you have any other points on cards that are eligible to transfer to Southwest.
Step 5: Wait for your Companion Pass and set it up
After reaching 110,000 points, you will be notified by Southwest that you have earned a companion pass. If you do not receive a notification from them, definitely reach out to make sure nothing went wrong. You are prompted to add your companion when you are first notified and they will be mailed their companion pass. You may change your designated companion up to three times each calendar year. Although we’ve never been asked for it, Southwest states that you should bring your companion pass with you to the airport when you book a flight using it.
This process took us about three months. But if you have a lot of expenses coming up that you can put on your cards, you could probably knock this out much more quickly. Conversely, you could spread the minimum spend out over the three months for both cards and have your card in about six months, if that works better for you.
BONUS STEP: Once you get your Southwest Companion Pass let us know about your first trip! Just tag us using @TrailingAway on Instagram or Facebook.
Using Your Southwest Companion Pass
When you meet the 110,000 point mark, Southwest will let you know that you have earned a companion pass. You may then choose your companion (you can change this up to three times per calendar year).
When you are ready to use your companion pass, book your flight first using points. Then, go to the “my travel” tab and click “add a companion” to book the companion flight. It is important to note that your flights will not be 100% free. There are taxes and fees that you will have to pay that are usually about $11 per person for a round-trip domestic flight. And international flights are significantly more. But, obviously you will still be saving a whole lot using the companion pass even with the taxes and fees!
Once your flights are booked, pat yourself on the back for saving a ton of moolah and set a reminder to check in to your flight 24 hours before your departure, so you get good seats too (Southwest does not have assigned seating).
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