Though many people who have been in the miles and points hobby for a while now know A LOT about travel related topics, there is ALWAYS something to learn. Especially since this year I’ve had the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass and book fares like a $177 one way non-stop fare from Newark to San Diego for TWO, I’m fielding questions about everything Southwest and particularly the Companion Pass.
It is for sure one of the best deals in travel. With the Companion Pass, you can bring a companion on any flight the Companion Pass holder chooses. It works for flights booked on points or paid for with cash. The companion only has to pay taxes each way. You can also change your companion up to three times per year. A Companion Pass is good from the time you earn it through the end of the next calendar year. The Companion Pass is also relatively easy to achieve with Chase Southwest Credit Cards because both spend and the initial welcome bonuses count toward the requirements to earning the pass. The Companion Pass can potentially save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
How You Earn the Companion Pass
There are basics to understand when qualifying for the pass. There are two ways to earn the Southwest Companion Pass:
- Fly 100 qualifying one-way flights within a calendar year.
- Earn 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points within a calendar year.
Unless you’re a very loyal and frequent Southwest Airlines traveler, flying 100 qualifying flights is a lot of flying. And while it may seem like earning 110,000 Southwest Rapid Reward points is doable, all points are not treated equally, so let’s take a look at which points will count towards the Companion Pass and which will not.
Which Points Count Towards the Companion Pass
Points earned from the following methods DO count toward the 110,000 points threshold:
- Chase Southwest credit cards sign-up bonuses
- Chase Southwest credit cards purchases
- Chase Southwest credit cards anniversary bonuses
- Southwest flights
- Base points earned from Southwest Rapid Rewards partners
- Southwest Airlines Shopping Portal
- Rapid Rewards Dining
- NRG Energy
- Reliant Energy
- Everything Energy
- Supershuttle Execucar
These Points Do Not Count Toward the Companion Pass
Points earned from the following methods DO NOT count toward the 110,000 points threshold:
- Purchased points
- Points transferred between members
- Points converted from hotel loyalty programs (e.g. Marriott Travel Packages)
- Points converted from rental car loyalty programs
- Points transferred from proprietary bank currencies (e.g. Chase Ultimate Rewards points)
- Points from surveys
- Points converted from Diner’s Club
- Bonus points from flying Southwest with elite status
If you have any questions, Southwest’s FAQ page lists qualification terms in detail.
The Importance of Timing on Earning Your Companion Pass
Once a Southwest flier earns a Companion Pass, it’s good for the remainder of that calendar year as well as the entire next calendar year.
Thinking ahead, to maximize Companion Pass value, Rapid Rewards members are best off earning 110,000 Companion Pass eligible points or, if possible, flying 100 segments early in the year so that the requirements are done by March. This strategy provides almost two full years of Companion Pass status. With this in mind, get those eligible transactions with partners and flights on Southwest done as early in the calendar year as possible. If opening Chase Southwest credit cards is part of your earning the companion pass strategy, time your applications so those points post as close to the beginning of the year as possible.
If using Chase Southwest Credit Cards is part of your quest for the Companion Pass, the base level Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card ($69 annual fee) is currently offering a 40,000 point sign-up bonus and the mid-level Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card ($99) is also currently offering a 40,000 point sign-up bonus. For business owners, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card ($99) is currently offering an elevated 60,000 point sign-up bonus.
The newest member of the Chase Southwest credit card portfolio, the Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card ($149 annual fee), is in a tier of its own and offers an opening sign-up bonus offer of 65,000 points to fast-track cardholders toward Companion Pass qualification.
Southwest Airlines continues to grow its network. Understanding both the timing of qualifying for the pass as well as which spending will get you towards your goal is essential. For Southwest loyalists, or even for people like me, the occasional Southwest flyer, the Southwest Companion pass provides a huge value in saving money. And who wouldn’t want to be the companion of a pass holder??