Southwest Airplanes at Phoenix AIrport

The Southwest Companion Pass: What Is It & How to Earn It

Southwest Airlines has positioned itself as a friendly, low-cost carrier where bags fly free. Add to that the Southwest Companion Pass and the airline truly sets itself apart from the pack with one of the best travel rewards out there.

In this guide, learn what the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is and how you can earn and use this valuable travel rewards perk.

The Southwest Companion Pass:
Why You Should Love It & How to Earn It

Southwest is a budget, mainly domestic airline, that has branched out to Hawaii, the Caribbean, and Central America, adding destinations like Costa RicaMexicoand  Turks & Caicos. 

Southwest’s low-cost “Wanna Get Away” fares and the ability to book award flights on any open seat have made the airline exceedingly popular with both budget travelers and miles and points enthusiasts.

What is the Southwest Companion Pass?

Southwest Airplane

Quite simply, the Southwest Companion Pass lets pass holders bring a companion for FREE when flying Southwest except for paying the taxes on the ticket.

But here’s truly the best part. The Southwest Companion Pass allows you to fly a lucky companion along with you on your travels for an unlimited number of flights for up to 2 years!

There are no blackout dates or restrictions. If seats are available, you can add a companion. 

How long is the Southwest Companion Pass valid!?

Once you earn the Southwest Companion Pass, it’s valid for the remainder of the year you earn it in AND the entire following calendar year.

If you earn the companion pass at the beginning of a new year, say January or February, you can use it for the rest of the year and the entire following year for almost 2 years of free companion flights.

Better yet, you can use the companion pass as many times as you want, anywhere Southwest flies!

There is no limit to the number of times you can add a companion to your travel itineraries. The Southwest Companion Pass rules even let you change your designated companion up to 3 times a year while your pass is valid.

How do you earn the Southwest Companion Pass?

Starting January 2023, Southwest Rapid Rewards members need to earn 135k Southwest Rapid Rewards Points in a calendar year to earn the Companion Pass. This is a 10k-point increase. However, everyone who has a Southwest co-branded airline card will get a 10k-point boost each year they’re a cardholder. These 10k points will count toward the Southwest Companion Pass.

Obviously, that’s an insane number of Rapid Rewards Points if you were earning them only by flying. Unless you’re a hardcore traveler who always flies Southwest Airlines, it’s basically impossible to get to 135k Rapid Reward Points through travel alone in a single calendar year.

Sad Pug
See, I knew there was a catch.

So, how do you earn 135k Rapid Rewards Points?

All hope is not lost! There are a few other ways to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards Points, even 135k Rapid Rewards points in the same calendar year.

The easiest way to earn the 135k you need is by applying for and meeting the minimum spend requirement on the Chase Southwest credit cards to earn the welcome bonus.

In the past, it was possible to get 2 Southwest personal cards. However, Chase has tightened the rules and now only allows you to hold 1 personal card in the Southwest family of cards at a time.

You also aren’t eligible for a personal Southwest credit card bonus if you’ve earned a bonus on one of the cards in the last 24 months.

The good news is it’s still possible to be approved for 1 Southwest personal credit card and 1 Southwest Business card or both Southwest Business credit cards.

Chase offers 5 different co-branded Southwest credit cards.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus® Credit Card

Current Welcome Bonus: Limited Time Offer! Earn 75,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months of being a cardholder.  

Favorite Card Features:

  • 2x on Southwest purchases
  • 2x local transit, commuting, and rideshare costs
  • 2x internet, cable, phone, and eligible streaming services
  • 1x on all other purchases
  • Earn 3k Rapid Rewards Points each year on your card anniversary

Annual Fee: $69

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Current Welcome Bonus: Limited Time Offer! Earn 75,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months of being a cardholder. 

Favorite Card Features:

  • 3x on Southwest purchases
  • 2x local transit, commuting, and rideshare costs
  • 2x internet, cable, phone, and eligible streaming services
  • 1x on all other purchases
  • 2 EarlyBird Check-ins per year
  • No foreign exchange fees
  • Earn 6k Rapid Rewards Points each year on your card anniversary

Annual Fee: $99

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Current Welcome Bonus: Limited Time Offer! Earn 75,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months of being a cardholder.

Favorite Card Features:

  • 3x on Southwest purchases
  • 2x local transit, commuting, and rideshare costs
  • 2x internet, cable, phone, and eligible streaming services
  • 1x on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $75 Southwest travel credit
  • Up to 4 upgraded boarding positions every year
  • Earn 7.5k Rapid Rewards Points each year on your card anniversary

Annual Fee: $149

Southwest®  Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

Current Welcome Bonus: 60,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months from your account opening.

Favorite Card Features:

  • 3x on Southwest purchases,
  • 2x on rental cars and hotels booked through Southwest's partners
  • 2x on rideshares
  • 2 EarlyBird Check-ins per year
  • No foreign exchange fees
  • Each year on your card anniversary, earn 6,000 Rapid Rewards points.
  • Use Rapid Rewards points to fly anywhere Southwest flys including Hawaii, Costa Rica, the Caribbean, and Mexico.

Annual Fee: $99

Southwest®  Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

Current Welcome Bonus: Earn 80,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months of your account opening.

Favorite Card Features:

  • 4x on Southwest purchases
  • 3x on Rapid Rewards Hotels and Car partner bookings
  • 2x on Rideshares
  • 2x on internet, cable, and cell phone costs, as well as advertising purchases for social media and search engines
  • Perks include a Global Entry fee credit and 4 upgraded boarding positions
  • Get 9k Rapid Rewards points each year you renew your card

Annual Fee: $199

The welcome offers for the Southwest cards change throughout the year. Depending on the offer you qualify for, you’ll have earned or will be close to earning the Southwest Companion Pass if the points are earned within the same calendar year.

Remember, you’ll also earn points on the purchases that go towards meeting the minimum spend.

Lastly, Southwest Rapid Rewards points can also be earned by:

  • Using your credit card for everyday spending.
  • Shopping through the Southwest Shopping Portal.
  • Taking advantage of Southwest’s home and lifestyle partners, including booking hotels through Southwest.
  • Referring a friend for a Southwest Credit Card.

Do all Southwest Rapid Rewards Points count?

Southwest Airplanes at Phoenix AIrport

No. 

Southwest is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, but transferring Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest will not count toward earning the Companion Pass.

Southwest also no longer allows hotel points to be transferred and used to earn the Companion Pass.

In addition, points that are purchased, gifted, or transferred from another Rapid Rewards account don’t count toward the 135k points either.

This also means you can’t get 1 of the Southwest credit cards while your spouse gets another. The Southwest Points transferred from one account to another won’t go toward the Companion Pass.

Lastly, beware of Rapid Rewards point bonuses offered in the Southwest shopping portal or by a lifestyle partner.

For example, let’s say the Southwest shopping portal is offering a seasonal bonus for spending a specific amount of money during a promotional period.

The points earned from shopping regularly will count but the bonus points won’t.

Similarly, Rapid Rewards points regularly earned from a lifestyle partner will count but any promotional bonus points won’t.

Are the Southwest Cards subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule?

White chalk stick on greenboard and list of rules, top view

Yes.

If you are over 5/24, you won’t be approved for the Southwest credit cards. Southwest business cards don’t add to your overall 5/24 count but are still subject to the rule.

If you’re a points and miles beginner, this is why it’s important to understand the first 5 travel rewards credit cards to get.

If you’re at 4/24 and would like to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, apply for a business card first.

If and when you’re approved, the card won’t be added to your new card count for the last 24 months, leaving you a slot for a Southwest personal card.

I always recommend waiting at least 30 days between Chase credit card applications.

What’s the biggest Companion Pass mistake to avoid?

Important date circled in red on a calendar

It’s all about the timing.

Ideally, you want to earn the Southwest Companion Pass at the start of a new year to maximize the amount of time you have the pass. In order to do this, all 135k Southwest Rapid Rewards points you earn must post to your account in the same calendar year.

For example, if you’re trying to earn the Companion Pass for 2023-2024, you need the Rapid Rewards points to post to your account in 2023 and preferably at the start of the year.

By doing so, you’ll have the Companion Pass from the date you earn it in 2023 through the end of 2024! That’s nearly 2 full years of free travel for a companion.

If you apply for the Southwest Credit Cards at the end of the year, make sure you don’t meet all the minimum spend until after the new year.

If you do, it could mean earning the Companion Pass for significantly less time or not at all if the point bonuses end up posting in 2 different calendar years.

What happens to the 135k Rapid Rewards Points after you earn the Southwest Companion Pass?

Playa del Carmen Mexico

The 135k Rapid Rewards Points are not exchanged for the companion pass. You aren’t trading the points in for the companion pass!

You can redeem those points for award flights for yourself while your companion flies free with the pass!

Simply use your Rapid Rewards points to book a flight for yourself (or pay cash if you want). Then, look for the “Add Companion” option on your itinerary.

You can add a companion right up until flight time as long as there’s a seat available on the plane. If booking over the phone, just tell the agent you’d like to add a companion to your itinerary.

ProTip: You can book Southwest flights through the Chase Travel Portal by calling and paying with Ultimate Rewards points or cash. Either way, the booking will look like a cash booking and will earn Southwest points. After completing the reservation, log in to your Southwest account to register your itinerary and then add your companion.

Where does Southwest fly?

Southwest Route Map
Credit: Southwest Screenshot

Southwest is primarily a domestic airline but has also expanded to places like Belize, Cabo San Lucas, Costa Rica, and Grand Cayman. They even fly to Hawaii and between Hawaiian islands.

With the Companion Pass, Southwest’s route map is your oyster!

You’re not limited to only domestic destinations. Whether you want to visit the Utah National Parks or explore the jungles of Costa Rica, Southwest Airlines can get you and your companion there!

ProTip: Southwest flights are also great positioning flights. If you’re looking to use your miles and points to fly to Tokyo and the only award availability you’re seeing is from Los Angeles, a flight from your home airport with your companion on Southwest could be a very inexpensive way to position yourself at the airport you need.

Bottom Line

The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the best deals in miles and points!

If you’re planning to travel domestically or to Southwest’s sunnier destinations in Mexico or Central America, earning the Southwest Companion makes a lot of sense.

So, in the words of Southwest, “Wanna get away?”

Pack your bags with your essential travel gear and your favorite travel shoes, grab your companion, and get away!

Are you trying to earn the Southwest Companion Pass?

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12 thoughts on “The Southwest Companion Pass: What Is It & How to Earn It”

  1. I am Canadian, so sadly this doesn’t work for me but it sounds amazing! Canadian airlines could really take a hint from American (and European and Asian) flight companies. I’d love so see some deals and credit promotions for us where you only need to worry about paying the tax!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      I know, Hannah! Such a tease for non-U.S. residents! Definitely, check out some of the Canadian travel hacking websites. The offers might not be as lucrative, but there are some good deals to take advantage of! 🙂

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      So funny, Erin! Good thing for Southwest’s bag policy, then! The companion pass is the gem of all travel hacking gems!

  2. Thank you for sharing! I’ve flown with Southwest and it is always a pleasant experience. Like Hannah, I’m a Canadian so I’m probably not eligible, but it’s always nice to dream (and hoard information to share with my American travel-loving friends)!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for commenting, Mary! I’ve had good luck with Southwest, too. Unfortunately, you’re not eligible but do share with your friends from the U.S. 🙂 They’ll love you forever!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      It is so good. I can’t deny it, Anne! I’ll wish for you he Brits import this!

  3. My CP expired Dec 2018. My Chase SW cards are about 2 years old. Should I cancel and reapply again later this year around October or November; then want until Jan 2020 for the spend to register for the CP?

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Guy. Yes, I would cancel and then look to get the cards again in November or December of 2019. Make sure all spend registers in early 2020 and you’ll be good. 🙂

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