Last year I wrote a blog post about how to earn the Southwest Companion Pass (I have now earned my second companion pass!). This pass lets you designate a companion to fly FREE with you (+ taxes and fees) on any Southwest flight (including their international flights–hello Bahamas!) and this pass can last up to TWO YEARS and you can change your companion 3 times/year you have the pass.
Once you earn the Southwest Companion Pass, it is valid for the remainder of that year PLUS the entire following year. For example, if you were to earn the pass by March of this year (2019), your companion pass would be good for the rest of 2019 AND all of 2020.
So the earlier you can earn the pass, the better value you get out of it.
Limited-Time Promotion: Earn the Southwest Companion Pass in One Step
The best time to earn the Southwest Companion Pass is in the beginning of the year (that’s now!). Currently, Southwest is running a limited-time promotional offer where you can earn earn a companion pass in ONE STEP: open a Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority, Premier or Plus credit card and spend $4,000 within the first 3 months. The companion pass can be used until December 31, 2019 AND you will earn 30,000 Rapid Reward points.
Earn 110,000 Rapid Reward points and your companion pass will then be good for this year and the entire following year. (The 30,000 sign-up bonus will count towards the 110,000 points needed so you will need to earn 80,000 more Rapid Reward points by the end of the year to extend the life of your companion pass).
How to Earn a Southwest Companion Pass Without The Limited-Time Promotional Offer
You need to earn 110,000 qualifying Southwest points or 100 qualifying Southwest flights in a calendar year to earn a companion pass. (Read more about qualifying points on Southwest’s website here).
Unless you consistently travel for work and fly somewhere once a week, it will be pretty difficult to meet the 100 flights in a calendar year requirement. In my opinion, earning the 110,000 points is the best way to go.
These are the three steps I took to quickly earn a pass (and no, you do not have to spend $110k to earn the 110k points!).
Step #1: Open Southwest Credit Card(s)
1. Open a Southwest Credit Card: There are three credit cards offered that have Rapid Reward sign-up bonus points that count towards the companion pass (*note: these sign-up offers are not available during the limited-time promotion except for the business card which is not part of the companion pass promotional offer):
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card: Earn 50,000 points when you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. $69 annual fee.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card: Earn 50,000 points when you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. $99 annual fee.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card: Earn 60,000 points when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. $99 annual fee.
The easiest way to earn a pass is to open up the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card (50,000 bonus points) and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card (60,000 bonus points) for a total of 110,000 points. Bam. Easy peasy.
This does however, require you to open two credit cards at once and spend a total of $5,000 in the first 3 months (assuming you opened the cards at the same time). This is not always an option for everyone depending on your personal credit score situation, the number of credit cards you have opened (Chase has a 5/24 rule–in other words if you opened any 5 credit cards in the past 24 months your application will most likely be denied), your budget, etc.
I only opened up a business credit card and earned the remaining points with step #2.
Step #2: Book Your Hotel Through Southwest.com to Earn Rapid Reward Points
Forget ever booking a hotel through Expedia again because you can snag some really great bonus point deals booking through Southwest.com (which also means free flights)!
If you have upcoming trips you are planning, this is a great way to start earning a companion pass. And you don’t need a Southwest credit card to earn points–you just need to have a Rapid Rewards account which you can sign up for free.
Depending on how many trips you are planning, you could even earn all 110,000 points through hotel bonus points! In fact, this is how I racked up 110,000 Rapid Reward points last year, earning my second companion pass.
Let’s say for example you are planning a trip to Miami in May. You could book the Loews Miami Beach hotel for $1,996 and earn 3,992 points OR you could book the W South Beach Hotel for just a little more and earn 40,000 points for your stay!
Also to note when selecting your room, some hotels will have special offers where you can pay a little premium to earn even more points. In this case you can earn 48,000 points for your stay. And it’s awesome because the points are deposited into your account within a few days after you check out.
This is something to keep in mind because it matters when the points are deposited into your account. If you have 100,000 points on Dec.31st and 10,000 points are deposited into your account on Jan.3rd, you will not have earned the pass because a new calendar year started and your progress towards earning the pass would have been reset to 0. (Note: you will still have the 100,000 points you earned but your progress status will be reset). This can all be tracked under My Account on Southwest.com.
For the hotel bonus points, you will want to keep on eye out for the deals because the bonus points do change constantly. In fact, I pulled the Miami hotel as an example from my post last year, and when I was recently looking at booking another trip to Miami (clearly a favorite place of mine lol) I found this offer for 70,000 Rapid Reward points!
You will find that most of the bonus points are for the pricier hotels, but something to consider is both the value you are get from those RR points and having it help you earn a companion pass.
Perhaps a less expensive hotel would come out to $1,000, but if spending the extra $1,000 earns you 48,000 Rapid Reward points (which roughly equates to $700 in Southwest flights) AND earns you enough points to get the companion pass, then spending that extra $1,000 will most likely save you a lot more than $1,000 in the long run.
Step #3: Earn by Flying Southwest
So let’s say you booked the W hotel for your Miami trip and earned 48,000 points for your stay. You also opened the Southwest Plus credit card and earned 50,000 points. You would then be at 98,000 points plus you would have earned 2,000 points from spending the required $2,000 after opening the credit card and 4,558 points by earning 2 points per $1 spent by booking the W hotel with your Southwest credit card. This would put you at a grand total of 104,558 Rapid Reward points! That means you only have 5,442 points left to earn!
You can earn your remaining points needed by simply using your Southwest credit card, or by booking some flights for your trips. For a flight from SFO to FLL for your Miami trip, you would easily earn the rest of the points needed to reach 110k. If you were solely trying to earn all 110,00 qualifying points by flying, you would need to spend $18,333.33 on Wanna Get Away fares or $9,166.67 on Business Select fares according to The Points Guy. So not the best way to go about earning all your points if you don’t typically fly $18k worth in a year.
Let’s not forget that in addition to earning the Southwest Companion Pass, you will have also racked up 110,000 Southwest points!! You can use these points to book reward travel AND use your companion pass. With the 110,000 points we earned, I was able to book the following trips: San Jose to Denver (for our Aspen trip), San Jose to New England (for fall), San Jose to Portland, San Jose to Palm Beach, Palm Beach to Cancun, and San Jose to Washington D.C. And we still have enough points for one more trip. The only cost for all those flights were the taxes and fees (~$100!).
If you are planning any trips for the remainder of the year, now is the time to start working towards earning your Southwest Companion Pass or keep this benefit in mind to start earning early next year!