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It’s that time of year again–the best time to start earning the Southwest Companion Pass! This pass lets you designate a companion to fly FREE with you (+ taxes and fees) on any Southwest flight you book–paid or reward flights– and this includes their international flights.
You need to earn 125,000 Rapid Reward points (this was increased from 110,000 points in 2020) to earn the pass. Once you earn the Southwest Companion Pass, it is valid for the remainder of that year PLUS the entire following year.
So earn it in the beginning of the year and your pass will be valid for almost TWO YEARS. You can also change your companion 3 times/year you have the pass.
For example, if you were to earn the pass by March of this year (2020), your companion pass would be good for the rest of 2020 AND all of 2021.
This is the third year I’ve earned the pass and it is the most valuable travel tool for our business. It has saved my sister and I thousands of dollars each year in flights. We have gone everywhere from New York to Hawaii (ALOHAAA) using our pass.
HOW TO EARN A SOUTHWEST COMPANION PASS
You need to earn 125,000 qualifying Southwest points or 100 qualifying Southwest flights in a calendar year to earn a companion pass.
Unless you consistently travel for work and fly somewhere once a week, it will be difficult to meet the 100 flights in a calendar year requirement. For our business, earning the 125,000 points is the best way to go.
These are the different steps I’ve taken to earn the pass (and no, you do not have to spend $125k to earn the 125k 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 [*promotional offers subject to change]:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus, Premier or Priority Credit Card: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. Plus, earn 35,000 after you spend $5,000 on purchases within your first 6 months of account opening. (That’s a total of 75,000 points towards your pass right there!). Annual fee ranges from $69-$149.
- 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.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card: Earn 70,000 points when you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. $199 annual fee.
The quickest way to earn a pass is to open up a personal Southwest Rapid Credit Card (40,000 bonus points) and a Southwest Rapid Rewards Business Credit Card (60,000-80,000 bonus points) for a total of 100,000-120,000 points. Bam—you’ve just about earned your companion pass!
This does, however, require you to open two credit cards at once and spend a minimum of $9,000 in the first 6 months (assuming you opened the cards at the same time).
Depending on your personal credit score and business/finance situation, this might not be a feasible option. However, if you do have your own business and/or are expecting to make any large purchases in the near future, these are credit card options to look into.
Also to note, 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.
In my case, I opened up a business credit card (the first year only) 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. 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 125,000 points through hotel bonus points! In fact, this is how I earned my companion pass in 2018 for 2019.
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 an extra premium to earn even more points. In this case you can earn 48,000 points for your stay. This is a great option if you need to quickly earn some extra points before the end of the year.
In my experience, almost all points from my hotel stay were deposited within days after I checked 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 25,000 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 my Miami hotel example, 40,000 points was the best offer I found, but after searching a different time, 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 the value you are get from those RR points and the added bonus of working towards your companion pass status.
Consider: 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 the extra $1,000 could save you a lot more than $1,000 in the long run.
STEP #3: EARN BY FLYING SOUTHWEST
Let’s say you booked the W hotel for your Miami trip and earned 40,000 points for your stay. You also opened the Southwest Plus credit card and earned 75,000 points. That puts you at 115,000 points.
In addition, you would have also earned 2,000 points (1 point per dollar spent) from spending the required $2,000 after opening the credit card and 4,400 points booking the W hotel with your Southwest credit card (2 points/$1 spent on Southwest purchases, so $2,200 x 2 = 4,400) .
This would put you at a grand total of 121,400 Rapid Reward points! That means you only have 3,600 points left to earn!
You can earn your remaining points needed by simply using your Southwest credit card on everyday purchases or by booking flights on Southwest.
For a flight from SFO to FLL for your Miami trip, you would have easily earned the rest of the points needed to reach 110k.
STEP #4: USING YOUR 125,000 RAPID REWARD POINTS
Let’s not forget that in addition to earning the Southwest Companion Pass, you will have also racked up 125,000 Southwest points!! You can use these points to book reward travel AND use your companion pass.
And great news, Southwest just recently changed their policy so your RR points do NOT ever expire! If you are a frequent flyer or credit card holder, this issue wouldn’t really apply to you however. But our family did stop using Southwest for a few years and my parents lost a bunch of points. So this will no longer be an issue–woohoo!
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section below!