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Everybody loves the opportunity to travel for free. Occasionally, airlines offer great deals on flying with your partner or best buddy via a companion pass. Alaska Airlines, for example, offers an annual $99 companion fare linked to their Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card. The Southwest Companion pass, however, is even more valuable. Want to know more about how to earn and redeem the Southwest Companion Pass? We’ll tell you how.

The Southwest Companion Pass is extremely valuable.
The Southwest Companion Pass is extremely valuable.

About the Southwest Companion Pass

Southwest Airlines’ Companion Pass, unlike some other companion fares, is totally free. Well, almost totally free. Taxes and fees must still be accounted for, but those start at only $5.60 for a one-way ticket. That means no flat-rate companion-fares or shelling out an annual fee to take advantage of the privilege. 

What could make a free flight even better? Unlimited free flights for over a year, that’s what. The Southwest Companion Pass doesn’t only allow one free flight for your travel buddy, but as many flights as you like in the time period that it is valid. Once you earn the pass, it is valid for one whole calendar year (January-December) after you meet the requirements plus the remainder of the calendar year in which you earned it.

That means if you earn the pass in May, you can use it for the rest of this year plus all of next year. But it gets better: you can redeem the pass whether you’re paying for your own flight in cash or in miles. So you can potentially rack up all the miles you need for a companion pass, then redeem them for upwards of 10 one-way flights and only pay taxes and fees for your travel and your companion’s.

How To Earn the Southwest Companion Pass

So what’s the catch? In order to earn the Companion Pass, you have to meet a few requirements. The most difficult of which is to fly 100 times in a calendar year. That may seem impossible for anyone who doesn’t travel for business multiple times a month, but fortunately, there’s another way to earn.

Southwest Credit Cards

You can also claim the Southwest Companion Pass by collecting 125,000 miles in a calendar year. That may also seem like a lofty goal, but there are certainly ways to achieve it.

Editor’s Note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Southwest has adjusted requirements for the Companion Pass. Their statement is as follows:

For all Rapid Rewards Members, we recognize that your normal flying behavior has been interrupted, limiting progress you may have been making toward qualification for A-List, A-List Preferred, and Companion Pass. For that reason, we are giving all Rapid Rewards Members a “boost” of 15,000 tier qualifying points and 10 flight credits toward A-List and A-List Preferred status, and 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points and 25 flight credits toward Companion Pass status.”

So essentially, you need to earn 100,000 miles instead of 125,000 miles.

Consumer Credit Cards

New Southwest Airlines credit cardholders can earn 40,000 points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. 

The consumer cards that have this bonus offer include:

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

  • Annual fee: $149
  • Perks: $75 annual Southwest travel credit, four boarding upgrades per year, 7,500 bonus points on your anniversary

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

  • Annual fee: $99
  • Perks: 6,000 bonus points on your anniversary

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

  • Annual fee: $69
  • Perks: 3,000 bonus points on your anniversary

Business Credit Cards

The information for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card has been collected independently by Johnny Jet. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

The information for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card has been collected independently by Johnny Jet. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

For even more points, sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card. It offers 60,000 points if you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months of account opening. It also comes with a $99 annual fee. 

Alternatively, you can sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card. For a limited time, you can earn up to 100,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points. New cardholders earn 70,000 points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. Plus, they’ll earn an additional 30,000 points after spending $25,000 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening.

It also earns:

  • 3 points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines® purchases
  • 2 points per $1 spent on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable and phone services
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

It also comes with 4 upgraded boardings per year (when available) and Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit.

Aside from the Performance Business Credit Card, all of the other cards earn 2x points per dollar on Southwest purchases and 1x point per dollar on everything else. 

Use the cards for all your spending and the points will start adding up. And if you’re up for it, apply for two or more cards for a fast-track approach to the Companion Pass. But if you’ve opened five or more Chase credit card accounts in two years, there’s a chance your application will get declined.

Other Southwest Companion Pass Earning Options

You can also earn points from any flights you take with Southwest. Keep in mind that they award miles based on your fare, not the distance traveled, so more expensive Business Select fares will mean more miles in your account.

Southwest Airlines’ travel partners are also an easy way to earn, though not all of them are eligible. For example, the points you collect from the Southwest shopping and dining portals count toward the 125,000 points, but transfers from Ultimate Rewards (if you also have the Chase Sapphire Preferred) don’t.

Purchased points, points transferred between members, points converted from a hotel and car loyalty programs, and e-Rewards, e-Miles, Valued Opinions and Diners Club points don’t count. Points earned from program enrollment, Tier bonuses, flight bonus points, and partner bonus points do not qualify as Companion Pass qualifying points.

Redeeming a Southwest Companion Pass is easy.
Redeeming a Southwest Companion Pass is easy.

How to redeem the Southwest Companion Pass

Once you’ve earned the pass, the question becomes, how do you redeem it? First, you must log in to your Rapid Rewards account and designate an individual as your companion. They will get a special Companion Pass card. You can even change who your designated companion is up to three times per calendar year if necessary.

After you’ve designated your companion, you must book your flight first. Then go to the My Trips page in your account, find your flights, and select Add Companion. Review the flight information and click Purchase to complete the reservation. That’s all there is to it! Remember, you can pay in cash or points for the initial member fare.

Extra Considerations

You both have to be booked on the same flight on the same day. And any changes made to your purchased ticket will also have to be made to the Companion Pass. That includes upgrades.  

Johnny Jet Editorial
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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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