Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV) is a great airline that offers a great deal for frequent fliers. The Companion Pass, for example, allows you to bring a free companion on every paid Southwest flight, as long as you have at least one paid flight on your itinerary. There are several ways to earn this pass, including credit card membership bonuses, but you can also simply buy credit and earn the pass.
The Southwest Companion Pass is a benefit that lets most frequent Southwest travelers get their miles on more than one companion who also flies Southwest on your companion pass. This article will explain how to apply for a Southwest Companion Pass and earn the miles for up to five people.
Southwest Airlines has a new program to earn frequent flyer miles (and earn frequent flyer status, too). For a few years the airline has been offering, free of charge, a companion ticket for one of each passenger on a round-trip flight. The program is called the Southwest Companion Pass, and you can earn it by using the Southwest Rapid Rewards program with credit cards that offer sign-up bonuses.
CNN . CNN Underscored looks at financial products like credit cards and bank accounts based on their total value. We may receive commissions through LendingTree’s partner network if you apply for and receive a card, but our reports are always independent and objective. Southwest’s coveted Companion Pass is an elite passport that’s almost too good to be true. This pass allows another passenger to travel with you for free (plus taxes) an unlimited number of times during the year the pass is purchased and the following year. So if you buy a passport soon, you will get it before the 31st. December 2022, which means someone can fly with you for 18 months almost for free. And thanks to some incredible Southwest credit card offers, there’s an easy way to earn that rate right now, without even boarding a Southwest flight. How does it work? And should it happen after the pandemic? Let’s take a look at the details and see if the Southwest Companion Pass is for you. The Southwest Companion Pass is truly an unconditional privilege, as there are very few restrictions. With a Travel Pass, you can bring a companion on any Southwest flight for free, plus the cost of taxes and fees, which usually don’t exceed $5.60 per trip for a domestic flight. A basic rule of Companion Pass is that there must be at least one seat available in each fare class on the flight for which you purchased your own ticket with cash or Southwest points. You can change companions up to three times a year (not counting the initial companion), which means you can theoretically make seven people your companion in two calendar years. Traditionally, to earn a pass, you must earn 125,000 eligible points or complete 100 eligible flights on Southwest in a calendar year. These points can be earned in three ways: paid flights booked by Southwest, base points earned at Rapid Rewards partners, and points earned with Southwest credit cards. The latter method is the most important, because the reward points you earn as part of the Southwest credit card signing bonus also qualify for a Companion Pass. This makes it much easier to get a rate card, thanks to the increase in Southwest credit card offers we’re seeing now. And it gets even better: Earlier this year, Southwest added 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points to its frequent flyer account. This means that by 2021, you only need to accumulate 100,000 eligible points to get the pass. Southwest Airlines You will automatically receive 25,000 Companion Pass points in 2021 if you had a frequent flyer account with Southwest by the end of 2020. This bonus comes with a warning: Additional eligible points will only be credited to Southwest frequent flyer accounts (i.e., your Rapid Rewards account at Southwest, not one of its credit cards) opened on or before the 31st of the month. December 2020. So if you’ve never had a Southwest loyalty account and you open one now, you still need to earn the full 125,000 points for the Companion Pass. Currently, a total of five Southwest credit cards – both consumer and business – have sign-up offers for new cardholders to earn a Companion Pass. Here is an overview of each of them:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card: Receive 65,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card: Receive 65,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card: Receive 65,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card: Earn 80,000 bonus points when you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
The first three cards on the list are Southwest personal credit cards – the Southwest Plus card, the Southwest Premier card and the Southwest Priority card. All three of these cards currently have enhanced sign-up offers, meaning you can earn 65,000 bonus points with each of them. Related: Earn 65,000 bonus points with these Southwest credit card offers. One of these personal cards alone won’t get you there, but it can get you two-thirds of the way. After receiving the 65,000 point bonus plus the 2,000 points you receive when you reach the $2,000 minimum spending amount, you will have 67,000 eligible points, which is 33,000 points less than if you had received the additional 25,000 point bonus earlier this year. After receiving your credit card bonus, you can then earn the remaining Companion Pass points by using your newly acquired Southwest credit card for everyday purchases related to Southwest flights and partner activities. Partner activities include online shopping on Southwest’s shopping portal, buying flowers and car rentals. With so many people shopping online these days, you can earn a fair amount of points on the Southwest Rapid Rewards shopping portal. The initial navigation to the purchase page takes a minute longer and ultimately takes you to the same shopping page you would have visited directly, but you get extra points. To make it even easier to get a pass, Southwest recently announced a promotion that allows select Southwest frequent flyer program members to earn an additional 10,000 eligible points just by flying between today and the 31st. The July 2021 flight. To find out if you are eligible for this promotion, log into your Southwest loyalty account and go to Promotions under My Account. But there’s another card on the list that gets you even closer to a card – if you have a small business that qualifies for a business credit card. New cardholders can earn 80,000 bonus points with the Southwest Performance Business card when they spend $5,000 within the first three months of account opening. They will earn a total of 85,000 Companion Pass points – 80,000 bonus points plus 5,000 points for spending $5,000 with the card. So you’re only 15,000 points short of a passport, and if you play between now and the 31st you can earn a 10,000 point bonus in the targeted promotion. For July, you only need to accumulate an additional 5,000 points to fly. Finally, there’s also the Southwest Premier business credit card, but the offer on this card is a bit worse than the others, as you’ll only earn 60,000 bonus points if you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening the account. iStock Use one – or even two – Southwest credit cards to earn the coveted Southwest Companion Pass. If you need another way to earn your remaining Companion Pass eligible points after receiving a sign-up bonus on one of these cards, here’s another option: you can purchase two Southwest credit cards and combine the bonus points from both. The key point is that you cannot apply for two personal cards – the second card must be a business credit card. That’s because Chase, the bank that issues the Southwest credit cards, limits the number of customers who can have a Southwest personal credit card open at the same time. However, at Chase, you can apply for both personal and business cards. Remember, credit cards must be issued to the same applicant – you cannot exchange points between program members. Chase also got a little stricter about issuing credit cards to businesses during the pandemic, although you may have better luck now than some businesses did earlier in the year. Let’s look at this with an example. Imagine applying for a Southwest Plus card and a Southwest Performance Business card. With combined purchases on two $7,000 cards, you can get an instant pass with no flights, surcharges or partner activities. In fact, you get 65,000 bonus points with the Southwest Plus card when you spend $2,000 on it, and 80,000 bonus points with the Southwest Performance Business card when you spend $5,000 on it. A total of 152,000 eligible points – 145,000 points from sign-up bonuses and 7,000 points from purchases you make while meeting spending requirements. That’s enough to get a Companion Pass with or without an additional 25,000 Southwest points. The same calculation works when you combine one of the personal card offers with the cheaper Southwest Premier Business card. If you spend $3,000 on Southwest Premier Business within the first three months of account opening, you’ll earn 60,000 points. Add the 65,000 points earned when you spend $2,000 on either personal card and you have a total of 130,000 points – 125,000 from sign-up bonuses, plus an additional 5,000 points for the $5,000 spent between the two cards. Remember: Since these are Chase credit cards, the Chase 5/24 rule applies to all applicants. Under this rule, Chase will automatically reject your application if you have been approved for five or more credit cards at all banks in the past 24 months. Southwest offers three personal and two business cards, all of which offer signing bonuses. Since there are three different personal credit cards at Southwest, you may be wondering which one is best for you. All three Southwest credit cards earn the same number of points for everyday purchases. You earn 2 points for every dollar spent on Southwest services and Rapid Rewards partner purchases in hotels and car rentals, and 1 point for every dollar spent on all other purchases. Compared to other credit cards that offer rewards, this is not the most lucrative percentage of earnings. CNN Underscored’s credit card, for example, the Citi® Double Cash Card, offers 2% cashback on all purchases – 1% at checkout and another 1% at redemption. Related: Read the CNN Underscored story about the Citi Double Cash card. But even though the interest rates of these cards are not the best on the market, there are significant differences between them that will make you think twice before making your choice. These include annual fees, bonus points for birthdays, travel credits earned, and the ability to buy a better boarding place. You’ll find that the benefits of Southwest Plus, Southwest Premier and Southwest Premier Business are similar. Plus costs $69 per year and Premier (personal and business version) costs $99 per year. The difference between the two is the bonus points you receive each year after paying the annual fee. The Southwest Plus card offers 3,000 bonus points (worth $42 at 1.4 cents per point, which is mostly the value earned on Southwest Wanna Get Away rates) on each anniversary of the card, which is every 365 days from the card’s initial approval. Southwest Premier and Southwest Premier Business offer 6,000 bonus points per ticket anniversary, which cost $84 at 1.4 cents per point. While the Southwest Plus card is the cheaper option in the first year, the Southwest Premier card is better in the long run if you plan to use the card for years due to the bonus points. The Southwest Priority personal card and the Southwest Performance business card are the cards with the biggest differences. Southwest Priority has a much higher annual cost of $149 per year, but the benefits are much greater. Not only will you earn 7,500 bonus points (worth $105) on each card anniversary, but you’ll also receive a $75 travel credit from Southwest and four upgraded boarding passes per year. The $75 travel credit can be used on any Southwest flight – just pay for your flight or taxes with your Southwest card and receive a credit of up to $75. The Southwest Performance Business card has the highest annual fee ($199 per year), but it earns you 9,000 bonus points (worth $126) on each card anniversary, four upgraded boarding passes per year, credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, and credit for in-flight Wi-Fi. You’ll notice that the two most expensive tickets come with an enhanced boarding certificate, which is only available on Southwest, because they handle boarding their planes very differently than most other airlines. There are no assigned seats in the cabin – instead, you will be assigned a seat based on your check-in time. The passengers are divided into groups A, B and C, and each group can contain between 1 and 60 people. Enhanced Boarding Certificates generally allow you to purchase a seat from A1 to A15 (if available) at the gate. This gives you the chance to be one of the first passengers to board and to choose almost any seat, so you’re not stuck in the middle seat at the back of the plane. Enhanced seats generally cost between $30 and $50 each. So if you were planning to buy them anyway, you can value this benefit at $120 to $200. You can even use these certificates for other passengers travelling with you. If you look at all the benefits, you’ll see that the value of the Southwest Priority and Southwest Performance Business cards far outweighs that of the other three cards, both in the first year and every year thereafter. iStock The Southwest Companion Pass can be a great way to save thousands of dollars on family travel. Personally, I have had the Southwest Companion Pass for almost 13 years and it has saved my family tens of thousands of dollars in travel expenses. This pass allows my husband, kids, parents and even friends to travel with me on any Southwest flight I take, just for the cost of taxes. (Domestic charges are $5.60 per trip and international charges depend on the destination). The best part about the Companion Pass is that you can use any Southwest points you’ve earned from your sign-up bonus offers to book tickets – you won’t lose any when you buy a Companion Pass – and then add your companion to your ticket with that pass. This means both passengers travel for free, excluding taxes and fees, doubling the value of the check-in offer. Best of all, it’s the perfect time for these credit card bonus offers. If you buy a Companion Pass as early as possible in the year, you can use it for longer. And if you get the pass in June – which is realistic if you apply for the cards now – that means you will have the pass for almost 18 months. Now that travel is back in full swing, it’s time to grab one or even two of these Southwest credit cards and put them to good use. Southwest personal credit cards: Learn more and apply for the Southwest Plus card. Learn more and apply for the Southwest Premier card. Learn more and apply for the Southwest Priority Card. Southwest Business Credit Cards: Learn more and apply for the Southwest Premier Business Card. Learn more and request the Southwest Performance Business Card. Check out the cards CNN has ranked as the best credit cards of 2021. Get the latest deals, news and tips on personal finance at CNN Underscored Money.The Southwest Companion Pass is a great way to earn points on Southwest Airlines’ flights, without paying full fare. With a Companion Pass, you can fly Southwest as many times as you want during your life, with no blackout dates. Most Companion Passes are good for two years, and can be renewed for an additional year, as long as you keep flying with Southwest.. Read more about southwest companion pass offer and let us know what you think.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get a Southwest Companion Pass with a credit card?
The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most coveted travel rewards programs on the market. And the best way to earn it is by purchasing a card that allows you to earn miles with every purchase. What is a (Southwest) Companion Pass? It’s a companion incentive program, like Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program, where you earn points for every dollar you spend on your Southwest credit card. You can then redeem those points for free flights and other rewards that Southwest offers. With the Companion Pass, you get the full-featured benefits of Rapid Rewards, including priority boarding, elite status, and free checked bags. Plus, your companion can earn (Southwest) points, too. So, if you’re one step away from a Companion Pass, here’s what you need to do.
Do Southwest credit card points count toward Companion Pass?
Last fall, I wrote about the fact that the Companion Pass was now counting Southwest Rapid Rewards points toward the free travel we receive with our Companion Pass. In the post below, I found out two things: (1) the points were not being counted immediately, and (2) they were actually earning more points from the second to the first month. The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is one of the most sought-after award seats available to the general public, as it is 40% more valuable than other award tickets from Southwest and has one of the most flexible expiration dates. This means it is perfect for those who travel frequently for work but do not want to put in a ton of miles to earn the award.
Can you buy a Southwest Companion Pass?
The Southwest Companion Pass is a must for anyone who flies Southwest Airlines – and for good reason. The Companion Pass comes with a lot of perks, including Early boarding, Priority seating, No change fees and No reservation fees. The Companion Pass is one of Southwest Airlines’ most popular perks. Currently, the pass is only available for members of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier and Premier Business Credit Cards. However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. You may be wondering, “How can I get a Companion Pass?”. The answer is actually fairly simple, and it involves purchase, now and then.
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