When it comes to domestic travel, the Southwest Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program is consistently rated as one of the best – and for good reason.
First, Southwest’s rewards system is mostly fare-based, which means you can snag a good deal when flights go on sale – even if you pay with points. And second, Southwest offers award flights with no blackout dates or capacity controls, making it much easier for large families to score seats on the same flight.
But Southwest offers another major frequent flyer perk that not everyone knows about – the Southwest Companion Pass. In short, the Companion Pass allows you to book a free flight for your travel companion – even if you pay for yours with points. And you can use it every time you fly together, scoring free flights over and over again for more than a year while the pass is valid. Here’s how it works.
How to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass
When it comes to Southwest’s frequent flyer program, the Companion Pass is the highest status anyone can earn. In order to qualify for the pass, you’ll need to:
- Complete 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year, or
- Earn 110,000 Rapid Rewards points in one calendar year
Once you achieve this status, you’ll be able to keep it for the remainder of the year, the following calendar year. So, for example, if you earned the Companion Pass in March of 2016, it would be valid until Dec. 31, 2017. During that time, you can get a free ticket for your companion — your spouse, child, friend, whoever you bestow the honor upon — every time you travel together. And you can change your “companion” up to three times.
While flying 100 one-way flights in a year is an impossible feat for most people, earning the Companion Pass with points is not all that hard. With a few credit card signup bonuses, you could actually earn the Companion Pass in a matter of months.
The Fastest Way to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass
Unless you travel for business every single week, taking 100 one-way flights in a year may be impossible — and at the very least both time-consuming and expensive. Most people would be better off signing up for co-branded Southwest credit cards and earning the Companion Pass that way. Here’s how you can earn the Southwest Companion Pass in record time:
- Sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card at a time when you can earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
- Use your card for everyday bills and expenses in order to earn at least 1 point per dollar spent.
- Shop through for all of your shopping needs and earn “bonus points.”
- Use your cards to book hotel stays, rental cars, and flights through the Southwest website for additional points.
In the end, you just need to make sure you earn at least 110,000 Rapid Rewards points within one calendar year. Those 110,000 points are enough to help you earn the pass, you can also use them to book flights.
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card: What You Need to Know
If you mostly fly within the United States, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card should be in your wallet. Not only do you earn two points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases with the card, but you also earn one point per dollar on everything else.
The points you earn can be used to book award flights all over the United States. But that’s not all; you can also use points to travel to Southwest’s new Caribbean destinations. As of 2014, Southwest picked up routes to warm, tropical hotspots like Punta Cana, Nassau, Montego Bay, Cancun, Aruba, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, and San Juan.
- Related: Best Airline Cards of 2017
Please Note: The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is currently unavailable through this site.
Another Way to Earn Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
If you’re looking for another way to rack up Southwest Rapid Rewards points, you can also sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. With this card, you’ll earn Ultimate Rewards points that transfer to the Southwest Rapid Rewards program at a 1:1 ratio.
- Related: Best Travel Credit Card for 2017
Even though points you transfer won’t count towards the Companion Pass, they can be used to boost your point balances and book more free travel. Here are some details for this card:
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
The Bottom Line
If you want to earn as much free domestic travel as possible, the Southwest Companion Pass should be on your radar. Because, with the pass, your “companion” flies free – over and over again, and even if you pay for your own flight with points. No matter how you look at it, that’s a pretty sweet deal.
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