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Now that we’re into 2022, you might be convinced that you’ve missed out on the opportunity to earn one of the most valuable points and miles perks in the hobby—the Southwest Companion Pass. But fear not, my friends. Let’s dive into why you haven’t squandered your opportunity for heavily discounted flights for you and a buddy.

What is a Southwest Companion Pass?

The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass might be the most rewarding perk in the points and miles game. It allows you to bring a companion onboard any Southwest flight for almost free. You just pay the taxes and fees associated with their tickets (starting at $5.60 each way).

There aren’t any restrictions on when you can use the pass, but there are a few guidelines on how you can use it. 

  • Valid on both cash and award tickets
  • No blackout dates
  • Valid on any fare class as long as there is an available seat
  • Can’t start a companion chain (no plus one for your plus one)

There are some restrictions on who can be your companion (although it’s still incredibly flexible). You can change who your companion is up to three times throughout the year, so technically you could have a total of four different people join you as your companion. However, it does count as a change if you start out with person A, switch to person B and then switch back to person A, so keep that in mind when booking.

To give you an idea of how valuable this perk really is, let’s apply some class points and miles math.

Southwest Rapid Rewards points are worth about 1.4 cents. You need 125,000 points to earn the Companion Pass, so those points alone are worth about $1,750. Because the Companion Pass allows you to bring a friend for just the cost of taxes and fees, we can safely double this value to $3,500.

The Companion Pass becomes even more valuable when you take into account that it works on both cash fares and reward flights. Beyond the value of the points needed to earn it, the Companion Pass becomes as valuable as you make it. The more often you fly on Southwest with a companion, the more you’ll save.

The Basics of Earning the Southwest Companion Pass

To get your hands on the Companion Pass, you need to earn 125,000 qualifying points or fly 100 one-way qualifying flights booked with Southwest Airlines within one calendar year. Earning the 125,000 points is going to be the most realistic option of earning the perk unless you travel frequently for work on Southwest. The easiest way to earn enough points to qualify for the pass is by applying for the Southwest credit cards.

The reason you’ll often hear those in the points and miles community call the months between October and January “Companion Pass season” is because the welcome bonuses on the Southwest credit cards are higher, and the best time to earn all your points is the beginning of January.

Once you’ve earned your Companion Pass, it’s valid for the remainder of the year you earned it in and for the following year after. So, earning the benefit in January 2022 gives you nearly 24 months of usage vs. earning it in December 2021 where you only get 13 months of usage. 

We’re at the end of January now… The welcome bonuses have decreased… Is all hope for the Southwest Companion Pass lost if you haven’t started yet?

Nope! Here’s how you can use the current welcome bonuses to earn yourself this coveted perk.

The Strategy to Earning Companion Pass Successfully

Chase and Southwest offer a combined total of five personal and business credit cards. Below are the current welcome bonuses. 

Credit cardWelcome offer
Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card80,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first three months of account opening
Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card60,000 points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of account opening
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first three months of account opening
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first three months of account opening
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card 40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first three months of account opening

You should be aware of a few rules that determine your eligibility to earn the bonus on these cards. For example, you won’t receive the points if you have earned a bonus on another Southwest personal credit card in the past 24 months AND if you cannot currently have an active Southwest personal credit card. This applies to the three Southwest personal cards (Premier, Plus and Priority).

However, this rule doesn’t apply to the Southwest business cards. You can have both of the business cards or one business and one personal card at the same time and earn both bonuses. 

With these rules in mind, here’s the first strategy for earning the Companion Pass post-January.

Apply for One Business Card and One Personal Card

Start by applying for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card. Although you can start with the personal card, business cards can be trickier to get approved for, so we recommend starting with this business card to knock the more difficult part out first.

This is also a good way to know whether you’ll be able to execute the strategy. If you don’t get approved for the business card, then unfortunately earning the Companion Pass is off the table. If you’re approved for the business card, you’ll earn 85,000 Rapid Rewards points after the welcome bonus and meeting the $5,000 minimum spend.

The next step is to apply for one of the Southwest personal credit cards. Either one will earn you 41,000 points after meeting the $1,000 minimum spend and earning the welcome bonus. The card you choose depends on the annual fee you’re comfortable paying (ranging from $69 to $149) and the perks you value like EarlyBird Check-In, upgraded boardings and travel credits. 

With these two cards in your wallet, you will be able to earn a total of 126,000 Rapid Rewards points after meeting the minimum-spending requirements, which is more than you need to earn the Companion Pass, so you’re golden!

Apply for Two Business Cards

Our second strategy involves applying for two Southwest business cards. This strategy can come in handy if you’ve had a Southwest personal card too recently to qualify for the welcome bonus. Having one business card doesn’t impact your eligibility to be approved for the other, but you are limited to one bonus from each specific card every 24 months. 

With the 80,000 points offered by the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card and the 60,000 points offered from the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card, you’ll have already earned more than the 125,000 points you need for the Companion Pass. Including the points you’d earn on the minimum spend, you’d have a total of 148,000 points. 

Final Thoughts

Just because you might have missed the most opportune time to earn the Companion Pass when you would get almost a full two years of use out of it, doesn’t mean you should give up on earning it completely.

The Companion Pass is one of the best perks in the game for a reason and just because you might only have it for a year and a half rather than two years doesn’t devalue it enough to give up. With the strategies we’ve outlined, you could be well on your way to flying you and a friend on multiple Southwest flights for just the cost of taxes and fees.