This time of year you’d normally be smelling pumpkin spice wafting through the air, but that may be a bit difficult to smell through your mask.

Although you may not be smelling pumpkin spice as well this year, it can only signal one thing: Southwest Companion Pass season.

Getting the Southwest Companion Pass is all about the timing. You don’t want to be too early or too late in order to get the best value you can.

Let’s take a deep dive and cover everything you need to know about earning the Southwest Companion Pass for 2021.

What is the Southwest Companion Pass

The Southwest Companion Pass is a buy-one-get-one-free(ish) ticket on Southwest Airlines for you and your named companion. The best part about it is the Companion Pass has unlimited uses for the year you earn it and the following year.

There are a few more details than that, but that’s the quick overview.

For starters, buy-one-get-one-(ish) ticket for your named companion. The person who earns the companion pass gets to name one person as their companion. When the companion pass holder books a ticket on Southwest, either with cash or points, their named companion gets to fly for free(ish). You’ll only have to pay taxes and fees on their award ticket which starts at $5.60 each way.

When you earn the Companion Pass, you get to choose someone to be your named companion. You can only have one person listed as your companion at a time, but you can change your companion three times a year.

There’s no limitations on the Companion Pass that you’ll find from other airlines. There are no blackout dates, it doesn’t rely on there being low-level saver availability, and it isn’t simply a discount.

As long as there’s an open seat for your companion, they can fly with you for taxes and fees. You could fly to Hawaii 50 times a year, and your companion can come with you for free(ish) for 50 times.

The last part to keep in mind is probably the most important. The Southwest Companion Pass is good for the year you earn it and the following year.

Why is this so powerful? If you earn your companion pass December 31, 2020, then it would be good through December 31, 2021. While one whole year of buy-one-get-one-free(ish) is great, two years is even better. If you earned your companion pass just one day later on January 1st, 2021, then it will be good until December 31, 2022. That’s 366 more days to take advantage of the buy-one-get-one-free(ish) simply by earning it one day later.

If that sounds interesting to you, and it likely does, let’s talk about how you can earn the Southwest Companion Pass.

How to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass

The requirements to earn the Southwest Companion Pass are fairly straightforward. All you have to do is fly 100 Southwest flights in a calendar year, or earn 125,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year.

Get buckled up because if you want the Southwest Companion Pass as early as possible, you’re flying 100 flights on New Year’s Day!

Kidding, of course!

Thankfully, there’s an easier way. Instead of flying 100 flights, we’re going to focus on earning 125,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year without ever stepping on a Southwest flight.

How You Can Earn The Southwest Companion Pass Without Stepping On A Plane

Instead of flying 100 flights, all you’ll need to do to earn the Southwest Companion Pass is earn 125,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year. Now, before you go transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest, let’s dig a bit deeper.

Southwest specifies that points accrued through the following methods count towards your Companion Pass:

  1. Points earned from flying on paid flights booked through Southwest
  2. Points earned from the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards
  3. Points earned from Rapid Rewards partners

This means that you can’t simply buy 125,000 Rapid Rewards points, nor can you transfer the points from Chase. However, Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards are game. And since we don’t want you to have to fly to earn points, and earning from partners can take a long time (and a lot of expenses), we’re going to focus on earning the Southwest Companion Pass using the Southwest credit cards.

Before I go on, I must tell you, read everything before proceeding. There are a lot of small nuances to earning the Companion Pass, so be sure you understand everything entirely before opening any cards.

Step 1: Open a Personal and a Business Southwest Credit Card

Southwest partners with Chase, and has 3 personal credit cards and 2 business credit cards available.

The personal cards are:

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card

Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

LEARN MORE 

The business cards are:

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card

Earn 70,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $25,000 on purchases in the first 6 months.

LEARN MORE 

Unfortunately, it isn’t quite as easy as that. Of course there are some rules we’re going to have to consider.

First things first, you’ll need to be sure you’re under 5/24. If you’re at 4/24, be sure to apply for the business card first.

Second, Chase won’t let you get a new Southwest bonus on any of the personal cards if you currently have one open or if you received a bonus in the past 24 months. This doesn’t apply to the business cards, so you could technically open two business cards to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.

Third, be sure the bonuses are right. Around this time of year, you’ll see the Southwest credit card bonuses start rising. Wait until the bonuses are in the 40,000-80,000 Rapid Rewards range before applying. If you open one card at 40,000 and another at 60,000 you’ll have 100,000 points towards your Companion Pass easily. You may even be at 120,000 points, but right now it is impossible to tell since we don’t know the elevated bonuses yet.

When opening your cards, don’t rush. These bonuses tend to stay around through November or December, sometimes even later. Timing is crucial to get the longest duration of your Companion Pass.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card

Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

LEARN MORE 

Step 2: Meet the Minimum Spends in January 2021

This is probably the biggest area where I see people mess up earning the Companion Pass.

The 125,000 points must be met in a calendar year. Not in a 12-month period, but in a calendar year. That means you have from January 1st, 2020 to December 31st, 2020 to earn it in 2020. If you’re looking to earn it in 2021, any points earned in 2020 will not count.

If you meet your minimum spend too early, your points may post early. You want to avoid this at all costs.

Thankfully, this is pretty avoidable with some care.

First, I don’t recommend adding anyone as an authorized user. Plenty of people have had the best of intentions. “Honey! I used the Southwest Card for gas since I know you wanted everything on the card!”

Trust me, it happens more often than you would think.

Second, don’t rush to apply. If you open your card in the next few days, your window to finish your minimum spend in January shrinks. You’ll only have about a 2 week window to finish the spend. Waiting until the end of October or early November will give you plenty of time in the new year to finish your spend.

Third, don’t get too close to meeting your minimum spend. I recommend spending within about $500 required for your bonus and socking the card away until January 1st. With two cards, you’ll have a few weeks to meet the rest of your bonus spend.

Remember, the bonuses will be the biggest point balances you earn towards your companion pass. Earning them too soon means you’ll either lose an entire year off your companion pass, or you’ll need to make up the 40-80,000 point difference in spending throughout 2021.

Finally, be meticulous. I’m not here to tell you how to manage your finances, but be sure to track how much you’ve spent on your card. Take screenshots of your bonus offer when you apply – you don’t want to think your spend requirement was $3,000 when it was really $2,000.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

LEARN MORE 

Step 3: Earn Any Remaining Necessary Rapid Rewards Points

So, you opened the cards, you waited until January 1st, and now you only have 120,000 Rapid Rewards in your account. How do you earn the rest of the points towards your Companion Pass?

First, keep putting all your spend on the card. Earning the Companion Pass isn’t a race. Yes, some people earn it the first few weeks of January, but most likely you won’t be using it until spring or summer anyway. Use those extra months to keep putting the spend on your card. You’ll still get 18-23 months of availability to use your Companion Pass.

Second, take advantage of Southwest’s earning partners. You can use Southwest’s online shopping portal to earn more points on top of most purchases you make online. Yes, these count towards the companion pass, and yes they will stack with the points earned from your card.

Finally, fly Southwest. If you find a cheap fare you’ll earn Rapid Rewards on your ticket. Save your points for later when you have your Companion Pass (if that works with your points and miles plans).

Once you hit 125,000 points, you’ll see your Companion Pass become available! That’s it! You don’t have to redeem points for it, as you’ll still have all your points available to use.

Speaking of using those points…

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

LEARN MORE 

How to Use the Southwest Companion Pass

Using the Companion Pass is pretty simple.

Remember, the 125,000 points you earned to get your Companion Pass aren’t cashed in. You still get to use them for award flights.

And remember again! The Companion Pass can be used on any flight, whether you’re paying cash or points. That’s 125,000 points you get to redeem and bring your companion with you for free(ish).

Once you’ve earned your Companion Pass, you’ll be able to add your companion to any ticket you’ve booked.

After you book a flight, you can go to “My Account” on Southwest where you’ll see the flight there. You’ll notice in the lower right hand corner the option to “Add Companion.” Simply click this button, fill out the relevant info, pay the necessary taxes & fees (remember, free-ish), and you’ll receive a confirmation shortly that your companion has been added.

FAQs

Here are some common questions that people have, and I’ll provide you with the answers I have!

What is the Southwest Companion Pass Worth?

Southwest Rapid Rewards are usually worth around 1.2-1.4 cents per point. So 125,000 Rapid Rewards points are worth around $1,625 worth of travel on Southwest, give or take a little.

Since you can redeem these for a buy-one-get-one-free(ish), that effectively makes the Companion Pass worth about $3,250.

How do I book a flight for my companion?

To book a flight for your companion you first have to book your own flight. Then, you can go to “My Account” on the Southwest website. By your flight you’ll see the option to “add companion” to your existing flight. As long as a seat is available, your companion can be added.

Do I have to cash in my points for the Companion Pass?

Nope! You get to keep the points in your account. In fact, you can use those points to book flights for free(ish) and add your companion!

What happens if I spend my points before hitting 125,000?

Don’t worry, Southwest keeps track of the total amount of points you earn during the year. You can spend them before earning the companion pass, and once you hit 125,000 points for the calendar year, you’ll see the companion pass in your account, even if you’ve spent some miles before earning it.

Can I purchase 125,000 Rapid Rewards and earn the Companion Pass?

No.

Can I add my Companion to a flight booked with points?

Yes! You can add your companion to any flight you are taking.

If I booked a flight before earning the Companion Pass, can I still add my companion?

Yes you can. Once you earn the Companion Pass you can add your companion to any existing reservation.

Can I transfer 125,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards to earn the Companion Pass?

No, transferred points do not count towards Companion Pass.

TL;DR The Steps To The Companion Pass

For those who don’t want to digest the entire article, or just a quick reference point in the future:

  1. Open both a personal and business Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card in November or December when the bonuses are around 40-80,000 points.
  2. Meet your minimum spend AFTER January 1st, 2021.
  3. Continue spending on the cards, flying Southwest, or earning points from online shopping partners to get the full 125,000 points needed for the Companion Pass.
  4. Choose your companion and start adding them to any flights you want them to fly with you!
  5. Enjoy your Companion Pass for the remainder of 2021 and all of 2022.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card

Earn 70,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $25,000 on purchases in the first 6 months.

LEARN MORE 

Welcome to the Companion Pass Club

That’s it! If you follow these steps, you’ll be on your way to having your Companion Pass solidified for 2021 and 2022. Remember, be patient. Rushing your Companion Pass is the best way to miss out on earning it.

If you want to chat more, or see how the Southwest Companion Pass could fit into your long-term credit card strategy, feel free to book one of our free credit card consultations. We can dive a bit deeper into your personal points situation to find out if the Companion Pass is right for you.