Southwest has a huge network of flights in the U.S. and the ease of redeeming points for flights with absolutely zero blackout dates makes it an ideal airline program for the regular traveler.
What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
The Southwest Companion Pass is a perk that allows you to take your designated companion with you for free on all Southwest flights. This is true whether you pay for your flight with cash like normal, or with points.
You can earn the Companion Pass in one of two ways:
- Fly 100 one-way flights within a single calendar year
- Earn 110,000 Companion Pass-eligible Rapid Rewards points within one calendar year
Since flying 100 one-way flights in one calendar year would be nearly impossible for most people, it is usually much easier to earn the Companion Pass by racking up 110,000 Rapid Rewards points in one year.
Once you earn the Companion Pass, it is good all the way through the end of the next calendar year. So if you were able to earn 110,000 points early in one year, it would be good for nearly 24 months all the way through the 12/31 of the following calendar year. See why this can be so valuable?
The best way to get started on your goal of 110,000 RR points in one year is for one person to sign up for two different versions of the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card during a 50,000 point sign-up bonus promotional period. Or maybe you can take advantage of the rare 60,000 point promotion. It is essential that you remember that one person needs to earn all 110,000 RR points in one calendar year.
There are currently three versions of the card:
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Card
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Plus Card
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Card
Signing up for two of the cards when they each have a 50,000 point bonus will put you at 100,000 total Rapid Rewards points. Then you’ll just need to earn another 10,000 points which can be earned through $10,000 of normal spending on your credit card within the same calendar year to earn the pass. But, how do you earn Rapid Rewards points?
Earning Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
Beyond signing up for the co-branded Southwest credit cards and earning the lucrative sign-up bonuses, there are plenty of other ways to earn Rapid Rewards points. Here are a few of the easiest:
- Put regular spending on the card: Cardholders earn 1 point per $1 spent on all regular purchases made with any Chase Southwest credit card. The easiest and most common way to earn the remaining RR miles is to put some additional spending on your card and this is what we recommend.
- Book hotels or car rentals through the Southwest portal: Booking hotel stays and car rentals through the Southwest portal makes perfect sense if you plan to travel anyway. Bonus: You’ll earn extra points for doing so.
- Shop through the Southwest shopping portal: Southwest has its own shopping portal which allows you to earn extra RR points on purchases you planned to make anyway.
- Transfer hotel loyalty points: Hotel loyalty program points transferred from Hyatt, Marriott, and Club Carlson count toward the companion pass, although the transfer ratio is typically not very attractive.
Once you earn the required 110,000 Rapid Rewards points and they post to your account you have earned the Companion Pass!
At that point you can name a companion to travel with you for free on all Southwest flights while you hold the Companion Pass. Remember, your Companion Pass will be in force for the rest of the calendar you earned it and the next calendar year in its entirety. However, you can only change your companion three times during that timeframe, so it’s important to choose your designated companion wisely!
What is the Companion Pass Worth?
The 110,000 RR miles you earned are worth appoximately $1,500 of free Southwest flights just for you but keep in mind that you get to take your companion with you for free, so it really doubles that value to $3,000!
Even if you don’t use all your 110,000 points by the end of your Companion Pass period, you do not lose them. You would still have use of those RR points like normal — you just wouldn’t be able to bring a companion for free.
The Southwest Companion Pass in Action
My husband and I both earned the Southwest Companion Pass by April of this year. So far, we’ve used it to fly to Las Vegas, Nevada and Orlando, Florida. We’ve also used the pass to book a few trips in the coming months:
Round-trip Indianapolis to New Orleans (2 people)
- Dates: September 18, 2014 – September 21, 2014
- Cost: 14,700 Rapid Rewards points plus $11.20
- Savings: 14,700 points
Round-trip Indianapolis to Denver (2 people)
- Dates: October 22, 2014 – October 23, 2014
- Cost: 11,786 Rapid Rewards points plus $11.20
- Savings: 11,786 points
In addition to those trips, we also plan to take our kids to Montego Bay, Jamaica for Spring Break of 2015. At the end of October, our plan is to each name one of our kids as a companion then book our four flights. As of right now, the flight we’re interested in costs 31,000 Rapid Rewards per person plus $94 in government-mandated taxes and fees. Since we both have the Companion Pass, we should easily be able to book four flights for only 62,000 Rapid Rewards points and $376. Using two companion passes will save us 62,000 Rapid Rewards points just on this one trip.
Why YOU Should Earn the Southwest Companion Pass
The Southwest Companion Pass is a no-brainer for anyone who enjoys traveling within the continental U.S. and the Caribbean. And if you have a spouse or steady travel companion, the Companion Pass can be extremely valuable. Used in conjunction with a healthy supply of hotel loyalty points, the Southwest Companion Pass can even provide an easy path toward a nearly entirely-free vacation (or many). And no matter how many points and miles you have, who can argue with that?
Do you have the Southwest Companion Pass? If so, how have you used it?
Richmond Savers has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Richmond Savers and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.