15 days into the New Year and the Southwest Companion Pass is mine. With the pass under my belt, a companion — presumably my husband or one of my kids — will fly with me for free on every single flight I take for the next two years. Well, until Dec. 31, 2021 to be exact. The only additional cost my companion will incur are the taxes (which is only $5.60 per one-way flight domestically; international taxes are more).
Back in the Fall, I put together a strategy to secure the Southwest Companion Pass as early in the year as possible. With a few hiccups and lessons learned, I actually earned the pass a week later than I hoped, but it still worked out okay. My first Southwest flight of the year is taking place in just two days — just in time of earning the pass.
This is now my 12th year of being a companion pass holder which has allowed me to save tens of thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, I never kept track of my true savings, but it has been completely worth it. With Southwest’s flexible change and cancelation policies, Southwest has been the best airline for my family. Not to mention, we can each check two bags for free, including our ski equipment.
Related: Guide to Changing and Canceling a Southwest Flight
How I earned the Southwest Companion Pass
While there are many ways to earn the companion pass, the simplest way is through the Southwest credit cards. Back in the fall of 2019, I applied for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card which was offering a 80,000 point welcome offer at the time. After I applied, Southwest increased the limit to earning the pass to 125,000 qualifying points.
I waited until after my December 2019 statement closed and immediately met the $5,000 minimum spend. On my new Southwest card, I payed off my son’s entire year of preschool tuition, my daughters summer camp and some other expensive bills we had. I also then solely used that card to pay for my daily purchases for the month. This did not get me to the 125,000 qualifying points needed, but it got me close enough.
I was able to top off the remaining amount required by using the Southwest shopping portal. I saved all of my online shopping purchases and went on a shopping spree Jan. 1, 2020. Family members also allowed me to make their online purchases through my account as well. (Tip: Shopping portal points earned post to your Southwest account on Tuesdays every week).
Related: Changing your Chase statement close date
How You Can Earn the Southwest Companion Pass
Since the pass is valid for the year it is earned, plus the entire following year, earning it in the beginning of the year is the best way to receive maximum value. Earn the pass at any point within 2020 and it doesn’t expire until Dec. 31, 2021.
Southwest just increased the welcome offer on all three of their personal credit cards, which makes getting the pass in the near future very do-able. With all three cards you can earn up to 75,000 Rapid Reward points.
All welcome offers and credit card spend count as qualifying points, making it one the easiest ways to earn the pass. Just remember, these are Chase credit cards, so if you are above the 5/24 mark, Chase will not approve you for any of the Southwest credit cards.
Related: Get a Bump in Bonus with the Increased Southwest Credit Cards
Here are a few ways to earn the pass:
Personal Card plus Business Card
While Southwest does not allow you to have two personal cards open at the same time, you are allowed to open up both a personal card and a business card. For example, you can apply for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card plus the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card and earn 75,000 points + 70,000 points for a total of 145,000 points after meeting the respective minimum sped requirements. This will earn you the pass right off the bat.
Another combo could also be the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card plus the Southwest Rapid Rewards Business Premier Credit Card which will earn you 75,000 points plus 60,000 points for a total of 135,000 points — again, immediately putting you over the 125,000 qualifying points needed.
Related: 7 Mistakes Not to Make to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass
Business Card plus Business Card
Since the the business cards are not as restricted, you might prefer to just get both the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards Business Premier Credit Card. This would give you 130,000 points, which again will put you over the amount needed. The pros of going this route is that since they are business cards, they will not count against your Chase “5/24” number. (Keep in mind though that Chase has gotten more strict about approving business cards, so they might ask you to show actual documents of your business).
Personal or Business
If you only want to apply for one card, that will still get you at least half way over the 125,000 point threshold. Depending on the card you apply for, you’ll receive between 60,000 and 75,000 points, plus the points earned from meeting the minimum spend requirement. In this situation, I suggest going for the either one of the three personal cards or the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card as they are offering the highest welcome offer amongst the bunch.
Related: Be Strategic — When to Apply for the Southwest Credit Cards
Once those points hit your account, you are only 45,000 points to 50,000 points shy of earning the pass. While this is definitely more challenging than it used to be, there are many ways to earn additional qualifying points. Remember, you must earn all of the points by the end of the calendar year, as qualifying point balances reset on the first of every calendar year. Note: You do not lose the points towards booking free flights, just the Companion Pass counter goes back down to zero.
I am thrilled that I have earned the pass this early on in the year and that I will continue my streak of being a Southwest Companion Pass holder. Since the pass doesn’t expire until the end of 2021, this will automatically get me the pass for my 13th year as well. I’ve used the pass to fly many friends and family members with me for free and it has truly allowed me to experience more destinations and save a ton of money along the way.
What is your Southwest Companion Pass strategy?
You aren’t the only one! I got it for my wife already too.. Did the business and personal card approach. Got the cards in October, then immediately called Chase and changed my billing cycle to end on the first of each month. Gave me all of December to meet the requirements on both cards. Points hit on 1/2/20. Already have me booked with my wife for spring break and summer. Then we change her companion to my daughter for all her college visits next school year!
Hi, I was wondering if you could answer a question I have for the Companion Pass. Can you confirm that if I book a trip with a friend using my Companion Pass for May, but it is now January…that I cannot book anything with my spouse (or anyone) until after that May trip? So, I’m kinda ‘blocked’ from trips with others if I book well in advance?
@Teresa – You can use it before May, you’ll just have to cancel your May companion for now and then re-book it once your other companions trips are complete. To “save” a seat, just book your companion at the time on that May trip and then cancel/re-book with your new companion when the time comes.