The best credit card pairings to earn the Southwest Companion Pass
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with a new limited-time offer that covers Southwest Airlines’ three consumer credit cards. It was originally published on July 3, 2019.
BOGO is a great term, especially when it comes to travel — because travel is (almost) always better with a buddy. There are other travel-related companion tickets and fly-a-friend promotions out there, but none of them are as all-encompassing as the holy grail of buy-one-get-one-free — the Southwest Companion Pass.
Like a trip to Paris, the Southwest Companion Pass is always a good idea But it’s an even better idea when there are creative ways to make it happen without flying on many, many paid Southwest flights — for example, you could get well-timed Southwest credit card sign-up bonuses. With Southwest sign-up bonuses as high as 75,000 points on consumer cards right now, let’s review the best credit card pairings to earn the Companion Pass as soon as possible so you and your travel buddy can get up in the air.
Earn Up to 75K Bonus Southwest Rapid Rewards Points
Here’s the current lineup of Southwest personal credit card bonus offers.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card: Earn up to 75,000 points; 40,000 points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months account is open. Plus, earn an additional 35,000 points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first six months account is open. — $149 annual fee.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card: Earn up to 75,000 points; 40,000 points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months account is open. Plus, earn an additional 35,000 points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first six months account is open. — $99 annual fee.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card: Earn up to 75,000 points; 40,000 points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months account is open. Plus, earn an additional 35,000 points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first six months account is open. — $69 annual fee.
And here are the small-business card bonus offers.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card: 70,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months and 9,000 Rapid Rewards points awarded after each account anniversary — $199 annual fee.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card: 70,000 points when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months and 6,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points awarded after each account anniversary — $99 annual fee.
Easy math shows that earning the sign-up bonus from any Southwest personal card plus any Southwest small business card in one calendar year will get you at or close to the magical 125,000 Companion Pass-eligible point threshold.
Get This, Not That
As simple as using a Southwest Companion Pass might be (and it really is), choosing which Southwest cards to get in order to earn the pass isn’t quite as easy because of the fine print.
Basically, the three Southwest personal cards all have a term that says you cannot currently have any personal Southwest credit card and you can’t have been a previous cardholder who received a bonus for being a new cardmember in the last 24 months. In addition, you also must have fewer than five new personal accounts across all banks (as shown on your credit report) in the last 24 months. This is known as the infamous Chase 5/24 rule.
The rules for the two small business cards say that you can’t be a current cardholder of the card you want to get (so can’t have two of the same card) and you can’t be a previous cardholder of that specific card if you got the welcome bonus in the last 24 months. Here’s a visual to go along with all those words:
Essentially, this means that personal Southwest credit cards have no impact on your eligibility for business cards (other than factoring in 5/24) and vice versa. Additionally, having one business credit card doesn’t affect your eligibility for the other. That still leaves several workable combinations.
1 + 1 = Companion Pass
One personal, one small business card
If you’re starting from scratch, any personal Southwest card plus either small business card will get you more than enough for the 125k Rapid Rewards points needed to earn the pass under the current rules. To keep fees as low as possible, you could go with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card ($69 annual fee) and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card ($199 annual fee). Assuming that you hit the spending requirements, that’s a total of 145,000 Rapid Rewards points and more than enough for the Companion Pass.
Alternatively, you could be sure at least one of your cards has some of the better Southwest perks, such as the four yearly A1-A15 boarding passes and the $75 annual credit that comes with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card or the free year of inflight Wi-Fi, four A1-A15 priority boarding passes a year, a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit every four years and 3x points per dollar spent on Southwest as well as Rapid Rewards hotel and car-rental partner purchases. In fact, I think it makes sense that at least one of the two cards you choose has the higher built-in perks, especially since you’ll likely find yourself on lots of Southwest flights with the Companion Pass.
Related reading: Best Southwest Credit Cards for Families
Two small business cards
If you got the 70k bonuses from the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card, you’d be at 130k points, more than enough to get the Companion Pass. Of course, you’d need to have an actual small business to pull this off — here’s some info on that.
With a 70,000-point bonus on the newest Performance version of the small business card, you’re 56% toward the 125,000 points needed to earn a Companion Pass.
Factor in the points you’ll earn on the $5,000 you need to spend on the card to earn the 70k bonus and you’re more like 68% there. Honestly, you may not need two card bonuses in one year to earn the pass, since the card is the only Southwest-branded one that offers 2x and 3x bonus categories.
Even assuming you have no Southwest paid travel or Southwest points earned by any other means, you would only need to spend around $40k on the card the rest of the year beyond the bonus to hit 125k points — which is likely do-able for many small businesses. If some of that spending was on Southwest, social media, internet, cable or phone expenses, then you’ll hit that target even faster thanks to the bonus categories.
Last, but not least, if you earned an automatic promotional Companion Pass for all of 2019 with a special credit card offer available earlier this year, that offer also came with 30,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points. Signing up for this small business card and earning 70,000 bonus points will boost you toward earning the pass again for 2020 too.
Right now there are several great ways to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, and some card combinations will do the trick better than others. Since the pass is good the year you earn it and all of the following year, if you want it in 2020 to head off to Hawaii, the Caribbean, etc., there’s no time like the present.
Featured image by Ryan Patterson / The Points Guy
With the Southwest Performance Business card you'll earn 9,000 bonus points each year after your cardmember anniversary. Southwest also offers one of the most lucrative airline perks - the Companion Pass.
- Earn 70,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
- 9,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
- 3 points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines® purchases.
- 2 points per $1 spent on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable and phone services and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
- 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available
- Inflight WiFi Credits
- Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit
- Employee cards at no additional cost, earn points on employee spending.