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The best credit card pairings to earn the Southwest Companion Pass

Feb. 22, 2021
8 min read
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Whether you're talking about shoes, donuts, slushies or flights, BOGO is a great term.

Travel is (almost) always better with a buddy, so being able to take someone along on your flights at almost no additional cost is a huge benefit. There are a few travel-related companion tickets and fly-with-a-friend promotions out there, but none of them are nearly as all-encompassing as the holy grail of buy-one-get-one--almost-free — the Southwest Companion Pass.

Having 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 lots of paid Southwest flights. For example, you could get a well-timed Southwest credit card sign-up bonus and earn it that way instead.

With some limited-time Southwest credit card bonuses available, let's review the best credit card pairings to earn the Companion Pass so you and your travel buddy can get up in the air as soon as you're ready.

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(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

Earn a Companion Pass with one card bonus

Normally, you can't actually earn a Companion Pass with just one card welcome bonus, but right now is an exception to that general rule. For now, you may not need anything more than one card bonus to make the pass a reality.

Here’s the current lineup of Southwest personal credit card bonus offers.

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card: Earn a Companion Pass valid through 2/28/2022 plus 30,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. — $149 annual fee.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card: Earn a Companion Pass valid through 2/28/2022 plus 30,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. — $99 annual fee.
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card: Earn a Companion Pass valid through 2/28/2022 plus 30,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. — $69 annual fee.

And here are the small-business card bonus offers.

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Any of the Southwest personal credit cards will give you a Companion Pass from just the sign-up bonus, after you hit the spending requirement. However, note that the pass from those cards is only valid until February 2022. Normally, a regular Companion Pass earned by reaching 125,000 qualifying points is valid the rest of the year in which it is earned and all of the following calendar year, which right now would push that to Dec. 31, 2022.

So, even if you want the instant gratification of getting a pass from one welcome bonus, there's still some validity in simultaneously working on earning it the "old-fashioned" way by hitting 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year.

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 always straight-forward because of the fine print.

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.

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 to unlock a Companion Pass, even when the current welcome bonus that includes a promotional one isn't available.

Path to the Companion Pass

One and done

It's not common to be able to get a Companion Pass from one welcome bonus, but that's the reality right now with the three personal Southwest cards, so that can be your one-and-done solution for a pass.

One personal, one small business card

If you want to work toward earning the full Companion Pass valid until the end of 2022, then there are some card combos that could help.

If you got any of the Southwest personal cards, such as the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, and spent $5,000 on it in the first 3 months to earn the Companion Pass valid through Feb. 28, 2022, you'd also earn 30,000 bonus points from that bonus.

Assuming you also had an eligible small business, also getting the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card while it has a 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months, may be enough to unlock the full Companion Pass.

Because of the ongoing impact of the pandemic on 2021 travel, Southwest gave all of those who had an open Rapid Rewards account as of Dec. 31, 2020, 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points for 2021. This means you just need to earn 100,000 more Companion Pass qualifying points in 2021 to hit the 125,000 needed for the full pass. The bonus points components of the bonus on those two cards would get you there if you fall into that category of having a 25k point headstart.

As an added bonus, that card actually has some of the best Southwest perks, such as the four upgrading boarding A1 - A15 positions (when available at the gate), 3x points on Southwest Airlines purchases, 9,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points on each cardmember anniversary and up to 365 Inflight WiFi Credits valid on Southwest each year.

Related reading: Best Southwest credit cards

Get extra points to use with Southwest

Points earned from Chase Ultimate Rewards cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve, can transfer to Southwest Rapid Rewards at a 1:1 basis. However, unlike with the points earned from the Southwest branded credit cards, these points do not count toward earning the Companion Pass.

That said, you can use transfer those points to Southwest and have even more Rapid Rewards points at the ready to "pay" for your tickets, and then your designated companion can come along paying just taxes and fees, starting at $5.60 per flight.

Bottom Line

Right now there are several great ways to earn the Southwest Companion Pass without much -- or any -- actually flying. You can easily earn a promotional Companion Pass valid through February 2022 with just one card bonus, or go for the full pass valid all the way to the end of 2022.

Once you've secured the pass via getting one or multiple cards, you and your companion will be ready to head off to places like Utah, Florida, national parks, Hawaii, the Caribbean and beyond.

Featured image by (Photo by Ryan Patterson/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.