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My absolute favorite perk in the entire travel industry is the Southwest Companion Pass. It allows a friend or family member to fly with you for free (plus taxes) an unlimited number of times throughout the year. There are hardly any restrictions, and as long as there is just one seat available, you can use your pass. It can really save you thousands and thousands of dollars in airfare, which is why I’ve been a Companion Pass holder for 10+ years.
One of the best ways to earn the Companion Pass is by signing up for Southwest’s co-branded credit cards. Since the sign-up bonus points count toward the 110,000 qualifying points required for the pass, applying for two cards (one personal and one small business) can pretty much earn you the pass.
However, since not everyone is in a position to earn all the 110k points needed in a calendar year from credit cards alone, we’ll look at some other ideas, too.
Top 8 Ways to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass
1. Get a Southwest Credit Card
The bonuses on the Southwest credit cards fluctuate throughout the year, but the bonus points from the cards do count towards the 110,000 you need to earn in a year to trigger the Companion Pass.
Here are the current public sign-up bonuses on the four Southwest co-branded credit cards:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card: 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months. 7,500 bonus Rapid Rewards points awarded each account anniversary — $149 annual fee.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card: 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months. 6,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points awarded each account anniversary — $99 annual fee.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card: Earn 60,000 points when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months. 6,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points awarded each account anniversary — $99 annual fee.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card: 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months. 3,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points awarded each account anniversary — $69 annual fee.
If you are looking to earn the pass for 2019 and 2020 (which I highly suggest), you will not want the points to post until at least Jan. 1, 2019. Do not meet the minimum spend requirement until then! If you meet the minimum spend now, you risk the chance of the points posting in 2018 and your Companion Pass balance gets reset in the New Year. Points typically post just a few days after your monthly statement closes, although I have seen a few reports of it taking slightly longer.
2. Refer Your Friends for the Southwest Credit Card
Many times throughout the year, Southwest will allow current card members to earn 10,000 bonus points for every friend they refer to the card (the friend must apply and be approved using that link). You are typically maxed at earning 50,000 bonus points through this offer, but it is an amazing way to get you almost halfway to earning a Companion Pass.
3. Make Regular Purchases on Your Southwest Credit Card
Your family’s everyday purchases will also count toward the Southwest Companion Pass. If you are able to earn the 104,000 points in 2019 from getting both the personal and business credit card, this will only leave you with $6,000 more to spend to earn the full 110,000 points needed. I suggest putting that spend on your personal card (over the business card), since you need to spend a full $12,000 within the year to earn those extra 20,000 bonus points. Or, if you are only able to be approved for the personal version of the card, you’ll need to spend $50,000 on the card in addition to the total 60k bonus points — which I understand is a lot of money for most families.
Remember, since you want all of the points to post in 2019, you might want to wait to make any purchases on your card until your December 2018 statement closes. All points after that date will count for your 2019 qualifications. Purchases made before this date will count toward 2018 and will be reset in 2019 for Companion Pass purposes — you do not want this to happen.
4. Shop Online
My favorite everyday way to earn points toward the Southwest Companion Pass is by using the Rapid Rewards shopping portal. This shopping portal works just like any other airlines shopping site where you’ll earn bonus points for purchases made online. You just need to start at the shopping portal first before making your purchase.
Let’s say you are looking to make a purchase at Macy’s, where Southwest is currently paying out 4 points per dollar spent. A $150 purchase, for example, will earn you 600 bonus points toward your Companion Pass. Yes, you will still have a long ways to go to earn the points required, but you’d be surprised to see how quickly these purchases add up if you use it on all online purchases made throughout the year. And, right now, you can earn an additional 3,000 points by taking advantage of the Southwest Rapid Rewards shopping portal bonus. Unfortunately though, bonus points earned from these types of promotions are not qualifying points toward the Companion Pass.
One thing to note is that, from what I’ve seen, the Southwest Rapid Rewards site typically does not have high payouts when compared to some of the other airline and cash back sites. Make sure earning point for the pass is worth it as you might be leaving another airline’s miles/points or cash back on the table.
With every paid Southwest flight you take, you’ll also earn qualifying points toward the Companion Pass. While I recommend using your Southwest points if you have them, this might be a time when paying for your flight will be in your best interest. For 2019, or until you earn the pass, consider paying for your flight and then use your points to book your other family members’ tickets.
The number of points you earn on Southwest depends on the fare type purchased:
- Wanna Get Away Fare: 6 points per dollar spent
- Anytime Fare: 10 points per dollar spent
- Business Select Fare: 12 points per dollar spent
6. Book a Hotel Through Rocketmiles
Rocketmiles is a third-party hotel site where you’ll earn a set number of airline miles over the hotel points you’d earn directly with a hotel. The prices are supposed to be the same as the best available rate if you were to book with the hotel directly, although you might not receive elite status benefits if you are looking to stay at a chain hotel. When searching through the Rocketmiles site, you’ll want to make sure to select the “Southwest Rapid Rewards” option in your search criteria. You’ll then see an entire list of participating hotels and the points you’ll earn.
Make sure the rate is comparable to the best rate you’d receive in your location, especially if you are eligible for another discount code, such as AAA. Also note that some Rocketmile bonuses will not count toward earning the Companion Pass.
7. Credit Rental Cars to Southwest
When renting a car, you can almost always opt to earn points or miles with a participating airline or hotel. With Southwest specifically, you’ll earn 600 Southwest Rapid Rewards points per rental with Alamo, Avis*, Budget*, Dollar, Hertz, National, Payless and Thrifty. With Avis and Budget, only participating locations allow you to earn partner miles/points (usually limited to just on-site airport sites). If you need a one-day car rental, pick one of these participating car rental companies, find the cheapest rate available and make sure to select Southwest Rapid Rewards as your airline partner. Note: Some discounted rates (typically corporate rates), do not allow you to earn partner miles or points.
8. Send Flowers
If you need to send flowers to someone, do it through 1-800-FLOWERS. This will earn you 1,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points on every purchase over $29.99, just by using promotion code R22. If you are only 6,000 points shy of earning the Companion Pass, for example, you could send flowers to your six best friends and call it a day. Just wait until 2019 though.
You do not have to earn all of your Companion Pass eligible points from one single method. Figure out your regular spending and travel habits and see how many points you think you’ll be able to earn throughout the year. Ideally, it is best to earn the points as early into the year as possible since that will maximize the amount of time you are able to have someone fly with you for free as the pass is valid through Dec. 31 of the year following when it was earned. So, if the pass is earned in January 2019 or September 2019, it will still expire Dec. 31, 2020.
Of course, all of these points you earn to trigger the Companion Pass will also help you fly on Southwest “for free” on award tickets, so their value extends beyond just earning the pass. What is your strategy for earning the Southwest Companion Pass for 2019 and 2020?
Know before you go.
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