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How and why I'm earning a limited-time Southwest Companion Pass for just $117.96

Sept. 08, 2021
5 min read
southwest plane
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It's been a minute since there was a hotel or airline loyalty program promotion that was legitimately exciting.

The Hyatt Globalist shortcut promos that stacked nicely in early 2021 were enjoyable, but otherwise, things have been boring and predictable in a world that could use a little more fun.

Southwest Airlines likes to have fun, though, and a new Southwest Rapid Rewards promo not only made me smile, but actually led me to book a flight with Southwest that I otherwise might have flown on another carrier.

It might surprise some to learn that I've never had a Southwest Companion Pass. But thanks to a very limited-time Southwest promotion, if all goes to plan, I'll have a promotional Companion Pass valid for almost two months in early 2022 for just the cost of a $117.96 round trip flight.

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The one trip to a Companion Pass promo

The basics of this fun promo are that you have to register and book one round-trip or two one-way paid (not award) Southwest flights between Sept. 7 and Sept. 9, 2021. You then need to travel on those flights between Sept. 7, 2021, and Nov. 18, 2021.

Once you've done all that, you will receive a limited-time Companion Pass for flights booked and flown between Jan. 6, 2022, and Feb. 28, 2022.

Normally, you have to earn 125,000 Companion Pass-eligible Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year or take 100 qualifying one-way flights to earn the regular Companion Pass, which is valid for the calendar year in which you earn it and the following year. So clearly I'm doing this the very abbreviated way.

There are no minimum spending amounts tied to earning the promo and no blackout dates or a maximum number of times you can use it during its early 2022 validity dates.

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Related: These are the best Southwest Airlines credit cards

(Photo by The Points Guy)

Why I'm taking part in the promo

The short answer is really: Why not?

I had one round-trip flight I needed to book pretty soon to go from Houston (IAH) to Orlando (MCO) anyway, and the options I'd been eyeing on United were around $200. It was actually cheaper to book with Southwest at a mere $118, so even if I don't use the two-month Companion Pass, I'm not out anything extra.

The longer version is I knew that Southwest now operates flights from Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport, instead of just from Houston Hobby (HOU) on the south side of town, I haven't kept up with the nonstop routes flown from this closer to home airport. But, as it turns out, there are a number of routes including not only to Orlando, where I need to go on this trip, but also to Denver (DEN), Chicago (MDW), Las Vegas (LAS), Tampa (TPA), Phoenix (PHX), Nashville (BNA) and others.

And of course, if I am willing to drive a little further south to Houston Hobby, the list of nonstop Southwest routes grows exponentially.

Being able to fly out of IAH will make it easy to earn the Companion Pass. And having all of these destination options in the winter when (pandemic permitting) I'll be eyeing not only a penciled-in ski trip but potentially a warm-weather getaway means I have some good destination choices to use the two-month pass at least a time or two.

(Image courtesy of Denver International Airport)

I don't have elite status with Southwest, but that doesn't really matter since bags fly free and there are no first class upgrades or extra legroom upcharges anyway.

Related: 13 lessons from 13 years’ worth of Southwest Companion Passes

Bottom line

When done correctly, loyalty program promotions can be both rewarding and fun. This promo checks both of those boxes in a big way.

When the pandemic surged last winter, I canceled all my planned January and February travel. If I had taken advantage of last year's version of this promo I wouldn't have ever used the promotional pass. That could happen again this winter, so I don't recommend spending a lot of time or cash to take a flight you otherwise don't need given all the variables in the world right now.

But, it could also be that I will fly in January and February this time around. If that happens, it will be fun to bring along a friend or family member on those trips for just the cost of taxes.

Best case scenario, spending just under $118 on this flight I planned to take anyway will net me bringing someone on a couple of future Southwest for free.

Worst case, I'm not out any more than I would have spent on another airline and I get guaranteed happiness thinking about ways I could use the Companion Pass -- even if it doesn't play out that way.

Featured image by A Southwest plane taxis at Dallas Love Field (DAL) in June, 2021. (Photo by David Slotnick/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.

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TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more