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What Is The Southwest Companion Pass and Who Should Sign Up?

Last updated: July 18,2021
Originally Published: January 17,2020
by Jameson Lamie

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What is the Southwest Companion Pass (R)? I’ve written at length about just how incredible the Southwest Companion Pass (R) is for those looking to travel. I’ve called it the best airline perk in the business, outlined how we were able to earn it, and recently showed just how much value we were able to squeeze out of the Companion Pass back in 2018.

The bottom line for the Southwest Companion Pass (R):  it’s essentially buy one, get one free airfare on Southwest Airlines for you and your identified “companion,” whether that’s a significant other, child, parent, or friend.

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*Tear* One of the greatest days of my life *Tear*

Honestly, I thought Southwest Airlines would keep making it more difficult to obtain the Companion Pass (R).  That’s usually how travel credit cards and frequent flyer programs work – people learn how valuable the points can be, take advantage of the points, then companies devalue the points or rewrite the rules to make them less advantageous.

But to openly give away an airline perk with limitless potential?  It’s almost too good to be true.  

How To Get The Southwest Companion Pass

The traditional way of earning the Companion Pass (R) is to earn 125, 000 Companion Pass Qualifying Points or fly 100 one-way flights per year with Southwest Airlines.

Qualifying points are earned by:

  • Booking flights
  • Earning points issued on Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards
  • Earning points from Rapid Rewards partners
  • NEW: By Opening Up a Southwest Card that has a free Companion Pass (R) as part of its welcome offer!

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View from one of our many flights using the Companion Pass in 2018

Getting A Companion Pass Using Credit Cards

It’s quite difficult to get the Companion Pass (R) if you used the traditional way of earning it. But don’t worry, you can get the pass if you’re able to sign up for this tree Southwest Rapid Rewards card below.

Southwest Airlines partners with Chase bank to offer three different consumer credit cards:

The bonus will basically cut down some of the points you need to get the Companion Pass (R). NOTE: As of 2021 Chase and Southwest is currently offering the Companion Pass (R) as a welcome perk for any of these 3 credit cards + 40,000 welcome points as long as you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months on eligible purchases.

The Rapid Rewards Plus credit card may initially be the most appealing since it’s the cheapest option with a $69 annual fee (which isn’t waived the first year).  It comes with a welcome bonus of 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in your first three months of account opening. In your first year, the card also lets you earn 3x points on dining which includes both takeout and eligible delivery services. There’s also a small anniversary bonus (3,000 Rapid Rewards points) if you keep the card for a second year, and the card passes along foreign transaction fees, so you’d definitely want to avoid using this card while traveling internationally.

Plus, earn 3X points on dining, including takeout and eligible delivery services, for the first year.

For those who travel abroad or make international purchases, the Rapid Rewards Premier could be a better card.  It has a $99 annual fee each year but does NOT charge foreign transaction fees that could easily save you the $30 price difference. This card also comes with a 40,000 welcome bonus but with a larger anniversary bonus of 6,000 Rapid Rewards points. It also lets you earn 3x points on dining which includes both takeout and eligible delivery services.

For everyone interested in the Companion Pass (R), I would highly recommend the new Rapid Rewards Priority card.  It has the largest annual fee ($149), but includes an annual $75 statement credit for Southwest Airlines purchases, 4 upgraded boardings to A1-A15 each year, no foreign transaction fees, 20% back on flight drinks and in-flight wifi, 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases, and an anniversary bonus of 7,500 Rapid Rewards points. You also earn 3x points on dining that includes takeout and eligible delivery services.

Since you’d presumably be flying with Southwest Airlines much more often with a Companion Pass (R), you could easily find the most value in these perks.  The upgraded boardings alone are valued around $20 each, so between the $75 statement credit and $80 value in upgraded boardings, the card’s perks are already worth more than the $149 annual fee.

Who Should Sign Up? 

  • Anyone who travels most frequently with the same person (since switching your designated “companion” has limitations)
  • Anyone living near an airport served by Southwest Airlines (especially their “hubs:” Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Baltimore, Dallas, Phoenix, etc.)
  • Anyone who isn’t impacted by the Chase 5/24 rule (unless you’ve been playing the points game for a few years like us, you’re probably fine)

This is a sign-up bonus that likely appeals to a much wider audience than other credit card offers.  It’s straightforward and limitless; you could seriously fly every single weekend from when you earn your Companion Pass (R).

It’s also a great idea for families.  If a husband and wife BOTH earned the Companion Pass (R), they could add their children as “companions.”  So rather than purchasing airfare for four people, they would only need to purchase airfare for two people.  Which would make a vacation to Disney World much more affordable.

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Taryn’s Companion Pass (R) with me as the designated “companion.”  They send this fancy card, but you don’t need it when booking or flying.

Maximizing Value

You can redeem about 78 Rapid Rewards points per dollar of airfare on Southwest Airlines.  Thus, the 40,000 Rapid Rewards points alone are worth more than $300. That’s a good start and is reason enough to sign up for one of the cards.

But as I mentioned, the Companion Pass (R) is limitless.  Which gives you even more incentive to travel as much as possible while you have it.  One option to earn even more Rapid Rewards points is by also signing up for one of the Chase Sapphire credit cards.  Southwest Airlines is a transfer partner with Chase bank, which means points earned through the Chase Sapphire cards can be easily combined into your Rapid Rewards account then redeemed for travel along with the Companion Pass (R).  I wouldn’t usually suggest transferring those uber valuable Chase points to Southwest Airlines (when you can instead do something like this), but the Companion Pass (R) can more than justify that strategy.

While Southwest Airlines primarily flies domestically, they have also dabbled into the Caribbean and Latin American markets as well.  Some of these designations include Aruba, Belize, Mexico, Jamaica, Costa Rica, and Grand Cayman.  Flights to some of these destinations may be limited to certain days of the week or times of the year, but they offer more options than just domestic trips.  Even better, Southwest Airlines is only months away from flying to Hawaii.  The government shutdown has apparently delayed the final approval, but you could soon use the Companion Pass (R) to fly to Hawaii for half the price.

For any Southwest Airlines reward flights (either using points or the Companion Pass (R)), you’ll still need to pay very modest taxes.  For domestic flights, the taxes are only $5.60 for each one-way trip.  For international flights, taxes can be a little more depending on the destination; taxes on these flights range from $15-$60 for each one-way itinerary.

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Using our Companion Pass (R) to check out another Major League Baseball stadium in Milwaukee.  Only eight more to go!

Low Risk, High Reward

I can’t stress how amazing this offer was back in 2019. We’ve gone on a lot of crazy trips with credit card points, but earning the points and then finding award availability can be time-consuming and difficult.  Not with this offer and not with the Companion Pass (R).  It’s never been so easy to travel so much for free.

Many people are hesitant to sign up for a bunch of credit cards but we always tell our Points Pand travel concierge clients that it’s not something that you should be afraid of because the returns are very high!

In the case of the Companion Pass (R), you can easily obtain the Companion Pass (R) with only one credit card signup and it’s arguably the crown jewel of domestic travel perks.  It’s very low risk with a very high reward. I would highly recommend signing up for one of these three credit cards!

If you or your soon-to-be “Companion” sign up for one of the Southwest cards, I’d love to know!  Send a quick message or email so I can send you a virtual fist bump.

Welcome Offer: 100,000 Membership Reward Points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months of your membership when you sign up for the New American Express Platinum

Special Bonus: Earn 10x on restaurant spend worldwide in the first 6 months of your membership, up to 225,000 additional points, this is in additional to the record high welcome bonus.

Every traveler should have this card in their wallet, and the welcome offer of 100k is the highest offer Points Panda has seen in many years!

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