If you’ve ever heard of Southwest Airlines then you probably know that they are known for their outstanding customer service that has made them one of the best airline companies out there. There’s something they offer that I like to refer to as the motherload of all travel rewards, the holy grail if you will. It’s called the companion pass.
Basically the companion pass (CP for short) allows a free ticket for anyone you choose on every flight you take for the entire time that your CP is good for! You go, your friend goes for free! You go, your kid goes for free! You go, your mailman goes for free! Whoever you want gets a free ride alongside of you! And with Southwest now offering flights to so many destinations outside the US the possibilities are endless for your next vacation or trip!
So how do you get the companion pass?
Okay so there are two ways to get the companion pass. The first way is to take 100 Southwest flights within one calendar year and the companion pass kicks in. Yeah right, who besides pilots and airline stewardesses actually takes 100 flights in a year? No thanks, I’ll pass.
So the second, much easier way to attain (and you can actually accomplish without a pilots license) is that once you earn 125,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points within a calendar year then you automatically get a companion pass for the remainder of that calendar year and the entire next year through December31st!
So how do you earn 125,000 points? Great question, follow along…
Okay so first you need to make sure you are in a good financial state and that you don’t have any outstanding credit card debt. You really need to be financially responsible at this point in order for this to work to your benefit. In fact, take a moment here to check out my travel rewards article to make sure you fit the criteria. If so great, keep on reading! If not then work on paying off your debt and come back to this once your financial habits and behaviors are under control, the last thing I would want is to introduce something to contribute to a downward spiral in your financial future.
Okay so if you’re still reading then that means you are ready to take on the world of free travel so congrats! First thing you will want to do is strategize. Meaning you will want to maximize the amount of time you have the companion pass so my advice is to wait until the end of the year to begin the process. You can do this strategy at any time but keep in mind that once you initiate the CP it is good for the remainder of that calendar year and the next year so if you get the CP in November then you will only have about 14 months to use it compared to getting it in March you would have 22 months.
You will want to open up a Southwest Credit Card that earns you a large sign up bonus but you do not want to hit that spending minimum until the beginning of the next year. For example, when we started going for the companion pass we opened up the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premiere Business card which gave us 60,000 points once we spent $3,000 in 3 months from opening the account. We did this in December and it was easy to meet the minimum with Christmas spending and our regular expenses in under 3 months. A few months later in February (after we had met the minimum spend requirements on the first credit card) we then got the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card that gave us a 40,000 point bonus after spending $1,000 in 3 months. This allowed us to hit both those bonuses in the same calendar year (even though we started using the Business card the previous year) and as early in the year as possible (at the time we started this you only needed 110,000 SW points in order to earn the companion pass). The additional points will come from your regular spending to earn points. So for us we earned 100,000 points in the sign up bonuses and then within about 4 months we had spent $10,000 on our regular monthly expenses to add another 10,000 rewards points so we reached the magic number needed. Mind you, we focused on using that one credit card for everything from groceries to bills to insurance and everything else we bought so that every time we swiped we were earning points then paying the balance in full every month. This is totally doable for a lot of people when you look at all your recurring expenses every month, they certainly add up.
You will want to check what card offers Southwest has going on currently since it can and does change. Since it now requires 125,000 points to earn the CP you will need to still spend money on those cards after earning the bonuses ($25,000 to be exact but many purchases come with 2X or more points depending on the category).
As soon as you have reached the 125,000 points from a combination of the sign up bonuses and regular spending you will be issued a companion pass through your SW rewards account.
You can enter the name of who you would like to be your companion online so that when you purchase your ticket you can quickly add your companion ticket after you get a confirmation number. You are also allowed to change your companion up to 3 times in a year so that means you can take your spouse on one trip, take your grandma on another trip, and go back to your spouse if you want. It doesn’t matter who your companion is to SW, they do not have to be related to you so cheers to that!
A few very important things to keep in mind during this process- if you are single and doing this no issue, but if you are married I would recommend not adding your spouse as an authorized user because this counts as an open account for them which Chase bank (who issues the SW credit cards) has a 5 in 24 rule for approving credit cards with them. And if you know anything about travel rewards you know that Chase has the best travel cards available so you want to optimize this by not having too many credit card accounts open in order to take advantage of the other great redemptions available with Chase down the road.
This also means that if you have a spouse you can basically have two-player action and once the first companion pass runs out after 2 years the other spouse can do the same strategy to get the companion pass for another 2 years (another reason to not add your spouse as an authorized user). If you have a big family and big monthly expenses you can also opt to both start the CP strategy at the same time and earn 2 passes at the same time for your family. I would just make sure that you are able to actually meet the minimum spends on all the credit cards before taking this on as it doubles the spending amount required.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Southwest offers a lot of Business cards that come with great sign up bonuses and just because you may not own a “business” does not mean that you cannot apply for these cards. The credit card companies are not the IRS therefore if you do anything or have plans in the future to do anything that somewhat resembles a “business” you can open one and there is nothing illegal with this. A lot of people open up business cards without actually having a “business”. When you apply under the business name just put your name and use your SS number as the TIN number.
Southwest offers quite a few credit cards with these large sign up bonuses however note that you cannot get more than one Southwest personal credit cards at the same time. You also cannot get a second if you already have one of the cards or have received a new cardmember bonus on either card in the last 24 months. This rule does not apply to the Southwest business card though so you can get a personal card and a business card and it will work.
Once you have achieved the coveted Companion Pass you no longer need to keep the credit cards it took to get those if you choose not to (some people do not like to pay the annual fee to keep these cards open). Your SW rapid rewards account is where those points are housed, they are not tied to the credit card account. This is a personal choice on what to do with those cards, many keep them open and continue using them to earn more SW points.
So now you’ve got an arsenal of SW rapid rewards points to book your tickets with and a free ticket for whoever you want whenever you book a flight so free flights all around (aside from a few bucks for mandatory fee charge on each flight)! All with a little strategizing and leg work this gem of a travel reward can be yours! Just be sure to credit card responsibly and pay off the balance in full every month!
If you already have a Southwest credit card and received a new cardmember sign up bonus over 24 months ago then you should be able to close your current card, reapply for a new Southwest card and you should be eligible for the sign up bonus and you can start fresh while still adding to your existing SW rapid rewards points.
The most important thing to remember is that you will need to open 2 credit cards with the new cardmember bonuses (one personal, one business) in order for this strategy to work!
Happy travels and leave me a note if you have any other questions or want to share your experience!