The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass: A Gold Mine of Free Travel

When it comes to domestic travel, the Southwest Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program is consistently rated as one of the best – and for good reason.

First, Southwest’s rewards system is mostly fare-based, which means you can snag a good deal when flights go on sale – even if you pay with points. And second, Southwest offers award flights with no blackout dates or capacity controls, making it much easier for large families to score seats on the same flight.

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    But Southwest offers another major frequent flyer perk that not everyone knows about – the Southwest Companion Pass. In short, the Companion Pass allows you to book a free flight for your travel companion – even if you pay for yours with points. And you can use it every time you fly together, scoring free flights over and over again for more than a year while the pass is valid. Here’s how it works.

    How to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass

    When it comes to Southwest’s frequent flyer program, the Companion Pass is the highest status anyone can earn. In order to qualify for the pass, you’ll need to:

    • Complete 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year, or
    • Earn 125,000 Rapid Rewards points in one calendar year

    Once you achieve this status, you’ll be able to keep it for the remainder of the year, plus the following calendar year. So, for example, if you earned the Companion Pass in March of 2016, it would be valid until Dec. 31, 2017. During that time, you can get a free ticket for your companion — your spouse, child, friend, whoever you bestow the honor upon — every time you travel together. And you can change your “companion” up to three times.

    While flying 100 one-way flights in a year is an impossible feat for most people, earning the Companion Pass with points is not all that hard. With a few credit card signup bonuses, you could actually earn the Companion Pass in a matter of months.

    The Fastest Way to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass

    Unless you travel for business every single week, taking 100 one-way flights in a year may be impossible — and at the very least both time-consuming and expensive. Most people would be better off signing up for co-branded Southwest credit cards and earning the Companion Pass that way. Here’s how you can earn the Southwest Companion Pass in record time:

    • Sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card at a time when you can earn up to 80,000 points. Earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 9 months.
    • Use your card for everyday bills and expenses in order to earn at least 1 point per dollar spent.
    • Shop through Southwest’s shopping portal for all of your shopping needs and earn “bonus points.”
    • Use your cards to book hotel stays, rental cars, and flights through the Southwest website for additional points.

    In the end, you just need to make sure you earn at least 125,000 Rapid Rewards points within one calendar year. Those 125,000 points are enough to help you earn the pass, plus you can also use them to book flights.

    Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card: What You Need to Know

    If you mostly fly within the United States, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card should be in your wallet. Not only do you earn two points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases with the card, but you also earn one point per dollar on everything else.

    The points you earn can be used to book award flights all over the United States. But that’s not all; you can also use points to travel to Southwest’s new Caribbean destinations. As of 2014, Southwest picked up routes to warm, tropical hotspots like Punta Cana, Nassau, Montego Bay, Cancun, Aruba, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, and San Juan.

    Another Way to Earn Southwest Rapid Rewards Points


    If you’re looking for another way to rack up Southwest Rapid Rewards points, you can also sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. With this card, you’ll earn Ultimate Rewards points that transfer to the Southwest Rapid Rewards program at a 1:1 ratio.

    [Related: Best Travel Credit Card for 2020]

    Even though points you transfer won’t count towards the Companion Pass, they can be used to boost your point balances and book more free travel.

    Editorial Note: Compensation does not influence our recommendations. However, we may earn a commission on sales from the companies featured in this post. To view our disclosures, click here. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by our advertisers. Reasonable efforts are made to present accurate info, however all information is presented without warranty. Consult our advertiser’s page for terms & conditions.

    Holly Johnson

    Contributing Writer

    Holly Johnson is a frugality expert and award-winning writer who is obsessed with personal finance and getting the most out of life. A lifelong resident of Indiana, she enjoys gardening, reading, and traveling the world with her husband and two children. In addition to The Simple Dollar, Holly writes for well-known publications such as U.S. News & World Report Travel, PolicyGenius, Travel Pulse, and Frugal Travel Guy. Holly also owns Club Thrifty.