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Credit Cards

How to use a Southwest credit card sign-up bonus to earn the Companion Pass

The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the best airline loyalty perks around.

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Whether you're a frequent business traveler or planning some revenge travel to make up for lost trips during the pandemic, the Southwest Companion Pass is a great way to save money on flights, particularly if you tend to fly with a friend, family member or partner. In fact, it allows you to take a companion along with you on any Southwest flight for nearly free.

Though the requirements to earn the Companion Pass may seem daunting, there are still a number of ways to go about getting one quickly. From utilizing lucrative sign-up bonuses, to booking flights and racking up qualifying Rapid Rewards points, here's how to earn the Southwest Companion Pass in a hurry.

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What is the Southwest Companion Pass?

Imagine being able to bring your partner (or a friend or family member) along with you on any flight for just the taxes and fees, only $5.60 per person on one-way flights within the U.S.. That's exactly what the Southwest Companion Pass allows you to do, regardless of whether you're paying for your own ticket with cash or points, whether you're both flying domestically or to one of Southwest's international destinations or how many times you use it while you're eligible. You can also change your designated companion up to three times per calendar year, so you don't necessarily need to bring the same person along each time you use it.

Best of all, the Southwest Companion Pass can be used throughout the rest of the year you earn it in as well as the whole next year. Meaning if you qualify for it at the start of 2022, you'll be able to use it through the end of 2023. You'll need to time it just right to take full advantage of the timing though. Opening a new Southwest Credit Card account toward the end of the year and not reaching minimum-requirement thresholds until after December 31 means all qualifying spending events will take place the following year, effectively locking you in to qualify for perk for the next year and the entire year after.

Keep in mind that you haven't officially earned your Rapid Rewards points until they hit your account, which can vary depending on when your credit card statement ends. Spending after a certain date in December, for instance, would end up on your January statement, so make sure you correctly time you're spending to ensure the welcome bonus hits your account at the beginning of a new year.

How to earn the Southwest Companion Pass

To earn the Southwest Companion Pass, you'll need to rack up at least 125,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year. This can be done by taking advantage of large credit card sign-up bonuses offered by certain Southwest credit cards and using them to make qualifying purchases (more on that later); earning base points through Rapid Rewards Dining, Rapid Rewards Shopping or with Southwest's hotel, rental car, and travel partners; or by booking 100 qualifying one-way revenue flights per calendar year.

According to Southwest, Rapid Rewards points that are purchased, transferred from other members (or by way of hotel and car rental loyalty programs) or are bonus points other than those earned via the carrier's own branded credit cards do not count as qualifying points and therefore cannot go toward earning the Companion Pass. In other words, you really need to stick to the rules and plan your accumulation strategy accordingly.

Using credit card bonuses to speed things up

Southwest recently updated its welcome bonus, allowing cardholders to earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

The welcome bonus is currently available for these three branded personal credit cards:

  1. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
  2. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
  3. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Each of the three Southwest personal branded credit cards also come with points-earning rewards and other perks.

  • The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card lets you earn 2X points per dollar spent on Southwest Airlines purchases, local transit, commuting, ridesharing, internet, cable, phone, and select streaming services, plus 1X points on other purchases made with the card.
  • The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card gives you 3X points per dollar spent on Southwest Airlines purchases; 2X points per dollar spent on local transit, commuting, ridesharing, internet, cable, phone, and select streaming services; and 1X points on all other purchases.
  • The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card lets you earn 3X points per dollar spent on Southwest Airlines purchases; 2X points per dollar spent on local transit, commuting, ridesharing, internet, cable, phone, and select streaming services; and 1X points on all other purchases—and throws in unlimited tier qualifying points (TQPs) that can be put toward earning Southwest Airlines A-list elite status.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 2X points on Southwest® purchases, 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare; 2X points on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming; 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    New Offer: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months

  • Annual fee

    $69

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    18.24% - 25.24% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fees

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 3X points on Southwest® purchases, 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare; 2X points on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming; 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    New Offer: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months

  • Annual fee

    $99

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    18.24% - 25.24% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fees

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

Southwest's two branded business cards currently offer the below sign-up bonuses that can give you a much-needed head start if you're trying to rack up 125,000 points quickly:

  • Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card: Earn 80,000 Rapid Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening your account. You'll also be able to earn 4X points on Southwest Airlines® flight purchases, 3X points per dollar spent with Rapid Rewards® hotel and rental car partners, 2X points per dollar spent on rideshare services, as well as social media and search engine advertising, internet, cable, and phone services, plus 1X point per dollar spent elsewhere.
  • Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card: Earn 60,000 Rapid Rewards points once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening an account. You'll also be able to earn 3X points per dollar spent on Southwest Airlines® purchases, 2X points per dollar spent on local transit and ridesharing, with Rapid Rewards® hotel and rental car partners, plus 1X points spent on other purchases.

Since Southwest Credit Cards are issued by Chase, you'll have to adhere to its notorious 5/24 rule. In other words, if you've applied for five credit cards (from any card issuer, not just Chase) within the past two years, you'll likely be denied for another until your card count decreases. You also won't be able to apply for a new personal Southwest credit card if you've already done so or received a sign-up bonus from one in the last 24 months (or another business Southwest Credit Card if you're already a business cardholder or have received a bonus in the last 24 months).

Bottom line

If you time it out just right and take advantage of lucrative credit card sign-up bonuses, the Southwest Companion Pass can truly be one of the most valuable airline loyalty program perk. Just make sure you're following all the rules, like booking qualifying flights and earning qualifying Rapid Rewards points, and you'll have one of your own in no time.

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Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
Plenty of rewards and benefits including 4X points per dollar for dining at restaurants worldwide
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