The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most coveted rewards in the points and miles world. With a Companion Pass, you can bring a designated companion along on any Southwest flight for just the cost of taxes and fees. This perk effectively cuts the price of Southwest flights in half, making it an incredible deal for frequent Southwest flyers.
But Companion Passes don’t come easy. You have to earn 125,000 qualifying Southwest points or take 100 qualifying one-way Southwest flights in a calendar year to get one. Once earned, the Companion Pass is valid for the remainder of the calendar year in which it was earned plus the entire next calendar year. So timing when you earn points is crucial to maximizing the pass.
Fortunately, there are some clever tricks you can use to earn a Southwest Companion Pass quickly. Below, I’ll share some of the most effective southwest companion pass trick to earn those coveted 125,000 points as fast as possible.
Time Applications for New Southwest Credit Cards
The fastest way to earn a Southwest Companion Pass is through new sign-up bonuses on Southwest credit cards. There are currently three personal Southwest cards to choose from:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card
The sign-up bonuses on these cards range from 40,000 – 60,000 points, which go a long way toward the 125,000 points needed for a pass.
You should time your applications carefully to meet the 125,000 point threshold quickly. The best timing is to apply for two different Southwest cards in the same calendar month. This allows you to earn the bonuses quickly within the same calendar year.
For example, you could apply for the Southwest Plus and Southwest Premier cards on January 1st and earn 60,000 points from the Plus and 40,000 points from the Premier. That’s 100,000 points right off the bat! Then you’d just need to spend $25,000 across the two cards within the first 3 months to earn the remaining 25,000 points and secure the pass.
This approach allows you to earn the Companion Pass very early within a calendar year, maximizing the amount of time you can use it.
Just be aware of Chase’s application limits – you generally want to space out new Chase card applications by 2-3 months to avoid denials. Plan the timing carefully around this.
Purchase Southwest Gift Cards When Points Post
Another good trick is to purchase Southwest gift cards to help meet the 125,000 point Companion Pass threshold.
Southwest sales and bonus offers on gift cards periodically pop up, allowing you to earn extra Southwest points per dollar spent. The bonuses usually range from 1,000 – 4,000 additional points per gift card purchase.
You should buy these gift cards strategically when you have already earned a chunk of points from a new Southwest card sign-up bonus. Purchase gift cards with the bonus points offers once your sign-up bonus points have posted to your account. This will accrue points quickly and build on top of your existing sign-up bonus balance.
For example, let’s say you earned 60,000 points from the Southwest Plus card sign-up bonus. Once those 60,000 points have posted to your account, keep an eye out for a gift card bonus offer. If Southwest is offering 2,000 extra points per $100 gift card purchase, buy gift cards in increments of $100 to help earn the remaining 65,000 points you need.
Timing bonus Southwest gift card purchases with new sign-up bonuses is a great way to double down on points earnings. Just don’t overspend just to earn extra points. Only buy gift cards you know you’ll use.
Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest
If you have a premium Chase card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can transfer those points to Southwest to help earn a pass.
Chase lets you transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio. So 50,000 Chase points would equal 50,000 Southwest points.
You can often earn a sign-up bonus of 50,000 – 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points on premium Chase cards. Transfer those points to Southwest once they have posted to add to your Southwest balance.
Combining Ultimate Rewards transfers with new Southwest card sign-up bonuses is a great way to quickly build up balances. Just remember you need both personal Southwest cards and a premium Chase card to make this work. Apply for and earn the bonuses for one of each type of card.
Plan Applications Around December 31st
Since earning a Companion Pass is calendar-year based, you should plan your credit card applications and points earning strategy around December 31st.
The December 31st timeframe is perfect for several reasons:
- You can earn sign-up bonuses from multiple credit cards that count towards the same calendar year.
- Any Companion Pass earned in December will be valid for nearly 2 full years (remainder of the current year plus the next full year).
- You can earn sign-up bonuses in December that only require you to meet minimum spend in the new calendar year. This helps you earn a fast Companion Pass while spreading out minimum spend.
To maximize these advantages, consider this timeline:
- November: Apply for 1 personal Southwest card
- December 1st: Apply for a different personal Southwest card
- December 15th: Apply for a Chase Ultimate Rewards card
Then in January and February, work on meeting minimum spend on the 3 cards to earn the sign-up bonuses. The points will post to your Southwest account and combine to earn a pass quickly within the calendar year.
This takes some planning but optimizes the value of the Companion Pass while also giving you time to meet card minimum spend.
Take Advantage of Promotional Bonuses
Keep an eye out for any Southwest promotions or bonuses that offer extra points. These can provide a nice points bump to help you earn a Companion Pass.
Some common promotional bonuses to watch for include:
- Bonus points for car rentals or hotel stays
- Extra points for activating Rapid Rewards Shopping
- Bonus points for dining purchases
- Accelerated point bonuses on Southwest credit cards (bonuses for hitting certain spending thresholds)
Stack these limited-time bonuses on top of your new card sign-up bonuses and gift card purchases. Even small bonuses can add up and get you closer to 125,000 points.
Time Status Boosts for Early Companion Pass Qualification
One final trick is to time earning Southwest elite status around your Companion Pass effort.
Southwest offers a “Companion Pass challenge” where you can earn a Companion Pass if you earn Companion Pass qualifying points AND complete a status challenge.
This means if you earn A-List Preferred status through a status challenge, you only need to earn 100,000 (instead of 125,000) Companion Pass points in a calendar year.
So try scheduling a Southwest status match or challenge early in the year when you are also working to earn lots of points from new cards. Complete the challenge as soon as you can so any points you earn the remainder of the year will count towards the 100,000 point Companion Pass threshold. Stack the status perk with the other tricks to qualify faster.
Maximizing the Value of Your Pass
Once you’ve earned that coveted Companion Pass, it’s time to start using it! Here are some tips to maximize the value you get from your well-deserved perk:
Book Peak Travel Times
Use your Companion Pass for trips during peak seasons when regular fares are highest. For example, book summer vacations, holiday trips, and spring break flights to iconic destinations using your pass. Flying two people for the cost of one during already expensive periods will save you the most money.
Add Your Companion to Already-Booked Flights
Don’t forget – you can add your designated companion to flights you already booked before earning your pass! Log into your Southwest account and add your companion to any existing reservations. You’ll just pay their taxes/fees to add them. This is an easy way to maximize savings on last-minute trips.
Change Companions Strategically
You can change your designated Companion Pass companion up to three times per year for a $99 fee per change. Take advantage of this by designating different people for peak travel periods. For example, use one companion for a summer trip, switch to another for the December holidays, then switch again for a spring break getaway.
Book Refundable Fares
Consider booking more refundable fares with your Companion Pass. This offers more flexibility to change or cancel flights if needed. Since you’re already getting a great deal on two tickets, a refundable fare is worth the extra peace of mind.
Renew Your Pass
As your Companion Pass nears expiration, start planning how to earn a new pass so you can renew the perks. Timing new credit card applications and bonuses right can help you earn a new pass as soon as your current one expires.
How does the Companion Pass work?
The Companion Pass allows you to designate one person to fly with you for free, minus taxes and fees. You earn the pass by accumulating 125,000 qualifying Southwest points or taking 100 qualifying Southwest flights in a calendar year.
Who qualifies as a Companion Pass companion?
Anyone designated as your companion can fly with you for free. You can change companions up to three times per year for a $99 fee. Companions do not need to be Southwest Rapid Rewards members.
Can I use my Companion Pass on any Southwest flight?
Yes, the Companion Pass is valid on any Southwest flight within the continental U.S., Hawaii, near international destinations, and between the mainland and Hawaii. The only flights excluded are interline or codeshare flights with other airlines.
Do my Southwest points qualify toward Companion Pass status?
Yes, any Southwest points earned from flights, credit cards, bonuses, and more count toward the 125,000 points needed. Only purchased or transferred points do not qualify.
When do my Companion Pass qualifying points reset?
Companion Pass qualifying points reset to zero every January 1st. You have the full calendar year to earn qualifying points, so aim to earn 125,000 as early as possible.
Earning the Southwest Companion Pass Requires Strategy
Maximizing the value of the Southwest Companion Pass takes careful planning. You need to optimize your credit card applications, bonus earning, and points transfers to earn it quickly within a calendar year. Use the southwest companion pass tricks in this guide to help formulate your Companion Pass earning strategy.
With a bit of work, you can earn an amazing travel perk that unlocks nearly free Southwest flights for you and your favorite companion. Enjoy journeying across the U.S. together without worrying about high airfare costs. The Companion Pass truly opens up affordable domestic travel, but you have to know how to earn it right.