INSIDER SECRET: After you’ve chosen your first travel buddy for the Companion Pass, you can change your Southwest companion up to three times per calendar year while your pass is valid.
Many of us at Million Miles Secrets consider the Southwest Companion Pass to be the best deal in travel. Why? Because it lets a friend or family member travel with you for free whenever you travel on Southwest. It doesn’t matter if your flight is booked with points or paid for with cash – your companion flies free (just pay taxes and fees which are usually ~$6 one-way on domestic flights).
And when the Chase Southwest cards are offering increased sign-up bonuses, it makes it that much easier to earn the 110,000 Southwest points needed to get the Companion Pass. You can earn the points you need to qualify for a Companion Pass in a hurry with cards like:
- Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
- Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
- Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card (currently with an 80,000-point bonus after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening)
The rules for earning and using the Southwest Companion Pass can be confusing. So we have answers to the most commonly asked questions regarding the Companion Pass.
About the Southwest Companion Pass
The Southwest Companion Pass can be incredibly valuable because Southwest flies to a lot of U.S. cities, including popular vacations spots like Orlando, New Orleans, San Diego and Puerto Rico. The airline also offers international destinations like Aruba, Belize, Mexico and Grand Cayman.
Some folks frown upon Southwest for being a low-cost airline, but what’s not to like about them? The boarding process is among the most efficient, you can check two bags for free, they have a lot more nonstop flights than other airlines and they offer the Companion Pass.
MMS readers frequently comment and email about earning and using the Southwest Companion Pass. We answer some of them below.
Southwest Companion Pass FAQ
What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
The Southwest Companion Pass is the best airline perk because it lets a friend or family member travel with you for free on Southwest. It doesn’t matter if your flight is booked with points or paid for with cash – your companion flies for just the cost of taxes and fees as long as Southwest is selling seats on that flight.
Can my Southwest companion travel for free if I book my ticket using points?
Yes, your companion can still travel free. You only have to pay a very small amount (~$6 one-way) for taxes. Some international destinations add additional taxes and fees. There is no limit to the number of times your companion can fly with you.
What is the Southwest Companion Pass worth?
Southwest points are generally worth ~1.5 cents each. So you could reach nearly double that value when you use Southwest points for award flights and bring a companion along.
How can I get a Southwest Companion Pass?
You need to fly 100 one-way flights (within a calendar year) on Southwest to qualify for the Companion Pass.
You need to earn 110,000 qualifying Southwest points (within a calendar year) for the Companion Pass, which you can do with the help of either the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card (which currently comes with an insane 80,000 Southwest points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening) or the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card, plus one of the personal Southwest cards:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
All three personal cards come with bonuses of up to 60,000 points after meeting tiered spending requirements:
- 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening your account
- 20,000 additional points after you spend $12,000 on purchases in the first 12 months of opening your account
Points from the Southwest credit cards count toward the Companion Pass at the moment.
How long do I have to earn the 110,000 Southwest points?
You have to earn the 110,000 Southwest points within one calendar year (January to December). Your Companion Pass is valid from the date you earn 110,000 Companion Pass qualifying points up to the end of the next calendar year.
For example, if you earn the companion pass on Nov. 14, 2019, it is valid up to the end of 2020. And if you earned the Companion Pass on Jan. 1, 2019, it is still valid up to the end of 2020. So earning the Companion Pass early in the year can get you close to two years of free flying on Southwest.
Can I still redeem 110,000 Southwest points for flights once I earn the Companion Pass?
You don’t lose your Southwest points when you earn the Companion Pass. You can still use the 110,000 Southwest points to book flights, and your companion flies for almost free if you have the Companion Pass.
Can my companion use points from their own account to book my flight and then fly for free?
Yes. As long as you have a Southwest ticket in your name (either via cash, using your points, or using points from someone else’s account), you can add your companion to the flight.
Can my partner and I each earn the Companion Pass and fly the kids for free?
Yes, you and your partner can each earn the Companion Pass and add your kids, parents or friends as companions. However, one person cannot earn more than one Companion Pass.
If I use my Southwest points will I still earn the Companion Pass?
Yes. The Southwest Companion Pass is based on how many points you earn within a calendar year, not how many are in your account.
Suppose you earn 50,000 Southwest points this week and use 25,000 points to book a round-trip flight to New York City. Then you earn another 60,000 Southwest points a couple of months later. You’ll still earn the Southwest Companion Pass.
If I cancel my cards, will I lose the Companion Pass?
Canceling your Chase Southwest credit cards will not have an impact on your Southwest Companion Pass.
Can I use the Southwest Companion Pass on a previously booked flight?
If you haven’t earned the Southwest Companion Pass yet, you can still book your flight now to lock in a lower price and add your companion later.
How many times can I change my companion?
You can change your designated companion up to three times per calendar year, after you initially designate a companion. That means you can have up to four different companions the first calendar year, then three in the second year – or seven total across the life of the pass.
So choose wisely.
You can switch back to an earlier companion, but it would count as a “switch” and eat into the seven changes permitted.
How do I activate my Southwest Companion Pass?
Navigate to Southwest.com and sign into your account by clicking “Log in“ in the upper-right hand corner.
Enter your account number or username and password, then click the yellow “Log in” button.
Select “My Account” in the upper right-hand corner. Then, in the “Snapshot” menu, find the section where it says, “You have earned Companion Pass.”
Click on “Enter Companion info.”
Here is where you’ll enter your companion’s full name, gender, date of birth, address, phone number and email. Be sure their details match their government-issued identification exactly.
Then, click “Submit.”
Once you’ve submitted their details, you should see your companion’s name in the “Snapshot” section of your account. In this case, I added my daughter Clara as a companion, but you don’t have to add a family member — it can be a friend, partner or anyone.
At this point, you’ll be able to easily add your companion to any of your paid or award flights while your pass is still valid (even to Hawaii). You’ll have to make your own booking first, then find your trip in your account and add your companion afterward.
How can I use my Southwest Companion Pass?
Here are the details about how to add a companion to your Southwest reservation.
How can I add a companion if I booked through a travel portal?
After you call Chase to book your Southwest flight, you’ll get an email confirmation with your flight details. You’ll see the Southwest flight confirmation number at the top of the email. Keep this information handy.
Next, you can link the confirmation to your Southwest account. Go to the Southwest website and enter your Southwest confirmation number from the Chase email and your name.
Then, you can enter your Southwest loyalty account number.
The flight will now appear in your Southwest account. After the flight is linked to your loyalty number, you can visit your Southwest account page, and click “Add Companion.”
Finally, just pay the taxes and fees for your companion and you’re all set.
Southwest credit cards
Do the Chase Southwest credit card sign-up bonuses count toward the Companion Pass?
The credit card sign-up bonuses currently count toward Companion Pass status. Southwest points earned from spending on the Southwest cards also count.
Is the annual fee waived for the first year?
Currently, none of the Chase Southwest cards have waived annual fees.
However, when you renew your card each year, you’ll get:
- 3,000 Southwest points (worth~$45) with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
- 6,000 Southwest points (worth ~$90) with the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card or Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
- 7,500 Southwest points (worth ~$113) with the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card
- 9,000 Southwest points (worth ~$135) with the Chase Southwest Performance Business card
That can help offset the annual fees.
Can you get the bonus for the business and personal versions?
Yes, you can get the bonus for one personal (either the Chase Southwest Plus, Chase Southwest Premier, or Chase Southwest Priority) and one business Southwest card (the Chase Southwest Premier small business or Chase Southwest Performance Business card).
You can also get the bonus from both the Chase Southwest Premier small business and Chase Southwest Performance Business card.
Do I qualify for a small business card?
Having a business credit card also makes it much easier to keep business expenses separate from personal expenses.
If you think your business will grow in the future, it’s easy to generate an EIN (Employer Identification Number) on the IRS website at any time.
Plus, certain business credit cards will not appear on your personal credit report. This means that the average age of your credit history should not decrease because the business credit line doesn’t sit on your personal credit report. Here’s more about how to fill out a Chase business-card application.
Should I apply for one personal and one business card at the same time or one after the other?
If you apply for two Chase cards at the same time, your second application almost always will be declined online. But if you call the Chase reconsideration line, you can usually negotiate an approval for the card. They’ll probably just want more information from you, like documentation of a business or why you need both cards.
We’d recommend applying for the personal card first and then the business version, because it’s easier to explain why you’d need the personal version of the card and then the business version — for example, if you want to keep your personal and business expenses separate.
However, if applying for a personal card first would increase your Chase 5/24 count to five cards in the past 24 months, apply for the business version first. Then apply for the personal version later, and you’ll still be eligible because most small-business cards (including Chase) don’t add to your 5/24 count.
What questions does the business reconsideration department ask?
The questions have become more detailed over the years. Expect to be asked when you started your business, how long it has been established, what your business does, your revenue, sales, and profits from the last two or three years.
What are your future projections for revenue, sales and profits? Sometimes, Chase will also ask for proof of your business, like a copy of a business card, invoices, etc.
Can you get the bonus from all Chase Southwest cards?
You can, but it will take years.
That’s because you can’t have more than one personal Southwest credit card at once. If you have one, you’ll have to cancel it before you open another. Additionally, you’re not eligible for the bonus on Chase Southwest personal cards if you’re earned the bonus on any Chase Southwest personal card in the past 24 months.
So you’ll have to apply for one personal and one small-business Southwest card to get the Companion Pass.
Can two people apply for the cards separately but put in the same Southwest Rapid Reward account number? Or do we have to put in our individual Rapid Rewards numbers?
You should always put in your own Rapid Rewards number in the application. If you don’t yet have one, it’s easy and free to set up a Southwest account.
How do I know which version of the Chase Southwest cards I already have?
The most recent versions of the cards have the version name written right on the front, except the newest version of the Plus. For example, old Chase Southwest Plus cards have “Plus” written in the upper right-hand corner. And the Chase Southwest Premier small-business card says “Business Premier.”
If you had an older version of one of the cards and aren’t sure which version it was, you could:
a. Call the number on the back of the card to ask.
b. Check your annual fee. The Premier cards have a $99 fee and the Plus card has a $69 fee. You can check your statements online and the first or second statement will have the annual fee.
Timing the Southwest Companion Pass
The earlier in the year you earn your Companion Pass, the better. Generally speaking, you should apply for the cards you want in the last quarter of the year and complete the minimum spending after your December or January statement closes.
According to the official rules on Southwest’s website, the pass is valid for the remainder of the calendar year in which you earn it and for the entire following year. By meeting the requirements early in the year, you could get nearly two years of Companion Pass status.
Meeting the 110,000-point threshold in December 2019 means that 2019 is the first year of your pass and 2020 is your second year. But if you hit the threshold in January 2020, you get to keep the pass through December 2021.
Important note: You receive the Companion Pass when you earn the necessary points, not when you spend the money. In other words, if you earn 100,000 points by December 2019 and then spend $10,000 after your December statement closes, the points you earn from the $10,000 spending will post to your account in January 2020 and will not count toward the 110,000 points you need for 2019.
Other ways to earn Southwest Companion Pass qualifying points
How do I check to see how many Southwest Companion Pass qualifying points I have?
You can check how many points you have toward the Companion Pass by signing into your Southwest account.
Can I transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards toward the Southwest Companion Pass requirement?
If you have either the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, you can transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest in a 1:1 ratio. But those points do not count toward the Companion Pass.
Even though the points don’t count toward the Companion Pass, the points you transfer become twice as valuable once you have the Companion Pass, because you can bring a friend along for free.
Remember, you cannot transfer hotel points to Southwest to earn the Companion Pass, either.
Can I transfer points from Amex Membership Rewards toward the Southwest Companion Pass requirement?
No, there’s no way to transfer American Express Membership Rewards points (the loyalty program of certain American Express credit cards) to Southwest to earn the Companion Pass.
How can I earn extra points for the Southwest Companion Pass?
You already know that the best way to earn the Companion Pass is by earning a couple of Southwest credit card welcome bonuses. But there are plenty of other ways to earn qualifying points too.
Credit card referrals: We really appreciate it when you use our links to apply for credit cards because it pays our bills so we can write more and more travel tips and in-depth how-to guides for you. But … once you have a Southwest personal credit card, Chase will ask you to refer your friends and family to sign up for the card you have. And whenever someone signs up through your link, you’ll earn 10,000 points up to a maximum of 50,000 points per year. To find out if you are eligible and to get your link, visit the Refer-A-Friend link on the Chase website.
Rapid Rewards Dining: Rapid Rewards Dining is an easy way to earn Southwest points by simply registering any cards you would use to pay for a meal at a restaurant. When you dine at participating restaurants, you’ll automatically earn 3 Southwest points per dollar without having to do anything else.
Plus, if you’re new to Rapid Rewards Dining, you can earn 1,000 bonus Southwest points (these “bonus” points don’t qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass but can be used for free travel).
Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal: Start any and all shopping at the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal, where you can earn up to 20 Southwest points per $1 for no added expense. Keep in mind, anything marked “bonus points” won’t qualify for the Companion Pass.
An easy way to remember is to add Southwest’s new Chrome web browser button that automatically pops up when you shop at a partner site.
Southwest hotel booking site: You can earn a huge number of Southwest points – up to 10,000 points per night – by booking select hotels at southwesthotels.com.
I have the points — How do I use the Companion Pass?
Check your Companion Pass progress
You can check your progress by logging into your Southwest account.
You don’t have to do anything to activate your Companion Pass — this happens automatically. Within a few days of 110,000 Southwest Companion Pass points posting to your Southwest account, you are officially a Companion Pass holder.
Name your companion
Log in to your Southwest account and choose your companion.
Or just call Southwest at 800-248-4377 to register your companion.
A few tips you should know about the Southwest Companion Pass
You should carry it with you
When you earn your Southwest Companion Pass, they actually mail you a physical “pass,” which is the size of a credit card and easily fits in your wallet. The pass has the name of your current companion. If you switch companions, they send you a new card.
According to the Southwest Companion Pass rules and regulations, you may be asked to present the card at the ticket counter. Southwest says:
“The Member and the Companion must check in together and, if asked, present the Companion Pass card at the Southwest Airlines Ticket Counter, Skycap podium or Departure Gate in order for the Companion to travel.”
None of us on the MMS team have ever been asked to show our Companion Pass, but it’d be a huge bummer to be denied because you don’t have it.
Your companion will need to check in separately
A downside to having a companion (though, is there really a downside if they can fly free aside from taxes and fees?) is that they are not booked under your confirmation number (they’ll receive their own). This creates a little extra work in that they will have to check in separately.
Also, if you need to cancel a reservation, you will have to cancel theirs separately and re-book under your new reservation. Your companion will have their own boarding order, different from yours and based on when they check in.
When paying with cash or points, you can book everyone else under the same confirmation number if you’re paying with points from one person’s account. For example, I usually book all of my family’s flights with points from my Southwest Rapid Rewards account.
You can’t book a flight with a new companion until you’ve completed all flights with your current companion
Although you can register seven different companions throughout the life of your Companion Pass, Southwest throws a wrench into the equation. You can’t book a flight with a new companion until you’ve completed all flights with your current companion.
But, there’s a way around it.
You can add a companion to your ticket at any time, so long as there is a seat. So go ahead and book your own ticket for any future flights with a new companion and then add them after any flights with your past companion are complete. If for some reason there aren’t any more seats for that flight, you can simply change to a new flight for no change fee and add your companion.
The Southwest Companion Pass is helpful for overseas travel — even though Southwest doesn’t fly overseas
No matter where you want to fly, the Companion Pass will make your trip significantly cheaper. I mean hundreds (and potentially thousands) of dollars cheaper. But because Southwest doesn’t fly across the Atlantic or Pacific, some people don’t think it fits their travel style.
I disagree. Here’s math to argue my point.
The cheapest international flights are usually from big U.S. hubs like New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc. Super-affordable sales pop up all the time from these cities. If you’re looking for a ticket to an international destination, it’s wise to look at flights from the nearest hub instead of your home airport. Then you can book a cheap flight to that airport.
For example, if I want to buy a ticket to Cape Town from my home airport, I should expect to pay $1,350 per person for a round-trip in coach.
But other hub airports are guaranteed to have cheaper flights to Cape Town. Here’s a look at Boston.
Tickets to Cape Town are a full $500 cheaper per person when flying from Boston instead of rinky-dink Dayton (or any other nearby airports). The problem is, I don’t live anywhere near Boston.
That’s where the Southwest Companion Pass comes in.
Flights to Boston cost ~20,000 points per person round-trip (essentially $250). If my wife and I want to go to Cape Town, we can fly to Boston with the Southwest Companion Pass and pay a total of ~20,000 points.
By paying 20,000 Southwest points for two round-trip flights to Boston, we’d pay literally $750 less than if we had just flown from Ohio ($1,000 cheaper transatlantic flight – $250 in flights to reach Boston).
This strategy is mostly helpful for anyone booking paid flights to international destinations. If you follow flight deals, you know how often $300 or $400 round-trip tickets to Europe pop up from random U.S. hubs. With the Southwest Companion Pass, you and your travel partner can start jumping on those deals without negating your savings on positioning flights.
This can also be helpful to folks who want to book international award flights. You can book super-cheap award flights across the ocean from select airports. For example, it costs just 17,000 Iberia Avios points one-way in coach (off-peak) to fly to Madrid from Chicago, Boston or New York. You’ll pay significantly more from other airports.
As always, do the math to see what makes the most sense.
We consider the Southwest Companion Pass to be the best miles-and-points deal for travel. And if timed correctly, your Southwest companion can fly with you for free for almost two years.
You can find answers to the most frequently asked Companion Pass questions here, including:
- The easiest way to earn the Companion Pass
- How to activate your Companion Pass
- How many times you can change your companion?
- How to qualify for the Chase Southwest small-business card
- … and more
This story was originally written on Million Mile Secrets. For the latest tips and tricks on traveling big without spending a fortune, subscribe to the Million Mile Secrets daily email newsletter.