The Southwest Airlines companion pass is the best free-travel perk out there, hands down. So what makes it so special?
With the companion pass you can designate somebody to fly with you for FREE whenever you fly on Southwest. It could be a spouse, friend, or even a sister-cousin, it doesn’t matter. You can change this person a total of three times. So, spouse, then friend, then sister-cousin, then finally, back to spouse.
Free means almost free – You do have to pay the 9/11 security fee for your companion, $11 per round trip, not bad though.
Does this work if I use points to book my flight? YES, this is what makes this the best travel hack in existence. If you, the primary traveler, use 19k rapid rewards points to book a round trip from Dallas to New York, your companion can still fly with you for $11.
How long does the pass work for? The pass can be active for up to 24 months if you time things perfectly. The ideal situation is to apply for the credit cards in December and meet your minimum spend requirements that month. Then, come January, the points will post to Southwest and qualify you in the new calendar year. Whenever you receive the companion pass you get it for the remainder of the present calendar year and the following calendar year. If you get the pass in January of 2016 it will be active until December 31st, 2017. Almost two full years!
How do I earn this bad boy? In order to qualify for the companion pass you need to acquire 110k Southwest points. If you were to acquire that many points from booking paid Southwest flights you would have to spend $18k in flights. Well, since you aren’t going to do that, let’s talk how to get it for next to free. Points earned from Southwest credit cards DO count towards your 110k required total. Each credit card bonus is 50k points, so you would need to sign up for two of the Southwest credit cards. This is totally possible. They have three versions of the card;
• Plus (50k)
• Premier (50k)
• Business Premier (50k)
You can have all three credit cards, want to know how I am sure.. I have all three of them 🙂 But Caleb, I don’t own a business, how would I get the business card? Simple, you are sole proprietor. You have revenue and expenses (hopefully more revenue than expenses), so you qualify as a business. When applying for the business credit card, just put in your SSN in place of the Employer Number. Any income that you have to fund your business (aka household) should be what is entered for annual revenue. *inserts comment about how I am not giving legal advise*
Crap, I just signed up for one of the Southwest cards a few months back, can I get the sign up bonus again? You can get the sign up bonus every 24 months. The timer started when you actually received the points. Remember that each card is independent from the others. The 24 month rule applies separately to the premier, plus, or business premier.
Generally, Chase, who backs these cards, won’t approve you for all three cards in a short time frame so you need to plan this out if you are going to try to get the full 24 months out of the pass. I recommend applying for the plus card (lower annual fee of $69) and the business premier ($99) a few weeks apart. Once you have those two cards you will have 100k points, (50k per card), and you will have 4k from meeting your minimum spend requirements. You have to spend $2,000 per card before they give you your 50k bonus. Each dollar you spend also earns you 1 point, so $4,000 in spend will earn you an additional 4k points, putting you at 104k, only 6k more to go!
How do I come up with the other 6k points? There are a few ways to do this, some may cost you but they are pretty quick and convenient. The most simple and obvious way would be either fly with Southwest and earn points or spend $6k more on your credit card. If you purchased a $1,000 flight, that would earn you 6k points, but you would need a good reason to spend $1,000 on a flight. (maybe your work has you travel?) And yes, you have to fly, you can’t just buy the ticket.
The best option is to refer a friend to the Southwest credit card. You receive 5k points if you email a friend the link and they get approved for the card. It costs you nothing!
The more costly option is to purchase Choice Hotel points and transfer them to Southwest. Doing it this way does count towards hitting your 110k point total. You would need to buy 24,000 Choice points, costing $264, those will transfer and convert to 7,200 Southwest points putting you over the threshold!
Can I use my Sapphire Ultimate Rewards points to count towards companion pass? Short answer is, No. You can transfer UR points to Southwest at a 1:1 but they don’t count towards your 110k total. What you need to do is transfer to a hotel partner, like Marriott or Hyatt, and then transfer to Southwest. The problem is this method causes your points to be diminished greatly, roughly 5:1 ratio.
You can monitor your progress to companion pass. Go to your recent activity and filter on “Companion Pass Qualifying Points” and make sure you are looking at the current year to date, because you have to hit the 110k in one calendar year. This will help you be sure you are close to hitting your 110k total.
Okay, so what happens once I hit the 110k needed for companion pass? Once you hit the 110k points for the companion pass the angels up above rejoice! Actually, Southwest will send you an email within 24 hours congratulating you, then within about a week, Southwest will send you a welcome packet in the mail with a physical card and some material on why you are awesome. You will need to log into your Southwest account and designate your companion. You will need their name and DOB.
Is all this work worth it? You will have earned 110k Southwest points. Those points alone will cover $1,571 in flights. It requires 70 points per dollar if you want to do the math yourself. Since you will now have somebody flying with you for free you effectively have 220k points. That means you could get, at a minimum, $3,142 worth of free flights. Is it worth it? When your points run out you can still purchase a flight and have your companion come along for free, there is no limit on how many times they can fly with you so long as a seat is open!