There is no doubt, Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most valuable travel perks around. For those unfamiliar, Companion Pass allows one person to travel for free with you on ANY Southwest flight.
Before I discuss the easiest ways to earn Companion Pass, let’s go over the benefits and restrictions.
Companion Pass Benefits:
• Designate up to three different companions per calendar year
• 100% free to fly with you as many times as you’d like, just pay $5.60 security fee per flight for your companion
• Companion flies free whether your flight is paid with cash OR with points
• As long as at least one seat is left on the flight, your companion can be added
• Companions are also free on international flights, just pay customs/departure fees ($50-$80 depending on country)
• Your companion can be of any age and they do not have to be related to you
• There are no blackout dates or restrictions, you just need one open seat to add a companion
• Companion pass is considered “status” by some other airlines, you may be able to match or challenge with other airlines. (I scored instant Alaska MVP Gold 75k for 10 months)
Companion Pass Restrictions:
• Your companion CANNOT fly without you, their ticket will be cancelled if you change or cancel yours or don’t board
• If you switch companion A to companion B, every upcoming reservation you had booked with companion A will be cancelled
• Your companion will not earn points on any of their “free” flights
• A-list benefits to not convey to your companion, they must board in their respective boarding group
• If you as the primary flyer book the last available seat, you will NOT be able to add a companion
• You and your companion will have separate confirmation numbers, you’ll EACH need to check-in which means you may not get the same boarding groups
• You must earn the 110,000 qualifying points by yourself, you cannot combine points from a spouse’s account or their credit cards
• Points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards DO NOT count towards Companion Pass
Earn for up to 24 months
The awesome thing with Companion Pass is that you can technically squeeze up to 24 months out of it. To earn Companion Pass, you must accumulate 110,000 “qualifying” points within a single calendar year. That means between January 1st and December 31st, 110,000 points must be earned to qualify.
To get the MOST months out of your Companion Pass, you would, in theory, want to earn it on January 1st. If earned of January 1st, you’d hold Companion Pass for the remaining 364 days in that calendar year and the ENTIRE following calendar year.
It seems hard enough to earn 110,000 points in one calendar year, how much tougher would it be to earn 110,000 in the first of the MONTH to maximize this perk. There is a way.
Using the two credit card method
The fastest way to earn Companion Pass is by signing up for two Chase Southwest credit cards within a short window. Each card offers up to 50,000 points, getting you 90% of the way there. You can hold EACH Southwest credit card and you can earn EACH bonus every 24 months.
The 50,000 point bonus will post 24 hours AFTER your credit card statement closes. In order to earn the 50,000 points, you must spend $2,000 on each card. Let’s say your statement closes on the 22nd of each month, you will want to complete your minimum spend before the 22nd so that the points will post to Southwest on the 23rd. A pending charge will not count, so complete your “spend” 72 hours before your statement closing date.
Getting the timing right
Ideally, you’d sign up for the two cards in November and December, here’s why. You would complete your minimum spends at the end of December but not before your December statement closes. When your next statement finally closes in January, you’d see the 50,000 points post. DO NOT complete your minimum spend before your December statement closes, you’ll burn an entire calendar year of Companion Pass. Wait to exceed your $2,000 spend during the statement that ultimately closes in January.
After completing your minimum spend on each card, and accumulating 104,000 points in total, you’d still be 6,000 points short of the required 110k. An easy way, since you would now hold both Southwest cards in theory, would be to refer a friend to one of the Southwest cards. That will earn you 5,000 qualifying points for each referral. Once you have a Southwest card, get your referral link, here. (YMMV) (read: Chase 5/24 before applying).
Refer a friend
You can earn up to 50,000 points PER CARD with refer a friend bonuses, 5,000 per referral. This is a great way to rack up points that DO count towards Companion Pass status. And yes, you can earn a referral bonus for a spouse and family members. If your referral is approved for the card and uses it at least once before your statement closes, the 5,000 point bonus will usually post 24 hours after your statement close date.
Unfortunately, Chase will NEVER divulge who was approved or not approved from your referral links. (I don’t want you to waste your time reaching out to them)
Marriott Hotel point transfer
I wrote a few weeks ago how Southwest extended the window for transferring Marriott points to Southwest. You now have until March 31st to transfer your Marriott points to Southwest for Companion Pass. Marriott offers “Flight and Hotel Packages” that can help you reach your Companion Pass goal.
For example, if you have 250,000 Marriott points, you can redeem those for 7 nights (category 1-5) PLUS 100,000 Southwest qualifying points. (but only until March 31st). Add in two refer-a-friend bonuses, and you have yourself Companion Pass for up two 24 months and 7 consecutive nights at any Marriott category 1-5 property. You can see a map of hotels by category on Award Mapper.
If you have SPG Starwood points, you can now convert your SPG points to Marriott at a 1:3 ratio. That means you’d need just 83,333 SPG points to net 250,000 Marriott points. If you have 90,000 SPG points that will yield you 270,000 Marriott points, enough for 7 nights PLUS 120,000 Southwest points (instant CP!)
American Express Membership Reward points can convert to SPG points at a 3:1 ratio. If you have a boat-load of Amex MR points, let’s say 270,000, you could convert to SPG and then to Marriott, and finally to Southwest for Instant Companion Pass PLUS 7 free nights. (Cat 1-5). 270,000 American Express MR points are worth at least $2,700 towards travel, so you will want to see which option makes the most sense.
Do you shop online? Do you resell goods or gift cards? Either option has the potential to earn you additional Southwest points that DO count towards CP. Let’s say, for example, you purchased a $399 GoPro on BackCountry.com via the Southwest Portal. That one purchase would earn you 1,596 qualifying Southwest points. Make sure to click on the portal merchant link BEFORE paying for your items, otherwise it won’t track your purchase.
I haven’t taken a paid Southwest flight in over 18 months so this is a stretch for me. If you travel on paid Southwest flights for work or leisure, those earned points DO count towards CP. (as well as A-list status). Your wanna-getaway fare will earn you 6 points per dollar spent on the base fare. Each domestic ticket typically has 10%-20% of taxes built-in, so you’ll only earn points on the base “fare” portion.
Wanna-getaway fares earn 6x points per dollar, so your $120 ticket would earn you around 600 Southwest points. Again, those points qualify towards both A-list status and Companion Pass.
How far do I have to go?
To follow your progress, log into your Southwest “My Account” and look at the top of your dashboard under “Member”