The holy grail of travel rewards: the Southwest Companion Pass.
If you have this pass, the companion you have chosen for your pass (predictably, Gil is mine) can accompany you on ANY Southwest flight and just pay taxes. So I can add Gil to EVERY trip I take for only $5.60 per flight, it’s crazy! It’s amazing. If you have any chance to get it – you should do it! To get it you have to earn 110,000 Southwest points in a calendar year and you get it for the rest of the year you earn it in PLUS the next full calendar year. Insane!
There are 3 ways to earn that many points with Southwest and I’ve earned the companion pass in different years doing 2 of the 3 methods.
- Earn 110,000 points by flying that much on Southwest. This is a great option for business travelers. Even with as much as we travel, I’ve never come anywhere close to that number through actual flights taken.
- Receive a targeted Companion Pass Challenge. This is luck of the draw but if you EVER get this email – do it!! I received this email in August 2016 when Southwest made Denver a hub city. They usually do this for current Rapid Rewards members when moving into a new city or expanding their current presence in a city. The challenge was that if you took 10 one way flights in a 3 month period, you got a Companion Pass through December 31 of the following year. I already had 2 roundtrip flights planned with Southwest in the time period so I looked at Southwest sales, found the cheapest tickets anywhere out of Denver (which happened to be $34 each way to Dallas Love Field) and I flew down to Dallas 3 different afternoons, ate dinner at a different airport restaurant each time (Whataburger, Cantina Laredo, and Campisi’s of course, I love Texas) during my 1.5 hour layover and caught the last flight back to Denver. It was actually really great alone time for a new mom, I read a book and enjoyed the quiet and at the end of it, I had paid $204 for a pass that allowed Gil to join me on every flight we took for 15 months for free!! Absolutely worth it and the amount of money we saved on flights during those 15 months was incredible.
- The easiest way and the main reason I’m writing this post: credit card points (**see note at end of blog**)
- Open a Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Card here and you’ll get 40,000 bonus points after spending just $1,000, that’s a really low threshold compared to other cards. You’ll also earn 1,000 points on the spending you do. (Disclosure: I get a referral bonus if you use my link to sign up, since the blog and travel tips are free, this helps make it worth it for us to take the time to share them.)
- You have to own a business for this one, but small businesses can do this easily, I have an EIN for my consulting practice that I started last year and used that to open a Southwest Business Card here. **BE SURE YOU PUT BOTH CARDS UNDER THE SAME NAME AND RAPID REWARDS NUMBER!!** You’ll earn a 60,000 point bonus after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months, plus 3,000 points for the spending itself.
- So now you’re at 104,000 points, and can earn the other 6,000 needed through either flights taken, spending on either card, or points earned with Southwest partners (you can see a list here).
Here’s the BEST part of the companion pass, they don’t take your 110,000 points when you earn the pass, you keep them! So Gil, Eva, and I have ALL flown for free ($5.60 each in taxes each way) on Southwest for 2 years now. I watch for deals on flights in points, book flights for Eva and I using points when I find a good deal and add Gil on the Companion Pass. So far this year we’ve been to Nashville and have flights booked to Atlanta, Nashville, and Seattle later this year and we STILL have 50k+ points in my account. Yes, you have to be able to meet some thresholds to do this but it’s the absolute best travel reward out there if you can make it work.
Tip: If you’re going to try to qualify with credit cards, do it in the first half of the year if possible – it gives you the most time with your pass because you get the entire rest of the year you qualify in and the following year as well. My parents recently did the credit card method of getting the Companion Pass and earned it March which means that my Dad will fly every flight for free with my Mom on Southwest for 21 months – incredible!!
If you have questions about this, feel free to comment and I’ll answer as best I can!
**** IMPORTANT: Please don’t do credit card rewards unless you are really responsible with your spending. The value of the rewards won’t outweigh the interest you are paying if you don’t pay the full balance each month – that’s why they do these offers!! Only sign up for credit cards for the rewards if you have a great history of sticking to a budget and aren’t applying for a new mortgage or car loan soon, the new accounts can bring your credit score down a little while they are new accounts without history.****