You may have heard about the Southwest Airline Companion Pass and wondered how it works, whether you can really fly for free, and exactly how you get it.
Southwest’s Companion Pass is one of the best bargains in airfare and if you plan to do any flying in the next two years, you can actually bring another person along for free! I know we haven’t been able to travel much lately, but things are starting to shape up in the travel industry. Now’s the perfect time to start thinking about it!
What Is the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass?
The coveted Companion Pass lets you book a friend or family member on the same flight as you, as long as there’s even one seat left, without paying any extra cash or points for their ticket.
(Actually, travel booked with points is subject to a payment of the government-imposed 9/11 Security Fee of $5.60 per one-way trip. That’s so cheap it’s practically free, so I’m going to stick to calling it that.)
Once you’ve met the requirements, you’ll have the pass for the remainder of that calendar year, plus the next one.
For that reason, many people try to time it so they earn the pass as early in the year as possible. That way, they can squeeze every bit of time possible out of it.
However, the average person isn’t flying every month (unless it’s for business, and then you’re probably not paying for it anyway), so even if you get the pass in May or June, you’re still looking at one and a half years of free flying. Not a bad deal, huh? We’re all about finding ways to make the most of our travel budget, and this definitely saves a lot of money!
How Do You Get the Companion Pass?
There are two ways to earn the Southwest Companion Pass. First, you can fly 100 one-way flights in one calendar year and earn yourself a pass.
That’s 50 round trip flights in a year.
Riiiiight. Moving on.
Now is when I should mention there are only so many photos I can add featuring Southwest Airlines, so I’ve thoroughly entertained myself adding gifs instead. You are welcome.
The easiest and fastest way to earn a Southwest Airline Companion Pass is to sign up for Southwest Airline’s credit cards and get the sign up bonuses (SUB) offered when you meet the spending requirement.
Now, before I lose you and you say anything about not wanting to sign up for any kind of credit card, hear me out.
I get it.
Rodney and I were the same way for many, many years. In fact, we only had one personal credit card for over 19 years. (By the way, keeping your oldest credit card open is awesome for your credit score.)
We only opened a business card several years ago because our CPA told us we needed to do a better job of keeping our business and personal expenses separate.
That changed when I started researching more about airline miles and points and how to earn more of them.
FYI, some programs call them miles, while some call them points. (Tuh-May-toe, Toe-Ma-Toe. They both get you where you want to go.)
We’ve earned some free flights over the years by earning miles on our two cards, but it wasn’t until I started learning more that I realized just how much we’ve been missing the boat. (Or in this case, the plane!)
I seriously had to mourn all those lost miles and sign up bonuses I could have earned before I could get on with it and that’s one of the reasons I’m sharing this with you.
We’ve got places to go, don’t we, my friend? No more lost points for us! We’ve got places like this fab resort to go and we want miles and a free Companion Pass to get there!
Does Opening a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score?
Now, about the credit cards, let me dispel a common myth you may be thinking. Opening a new credit card does not lower your credit score.
Did you know that?
I’ve always believed it would and since we’ve got great credit and didn’t need anymore cards, we’ve never even considered opening a new one.
Especially not “just because.”
I did some research on it, though, and learned not only would it not hurt my score, but it could actually go up, and you know what? Mine did. It actually went up two points after opening two cards 30 days apart. No kidding!
Update: We’ve been playing the points and miles game for a couple of years now, and we each still have excellent credit scores. It has not hurt our credit one bit. (See below for more info on the do’s and don’ts of opening credit cards.)
Of course, you need to follow some simple rules about how often you can open credit cards, but to get the Southwest Airline Companion Pass, you only need two. Apply for those 30 days or more apart and it will not hurt your score.
So How Can You Fly for Free?
Here’s the cool thing. By the time you’ve earned your companion pass, you’ll have racked up at least 148,000 points that you can use to fly on Southwest Airlines. (I’ll explain how that magic happens next.)
That’s 148,000 points to book yourself some flights and you get to take one lucky duck with you for free!
How awesome is that? (Veeeerrry!!!)
Here’s Exactly What I Did to Earn My Free Southwest Airline Companion Pass
To earn the pass, you need a total of 125,000 points in a calendar year. Unless you’re taking 100 flights, as I mentioned above, you need another plan, so here it is.
First, I opened the Southwest Performance Business Card. If you have any kind of business at all, you can apply for a business credit card.
Have a part time business?
Run a daycare?
Teach online classes?
Sell something on ebay?
Even if you’re just in the thinking stages of starting something soon, it qualifies.
*You can also apply for their personal cards, but in the interest of not getting bogged down in details while I’m explaining the Southwest Airline Companion Pass, I’ll explain some super important things like Chase’s 5/24 rule at the end of this post. Don’t skip it, but for now, read on because we’re on the way to getting you some free flights.
At the time of this writing, the Southwest Performance Business card currently has a signup bonus of 80,000 points after you meet the minimum spending requirement of $5,000 in three months.
That means you’d need to spend $1666.67 a month for three months. If you’re not sure if you can do that, take a minute to write down all of the expenses you can put on your card, and chances are, this won’t be a problem.
Once you’ve spent the $5,000 you were planning to spend anyway, you’ll have earned 80,000 points which is more than half the points needed to earn the pass!
One Down, One to Go
Next, I waited 30 days before applying for my second card, the Southwest Premier Business card. This one currently offers a 60,000 SUB after spending $3,000 in three months.
That’s it! That puts me over the 125,000 points needed to earn the Southwest Airline Companion Pass.
In case you’re wondering about my math, you’ll get the sign up bonus points of 80,000 + 60,000 and then you’ll also get at least 1 point for the $8,000 minimum spend it took to get there. Some categories are 2x or more, so that adds up even faster!**
Follow that plan and with the spending you were already planning to do, you’ll earn yourself 148,000 free miles and a lovely Southwest Airlines Companion Pass!
Timing Is Everything
Because you’ll earn your Companion Pass for the remainder of the current year, plus the entire following year, you’ll get the most out of it by earning it as early in the calendar year as possible. Many people go ahead and apply for their card in October or November, but do not meet the minimum spend on your card until after your December statement closes.
That’s super important!
Why? Because you want those bonus points to hit your account in the new year, not the end of the year. That way your Companion Pass will be good for almost two full years.
Are You Inspired Yet?
More than anything, our hope is to inspire you. We want to encourage you to dream big and live bigger.
It blows my mind to hear that the average American has only been to twelve states and never leaves the country.
Girlfriend! (Or manfriend, if that applies…) This world is a big, beautiful adventure just waiting to be explored!
If money has been the thing holding you back from traveling, then I hope it gets you really excited to know you can literally fly for free.
I’m explaining the Southwest Airline Companion Pass to you today, but I want you to know there are many more programs available that also offer free flights and free hotels. TravelFreely has a terrific site for learning all about them.
Related: 27 Best Tips for First Time Flyers
Let’s Talk More About Traveling With Your Soon to be Earned Companion Pass.
With 148,000+ points, you can:
*Take multiple trips for just you and a friend, like Rodney and I are doing with some of our points.
*Visit friends or family across the country that you don’t get to see very often.
*Finally take the kids or grandkids to Disney. How fun is that?
*Save up and take your whole family on a big trip to someplace like Hawaii, Cancun, Aruba, Punta Cana or Puerto Vallarta. (Fun!!!)
*You could visit our neck of the woods and see the beautiful Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in April.
*Fly your college student home for several breaks, including Christmas!
Can Both Spouses Earn the Southwest Airline Companion Pass?
Yes! This is especially helpful if you’re saving up for a big trip. Not only will you earn another 148,000 points, but that’s one more person flying free as a companion.
This is exactly what Rodney and I are working toward so we can take our family of eight on vacation over Christmas. (Did you know Southwest flies to quite a few destinations in Mexico? Get ready Mexican Riviera, the Blunts are heading your way!) Update: I originally wrote this in early 2020. While we had to postpone our trip to Mexico, we took a Christmas vacation to San Diego in 2021 instead.
For us, that means “buy six (using points I didn’t pay for to begin with), get two free.” Can it get any better? Actually, yes!
What I Love About Southwest Airlines
One of the absolute best benefits of flying Southwest is that each person can check two bags for free.
They are the only airline that doesn’t charge and some are now even charging for your carry-on bag, so this is quite a bargain.
Our family definitely tries to fly with just carry-ons whenever we can because checking bags and making room for them in a rental can be a hassle.
However, if we wanted to, our family of eight could check a ridiculous SIXTEEN BAGS for FREE, plus we could each take a personal item AND a carry-on bag! That’s crazy!
What I Don’t Love About the Companion Pass
One thing that does frustrate me is how often you’re allowed to change your designated companion. I could complain about it…but won’t because that would be looking a gift horse in the mouth and I don’t do that. (I don’t even know what it means, but it sounds kind of dangerous, so I’m out.)
You have to assign one person as your companion and you can only change it three times each year.
I’m a woman and I like being able to change my mind willy-nilly as I please, but apparently they don’t and put a limit on it.
When I plan out the trips we’ll be taking this year, though, that’s really not a problem, and being able to change my companion three times a year is enough.
Remember that you get to designate someone first and then change it three times, so technically, that’s four people. No worries, gift horse. I’m not looking at you.
Other Ways to Earn Southwest Airlines Points
There are other ways to earn points, too, like booking hotels and rental cars through their Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal, but that’s for another post. The important thing to note here is that even after you’ve earned your Companion Pass, there are still more ways to keep racking up the points!
Bonus: You get to use the word “portal”, so there’s that.
Where Will You Go With Your Southwest Airline Companion Pass?
Are you needing some inspiration for where you can fly with your Southwest Airline Companion Pass? How about this?
A round trip ticket from Seattle to Sacremento this July is only 10,014 points
How about Denver to Orlando over spring break? You can for a mere 10,740 points?
Maui for Mother’s Day? Roundtrip from San Diego is only 17,780 points. (We did that once. Best Mother’s Day ever!)
Remember, those are all the points needed for you and your companion. 138,000 points can go a long way!
So how about it? Where will you go with your stash of points and a buddy by your side? Leave us a comment and share your dreams with us…we want to know!
Hearts & Hugs,
PS. As promised, here are some of the nitty-gritty details.
Chase Bank 5/24 Rule
*Before you apply for any credit cards, you need to know that Chase Bank only allows a person to get five personal credit cards in twenty four months. That’s called the 5/24 rule and although business cards aren’t counted, if you’ve already maxed out your five personal, you won’t be able to get any business cards, either, so plan accordingly.
There are other banks that offer credit cards besides Chase, but the main thing is to have a plan before you apply for any new cards.
**Applying for the Southwest Business cards is a safe way to get started since they won’t count as part of the 5/24, but make sure you have a plan of action from there!
Also, Southwest offers two business credit cards and you can have both at the same time. However, you can only have one of their three personal cards at a time. If you go that route, study the benefits of all their credit cards and choose wisely.
**Your FICO credit score needs to be at least 670 or higher to be approved for a credit card. If yours isn’t high enough, your first step is to begin working on that right now. There are plenty of sights online that can help you. Even if it takes a couple of years, that’s ok! It’s better than getting a couple of years down the road and still having a low credit score, right?
Also, if you’re married, you and your spouse do not share a credit score. You each have your own, so if one of you has good credit and the other doesn’t, you can start working on your companion pass while the other works on building up their score.
***The Southwest Performance Business card has several great benefits, including four upgraded boarding passes per year. (I’m scheming now for which flights I want to use these on!)
It also gives a $100 credit toward Global Entry, which includes TSA Precheck. If you’ve done any flying and noticed how much shorter the TSA Precheck line usually is, you know what a great benefit this is.
Each card has its own set of benefits as well as annual bonus points. You’ll want to weigh those against the annual fee and decide which card makes the most sense for you to get.
Karee Blunt is a nationally syndicated travel journalist, focused on discovering destinations and experiences that captivate and inspire others through her writing. She is also the founder of Our Woven Journey, a travel site focused on inspiring others to create memory-making adventures with their loved ones. Karee is passionate about encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone and live the life they dream of. She is the mother of six kids, including four through adoption, and lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. You can learn more about Karee on her about me page.