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Everybody loves the opportunity to travel for free. Occasionally, airlines offer great deals on flying with your partner or best buddy via a flight pass. Alaska Airlines, for example, offers an annual $99 companion fare linked to their Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card. The Southwest Companion Pass®, however, is even more valuable. Want to know more about how to earn and redeem the Southwest Companion Pass®? We’ll tell you how.

Johnny and family on a Southwest flight back in 2017. Credit: Johnny Jet

About the Southwest Companion Pass®

Southwest Companion Pass®, unlike some other companion fares, is totally free. Well, almost totally free. Taxes and fees must still be accounted for, but those start at only $5.60 for a one-way ticket. That means no flat-rate companion-fares or shelling out an annual fee to take advantage of the privilege. 

What could make a free flight even better? Unlimited free flights for over a year, that’s what. The Southwest Companion Pass doesn’t only allow one free flight for your travel buddy, but as many flights as you like in the time period that it is valid. Once you earn the standard Companion Pass, it is valid for one whole calendar year (January-December) after you meet the requirements plus the remainder of the calendar year in which you earned it.

That means if you earn the standard pass in May, you can use it for the rest of this year plus all of next year. But it gets better: you can redeem the pass whether you’re paying for your own flight in cash or in miles. So you can potentially rack up all the miles you need for a companion pass, then redeem them for upwards of 10 one-way flights and only pay taxes and fees for your travel and your companion’s.

How To Earn the Standard Southwest Companion Pass

So what’s the catch? In order to earn the standard Companion Pass, you have to meet a few requirements. The most difficult of which is to fly 100 times in a calendar year. That may seem impossible for anyone who doesn’t travel for business multiple times a month, but fortunately, there’s another way to earn.

Southwest Credit Cards

You can also claim the Southwest Companion Pass by making 100 one-way qualifying flights (or 50 round-trip qualifying flights) or 135,000 qualifying points.

Consumer Credit Cards

New Southwest Airlines (consumer) credit cardholders can earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

The consumer cards that have this bonus offer include the following:

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

  • Annual fee: $149
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Perks: $75 annual Southwest travel credit, four boarding upgrades per year, 7,500 bonus points on your anniversary

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

  • Annual fee: $99
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Perks: 6,000 bonus points on your anniversary

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

  • Annual fee: $69
  • Perks: 3,000 bonus points on your anniversary

Southwest consumer cardholders earn unlimited:

  • 3x points on Southwest® purchases (earn 2x points on Southwest® purchases with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card)
  • 2x points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare
  • 2x points on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming services

Additionally, all three consumer cards come with 25% back on inflight purchases.

Business Credit Cards

For even more points, sign up for the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

New Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card cardholders can earn 60,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months the account is open.

It also comes with a $99 annual fee. 

Alternatively, you can sign up for the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card. New card members can earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. 

The Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card earns:

  • 4x points on Southwest® purchases
  • 3x points on Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partners
  • 2x points on rideshares
  • 2x points on social media and search engine advertising, internet, cable, and phone services
  • 1x points on all other purchases

Cardholders also get unlimited tier qualifying points (TQPs) that can be earned toward A-List status. There is also a $500 annual fee credit for Rapid Rewards points transfers.

It also comes with 4 upgraded boardings per year (when available) and Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit.

Use the cards for all your spending and the points will start adding up. 

Other Southwest Companion Pass Earning Options

You can also earn points from any flights you take with Southwest. Keep in mind that they award miles based on your fare, not the distance traveled, so more expensive Business Select fares will mean more miles in your account.

Southwest Airlines’ travel partners are also an easy way to earn, though not all of them are eligible. For example, the points you collect from the Southwest shopping and dining portals count toward the 135,000 points, but transfers from Ultimate Rewards (if you also have a Chase Sapphire Card) don’t.

Purchased points, points transferred between members, points converted from hotel and car loyalty programs, and e-Rewards, e-Miles, Valued Opinions, and Diners Club points don’t count. Points earned from program enrollment, Tier bonuses, flight bonus points, and partner bonus points do not qualify as Southwest Companion Pass® qualifying points.

How to redeem the Southwest Companion Pass

Once you’ve earned the pass, the question becomes, how do you redeem it? First, you must log in to your Rapid Rewards account and designate an individual as your companion. They will get a special Companion Pass card. You can even change who your designated companion is up to three times per calendar year if necessary.

After you’ve designated your companion, you must book your flight first. Then go to the My Trips page in your account, find your flights, and select Add Companion. Review the flight information and click Purchase to complete the reservation. That’s all there is to it! Remember, you can pay in cash or points for the initial member fare.

Extra Considerations

You both have to be booked on the same flight on the same day. And any changes made to your purchased ticket will also have to be made to the Companion Pass. That includes upgrades.  

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