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The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the best rewards offered by any airline loyalty program. While some airlines give frequent flyers one free companion ticket per year, Southwest gives you as many companion tickets as you want, for the year in which you earn the Companion Pass plus the next full calendar year.

That’s a pretty great reward, right? Here’s an overview of how the Companion Pass program works, how you can get a pass for your companion, and how Southwest credit cards can help you earn that pass more quickly.

What is the Southwest Companion Pass?

The Southwest Companion Pass allows you to select one person to fly with you, as often as you want, for both the year in which you earn the pass and the next calendar year — without having to pay for their plane ticket. (You do need to pay any taxes and fees associated with the ticket.) To get the Southwest Companion Pass you need to earn 110,000 Rapid Rewards points.

If you are a frequent flyer with a spouse, partner, child, or friend who often travels with you, getting the Southwest Companion Pass can save you a lot of money. You and your companion must always fly the same flights, and if you cancel your ticket, your companion’s ticket will get canceled as well.

Southwest requires you to identify a single individual as your designated companion, so you can’t share your Companion Pass among multiple people. However, you can change your designated companion up to three times per calendar year.

How do you earn Southwest Rapid Rewards Points?

There are four major ways to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points. You can purchase airfare through Southwest, you can make purchases with one of Southwest’s partners, or you can use a Southwest credit card to earn points on everyday purchases. You can also purchase Rapid Rewards points directly from Southwest, but purchased points do not count towards the 110,000 points you need for a Southwest Companion Pass.

If you want to earn Rapid Rewards points by booking flights through Southwest, be aware that each flight class awards a different amount of points per dollar. If you book a Wanna Get Away?® flight, you’ll earn 6 points per dollar. Buy an Anytime flight, and you’ll earn 10 points per dollar. Upgrade to a Business Select® flight, and you’ll earn 12 points per dollar — twice as many as you’d get with a basic Wanna Get Away ticket.

If you want to earn Rapid Rewards points by shopping through one of Southwest’s partners, log in to your Southwest account or visit Southwest’s Earn With Partners hub. You’ll be able to browse a list of Southwest’s partners, divided by category (travel, dining, etc.), and make purchases that also earn Rapid Rewards points.

In some cases, partner and airfare purchases earn both “base points” and “bonus points.” Bonus points generally do not count towards the 110,000 points you need for your Companion Pass.

Which credit cards help you earn Southwest Rapid Rewards Points?

Southwest has partnered with Chase to offer four airline credit cards — three personal credit cards and one business credit card. Each card gives you Rapid Rewards Points for every purchase you make, which can help you earn your Southwest Companion Pass more quickly. If you’re willing to pay higher annual fees, you’ll be able to earn even more Rapid Rewards bonus or anniversary points.

Here’s a quick breakdown of each of these credit cards; click the links to get full Bankrate reviews.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

  • 2x points on Southwest purchases and 2x points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partner purchases
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
  • 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first three months of card ownership
  • 3,000 anniversary points each year
  • $69 annual fee

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

  • 2x points on Southwest purchases and 2x points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partner purchases
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
  • 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first three months of card ownership
  • 6,000 anniversary points per year
  • Earn tier qualifying points for Southwest A-list Status
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $99 annual fee

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

  • 2x points on Southwest purchases and 2x points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partner purchases
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
  • 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first three months of card ownership
  • 7,500 anniversary points each year
  • Earn tier qualifying points for Southwest A-list Status
  • $75 Southwest annual travel credit
  • Four upgraded boardings per year (when available)
  • 20% back on in-flight drinks, Wi-Fi, messaging, and movies
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $149 annual fee

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

  • 2x points on Southwest purchases and 2x points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partner purchases
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
  • 60,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months of card ownership
  • 6,000 anniversary points each year
  • Earn tier qualifying points for Southwest A-list Status
  • Receive employee cards at no additional cost and earn points on employee spending
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $99 annual fee

How can you redeem your Southwest Companion Pass?

To redeem your Southwest Companion Pass, first book a Southwest ticket for yourself. Then visit your online account, select your flight, and select the “Add Companion” option to book your companion’s flight. You can also call Southwest’s toll-free reservations number to book your companion’s flight over the phone. Be prepared to pay any taxes or fees associated with the flight.

When you designate a person as your companion, that person will receive a Southwest Companion Pass card. Make sure your companion brings their Companion Pass card to the airport, as they may be required to show their card at the ticket counter or departure gate.

Can you transfer your Southwest Companion Pass?

Although you can transfer your Rapid Rewards points to friends and family members and can even donate your Rapid Rewards points to charity, you cannot transfer your Southwest Companion Pass to another account. (Also, transferred Rapid Rewards points do not count towards the 110,000 points you need for a Southwest Companion Pass.)

What else do you need to know about the Southwest Companion Pass?

Although Southwest Rapid Rewards points never expire, you need to keep your Southwest Rapid Rewards account active to be eligible to use your points. To keep your account active, you must earn or purchase qualifying Rapid Rewards points at least once every 24 months — and if you earn those points by booking a flight on Southwest, you must take the flight before your 24 months are up.

On the subject of timing: since the Southwest Companion Pass is active for the calendar year in which it is earned as well as the next full calendar year, it’s to your advantage to earn your Companion Pass as early in the year as possible. If you’re planning on opening a Southwest credit card, for example, try to do it in December or January — but if you open your card in December, don’t start spending on the card until the new year begins. Your Southwest credit card bonus points also count towards your Companion Pass, so make sure you earn them in the first three months you have the card!

Earn those 110,000 Rapid Rewards points early enough, and you’ll be able to use your Companion Pass for nearly two full years. That’s a lot of free trips, so take advantage of them.