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The Southwest Companion Pass has long been considered the holy grail of travel passes you can earn through an airline credit card.

It’s valuable for a few reasons, starting with the fact that it’s good for the year you earn it and the entire following year. Not only that, but the Southwest Companion Pass applies to both flights you buy with points and with cash. That means, as the owner of the pass, you can get your companion ticket for free even on an award flight.

How to get the Southwest Companion Pass

To qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass, you’ll need to join the Southwest Rapid Rewards program and fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 135,000 qualifying points per calendar year. Many people achieve Companion Pass status by using a combination of Southwest credit card sign-up bonuses, credit card spending and rental car or hotel bookings made through Southwest.

Currently, all three Southwest consumer cards offer a first-year welcome bonus where you can earn a Companion Pass. Through March 13, 2023, eligible new cardmembers can earn a Companion Pass (valid through Feb. 28, 2024) as well as 30,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. This goes for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card.

How to earn points toward Companion Pass

Points that qualify for the Companion Pass include:

  • Flights booked through Southwest
  • Points earned on Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards
  • Base points earned from Rapid Rewards partners

Southwest credit card points count toward Companion Pass status when they are posted to your Rapid Rewards account (after your credit card closing date), not on the day the spending occurs. This is an important distinction; if you wait until Dec. 31 to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, know that running out and spending money on your credit card that day likely won’t help. You’d have to spend the money early enough so the points post to your account on your December billing statement, and you’d have to ensure you earn the full 135,000 points needed for the pass before the calendar year ends.

Also, not all Southwest points count toward the Companion Pass. For example, points transferred to this program from Chase Ultimate Rewards do not count. Certain bonus offers don’t count either, so you’ll always want to check the terms and conditions first.

No limit on earning points

In 2021, certain Southwest credit card members had their rewards’ limit for tier qualifying point spending removed. Now, no matter who you are, there’s no limit to the number of tier qualifying points you can earn (the limit was previously capped at 15,000 points). You’ll earn 1,500 tier qualifying points for every $10,000 in purchases if you have one of these Southwest cards:

How to use the Southwest Companion Pass

To use the pass, all you have to do is log in to your Southwest Rapid Rewards account and set up a designated “companion.” This person gets to fly with you on each domestic or international flight you take. You will still owe airline taxes and fees for your companion. These fees start at $5.60 per leg for domestic flights and can go up to $100 or more for international flights to Mexico and the Caribbean.

You can only change your designated companion up to three times per calendar year. Also, your companion can only fly for free with you; they cannot use the pass to fly alone or with someone else.

How many times can you use the Southwest Companion Pass?

One major reason consumers love this pass is because you can use it an unlimited number of times during the year you earn it, plus the entire following year.

With that in mind, Southwest Companion Pass rules don’t set any limits on how much value you can get in return. You can use your Companion Pass every week if you want to, and you can even use it when you pay for your flight with points instead of cash.

How long is the Companion Pass good for?

Since the Southwest Companion Pass is good for the remainder of the year you earn it in and the entire following year, how long you have the pass depends on when you reach the point threshold during the calendar year.

For example, if you opened a Rapid Rewards account on Jan. 1, 2023, and earned 135,000 points (posted to your account) by the end of June 2023, you’ll enjoy the benefits of the Southwest Companion Pass for the rest of 2023 and throughout 2024. The earlier in the year you achieve Southwest Companion Pass status, the longer you’re able to enjoy the benefits and savings.

One exception is any Companion Pass earned through the consumer cards’ current welcome offers (30,000 Rapid Rewards points and a Companion Pass after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening — when you apply through March 13, 2023). In this case, the pass is valid through Feb. 28, 2024, rather than through December 2024.

The bottom line

If you’re willing to put in the work, a Southwest Companion Pass is more than worth it. It comes with numerous benefits and savings that you can enjoy during the year you earn it — and the year after.