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The Southwest Companion Pass is the best deal in travel for many, and there are several ways that you can earn it quickly — and strategies to keep earning it year after year.
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card: signup bonus of 50,000 points after $2000 in spending on purchases within 3 months of account opening.
This is a much better offer than the standard 25,000 points after $1000 in spend. 50,000 points are worth $500 in gift cards, or can be worth over $700 in Southwest travel. The card also comes with 6000 points after each cardmember anniversary and has no foreign transaction fees. It has a $99 annual fee.
I’m a fan of two key elements of the Southwest program:
- no change or redeposit fees on awards
- a Southwest companion pass after earning 110,000 points in a year
How Does the Southwest Companion Pass Work?
A Southwest Companion Pass lets a companion fly with you free when you travel on Southwest — even when you are flying on a Rapid Rewards award ticket.
You choose the person you want as your companion. When you book your tickets, you have the option to also use the Southwest companion pass for your designated person. (You can also book companion pass travel by phone.) You pay for your ticket, the companion flies for just the cost of security taxes. That’s it.
You can use the Southwest companion pass as many times as you’d like, and you can change your designated companion three times during its validity.
The most intriguing aspect of the Southwest Rapid Rewards program is the companion pass and this card’s signup bonus gets you a good chunk of the way there.
You can earn this by taking 100 flights on Southwest, but who wants to do that? You also receive a Southwest companion pass when you earn 110,000 points in a year.
Nearly all points count towards the 110,000 threshold. Your flights, credit card bonuses and spend, and transfers in from hotel progams count. The key things that do not count are transfers in directly from Chase Ultimate Rewards and purchased points.
Here are 7 ways to earn the points for a Southwest Companion Pass:
Two Southwest credit card signup bonuses
When you sign up for the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and meet the required minimum spending for the signup bonus you’ll have at least 52,000 points.
Clicking on ‘Are you a business owner?’ on the application link shows that the business card also features the Southwest 50000 bonus point offer.
Meet minimum spend on both and you’re going to have 104,000 points — within easy striking distance of the 110,000 required for the year. And you can earn the last 6000 points in many ways, including those I mention below.
Had the Southwest card before? If you are interested in coming back, especially if you haven’t had 5 new cards in the past 24 months, consider applying for it again as you’re eligible for a signup bonus if you aren’t a current cardholder and haven’t received a bonus for the card in the last 24 months.
Marriott Travel Packages
Marriott Rewards offers hotel and miles package redemptions that are probably the highest value use of their points.
They advertise 7 night hotel packages that can also get you the annual points you need for a companion pass.
But they also have 5 night travel packages which were originally introduced for timeshare owners, aren’t publicized on the Marriott Rewards website, can but can booked by phone (HT: Richard Kerr). That lets you get the Southwest points you need at a lower cost — 235,000 Marriott Rewards points for 5 nights at a category 1-5 hotel and 120,000 Southwest points (which is enough for a companion pass).
Chase Ultimate Rewards to Hyatt or Marriott to Southwest
If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card you can transfer points directly from your Chase Ultimate Rewards account to Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards. However those points don’t count towards companion pass.
The workaround is that hotel points transfers to Southwest do count. That means you can transfer your points over to Marriott Rewards so you have enough points for a travel package. (You don’t want to just transfer Marriott Rewards straight to Southwest, it’s not the best ratio.)
If you aren’t going the travel package route, you can also transfer Chase points to Hyatt and from Hyatt to Southwest.
5,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points transfers to 2,400 Southwest Airlines points. Convert 50,000 Hyatt points to 24,000 Southwest points and you get a 6000 point bonus (making the ratio 5:3). Transfer 200,000 Hyatt points, then, into Southwest and you receive 120,000 Southwest points. Or convert 192,500 Hyatt points for just over the 110,000 you need:
The great thing here is that Chase points can be earned so quickly.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card lets you earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards® but of course we’re going to use the points for transfers to airline points.
You can earn another 5,000 bonus points when you add your first authorized user to the account and make a purchase in the same 3 months from account opening.
The card earns 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide. It has an introductory annual fee of $0 the first year, then $95.
Spend a lot on your Southwest cards
Spending on your Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card counts toward the 110,000 points needed in a calendar year for the Companion Pass. Note that the year in which your statement closes and thus points post is the year in which spending counts. So be careful with the timing of your December spend if you’re counting on it.
Make Southwest your primary program
Since nearly every other than points transfers directly from Chase, buying or transfering points, and certain bonuses count towards the Southwest Companion Pass you can make Southwest Rapid Rewards your primary program. If you’re going to travel enough on this 2-for-1 deal throughout the year it can be worthwhile.
Simply credit the miles you’d earn for non-flight activity to your Southwest Rapid Rewards account instead of other airline programs. Book hotels through Rocketmiles. And you might even choose to fly Southwest more as well.
Buying Choice Hotels points
You can convert 6,000 Choice points to 1800 Southwest points. You can use a trick to buy Choice points for as little as 3/4ths of a cent apiece. (HT: Frequent Miler) They’ve also been on sale regularly each year through Daily Getaways.
You’re unlikely to do this from scratch (buying 372,000 Choice points) — since you can earn points each year from a variety of different sources, this is a reasonable method of topping off an account, unless you’re going to use that companion pass more than once a month it’s probably not worth doing this from scratch.
Online shopping (and then re-selling what you buy).
Do your online shopping through the Southwest Rapid Rewards portal and earn points for the things you were going to buy anyway.
While that alone can add up, there’s leverage in buying things with high resale value, recouping a portion of your cost and earning Southwest points towards the Southwest companion pass in the process.