If you’re new to using points and miles to book flights, you may be asking, “What is the Southwest Companion Pass?” The Southwest Companion Pass allows you to fly with one other person for free (plus taxes and fees). You may think of it as a buy-one-get-one-free coupon.

Many travel experts consider the Companion Pass to be among the best travel perks in the industry because this isn’t a one-time pass. You can use it as much as you fly, as long as there’s a seat available. It doesn’t even matter whether you use points or cash.

To help design your strategy, we’ve summarized the ways you can accelerate your progress to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.

How Do I Get It?

You can earn the Companion Pass by reaching either the required number of flight segments or qualifying points in a single calendar year.

Earn the Southwest Companion Pass via Flights

For those that fly a lot, it’s possible to earn the Companion Pass by taking 100 one-way flights on Southwest. This qualification method is completely separate from earning the required number of points—if you earn the pass through flight segments, it doesn’t matter how many points you earn.

According to Southwest:

“A one-way qualifying flight is defined as a one-way revenue trip on Southwest Airlines from an origin city to a destination city, including any intermediate stops and/or connections on Southwest Airlines.”

While it’s great that you can earn the Companion Pass via flights alone, flying 100 segments in a calendar year isn’t practical for most people.

Earn the Southwest Companion Pass via Points

The easier path to the Companion Pass is by earning 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year. You can earn these points through sign-up bonuses and spending on Southwest co-branded credit cards, which is a much more likely path for many.

But where should someone start to earn this sum of points?

Strategies to Earn 125,000 Southwest Points

Earning 125,000 points can feel like a huge goal to hit. Fortunately, Southwest provides several different methods to earn the required 125,000 points, and you can mix and match the earning strategies that best suit your needs. Here are the most widely used options:

  1. Spending on cobranded Southwest credit cards
  2. Flying on Southwest Airlines
  3. Booking hotel stays and car rentals through Southwest
  4. Rapid Rewards Shopping
  5. Rapid Rewards Dining

Southwest Co-Branded Credit Cards

All of the ways listed above can help you incrementally earn points toward the Southwest Companion Pass, but the fastest way is using the co-branded Southwest Chase cards. There are three personal and two business Rapid Rewards cards.

And now is a great time to sign up for one of these cards. All three cards are currently offering the opportunity to earn 75,000 points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Annual Fee$69
Welcome BonusEarn 75,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

Each of these cards provides an array of benefits tailored to your budget and needs. We think the Southwest Priority Card is the clear winner of the group for providing long-term value for Southwest flyers. Check out our full review of the Southwest Priority Card for more details.

If you decide to make one or more of the co-branded cards part of your Companion Pass strategy, make sure that any bonus points post in the calendar year you intend to qualify. For example, if you sign up for an offer of 40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first three months, you want to make sure you don’t cross the $1,000 spending threshold until you are ready for the full bonus to post to your account.

Flying

Even if you won’t reach 100 flight segments, flying with Southwest can help you qualify with points. Southwest awards points for flying based on the type of fare you choose and the amount you spend:

  • Wanna Get Away Fares – 6 points per dollar
  • Anytime Fares – 10 points per dollar
  • Business Select Fares – 12 points per dollar

Screenshot showing example Southwest flight purchase

Given that Southwest pays 6X per dollar on base fare (excluding taxes), you would earn ($486.29 X 6) 2,917 redeemable miles for booking the above flight.

Graphic showing how you earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points from flights
Earn 6, 10, or 12 points per dollar depending on the fare type you choose

While these points can add up quickly, it’s important to remember that travelers only earn Rapid Rewards points when they fly. That means you won’t get any closer to your goal with flights booked for family members. Fortunately, the other strategies listed below will work regardless of who is traveling, as long as you attach your Rapid Rewards number to the reservation.

Hotel Stays

Recently, I had a trip to Chicago scheduled, so I decided to check out if there were any opportunities. Searching Southwest Hotels through Booking.com, we find our first possibility.

Extra points
Extra points

If you wanted to buy additional points, there are options for that too. For example, it looked like I could pay $76 more to get 15,000 Rapid Rewards points instead of 11,000 points.

Southwest Hotels example showing two Rapid Rewards points earning options

Unfortunately, the price you see on the page where you select the hotel and room type doesn’t include the taxes. When I clicked through to the page to complete the reservation, the cost jumped from $814 to $942.Screen-Shot-2019-10-23-at-9.37.14-PM

Make sure to compare the Southwest Hotels price with other options. The same room shown above could also be booked directly with Marriott for $866, which would save you $76. However, don’t forget to factor in the value of the Rapid Rewards points and progress toward the Companion Pass. Rapid Reward points are generally worth 1.3-1.5 cents each. 15,000 extra Rapid Rewards would have a minimum value of $195, and the Companion Pass itself could be invaluable.

Keep in mind that most of the major hotel loyalty programs don’t award points or recognize elite status when you book through a third-party site.

Car Rentals

While I personally have found that Autoslash works best for rentals, you might want to search the Southwest Book a Car service. With some agencies offering 4X and others offering 2X plus upfront bonuses, every point helps toward the Companion Pass.

Before you start your search have a look at the Special Offers page to see what deals will work with your trip.

Earn 2X Southwest Rapid Rewards points through Alamo
Earn 2X plus 1,200 bonus points

For a quick 3-day trip to Florida, you could earn 1,700-1,800 additional points.

Points earned count toward the Companion Pass
Points earned count toward the Companion Pass

Rapid Rewards Shopping

Being a Southwest Loyalist, you won’t want to miss out on these opportunities either. Many of the places you shop online could help pad your balances when clicking through Rapid Rewards® Shopping. You can find many of your favorite retailers with 850+ shopping partners listed. Popular stores include Home Depot, Macy’s, Nike, and so many more.

To earn credit for your purchase, just visit the shopping portal page before clicking on the merchant’s website. The shopping portal will track the value of your purchase and award points based on the multiplier shown for the merchant. Here’s a helpful video explaining the shopping portal.

Screenshot showing example Southwest Rapid Rewards shopping portal payouts

Rapid Rewards Dining

If you eat out frequently, you may want to investigate the Rapid Rewards Dining® program too. Unlike shopping programs that require clicking through a specific link before your purchase, the dining program is automatic; you’ll get credit just by using the credit card you have registered with the dining program to pay your check. This means you’ll earn points at restaurants without even thinking about it.

Registering for a dining program has absolutely no impact on the points you normally earn through credit card spending. For example, you can add the American Express® Gold Card which earns 4x Membership Rewards at restaurants. If you pay with this card, you’ll earn Amex points like normal, but the dining program will recognize a purchase on the card you registered and award extra Rapid Rewards. Since the Southwest credit cards only earn one point per dollar on dining, it’s a good idea to register one of the top cards for restaurant purchases.

The dining program also frequently offers a sign-up bonus for registering for the program and completing at least one dine at a participating restaurant.

Southwest Rapid Rewards dining new member sign-up bonus banner

It’s important to note that the company that runs Rapid Rewards Dining® (Rewards Network) also manages dining programs for many of the other hotel and airline loyalty programs. You can only register a credit card with one dining program at a time.

For example, if you previously registered the Citi Prestige® Card card with Alaska Mileage Plan Dining, registering the same card with Rapid Rewards Dining will remove you from the Alaska program. Here’s our post on the other dining program options.

Which Points Do Not Count Towards the Companion Pass

The list of points that do not qualify isn’t surprising, but is important to know:

  • Purchased points
  • Points transferred between members
  • Points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Points converted from hotel and car loyalty programs (such as Marriott Bonvoy)
  • Points earned from e-Rewards, Valued Opinions, and Diners Club
  • Points earned from Rapid Rewards program enrollment
  • Points earned from tier bonus
  • Flight bonus points
  • Partner bonus points

You should remember what points qualify and then work under the assumption that everything else does not. When in doubt, check Southwest.com or run a small test before you commit to a strategy.

Final Thoughts

The Southwest Companion Pass is easily one of the most valuable perks available in award travel, and can potentially save you thousands of dollars on flights while you hold it.

Earning the 125,000 points required for the Companion Pass can appear daunting, but Southwest offers a bunch of different ways to accumulate the points you need to secure the pass for 2022 & 2023.

Plan on getting the Companion Pass in 2022? Let us know in the comments.

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