Published on January 12th, 2015 | by William Charles61
Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About The Southwest Companion Pass
What Is It?
The Southwest companion pass lets you choose one person to travel with you for free for one year. You actually get the companion pass for more than a full year, this is because you’ll get it until the end of the calendar year you earn the pass in and then the next calendar year. This means that if you earn it in January of 2016, you’d get the companion pass until December of 2017.
There are two ways to qualify for the companion pass:
- Fly 100 qualifying one way flights or
- Earn 110,000 Southwest points
Once you’ve earned the companion pass and designated your companion whenever you book you’ll be given the option to add that companion to your booking. There are no limits to how often the companion pass may be used. The companion pass can be used on award & paid flights.
What Fees Does The Companion Pay?
This is a government mandated fee that was introduced in light of September 11th, this fee is aptly called the “September 11th security fee“. This fee cannot exceed $5.60 per one way flight ($11.2 for a round trip). This is the only fee you are required to pay when adding your companion.
Southwest gives customers two pieces of checked baggage for free on all tickets. You can view their full baggage policies here.
This means you cannot immediately book your companion pass after booking the initial flight. There is some lag time between the two events. H/T to Paul.
Best Ways To Earn It
Most people won’t fly 100 one way flights in a calendar year (unless you’re a road warrior, in which case you might). The easiest ways to get a Southwest companion pass all involve getting multiple credit cards.
Two Southwest Cards
The normal sign up bonus on the Southwest cards is 25,000 points after $2,000 in spend, but these cards almost always have an increased sign up bonus of 50,000 points after $2,000 in spend. These cards earn at a rate of 1 point per $1 in spend (they earn 2 points per $1 in spend on Southwest flight purchases, hotel partners, car rental partners & point purchases). These are the three cards that Southwest offers (Business plus was discontinued in 2014), click the names of each card to see the current sign up bonus.
- Southwest Personal Plus comes with an annual fee of $69, 3,000 point anniversary bonus
- Southwest Personal Premier comes with an annual fee of $99, 6,000 point anniversary bonus
- Southwest Business Premier comes with an annual fee of $99, 6,000 point anniversary bonus
This means that at minimum if you apply for two credit cards you’ll have 104,000 points after meeting the minimum spend requirements, which leaves you 6,000 points short. Here are some ideas on how to earn the additional 6,000 points you’ll need.
1. 1800 Flowers
1800 flowers regularly runs promotions Southwest. Frequent miler has written a series of posts on how you can earn a companion pass using 1800 flowers and has done a lot of experimentation, I suggest giving it a thorough read if you’re considering this, I’d start with this post “how to feed the hungry and fly for free“.
$120 > 6,000 Southwest points + $120 in flowers/snacks
I personally think this method is too risky unless you’re just needing to top off a few points for your pass. If you can get the 1,500 points for purchases over $29.99 you’d effectively be paying $120 for 6,000 Southwest points and you’d have a heap of flowers/possible tax deductions.
Although at the moment Southwest is only offer 1,000 points for purchases over $29.99, which would make this more expensive (and this all excludes shipping as well).
2. Make $6,000 in purchases
Because the Southwest cards earn 1x point per dollar spent, if you spent $6,000 then you’d get the extra 6,000 points you need for the pass. Obviously you’d be missing out on getting at least 2% cash back on these purchases ($120), which is why the 1800 flowers route might make more sense.
What Points Do & Don’t Count?
- Points earned from Southwest flights
- Points earned from spending on your Chase Southwest credit cards
- Sign up bonus points from the Chase Southwest credit cards
- Anniversary points from the Chase southwest credit cards
- Referral points earned from referring friends & family do count towards the companion pass
- Points from the Southwest shopping portal
- Points from Southwest dining
- Points from Energy Plus (please becareful with this company, a lot of horror stories)
- Points from Everything Energy
- Points from Regus virtual office payments
- Points for signing up to Dish
- Points from Reliant secure
- Points from SuperShuttle & ExecuCar
- Base points earn from hotel booking websites that earn airline miles instead of hotel points count (e.g RocketMiles, PointsHound, Kaligo) but any additional bonuses (e.g sign up bonuses) do not count. Update: some people are reporting that all of these points count. Keep in mind your points won’t post until after your hotel stay.
Does not count
- Points transferred from hotel partners
- Points from Marriott hotel + air packages
- Points from car rental partners (only the standard 600 points qualifies, if they are running an additional bonus this does not qualify)
- Points from E Miles
- Points from E Rewards
- Points transferred from Diners club (confirmed by reader Corey)
- Bonus points earned from flying when you have status (A-list preferred gets 100% bonus and A-list gets 20% bonus) do not count
- Additional bonuses points earned from hotel booking websites that earn airline miles instead of hotel points (e.g RocketMiles, PointsHound, Kaligo)
- Points that have been converted from Chase UR points
- Purchased points do not count, although keep in mind the credit cards do earn 2x points on points purchased and these earned points do count.
- Points earned from signing up to Southwest’s loyalty program do not count. Southwest offers a sign up bonus of 750 points for joining and subscribing to their newsletter, these points do not count.
- Points transferred from other rapid rewards accounts
How can I see if certain points have qualified for the companion pass?
- Log into your rapid rewards account
- Navigate to rewards activity (or click that link)
- Click the drop down menu next to “type”
- Select companion pass qualify points
You’ll then see a full list of points that do qualify.
Can I change the name of my companion?
Yes, it’s possible to change your companion up to three times for the duration of your companion pass and you can change back to the same person as well (e.g nominate your wife, change to your mistress and then back to your wife). To do this just call Southwest up and make the request.
Update: The limit of 3 is actually for each calendar year; e.g. if you get the Pass in January 2016, you can switch 3 times in 2016 and another 3 times in 2017.
When do points post from the Southwest credit cards?
Typically within 1-2 days of your statement closing date.
How soon can I start using my companion pass?
As soon as 110,000 or more points are earned within a calendar year your companion pass should start to be worked on. Most people find it’s not fully processed for 2-3 business days, calling Southwest to expedite might help.
Can my companion fly for free if I am not taking the flight?
No, you must be on any flight your companion takes for it to be free.
Are companion passes stackable? E.g, if the companion I designate also has a companion pass, do they fly for free?
No, this is not possible.
Do I need to keep the physical companion pass card with me for flights when I am flying with a companion?
Southwest’s official policy is that you do, but I don’t know of anybody who has ever had their pass checked. That being said, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Can you add a companion to a previously booked flight?
Yes you can add a companion to your flights at any stage, as long as there is still room on the aircraft. Although I’d avoid doing this too last minute as it might cause issues.