Yesterday I introduced you to what I believe is the most lucrative travel hacking opportunity on the market, the Southwest Companion Pass.
[Click here to read our in-depth post “The Ultimate Guide to the Southwest Companion Pass” now]
Today, I’m going to cut straight to the chase. I’m going to show you how the Companion Pass works, how you can get it, and what you can do to maximize value out of this awesome opportunity.
All told, the information that you are about to read could help you earn more than $3,500 in free travel.
Let’s get started.
What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
As we discussed yesterday, the Southwest Companion Pass is a pass that allows you to take a companion on any Southwest flight that you fly for free. There is no limit to how often it can be used and there are no blackout dates. The only fee that the companion needs to pay is the $2.50 tax per segment.
Once earned, the Companion Pass is valid for the rest of the calendar year plus the entire next calendar year. So if you earn the Companion Pass today, it would be valid until December 31, 2015.
You have to designate who your companion is so unfortunately you cannot take a different person every time. You can however change your companion three times, meaning that you can use it with up to 4 people (start with person A, then switch to B, C, and D). You can also switch the name back to someone who was already listed as your companion (start with person A, then switch to B, C, and back to A).
Your companion has to travel on the same itinerary as you do, so they cannot fly unless you are on the plane with them. Trust me, there is no flexibility to this rule. Your companion will be removed from the plane if you are not also on board.
Still with me?
Great. Now let’s take a look at how you can earn the Companion Pass.
Getting the Companion Pass
There are 2 ways to earn a Southwest Companion Pass:
- Complete 100 qualifying one-way flights on Southwest in a calendar year
- Earn 110,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year
*Rapid Rewards are Southwest’s Frequent Flyer Miles
Unless you plan on flying Southwest 100 times in the next year (~2 times per week), earning the 110,000 points is your only legitimate option for earning a Companion Pass.
This might seem like an impossible task, but I was able to do it in less than 3 months for just $168 out of pocket. Here’s how:
Step 1: Open 2 Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards.
Southwest has three credit cards Personal Premier, Personal Plus and Business Premier and each of them offer between 25,000 – 50,000 points as a signup bonus.
By signing up for two of the cards I was able to earn 104,000 Qualifying Rapid Rewards points (100,000 points from the sign-up bonuses + 4,000 from the minimum spends), which is just 6,000 points short of the 110,000 required for the Companion Pass.
The cards had annual fees of $69 and $99 that are not waived for the first year, meaning that I had to spend $168 to earn 104,000 Rapid Rewards points. I usually try to avoid spending any money at all, but $168 for roughly $1,700 in travel is a pretty good deal.
I used Amazon Payments to meet the minimum spending requirements without spending a dime. This is a more advanced concept that is covered thoroughly in my FREE EBook.
Step 2: Earn the remaining 6,000 miles through purchases, transfers, or flying.
You have a few options for earning the remaining 6,000 points that are required for the Companion Pass.
Option 1: Spend $6,000 on your Southwest credit card
You earn 1 point per $1 spent on your Southwest credit card, so spending $6,000 would earn you the remaining 6,000 Rapid Reward Points. This option is perfect if you have a large bill coming up or regularly spend that amount of money.
Option 2: Transfer points from Rapid Rewards partners
Transferring points from Southwest’s partners (Hyatt, Marriott, etc.) is another great way to earn the remaining 6,000 points. I was able to transfer some leftover Marriott points to qualify for my own Companion Pass. Be sure to note the conversion rates (most are not 1 to 1) and whether the points qualify toward the Companion Pass. Note that neither Chase Ultimate Reward Transfers nor buying Southwest miles count toward the Companion Pass.
Option 3: Fly on Southwest
Don’t forget that you can earn Rapid Reward miles by actually flying on Southwest. Note that this does not apply to flights booked with points.
Now that you know how to earn a Companion Pass, let’s take a look at how you can get the most value out of it.
Maximizing the Value of Your Companion Pass
When it comes to maximizing the value of a Companion Pass I have found that it is best to think of it as a happy hour at your favorite bar. If happy hour runs from 6-8, would you rather show up at 6:00 or 7:45?
If you’re like my friends you’ll be there at 6:00 (or even 5:00 on some days).
The same principle applies to the Companion Pass. Because the Companion Pass is valid for the remainder of the calendar year in which it is earned, plus the entire next calendar year, it is best to earn it as early in the year as you can.
Here’s how you can do this:
- Sign up for 2 Southwest credit cards late in the year (November or December is best)
- Spend all the way up to, but not over, the minimum spending requirement on both cards. Amazon Payments should help with this.
- Hit the minimum spends and earn the remaining points as soon as you can after January 1, triggering the Companion Pass to count for a full 24 months.
The Companion Pass can be pretty tricky so don’t hesitate to email me with any questions that you may have. It might also help to check out some of the FAQ’s below.
Companion Pass FAQ’s
How much is the Southwest Companion Pass “worth”?
While it is difficult to assign a specific value to the Companion Pass, you can come up with a rough number by looking at the value of Southwest points. 110,000 Southwest points is worth roughly $1,833 in travel when booking Southwest “Wanna Getaway Fares”. If you bring your companion on all the flights that you book with those points, you would be getting an additional $1,833 of free airfare for a total of $3,666.
Do I have to buy the Companion Pass with the points I earned?
Nope. Once you earn the 110,000 points the pass is yours for free. You still have those points to redeem for free flights on Southwest.
Can I use my points to book flights for people other than my companion?
Yes. Your points can be used to book flights for anyone you’d like. Remember, however, that your companion can only fly with you.
Can the Companion Pass be used on Southwest flights that are booked with points?
Yes. The companion pass can be used on any type of ticket.
How quickly does my designated companion go into effect?
When selecting or changing your companion the new name goes into effect immediately. You do not have to wait for the new companion pass card to arrive by mail. To change the name of your companion, call Southwest Customer Service and they can change it immediately. Remember that this can only be done three times.
Do points transferred from other loyalty programs count toward the Companion Pass?
Some do and some do not. Any points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards do not count. Points transferred from Hyatt, Marriott, Wyndham, Club Carlson, and Choice Hotels do count towards the companion pass.