How to Travel as a Couple using Rapid Rewards points with the Companion Pass with savings on flights with Southwest
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A Year with the Southwest Companion Pass

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By: Matt Brown

This year was the first time I’ve ever had the Companion Pass from Southwest Airlines. Even though the year isn’t over, with no more planned Southwest travel for the rest of 2018, I wanted to tally things up and walk through how we saved almost $2,500 with our Southwest Companion Pass.

Yes, you read that correctly. We saved almost $2,500 on flights! Read on to learn how we did it and how we’re going to be able to do it again in 2019.

How To Use Southwest Companion Pass

We saved $2,471.31 in 2018 by using Rapid Rewards points plus another $2,471.31 with the Companion Pass, for a grand total of $4,942.62 in savings on flights with Southwest.

What Is the Companion Pass

Southwest Rapid Rewards has consistently been ranked highly by travelers who enjoy the simplicity of the program.  If there’s an empty seat on the plane, you can either pay in cash or use miles. It’s that simple.

But another perk that makes Southwest Rapid Rewards fantastic is the Companion Pass. It is often heralded as the single best domestic frequent flier perk on the market.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card Earn Companion Pass and 30,000 points after $4k spend in 3 months. Companion Pass expires 12/31/19Learn More

You can bring a designated companion on any Southwest flight for just the taxes and fees. On domestic flights, your companion’s ticket is just $5.60 each way. This is the best part of the Companion Pass – it works for any flight, regardless of whether you pay cash for your ticket or use Rapid Rewards points.

Aside from a few simple and basic rules, there are very few limitations surrounding the Companion Pass and using it. So it provides tremendous value for users year after year, and surprisingly isn’t super difficult to earn!

Check out our complete guide to earning the Southwest Companion Pass for 2019 and beyond.

How I Earned the Companion Pass

You may find this hard to believe, but before I earned my Companion Pass, I had only booked one round-trip on Southwest in my entire life. So, if you’ve heard of this perk before, but thought it was only attainable for Southwest elite fliers, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card 60,000 points after $3k spend in 3 monthsLearn More
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card Earn Companion Pass and 30,000 points after $4k spend in 3 months. Companion Pass expires 12/31/19Learn More

I earned the Companion Pass by strategically timing when I opened 2 Southwest credit cards – the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card. That’s it. That’s the big secret to making this easy.

How to earn Southwest Companion Pass

Confirmation | Earning Southwest Companion Pass

By opening these cards and meeting the minimum spend requirements between the 2 cards, I earned 114,000 Rapid Rewards points. Just like that, I’d earned the required 110,000 Rapid Rewards points to earn the Companion Pass.

Remember: All 110,000 points must be earned in the same calendar year. If you earn some in 2018 and some in 2019, this will NOT earn you the Companion Pass.

You can also earn it the hard way of flying 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year, but that is way harder and way more expensive, so I suggest taking the easy way!

To really get the most out of the Companion Pass, you’ll want to be strategic with your timing. I opened the cards in late December 2017 when the welcome bonuses were at their peak.

However, I specifically waited to meet the minimum spend on both cards until early January 2018. My statements then each closed on January 8, 2018, and two days later Southwest emailed me to congratulate me on earning the Companion Pass.

What makes this timing important is that since the Companion Pass is good for the remaining year plus the following year, it means that we have the Companion Pass valid thru 2019.

That’s 24 months!

If I had met the minimum spend and earned the 110,000 points in December (or anytime in 2017), I would have only had the Companion Pass thru 2018. So, that timing is really really important to pay attention to as it means a huge difference in the length of time you can have the Companion Pass and the value you can extract out of it.

How We Used The Companion Pass

With the 114,000 Rapid Rewards points in hand, but more importantly the golden ticket – my Companion Pass, it was time to start booking some flights.

Check out what we were able to do in 2018 on Southwest with the combination of the Rapid Rewards points plus the Companion Pass:

Southwest Companion Pass_How to Book Flights using Rapid Rewards Points - Companion Pass - Flight Map

Flights Map

Southwest Companion Pass | Weekend Getaway To The Bahamas

(Our Companion Pass helped make this relaxing long weekend in the clear blue water possible)

Trip 1: Weekend Getaway To The Bahamas

Clear blue water, sun and rum. That’s all we were looking for when we took a quick hop from our home Southwest airport and headed to the Bahamas for a nice long weekend getaway. We had been wanting to check out the new Baha Mar property in Nassau as it was a great way to use some Hyatt points. Since Southwest flies to Nassau, it seemed like the proper way to kickoff using our Companion Pass and use some of our Rapid Rewards points stash.

My ticket was 23,346 points + $115.94. My wife’s ticket was just $115.94 in taxes and fees. Even with the higher taxes and fees (mostly charged by the Bahamas), we still ended up saving $470 in airfare via Rapid Rewards points and utilizing the Companion Pass. Not bad for Trip #1.

Southwest Companion Pass_Bourbon Tasting In Kentucky

(By using our Companion Pass, we got to spend the weekend visiting some good friends as well as visiting some of my favorite bourbon distilleries)

Trip 2: Bourbon Tasting In Kentucky

We decided somewhat last minute to visit our good friends in Kentucky a few weeks before they were moving away. We weren’t super pumped about making an 8-hour drive each way for a 3-day weekend. But, we also weren’t about to spend about $1,000 on last-minute airfare — Southwest was showing $504.79 per ticket 6 days before we were scheduled to depart.

Fortunately, we could utilize our Companion Pass. My ticket was 33,653 Rapid Rewards points + $11.20 in taxes and fees, and my wife got to fly for just $11.20. We used a lot of Rapid Rewards points, but we saved over $1,000 and, fortunately, didn’t have to make the long drive!

Southwest Companion Pass_Wedding In The Mile High City_Denver, Colorado

(We used our Companion Pass and some Marriott points to completely cover our 4-day long weekend in Denver for a family wedding)

Trip 3: Wedding In The Mile High City

The first trip we booked as soon as our Companion Pass posted in January was to Denver, Colorado for a wedding. Since Southwest is a single-cabin operator, I initially wasn’t super excited about flying cross-country in regular economy — I’ve become quite spoiled since getting in the points+miles game!

When I found out that Southwest flew a nonstop from Raleigh (RDU) to Denver(DEN), I was more excited about the flight. It worked out well as we got a new 737-800 for the flight, so it was more than comfortable for the 4-hour hop to Denver.

My ticket was 29,637 Rapid Rewards points + $11.20, and my wife’s was again, just $11.20. You’ll start to see a trend here. 😉

Cash fares were $441.96 each, so we saved about $880.

Southwest Companion Pass | Weekend In The Windy City Chicago

(My brother was a little jealous when we compared how much he paid for their flights vs. what we paid for ours with points and our Companion Pass.)

Trip 4: Weekend In The Windy City

When we were trying to decide on a destination to meet my brother and sister-in-law for a long weekend, I’ll be completely honest – I was solely using the Southwest Route Map to decide.

We ended up settling on Chicago as we hadn’t been in a number of years and it couldn’t have been more fun. Although, it was 95 degrees and almost no breeze the entire time we were there – so much for the “Windy City.” But nonstop flights on Southwest for the quick 1:45 flights to Midway certainly made it easy.

My ticket was 23,695 Rapid Rewards points + $11.20. My wife’s was…you guessed it – $11.20. Cash fares for the same flights would’ve been $355.42 each, so we saved $670, and could reallocate that money towards our deep dish pizza budget for the weekend.

Southwest Companion Pass | Wildfires in Sun Valley Idaho

(Our Companion Pass allowed us to not think about the cost of flights to Sun Valley and instead focus on some of the awesome views of nature.)

Trip 5: Wildfires in Sun Valley

One of our good friends moved from our hometown to Sun Valley, Idaho about 3 years ago. We had been saying for years that we would come out and visit, but every time we looked up flights, there were really only flights with multiple connections or super high cash and award costs.

Well, after almost 3 years, it was time to get off our horse and get out to Sun Valley. Fortunately, Southwest flew to nearby Boise so, even though we had to make a 2-hour drive to Sun Valley, it was going to be another win with the Companion Pass. Even the massive wildfires that started in the Sun Valley area just 3-4 days before we arrived couldn’t ruin the trip!

My ticket cost 32,027 Rapid Rewards points + $11.20. And the trend continues – my wife’s ticket cost just $11.20. Cash fares for the same flights on this trip were $480.05, so we saved just shy of $1,000 on tickets for the second time with the Companion Pass.

Southwest Companion Pass | Back To The Bahamas - in Eleuthera - an island in the Bahamas

(We were able to use our Companion Pass as a part of our flight logistics and a Marriott 5-night certificate to meet my best friend and his wife in Eleuthera.)

Trip 6: Back To The Bahamas

We had so much fun in the Bahamas in May, that we were ready to head back. But, we’re the kind of people who usually don’t like going to the same places multiple times! So, when we decided to go to the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas, it wasn’t a surprise that Southwest didn’t fly to this tiny little island.

Due to flight time scheduling and logistics, we were only able to utilize Southwest for our flight home from Fort Lauderdale.

My ticket cost a whopping 9,853 Rapid Rewards points + $11.20. My wife’s ticket was still only $11.20. The cash fares for this short hop were a very reasonable $147.79, but we were much happier to utilize Rapid Rewards points to purchase my ticket. We saved ~$300 on these flights, which helped offset our cash fares on BahamasAir from Fort Lauderdale to Eleuthera.

Southwest Companion Pass | Disney World

(Disney World tickets are expensive enough, so being able to use the Companion Pass to save on the cost of flights is a real perk.)

Trip 7: Disney World

My wife has been wanting to go to Disney World for a number of years and I hadn’t been since I was about 14 years old. So, we booked a trip and convinced our neighbors to take their 3 kids and join us. The fact that Southwest has a nonstop flight to Orlando made it even easier to convince me to go!

My ticket cost 12,470 Rapid Rewards points + $11.20. My wife’s was another $11.20. Cash fares for this trip were super cheap at only $191.11 per person. In total, we saved just under $400, covering a good portion of our Disney World tickets!


2018 Companion Pass Totals

DestinationRapid Rewards CostTaxes & Fees for CompanionCash Cost per Ticket (per person)
Nassau, Bahamas23,346$115.94$350.19
Louisville, Kentucky33,653$11.20$504.79
Denver, Colorado29,637$11.20$441.96
Chicago, Illinois23,695$11.20$355.42
Boise, Idaho32,027$11.20$480.05
Fort Lauderdale, Florida (1-way)9,853$11.20$147.79
Orlando, Florida12,740$11.20$191.11
TOTALS164,951 Rapid Rewards Points$183.14$2,471.31 (per person)

You may notice that I only earned 114,000 Rapid Reward points through the signup bonuses, but spent 164,951 this year. Once I had exhausted all of the 114,000 Rapid Rewards points from the bonuses, I simply transferred some Chase Ultimate Rewards points to top off my Southwest account whenever needed.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Earn 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months(Learn more)
Chase Freedom $150 cash bonus after $500 spend in 3 monthsLearn More
Ink Business Preferred Credit Card 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards Points after $5,000 spend in 3 monthsLearn More

As you can see outlined in the chart above, we saved $2,471.31 in 2018 by using Rapid Rewards points plus another $2,471.31 with the Companion Pass, for a grand total of $4,942.62 in savings on flights with Southwest.

The fact that this only took strategically applying for 2 credit cards and $168 in annual fees plus a few Ultimate Rewards points — is still astounding to me! If this doesn’t convince you to get the Companion Pass, then I don’t know what will.


Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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10 Comments

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.
  • Reply Christina December 12, 2018 at 11:21 am

    Can you apply for both the rapid rewards business and the rapid rewards plus cards at the same time?

    • Reply BryceConway December 12, 2018 at 11:22 am

      In theory, yes. There is no rule preventing you from doing so. Though this is generally not a good move. Better to space them out.

  • Reply Christina December 12, 2018 at 11:27 am

    Thank you! One last question…any advice on how long to space them out?

    • Reply BryceConway December 12, 2018 at 11:28 am

      One month seems to be ideal.

  • Reply Farina December 12, 2018 at 11:42 am

    How many times do you get to use the Companion Pass during the period? I always thought it was for 1 time use only?

    • Reply BryceConway December 12, 2018 at 3:34 pm

      There is no limit. It can be added to any flight with Southwest, unless you are also flying as someone’s Companion.

  • Reply heather December 12, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    If we only open the priority card, get the 60k points in January let’s say, … do the rest of your points you have accumulated in sw, total the amount needed? If not, what’s the best way of racking up the rest of the points needed as fast as possible? Can we transfer some over from chase to fill the quota ? :p

    • Reply BryceConway December 12, 2018 at 3:35 pm

      Unfortunately transfers do not count toward Companion Pass. You can earn the remaining points with 1) spend on the card 2) miles earned by flying Southwest 3) some partner offers. Or of course you could get the Southwest Business card if you are able to qualify for it.

  • Reply Andrea V. January 19, 2019 at 3:33 pm

    Hey Matt,

    Thank you for your efforts in documenting your rewards redemption strategy.

    I do have an important note:

    Your indications that you “…saved $2,471.31 PER PERSON in 2018 by using Rapid Rewards points plus another $2,471.31 with the Companion Pass…” are misleading.

    Logically and mathematically, stating it this way implies that you saved a total of $7,413.93 ($2,471.31 x 2 + $2,471.31 OR $2,471.31 x 3), when it reality it was just $2,471.31 x 2.

    Despite the fact that fortunately, you do correctly mention the total as $4,942.62 ($2,471.31 x 2), the way you phrase it is misleading/incorrect. For the sake of ensuring clarity and comprehension on the part of all readers (especially beginners), I strongly recommend that you edit the wording.

    Instead of stating “per person,” perhaps you can simply say you saved $2,471.31 on your tickets and $2,471.31 on your companion’s tickets. Or you could just leave it at “per person for the points redemptions and Companion Pass” and remove the “plus” claim.

    Either way, the current wording is unfortunately redundant and as a result, confusing and misleading.

    I hope this helps others and thanks again for the effort you put into documenting this for us!

    Cheers!

    • Reply BryceConway January 22, 2019 at 9:04 am

      You are correct, will make the edits. Thanks.

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