The leaves are changing colors, football is back, and companies are putting pumpkin spice in every product imaginable. This can only mean one thing: rise and shine earlybird, because Southwest Companion Pass season is here!

Pay attention to the strategy below. There’s some important information, details, and dates that you need to follow in order to secure your coveted Southwest Companion Pass.

What is the Southwest Companion Pass?

The Southwest Companion Pass (often abbreviated as “CP” or “SWCP”) is one of the most valuable companion tickets available. The SWCP is offered by none other than Southwest Airlines, allowing you to bring a companion on any Southwest flight you fly–just cover the taxes and fees.

The Companion Pass is good for the year you earn it and the following year; if you earn it in December 2023, it will expire at the end of 2024. Early birds who earn it in February 2024, will have until the end of 2025.

Think of it like a plus-one invite for any of your Southwest flights. If you’re physically on the plane, you can bring your companion with you. You can use it in virtually any scenario:

  • Tickets booked with points or cash
  • No blackout dates
  • No limits on the number of times you can use it

There are only a few restrictions: you cannot use it if you are flying as someone else’s companion, and you can only have one person designated as your companion.

You can change your companion up to three times per calendar year, but you’ll have to cancel any future companion bookings you already have in order to do so (Southwest’s services won’t do it automatically).

Other “Companion Passes” Southwest Companion Pass
One-time useUnlimited use
Cash fares onlyCan be used on any flight
Restricted to specific flights/destinationsZero restrictions on flights/destinations
Require you to pay a $99 – $129 feeOnly have to pay standard taxes and fees
Blackout datesWorks with any open seat

How to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass

If you’re wondering how to get the Southwest Companion Pass, there are two ways:

  1. Fly on 100 Southwest flights in a calendar year
  2. Earn 135,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards Points in a calendar year

The calendar year is an important stipulation. The clock resets on Jan. 1, meaning any progress made in 2023 won’t count towards 2024.

The easiest way to earn the Companion Pass is through earning 135,000 qualifying Southwest Rapid Rewards Points.

southwest airlines

Unless you plan on flying Southwest 2x per week for a year, their credit cards are your only chance at earning a Companion Pass

You don’t have to redeem your points to get the Companion Pass. Once you earn 135,000 points it is simply given to you automatically. You still have those points to redeem for flights. You may also spend the points before earning your pass, you just have to earn 135,000 in one calendar year. You don’t have to have a balance of 135,000 points at one time.

Listen to the Takeoff Podcast

Want to hear the team discuss the Southwest Companion Pass and how to maximize its benefits? Check out Episode 10: Unlocking the Power of the Southwest Companion Pass, where the team will help you understand the ins and outs of the Companion Pass.

How to Use Southwest Credit Cards to Speed up the Process

The easiest way to speed up earning the Southwest Companion Pass is with Southwest Credit Cards. There are five different credit cards all issued by Chase.

Follow these steps exactly to earn 135,000 Companion Pass qualifying points. Be sure you read and fully understand them before doing anything.

Step 1: Open a Southwest Business Credit Card and a Southwest Personal Credit Card

These cards typically offer a bonus of 40,000 to 80,000 points after you meet the minimum spending requirement. You can earn 80,000 to 120,000 points on the bonuses of two cards alone.

You must follow some rules to be eligible for the offers.

To earn a bonus on a personal Southwest credit card all of the following statements must be true:

  1. You have not earned a bonus on any Southwest personal card in the past 24 months
  2. You do not currently have a Southwest personal credit card

These restrictions don’t apply to business cards, leaving two options: open one personal and one business card, or open two business cards.

The Chase 5/24 rule applies to Southwest cards. Approvals are impossible if you’ve opened five or more personal credit cards in the previous 24 months.

All Southwest Cards have annual fees that aren’t waived the first year. But let’s keep some perspective here: the fees are a small fraction of the value you gain from the Companion Pass.

Be sure to add your existing Southwest loyalty account number when applying. Otherwise, you will get a loyalty account made for you and the account numbers may not match.

flying on a southwest companion pass

The strategy is to open the Southwest Business card and one of the three Southwest personal cards.

Step 2: Earn the remaining qualification points needed

You might need to earn a few extra points to get all of the 135,000 points needed.

This can be done using a combination of the following options:

  1. Spend on your Southwest Credit Card
  2. Refer others to open a Southwest Card
  3. Fly on a paid Southwest flight
  4. Take advantage of Partner Offers and Promotions

Spending on your Southwest Credit Card

Just like the bonus from your Southwest cards count, any points you earn from regular spending on your Southwest Credit card count towards Companion Pass. Remember that only points earned in the same calendar year count, so any spending in late 2023 won’t count unless it posts to your account in January 2024.

Don’t let this distract you though. You’ll want that bonus in 2024. That’s where the bulk of your points come from.

Refer Others

You can refer others to a Southwest Card. Referral points count towards Companion Passes. Check to see that the referral offer matches the offer that is publicly available, as they aren’t always the same.

Fly on a Paid Southwest Flight

If you pay cash for a ticket on Southwest you’ll earn Rapid Rewards points that count towards a Companion Pass.

Partner Offers and Promotions

You can earn points that count towards the Southwest Companion Pass with a number of partner offers and services:

Be sure to pay attention to when the points count towards Companion Pass earning. Some count based on the purchase date, and some count when the points post to your account.

Keep in mind that if you choose to earn points from hotel or rental car partners, you won’t earn points with those partner programs.

southwest counters at airport

What Doesn’t Earn You Points

It’s important to understand that certain activities do NOT earn Companion Pass qualifying points. The following activity does not count toward Companion Pass:

  • Purchased points
  • Transferred/gifted points
  • Points earned from program enrollment
  • Tier bonus points
  • Promotion bonus points (with the exception of credit cards and Refer-a-Company promotion)
  • Flight bonus loyalty points
  • Partner bonus points (with the exception of the Rapid Rewards Credit Cards)
  • Points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Partner program transfers
  • Purchased promotional tier qualifying points

In simplest terms, points purchased or transferred to the Rapid Rewards program are not Companion Pass qualifying points.

Why You Should Time Your Southwest Companion Pass

Timing your Southwest Companion Pass impacts the length you have your Companion Pass.

As a reminder, you have to earn 135,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year. This is not a rolling 12-month period, but instead runs from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31. Any points that post in 2023 don’t count toward earning your Companion Pass in 2024.

You must be diligent in not going over your minimum spends until Jan. 1, 2024.

Every year we see people meeting their minimum spends early by accident. Here are some ways to avoid common mistakes:

  1. Don’t add your cards to mobile wallets.
  2. Don’t add your cards as a saved payment method anywhere (including Amazon, Walmart, etc.).
  3. Don’t open an authorized user card and give it to someone–too often a P2 is “being helpful” and causes people to go over their minimum spend early.

We recommend getting within $500 of the minimum spend and then stashing the card away until Jan. 1, 2024.

Introducing Companion Pass Mode in My10x

You can now enable our new Companion Pass Mode in your free My10x account. You’ll be guided through the process of earning the Companion Pass and receive automated notifications and reminders that guide you step-by-step through the process. Sign up or log in to your My10x account here.

How to Check Your Point Balance

You should regularly check in on your Companion Pass progress by accessing your Rapid Rewards account. You want to be sure your bonus points don’t post early, so check often to be safe.

How to Use a Southwest Companion Pass

You may be wondering, how does the Southwest Companion Pass work? Using the Companion Pass is rather easy. Simply designate your companion, book a flight for yourself, then add your companion to the booking.

You and your companion can also board together, except in the following circumstances:

  • Purchased a Business Select® fare
  • Purchased Upgraded Boarding
  • Added the companion after they had been assigned a boarding position
  • Changed a flight on their day of travel
  • Was impacted by a flight delay or cancellation

How to Designate a Companion

After earning your Companion Pass, you designate your companion online. Navigate to your account page where you’ll find the option to designate your companion.

How to Change Your Southwest Companion

You can change your companion up to three times per year. To make changes, call 1-800-435-9792.

You cannot change your companion if you have your companion on existing bookings. If you have upcoming flights with one person, but have later flights where you want another companion you’ll need to wait until the earlier flights are finished before changing your companion.

How to Book Flights Using the Pass

Booking a companion ticket is easy. Here are step-by-step instructions to guide you through the process. You’ll still have to pay taxes and fees for your companion’s ticket as well, starting at $5.60.

Making the Most of Your Companion Pass

There are many ways to make the most of your Companion Pass. Southwest frequently offers sales, saving you cash and points on your ticket.

Don’t forget to make use of Southwest’s change policy. Southwest doesn’t charge fees to change flights, and you can get a refund if you change to a flight with a lower fare. If your flight becomes cheaper later, you can still change to the lower fare to save more. To do this you’ll have to first cancel your companion’s ticket, then change your flight, then re-add your companion.

Another way to make the most is to take international trips with Southwest. Southwest flies to a number of international destinations including some Caribbean islands, Mexico, and Central America. You can see Southwest’s destinations on their route map.

Finally, keep an eye out for discounts on new routes. Southwest often has promotional fares when launching new routes.

Listen to the Takeoff Podcast

Want to hear the team discuss the Southwest Companion Pass and how to get the most out of it? Check out Episode 10: Unlocking the Power of the Southwest Companion Pass, where the team will help you understand the ins and outs of the Companion Pass.

Is the Southwest Companion Pass Worth it?

Many people find the Southwest Companion Pass to be worth it. It virtually doubles the value of your Southwest points, and opens up easy travel across the U.S. and nearby destinations.

Nevertheless, some people don’t find value in the Companion Pass (and that’s OK!). Solo travelers obviously won’t get as much value as those who consistently travel with others.

Southwest has limited route services. Many travelers find Southwest to be an inconvenient option compared to other airlines.

Maybe you just can’t stand the Southwest boarding process.

Whatever the reason, you may not find the Companion Pass worth it to you. For many travelers, it provides great value.

southwest companion pass strategy

Set Your Travel Plans in Motion Today

You can earn the Southwest Companion Pass by flying 100 Southwest flights or earning 135,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points from qualifying activities in a calendar year.
The easiest way to do this is with credit card welcome offers. By timing them right, you can get the Companion Pass for nearly two years.

Let’s boil everything down into five simple steps:

  1. Open one of the Southwest Airlines Business Credit Cards and one of the three Southwest personal credit cards sometime in October, November or December. Business card first, then one of the personal cards 30+ days afterwards.
  2. Cross the minimum spending requirements on both of your cards sometime after Jan. 1, 2024. Doing so before Jan. 1 could cause you to miss out on the CP entirely, so be careful.
  3. Earn the remaining points until you reach the required 135,000 qualifying points for Companion Pass.
  4. Once earned, choose who your Companion will be and start using the pass! Simply add it to any existing reservation in your name by clicking “Add Companion” in your Southwest account.
  5. Your pass will be valid for the rest of the year and the entire following year. So get out there and use it!

While we would recommend waiting just a little bit longer to get started, in order to buy yourself a little bit of a buffer, if you start now just be aware of your narrower window to finish the spend in January!