Now that we’re into 2024, you might be convinced that you’ve missed out on the opportunity to earn one of the most valuable points and miles perks in this hobby—the Southwest Companion Pass. But fear not, the opportunity remains alive and well.

Let’s dive into why you haven’t squandered your ability to access heavily discounted flights for you and a buddy, and two strategies for earning the Southwest Companion Pass in 2024.

What Is the Southwest Companion Pass?

The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass might be the most rewarding perk in the points and miles game. It allows you to bring a companion onboard any Southwest flight for almost free. All you’re required to pay are the taxes and fees associated with their tickets (starting at $5.60 each way).

There aren’t any restrictions on when or how often you can use the benefit, but there are a few guidelines on how you can use it:

  • Useable on both cash and award tickets
  • No blackout dates
  • Valid on any fare class as long as there is an available seat
  • Can’t start a companion chain (no plus one for your plus one)

There are some restrictions on who can be your companion, although it’s still incredibly flexible.

You can change who your companion is up to three times throughout the year, so technically you could have a total of four different people join you as your companion. However, it does count as a change if you start out with person A, switch to person B and then switch back to person A, so keep that in mind when planning out your Companion Pass strategy.

If you haven’t maxed out on companion changes in your first year, it’s a good idea to preemptively switch your companion before the new calendar year begins (assuming you want to switch companions in the following year). By doing it this way, you won’t use any of your switches for the second calendar year, meaning you’ll still have three left to use.

To give you an idea of how valuable this perk really is, let’s apply some points and miles math.

Southwest Rapid Rewards points are worth about 1.5 cents each. You need 135,000 points to earn the Companion Pass, so those points alone are worth about $2,025. And because the Companion Pass allows you to bring a plus-one for just the cost of taxes and fees, we can safely double this value to $4,050.

The Companion Pass becomes even more valuable when you take into account that it works on both cash fares and reward flights.

Beyond the value of the points needed to earn it, the Companion Pass becomes as valuable as you make it. The more often you fly on Southwest with a companion, the greater the return value will be, as the Companion Pass comes with unlimited usage.

That means you could buckle up and fly daily with your companion for the whole time period you have the Companion Pass. Few other benefits in the points and miles world are as rewarding as this.

Still Time to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass

The Basics of Earning the Southwest Companion Pass

The Basics of Earning the Southwest Companion Pass

To get your hands on the coveted Southwest Companion Pass, you need to either earn 135,000 qualifying points or fly 100 one-way qualifying flight segments with Southwest within one calendar year.

But don’t worry—you won’t actually need to fly 100 flights before January ends.

Rather, earning the 135,000 qualifying points instead is going to be the most realistic way of earning the perk, unless you travel frequently for work. The easiest way to earn enough points to qualify for the pass is by applying for Southwest credit cards.

The reason you’ll often hear those in the points and miles community call the months between October and January “Companion Pass season” is because the welcome bonuses on the Southwest credit cards are higher, and the best time to earn all of your points is the beginning of January.

Why January? Because once you’ve earned your Companion Pass, it’s valid for the remainder of the calendar year you earned it in plus the following year after that. That means if you earn the Companion Pass in January 2024, you get almost 24 months of usage. However, if you earned it in December 2023, you’d get just 13 months of usage.

We’re already in January now. The welcome bonuses have decreased since December. Is all hope for the Southwest Companion Pass lost if you haven’t started yet?

Nope!

Here’s how you can use the welcome bonuses offered on Southwest credit cards to earn yourself this coveted perk for the rest of 2024 and 2025.

How to Earn Southwest Companion Pass

The Strategy to Earning Companion Pass Successfully

Chase and Southwest offer a combined total of five personal and business credit cards, which you can use to your advantage to net you enough points for a Companion Pass.

However, you should be aware of a few rules that determine your eligibility to earn the bonuses on these cards.

First off, qualifying points are those earned from:

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards
  • Flying on revenue flights booked with Southwest
  • Rapid Rewards partners

Importantly, that means you can’t just transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards to Rapid Rewards. Neither can you go ahead and just buy 135,000 points.

Second, you’re going to need to be under the 5/24 card count with Chase to earn the Southwest Companion pass through welcome bonuses. The 5/24 rule stipulates that you’ll be denied a new credit card from Chase if you’ve opened five or more consumer credit cards in the last 24 months with any card issuer.

Third, if you’ve received a Southwest personal credit card bonus within the last 24 months or currently have a Southwest personal credit card open, you won’t be eligible for another welcome bonus on any of their personal cards. This rule applies only to the personal cards, meaning you can have both of the business cards or one business and one personal card at the same time and earn both bonuses.

With these rules in mind, here’s the first strategy for earning the Companion Pass post-January.

Apply for One Business Card and One Personal Card

Start by applying for the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card. Although you can start with the personal card, business cards can be trickier to get approved for, so we recommend starting with this business card to knock the more difficult part out first.

This is also a good way to know whether you’ll be able to execute the strategy. If you don’t get approved for the business card, then unfortunately earning the Companion Pass is likely off the table, as it would take a significant amount of expenditure to earn the necessary points without the business card welcome bonus.

Likewise, if you’re already 4/24, applying for the business card first enables your credit card count to stay at 4/24, as Chase business cards don’t add to your card count. This should allow you to apply for the personal card afterward without any problems. Just keep in mind that although Chase business cards don’t add to your 5/24 count, Chase still considers your 5/24 count during the business card application process.

If you’re approved for the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card, you’ll typically earn around 80,000 Rapid Rewards points after meeting the $5,000 minimum spend required for the welcome bonus (see below for the current welcome bonus).

The next step is to apply for one of the Southwest personal credit cards.

The three personal cards typically have welcome bonuses in the range of 40,000 to 75,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points, depending on the time of year, with minimum spending thresholds between $1,000 and $3,000 (see below for the current welcome bonus).

The card you choose depends on the annual fee you’re comfortable paying (ranging from $69 to $149) and the perks you value such as EarlyBird Check-In, upgraded boardings and travel credits.

With these two cards in your wallet, you’ll be able to earn between 120,000 points and 155,000 points in total.

If you end up being on the lower end of the spectrum due to lower welcome bonuses, your best bet is to continue to use your Southwest cards for any large expenses that need to be paid at the beginning of the year.

For example, if you need to invest in new equipment for your business or pay your taxes, using your Southwest business card would be the best way to do so. That way, you’ll earn the extra points required to reach the 135,000 point threshold.

If you’re lucky and the welcome offers are high enough, you may earn enough points to receive your Companion Pass. That said, it’s unlikely this will be the case post-January time, as welcome bonuses tend to drop after January.

Apply for Two Business Cards

Our second strategy involves applying for two Southwest business cards. This strategy can come in handy if you’ve held a Southwest personal card too recently to qualify for the welcome bonus.

Having one business card doesn’t impact your eligibility to be approved for the other, but you are limited to one bonus from each specific card every 24 months.

That means you can apply for two Southwest business cards and earn both of their welcome bonuses at the same time. This could easily net you enough points to hit the 135,000-point threshold required.

Of course, Southwest cards aren’t without annual fees. However, if you travel enough times with a plus-one, the value you’ll receive from a Companion Pass can easily offset any annual fees by a significant amount.

Final Thoughts

Just because you might have missed the optimum time to earn the Companion Pass, when you would get almost a full two years of use out of it, doesn’t mean you should give up on earning it completely. Don’t make perfection the enemy of the good.

The Companion Pass is one of the best perks in the game for a reason and just because you might only have it for a year and a half rather than two years doesn’t devalue it enough to give up. In most cases, you’ll be using it later in the year anyway rather than in winter time.

Once your 135,000 points are posted to your Rapid Rewards account, you’ll automatically receive your Companion Pass.

With the strategies outlined above, you could be well on your way to buckling up and flying you and your friend on multiple Southwest flights for just the cost of taxes and fees.