It’s the time of year to talk about the Southwest companion pass, which may be the best airline benefit you can earn from credit cards. (See How Long The Southwest Companion Pass Lasted Us).
By earning it at the beginning of the year you can have free flying for almost two years.
If you earn 110,000 Southwest points within a calendar year, you get free flying for a companion through the next calendar. A companion will get to fly with you for free on any Southwest flight you take, whether it’s paid for with cash or points. And 110,000 Southwest points will last a long time!
This post will outline:
- Earning the Southwest Companion Pass from Southwest credit cards
- Alternative ways to earn the Companion Pass (going away soon)
- How to use the Companion Pass
Earning The Companion Pass
The goal is to earn 110,000 Southwest points from credit cards.
Luckily the southwest credit card signup bonus is often 50,000 points and there are different versions.
It’s pretty simple, signup for a Southwest personal card, and a Southwest business card… each when the bonus is 50,000 points. (Here are tips to get approved for a business card).
Of course, you have to spend $2,000+ in the first few months of opening the card to get the 50,000 point bonus. Once you do that with each card you’ll have 104,000+ Southwest Points.
I hear lots of complicated advice on earning the last 6,000 points… but, I think the best option is to just spend another $6,000 on your Southwest card. You can do this by buying debit gift cards and then turning them back into cash. See here.
Other ways to earn (going away soon):
Until March 31 Southwest will allow points transferred from hotels to Southwest to count towards the Companion Pass.
Normally transferring from hotel points to airline miles is a really bad idea, but Marriott Rewards has a particularly great way of transferring 120,000 Southwest points.
For 270,000 Marriott Points, you can get 120,000 Southwest points and 7 nights in a Category 1-5 Marriott!
It is a great deal for those who have a ton of Marriott points. Perhaps you’re a Marriott traveler, or have gotten the Marriott cards (the Marriott business card apparently doesn’t have the 5/24 rule).
Not only would you get 7 nights at a Marriott, but you’d get 120,000 Southwest points and the Southwest Companion Pass.
Remember, this is going away 3/31, so if you wanted to go for this, know it can take a couple weeks to get a new card, and even if you meet the spend requirement right away, it can take up to a month for the points to post. And then the points would have to be in your Southwest account before April.
Due to Chase’s 5/24 rule, this was a great way to re-earn the Companion Pass, since the Marriott Business Card and Ritz Carlton card aren’t effected by 5/24. And remember, 30,000 SPG points can transfer to 90,000 Marriott points. That’s 4 cards you can earn not effected by 5/24 (2 with Amex).
Plus, I believe Marriott allows you to combine points with a spouse at the time of redemption.
Unfortunately, I can’t currently find any Ritz cards at the moment with a points signup bonus, instead of free nights.
How To Use The Companion Pass
You can add a companion to a flight you are booking, or to a flight you have booked (for yourself).
Since Southwest flights are cancelable, I would sometimes make speculative bookings and add the companion later. It served no purpose, but my point is that I could add a companion even when the prices of the flights have gone up. It doesn’t matter, the companion only pays the taxes.
(In fact, 3 times now we’ve shown up at the airport without the companion booked yet… oops.)
As long as there is a seat on the plane, regardless of the price, the companion can be added to your flight.
Simply go to your booking and click to add a companion.
Changing The Companion
You can change your companion 3 times in a calendar year.
You can change back to a previous person. So you could start with the companion as person A, but then change it to person B, and then later change it back to person A. That counts as 2 changes.
I actually have a post on the Rules For Changing Your Southwest Companion Pass.
Best Use of Southwest Companion Pass
If you didn’t know Southwest points flights are based on revenue prices. Therefore cheap flights or sales on cash tickets are also sales on points flights.
A rule of thumb is that Southwest prices start increasing a couple weeks out. A Southwest flight only a few days out can be very expensive.
My strategy is simple: watch sales, use the low-fare calendar, and book ahead without fear – knowing things are cancelable.
As I say in the post about How Long The Southwest Companion Pass Lasted Us, the same number of flights that we took with 101,000 Southwest points would have cost us 440,000 United miles (or AA, or anything similar).
It is a phenomenal value that you can potentially get with cards.