The Best Airline Perk in the Business?

Buy one, get one free airfare for two years?  Yes, please.

The Southwest Companion Pass is probably the coolest benefit any U.S. airline offers.  After either 100 one-way flights or 110,00 qualifying Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year, Southwest honors its more frequent flyers with the Companion Pass.  The pass holder is then allowed to designate one companion who can fly with them on any Southwest Airlines flight for only the taxes ($5.60 one way).  OK, so not completely free, but close enough.

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When you fly, your companion flies for (basically) free with the Southwest Companion Pass!

But here’s the thing: as infrequent flyers, we’re NEVER going to fly 100 one-way flights on Southwest Airlines.  That’s like flying roundtrip every week for the entire year.  Nope, never going to happen.

So why am I even writing about the Companion Pass?  Because any points earned with the Southwest Airlines credit cards count towards the 110,000 points needed.  This includes both the sign-up bonus (up to 60,000 points) as well as points associated with the spending on the credit card itself.  And if you have the ability to sign-up for a business credit card, you could easily sign up for one personal card and one business card to acquire the 110,00 Rapid Rewards points needed to earn the Companion Pass within months. 


The Southwest Credit Cards

Southwest offers three different credit cards:

  1. Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card ($69 annual fee; sign-up bonus earned after spending $1,000 in three months)
  2. Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card ($99 annual fee; sign-up bonus earned after spending $3,000 in three months)
  3. Southwest Rapid Rewards Business card ($99 annual fee; sign-up bonus earned after spending $3,000 in three months)
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The Southwest Credit Cards

All three credit cards have similar offerings.  All three offer 2x points on Southwest Airlines flights as well as 2x points on hotels and car rental partners booked through Southwest.  All three cards also charge an annual fee, which unfortunately is NOT waived the first year.  Lastly, all three offer a modest anniversary bonus after the first year of owning the card.  The Premier and Business cards have a higher annual fee, but have a bigger anniversary bonus (6,000 points vs. 3,000 points) and also do not charge foreign transaction fees.  The sign-up bonuses vary; right now, the personal cards offer 40,000 points, and the business card offers 60,000 points.

Companion Pass aside… those are pretty boring perks.  The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers 2x points on ALL travel and dining spending rather than spending ONLY on Southwest flights.  Plus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is a transfer partner with Southwest airlines, so while these point transfers wouldn’t count towards the Companion Pass, you could earn more points towards travel on Southwest Airlines by using the Chase Sapphire Preferred card on everyday spending rather than than any of Southwest Airlines’ own credit cards. (check out “I’m Nervous” for more info).


Earning the Companion Pass

While the credit cards themselves probably aren’t what you want to use for everyday spending, they do make the Companion Pass within a more reasonable reach.  If you sign up for a Southwest Airlines credit card when the sign-up bonus is 60,000 points, that means you only need 50,000 more points in a calendar year to earn the pass.  If you have an upcoming wedding or home renovation, maybe spending $50,000 on the Southwest credit card would be an option.  Or better yet, if you own a business, maybe spending $50,000 is a bit easier.

And here’s a potential game changer:  you can sign up for both a personal Southwest credit card and a business Southwest credit card, and all of those points count towards earning the Companion Pass. 

So let’s say the business card offers a sign-up bonus of 60,000 points, and the personal card’s sign-up bonus is 50,000 points.  Literally, with two credit cards sign ups, you could earn 110,000 Rapid Rewards points and the Companion Pass.

I know what you’re thinking.  “Can’t I sign up for both the Southwest Plus and Southwest Premier credit cards and earn both sign-up bonuses for potentially 110,000 Rapid Rewards?”

I like where your head is at.  Up until April 5, 2018, one person could sign up for both personal credit cards and both sign-up bonuses would count towards the Companion Pass.  However, Chase (the bank that issues the credit cards) now only allows one personal Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card per person.  Total bummer, right?

“Can’t I just sign up for one of the Southwest Airlines credit cards, then transfer over the 50,000 points from my Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card?” 

Again, excellent thought. However, while those transferred points from the Sapphire Preferred card turn into Rapids Rewards points, they are not Companion Pass qualifying points.  So they’re good for reward flights… but not good for earning points towards the 110,000 needed for the Companion Pass.

As you can see, the new rule of only signing up for one personal credit card is relatively new.  And we got super lucky, because Taryn recently signed up for both personal credit cards and was able to earn the Companion Pass in February.

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We did it! Now we have 22 months to use the Companion Pass.

Taryn signed up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card in October 2017.  She purposely didn’t meet the spending needed to meet the sign-up bonus until January 2018, so that her bonus wouldn’t be realized until calendar year 2018.  On January 1, she then applied for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card.  After meeting the minimum spending requirements for both cards, the sign-up bonuses posted at the end of each card’s billing period.  We were able to earn 110,000 Rapid Rewards points by the end of February, which means Taryn earned the Companion Pass for the rest of 2018 as well as all of 2019.  Like we needed any other excuse to travel.

Bottom line:  the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is money.  No, it’s not business class.  And yes, you’ll still need to check in online to obtain your boarding position (which is the bane of Southwest Airlines for many people).  But buy one, get one (almost) free airfare for 12+ months is an incredibly valuable perk.

Want to know how exactly we plan to use our Southwest Airlines Companion Pass?  Check out our awesome plans here.

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