southwest companion pass credit cards
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Note: In 2021, Southwest is gifting all members that had Southwest Rapid Rewards accounts as of December 31, 2020 the first 25,000 miles towards Companion Pass. So, while you still need 125,000 qualifying points, you already have 25,000 – meaning that you only need 100,000 earned this year, making things even easier than usual. 


Each year, the last couple of months of the year – and the beginning of the next year – is what I call “Southwest Companion Pass Season

The Southwest Companion Pass is easily one of the most valuable things in miles and points, especially for those focused on as much domestic coach travel as possible for as little money as possible.

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What is the Southwest Companion Pass?

The Southwest Companion Pass allows you to bring a companion on all of your flights for free (just pay taxes and fees) an unlimited amount of times. The Companion Pass includes both paid and award tickets, which is pretty amazing.

You are allowed to change the eligible Companion 3 times per year on a Companion Pass. The only catch is that you can’t change to a new companion while you still have an un-flown ticket with the last one (unless you cancel it).

Southwest Companion Pass
Southwest Companion Pass

When Should I Get the Southwest Companion Pass?

I’ll get into all of the details on timing below, but this is the important part:

The Southwest Companion Pass is valid for all of the year that you earn it plus the entire next year. If you were to earn the Companion Pass on January 15th, 2021, you would have that Companion Pass through December 31st, 2022!

Let’s say you fly once a month and use the Companion Pass each time on a an average fare of $250 round trip (before taxes and fees, for simplicity).

If you had the pass for a full two years, that would mean that the Southwest Companion Pass was worth an insane $6,000 to you.

How Do You Earn the Southwest Companion Pass?

For context and for those that don’t know, the Southwest Companion Pass is earned when you accrue 125,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points (it used to be 110,000, but that changed in 2020) from certain sources which include flying (obviously) and points earned from credit card bonuses and spend (but not when you transfer points from programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards into Southwest).

But this site is all about credit card rewards, along with miles and points, and that’s where I’m headed.

As long as you can qualify for a business credit card (See: Do You Need a Business to Qualify and Apply for a Business Credit Card?), then there is a very easy strategy to get the Companion Pass.

As long as you are still under 5/24 (you’ve opened less than a total of 5 personal credit cards in the last 24 months), you can apply for one Southwest Business credit card and then either a second Southwest Business credit card OR a personal Southwest credit card.

(Quick reminder note on 5/24: both personal and business Capital One or Discover cards count against this limit, although not new Capital One Spark Cash cards opened in November 2020 or later which don’t report to your personal credit.)

In all cases, you’ll apply for the business card first, both because it has the bigger bonus and because it won’t count against that 5/24, so this Companion Pass strategy works even if you are 4/24 now.

Timing and Order of Opening the Southwest Credit Cards to Get 2 Years of Companion Pass

There are five Southwest Airlines Credit Cards. You’ll only need to open two, though, to put this plan into action and earn the Companion Pass.

The first thing I want to say is the most important part of this plan…

The reason we start now is so that you can maximize your Companion Pass. This Companion Pass will be good until the end of the year AFTER the year you earn it, meaning that if you earn it early in a calendar year, you’ll be getting almost two full years of Companion Pass.

The most crucial point, which I’ll emphasize again later, is that even if you get the card now, you must take great care that you do not fulfill your final minimum spend requirement until after January 1st, 2021. If you earn it in December of this year by accident, you’ll wind up losing one full year of the Companion Pass.

Let’s begin…

southwest companion pass credit cards

The Southwest Performance Business Credit Card has an offer on now for 80,000 Rapid Rewards points when you spend $5,000 in 3 months. That is a whopper of a bonus and an integral part of this plan.  If you could spent $20,000 on this card in 2021, you would qualify you for a Southwest Companion Pass until Dec 31, 2022 in one shot!

Alternatively, you can get the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card which will give you 60,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 within 3 months. The annual fee on the Premier Business Credit Card is $99 less, though you get 20,000 less bonus points.

southwest companion pass credit card

We’ll then want to wait 32 days (or just over a month to make it simple) and then apply for either the other Chase Southwest Business card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card, which is offering 60,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 in 3 months (or the Southwest Performance Business Credit Card if you chose the Premier card above), or one of the three personal Southwest credit cards:

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card (Annual Fee: $69)

southwest plus
Southwest Plus Credit Card
  • Get 40,000 Bonus Southwest Rapid Rewards points when you spend $1,000 in your first 3 months. (Plus, earn 3X on dining for one year.)

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card (Annual Fee: $99)

southwest premier
Southwest Premier Credit Card
  • Get 40,000 Bonus Southwest Rapid Rewards points when you spend $1,000 in your first 3 months. (Plus, earn 3X on dining for one year.)

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card (Annual Fee: $149)

southwest priority
Southwest Priority Credit Card
  • Get 40,000 Bonus Southwest Rapid Rewards points when you spend $1,000 in your first 3 months. (Plus, earn 3X on dining for one year.)

(Yes, all three personal Southwest cards have the same bonus offer. You just have to pick which card makes the most sense for you. You can also compare benefits between all three cards here).

The Math on Combining Southwest Credit Card Bonuses for Companion Pass X 2 Years

Note once again that in 2021 only, you need just 100,000 total Rapid Rewards points, as Southwest has gifted everyone with an active Rapid Reward account as of December 31, 2021 the first 25,000. So you can actually adjust all the math below downwards such that you need only 100,000 total points. 

If you got the Southwest Performance Business Credit Card (for 80,000 points) and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card, you would have 140,000 Companion Pass qualifying Rapid Rewards points after meeting minimum spend = earn the Companion Pass!

Or, combine the Southwest Performance Business Credit Card (80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in 3 months = 85,000 points including the points earned while meeting the minimum spend) plus any personal card (40,000 bonus points for $1,000 spend = 41,000 total Companion Pass qualifying points) to blow away your requirement to earn the Companion Pass!

If you were short, you could boost your balance with things like Rapid Rewards dining, Rapid Rewards eShopping, and even Rapid Rewards hotels – but as you can see with the math above, that won’t be necessary for this Companion Pass strategy unless you only got one of the cards.

Alternatively, combine the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card (60,000 bonus points) plus any personal card base bonus (40,000) to get you to Companion Pass.

If you only picked up one card, you could get the rest by flying or via  Rapid Rewards dining, Rapid Rewards eShopping, and even Rapid Rewards hotels (Powered by RocketMiles) = earn the Companion Pass!

All have annual fees (the Southwest Performance Business Credit Card‘s fee is $199 and then the lowest second card fee would be $69 for the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card).

For that reason I’d suggest that even if you’ll only hit the first bonus tier level, it still makes more sense to get the  Southwest Performance Business Credit Card with 80,000 Rapid Rewards points when you spend $5,000 in 3 months and then a personal card. That would net you more than enough qualifying points, achieving the Companion Pass with no other spend or flying!

Now, I know that got confusing, so let’s go step-by-step…

A Simple to Follow Plan to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass with Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Cards

Step 1:

As soon as possible, apply for the Southwest Performance Business Credit Card so you can earn 80,000 points when you spend $5,000 within 3 months (and a total of 100,000 bonus points if you can spend $20,000 in 2021 – which in one shot gets you the Companion Pass) OR the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card, which is offering 60,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 in 3 months.

Step 2:

Then, depending on how long you’ll need to spend required amount for your bonus on the first card, apply for your second card, but I recommend waiting at least 32 days between applications if you get two business credit cards. If you get a business and a personal, you don’t have to wait – but get the Business credit card first.

Again this can be any of the four other Southwest credit cards:

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card (annual fee of $99, 60,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 in 3 months) – OR the Southwest Performance Business Credit Card if you started with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card.

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

Sign Up Bonus Offer:

  • Get 40,000 Bonus Southwest Rapid Rewards points when you spend $1,000 in your first 3 months. (Plus, earn 3X on dining for one year.)

 

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Sign Up Bonus Offer:

  • Get 40,000 Bonus Southwest Rapid Rewards points when you spend $1,000 in your first 3 months. (Plus, earn 3X on dining for one year.)

 

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card

Sign Up Bonus Offer:

  • Get 40,000 Bonus Southwest Rapid Rewards points when you spend $1,000 in your first 3 months. (Plus, earn 3X on dining for one year.)

Now, under the current bonus offers, if you get a Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card and any of the personal credit cards, you’ll have 100,000 points ++ and earn have Companion Pass through Dec 2022.

But still, it still makes more sense to get the Southwest Performance Business Credit Card with 80,000 Rapid Rewards points when you spend $5,000 in 3 months and then a personal Southwest credit card, which nails it in one shot.

I’ll recommend that you bookmark this post and send yourself a calendar invite to remind yourself when you are due to apply for that second card.

NOTE: You used to be able to open two personal cards. Chase will no longer approve you for a second personal Southwest card. So you may have heard that is a thing, but it’s no longer a thing….

Step 3:

Step 3 is to meet your minimum spends for both cards anytime after January 1, 2021, though before your bonus offer period ends and before the end of 2021. 

Once you meet it and your next statement closes, those points will be in your Rapid Rewards account and you’ll earn the Companion Pass.

At that point, you’ll have the Companion Pass for nearly two full years.

If you have ANY questions, please ask me before you begin this Companion Pass strategy

Let me know below in the comments, on Twitter, or in the private MilesTalk Facebook group.

And if this post helped you, please consider sharing it!

You can find credit cards that best match your spending habits and bonus categories at Your Best Credit Cards

New to all of this? My “introduction to miles and points” book, MilesTalk: Live Your Wildest Travel Dreams Using Miles and Points is available on Amazon and at major booksellers.

I got "in the game" in 2003 and since then I've collected literally millions and millions of frequent flyer miles and hotel points. I've flown around the world in first class seats that would cost $29,000 using frequent flyer miles and a few bucks in tax. And I've stayed in some of the finest hotels - all for free! A few years ago I realized many of my friends actually thought I was paying for these!! So I started sharing my tips. It's long been a passion, but when I hosted a session on Miles and Points at this year's South by Southwest festival, my love of the game intensified and this blog was born.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Can I earn two companion passes at the same time? If I get the personal card and get the pass until 2022, can I also earn 125,000 points partially with the business card and earn a 2nd companion pass. Would this allow me to book 2 companions on one flight?

    • Hi Kim. Sorry, but you can only earn one Companion Pass at a time. For 2021 only, you can earn it with just 100,000 points though – and valid through Dec 2022. So, one SW Performance card would do it!

  2. Thanks for this article. So, say I want to get the c.p. starting early 2022, so I can have it until the end of 2023. Can I sign up for and meet my minimum on the performance business card in 2021, say around Aug or Sept., and then apply for the personal card in Oct./Nov. and meet the m.s. after Jan. 1, 2022 to get to the 125K points? Or do both cards min. spends need to be met in the same calendar year? Thanks!

    • So glad you are asking now, before starting 🙂 It’s the latter.

      You need to earn all 125k in one calendar year and then you earn it for that year and the following year. So if you want it for 2022/2023, you can’t complete the minimum spend on any cards until Jan 2022.

      You can apply for the first one late in the year and, for example, if the spend requirement was $5,000, you could spend $4,500 in December and then finish the requirement in January and then get the second card. That would maximize the CP.

  3. Hi Dave, I’m currently at 32,315 points. Is it possible to sign up for only the Performance Biz Card late in the year, and hit the 125,000 points in late December, but earn Companion Pass for 2022/2023? Trying to see if I can avoid signing up for two cards. Thanks!

  4. Hi Dave, I’m currently at 32,315 points. Is it possible to sign up for only the Performance Biz Card late in the year, and hit the 125,000 points in late December, but earn Companion Pass for 2022/2023? Trying to see if I can avoid signing up for two cards. Thanks!!

    • Unfortunately not! The points don’t rollover from year to year. So if you earn the bonus for the Performance in Jan 2022, those will count for the 2022/2023 CP timeframe, but what you have now will not….

  5. Hi Dave, I currently have 23,105 points. I also have the southwest plus card and added my husband,

    Can my husband apply for his own personal and business card to get the 125,000 points for the Companion Pass for Jan 2022? if not, what do you suggest. Thank you!

    • Hi Maritza,

      To be clear your accumulated points only count towards CP if earned in the current year.

      Being a user on your card has no impact on his ability to get CP as you describe with two cards. Just make sure he’s under 5/24 and note that if he is 4/24 then you’ll need to call Chase reconsideration after he gets auto-declined to have them manually not count that.

      But the direct answer is that he can absolutely get the cards and his own CP which if earned this year will be valid through Dec 2022.

      If his Rapid Rewards account was open in 2020, he only needs 100k points this year to qualify.

      Have him apply for the Biz card first. And please use the links in this post to apply 🙂

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