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How I Got the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass

For those of you who don’t know what the Southwest Companion Pass is, let me sum it up for you:

The Southwest Companion Pass allows you to designate one person as your Companion. That Companion can fly with you FOR FREE for an entire year

You can read all the details on Southwest’s site, but trust me, it’s pretty awesome. And guess what? I have one!

Do you want to know How to Earn a Southwest Companion Pass?

In order to get a Companion Pass, you have to earn 110,000 Qualifying points or fly 100 qualifying flights within a single calendar year. I know, I know, 110,000 points is A LOT of points and 100 flights in a year, even for a travel writer, is pretty much crazy town. If you don’t know how to work the system, the Companion Pass might seem like a coveted item destined only for the rich business travelers who are spending a ton of money and flying somewhere once a week.

In case you didn’t know this, I am neither rich nor do I fly 100 times a year

I am so excited that I finally earned my Companion Pass, but I am even more excited to let you guys know all of my point-earning secrets. Just so you know, I do not get any sort of benefits or compensation, financial or otherwise, from Southwest Airlines. Although I have tried to get them to start a referral program, that has not happened, so I am recommending these tips as a traveler and a big Southwest Fan, not as a Southwest Representative.

companion pass

Get yourself a Rapid Rewards Account

If you haven’t already done this, freaking do it, immediately. It’s free and it takes like 5 minutes. Also, if you have taken any flights on Southwest and either forgot to add your Rapid Rewards number or did not have one at the time – you can still get those points. Log in to your account and click on “Add Past Flight Points.” Get those points!

Apply for A Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Card

This is essential. Unless you plan on taking an insane amount of flights, I doubt you could manage to get the Companion Pass without having a Rapid Rewards Card. Think of it this way – you are inevitably going to spend money, so why not get rewards points for it?

Right now, there happens to be the totally amazing signup bonus that gets you 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on your card within the first two months. Those 50,000 points are crucial, so do not make the mistake of signing up for the credit card without using a special promotional link. Southwest recently gave me a referral link that gives friends the 50,000 point sign-up bonus even when it is not available to the general public. At the time of this posting this link will allow you to get the sign up bonus.
UPDATE: As of 9/30/14 my Southwest referral link as expired, as has the 50,000 point sign up bonus. After calling around, I was able to get some information. I was told that the referral link is an occasional thing that marketing does, and it may come back for a short time next year (2015) but for now, no definite plan is in place. As for the 50,000 point bonus, this seems to come and go through the year. My advice would be to wait until 2015 after all the holiday seasons flights, when Southwest is more likely to run a promotion. If you want to apply now, this link will give you a 25,000 signup bonus (This is a basic link, not a referral link of mine, I’m just trying to help!)

When I signed up for my card, I made the mistake of not going through a promotion link. In the end, I was able to speak with someone at Customer Service who informed me that I had used a link that gave me a measly $100 bonus instead of the 50,000 points. We compromised and she revoked my $100 bonus and granted me 40,000 points, but the mess still cost me 10,000 points. Not cool.

If you can get a personal AND a business card, do it.

Normally I wouldn’t advise anyone to load up on credit cards, but this will be worth it. If you happen to have a business, wait about a month after applying for your personal card, and then apply for a business card using the same promotional link. You will be able to link the same Rapid Rewards number to both cards, meaning that if you get your sign up bonuses, you’ll be at 100,000 points within just a few months. Getting those last 10,000 points will be a breeze.

If you cannot qualify for a business card, keep on reading

While I did attempt to convince Chase that this website and my freelance ventures were technically a “business,” they were just not interested in granting me a business card. Alas, I had a mere 40,000 points and still 70,000 to go.

Put everything on your credit card

Seriously, anything that doesn’t charge you a fee to pay on a credit card – put it on that card. You get 1 point per dollar on any purchase, plus 2 points per dollar on anything you purchase through Southwest (such as drinks on the flight). It may not seem like much, but I would estimate that I earned around 20,000 points between the time I got my card (March 2013) and the end of the year (December 2013). Not only did that push me towards the Companion Pass, it allowed me to purchase some flights with those points.

Use Rapid Rewards Shopping

This is where spending money racks up points way faster than just your normal 1 point per dollar. The Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal has hundreds of online retailers that you most likely shop at anyway. Most of them will offer at least 2 points/dollar, but there are always specials and you can sometimes earn as much as 20 points/dollar along with bonuses for spending a certain amount of money through the portal within a certain amount of time. Including those bonus deals, I earned approximately 7,500 points in 9 months. I’m not a very big shopper, so imagine what a big spender could earn just for buying stuff online. One of my favorite things to do is buy gift certificates to stores. I usually earn at least 2 points/dollar versus the 1 point/dollar I’d earn in the store, but then I can just go to the store to get my stuff. I do this all the time with PETCO and AMC Theaters.

Sign up for Rapid Rewards Dining

I will admit upfront that the Rapid Rewards Dining program did not do a whole lot for me, but if you can find restaurants in your area that you like that also participate in this program, you’ll be able to earn a few points just for eating. Once your register your card, you will earn 3 points/dollar if you use your Rapid Rewards card at participating restaurants. There are also specials and bonuses for things such as submitting reviews.

Sign up for the Rapid Rewards Report Email

Not only will these emails actually provide you with useful news on how to earn points throughout the year, you’ll also get 500 points just for signing up. You can register here.

Get an account on E-miles and E-rewards

If you don’t mind taking online surveys and occasionally watching short videos, both E-miles and E-Rewards are simple ways to earn some points, albeit slowly. E-Miles surveys are generally super short, they take 5 minutes or less and are usually worth 5 points. It seems small, but I earned 2,000 points through them in about 4 months. E-Rewards surveys are much longer, but the payout is better, usually at least $3.00 in E-rewards currency. The lowest amount you can transfer into Southwest Points is $25, which is 500 points. I got started late with E-Rewards, so I only had 3 months during 2013, but I still managed to earn a little over 500 points. In 2014, I’ve already earned about 1,500 and it is only March, so it’s definitely worth it.

Consider upgrading your flight

I know one of the main reasons people choose to fly Southwest is their low prices, but sometimes it actually pays off in the long run to purchase a more expensive flight. The points earning works like this:

Wanna Get Away Fares: 6 points/dollar
Anytime Fares: 10 points/dollar
Business Select Fares: 12/points/dollar

Usually, the price difference between Wanna Get Away and Business Select is pretty significant, but if it’s only about $100, you might want to shell out the extra cash. I did this when I was flying to Detroit.

The Wanna Get Away fare was around $100, one way. The Business Fare was around $250. The Wanna Get Away fare would have earned me 600 points, but for $150 more, I could earn 3000 points. That’s a big difference. Plus, Business Select gets me an automatic A 1-15 boarding position and an alcoholic beverage. I like that.

Southwest often runs specials for double or even triple points to certain destinations. While I do highly recommend them for the sake of earning points, these bonus points will NOT count towards your Companion Pass! I found this out the hard way when I took an insane points run to San Juan, Puerto Rico during a triple points promotion. (More on points runs in a post next week!) I paid extra for business fare, calculating that a weekend trip in San Juan would earn me over 23,000 points and thus finish off the points I needed to earn the Companion Pass. Well, I did get over 23,000 points, but only about 7,500 of them counted towards my Companion Pass.

Book Hotels and Rental Cars Through Southwest

Once again, I will admit I did not really benefit from this, but that doesn’t mean you can’t. Personally, I almost never rent a car and I don’t stay in hotels all that often, but if you do either of those things, you can earn some easy points by booking through Southwest. Most hotel and rental car bookings will earn you a flat reward of 600 points, although promotions will often offer you upwards of 1,300 per booking.

I do feel the need to tell you that I rarely felt that the prices were worth the points. The few times I looked at booking a car rental through Southwest, I was able to find much lower prices directly with the companies themselves. I would say it’s only worth paying a bit more for the same hotel or car if you are going to get a significant amount of points.

My Companion Pass

I’m really thrilled that I was able to get my Companion Pass. It just shows that if you know how to really work the system, you don’t have to be a big spender or a business traveler to reach this goal. I plan to attempt to earn the Companion Pass again for next year, but without those 40,000 bonus points, I admit it will be a lot trickier. Stay tuned for any more tips I can find, and please share yours as well!

28 Responses to How I Got the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass

    • reasek says:

      Yes, it has already saved my boyfriend and I plenty of money. At the end of the year I will calculate exactly how much!

    • reasek says:

      Do it! Free flights feel so good. Sometimes I use points for my flight and then use the Companion Pass for my boyfriend – TOTALLY FREE FLIGHTS! Let me know if you need any help :)

    • reasek says:

      Thanks. I’m going to try to get it again this year without those bonus points, so if I do, it will involve some more strategy!

  • usednavyman says:

    As of June 30, 2014 Southwest Airlines reduced there Bonus points to 25k for new credit card applicants.

    • reasek says:

      That’s true, but it comes and goes all the time. I also have a referral number/link that still gives the 50,000.

      Thanks for the info!

  • Ryan says:

    When you refer someone, you receive a 5,000 point bonus.

    Does that 5,000 point bonus count towards a companion pass?

  • Sean P. Belleau says:

    I just used your referral (for my wife) to obtain the Premier Card because I’m not sure when Southwest will offer 50,000 points again. My wife received the Plus Card in June of this year, so she received the 50,000 on that card already. I figured that since those points will post this Calendar year (we have charged about 6K already), we would need the additional card and points this year to get us over the 110K point mark to get the Companion Pass. Once we get the card, we will make the necessary $2K in payments within the three months and spend whatever else we will need to get us over the top. We won’t be able to take full advantage of the almost two years of the Companion Pass, but at least we will get all of next year and hopefully November or December of this year too.

    Thanks a bunch for the information and the referral and hopefully the 5K points you get will help you out.

    Sean

    • reasek says:

      Thanks Sean! That’s great news that you are well on your way to getting your companion pass. I was also sad that I couldn’t get the full 2 years out of it, but I did get mine in November so I got a little extra use out of it. You can also use my referral link for the 2nd card to get the 50K (and I’ll get another 5k) I’d love to hear about the first trip you take w/ your companion pass! Make sure to send me a tweet or something when it happens!

  • Carolyn says:

    Hi, working toward CP and was told by customer service this morning that bonus points from SW Credit Cards do NOT count toward Companion Pass total points needed. Did I get the wrong person. Has the rule changed?? Those 25,000 or 50,000 points would be the difference for us!

    • reasek says:

      That person might have been confused because certain bonuses do not count, but I can tell you that I earned my companion pass and my credit card sign up bonus points DID count!

      However, some bonus points will not count – these offers are usually sent out and it will have fine print that specifically states that these points will not count towards A-List or Companion pass. For example, there was a promotion last year to get triple points on all fares. I paid for business fare to Puerto Rico and I earned over 23,000 points – but I found out after that that only the base points counted towards A-List and Companion pass (which was about 7,500). I checked the fine print and it turns out it was specifically stated in the promotion, I just neglected to read it before hand.

  • Carolyn says:

    thanks for your quick reply–
    I checked the link that you have posted above and it is showing 50,000 pts. bonus right now. I’ll give it a try! Were the pts. posted to your CP total after the 3 months automatically or did you have to call?

    • reasek says:

      No problem! My points were posted to my account automatically after my statement that showed I had spent $2,000. For my referral points I had to call once because I knew someone had used my referral and gotten their points, but my last referral came through automatically. Let me know when yours post!

  • Teresa says:

    Hi! I already have a Southwest Rapid Rewards card (since 2011), so my question is, should I cancel it and reapply to a different one to get the points? Is that doable? I can also apply for the business card and get those miles, but they wouldn’t be enough for the Companion Pass goal if I just do that. What are your thoughts?

    • reasek says:

      Hm I am not sure I would recommend canceling a card and just applying for a new one. I am not sure you would get approved the second time because the application would have to go through the same system. I’m also not an expect on credit scores but I know that applying for lots of cards can hurt your score so canceling and applying may not be the best choice. I would say go for the business card if that is an option for you and then hustle hard to get the other 60,000. I only got a 40,000 bonus and started in March and I was able to get my companion pass. If you get your card in January and give yourself the whole year I think you could make it happen.

  • Wailana says:

    Hi!
    I signed up for the SW Premier CC and was approved a month ago August. I will have my husband sign up for this card, too, as I have seen the link for 50K sign up bonus. This will give us about 104,000 points (50K each + $4K minimum spend) with 6K points leftover to get the Companion Pass. What would be the best strategy to acquire the pass for 2yrs instead of 1yr?
    I am confused on that one.
    Thank you.

    • reasek says:

      Well if you already signed up for your card, unfortunately you are not well set up to do the full 2 year. The best way to do that is to get your card and spend the $2000 in January. That way you can earn your 110,000 points in January, and get the companion pass for all of that year plus the following year.

      So, at this point I would recommend that you get a card for your husband no earlier than November, then you make sure you do not complete the $2,000 spending requirement before January 1st, 2015 so that his 50,000 bonus points will count towards the companion pass. Then, use my tips to get the other 60,000 as quickly as you can. As soon as you complete the 110,000 you will get the companion pass, so if you complete them in March 2015, you get the companion pass for the rest of 2015 and also all of 2016. Unfortunately, if you already have your own credit card, those will not count in the 2015 year towards the companion pass.

      If you need more clarification, feel free to email me.

  • Amber Miller says:

    I recently applied for the Rapid Rewards Credit Card. Can I purchase the remaining 60k points? I see for 36,000 pts (plus a bonus amount of 14,000 pts) it would cost $990 to get a total of 50,000 points. That would get me to 100k immediately. Instead of waiting….. I’m just not sure if “BUYING” points would count toward a Companion Pass…. Any ideas?

    • reasek says:

      Purchased points do NOT count towards the companion pass. If you read the fine print it will state that purchased points do not count towards the companion pass or status levels. Unfortunately, it’s pretty late in the year to try to earn 50,000 points through my suggestions. I mean, if you did a LOT of shopping at the right places with high point values through rapid rewards shopping and bought some business class flights, you might be able to do it. But if you aren’t going to make it, the best thing to do is to start in January to try to earn the full 110,000.

  • Amber Miller says:

    Darn…. I figured it wouldn’t be that easy or everyone would just buy them! I actually haven’t received my card yet. Should arrive any day, so I’m definitely taking your advice and going to try to hit my $2,000 and receive the bonus points in JANUARY ! Thanks for the help!

    • reasek says:

      Yes, lucky for you you should get 3 MONTHS to get to that $2,000 mark (as long as they haven’t changed it – check your fine print!) so I would recommend monitoring your spending very closely so you can hit the $2,000 in the beginning of January – then you’ll have the whole year to use my tips to get the rest of the points you need. And remember – your pass is valid as soon as you earn it AND the following calendar year. So, if you happen to earn your 110,000 point by June, you’ll get the companion pass to use for the rest of 2015 AND all of 2016!

  • Amber Miller says:

    One more Question (sorry!): The points I earn in Nov, Dec … will they count toward the pass? or Is it Jan-Dec 2015 only that will count? I’m confused if the calender year means Jan-Dec. OR 365 days from when I start using the card.

    • reasek says:

      Don’t be sorry! No, the points you earn in November and December 2014 will not count. You have to earn all 110,000 points within 1 calendar year, January 1-December 31st. That’s why I recommend making sure you complete the $2,000 in purchases in January so you get those bonuses in 2015.

  • Amber Miller says:

    Perfect! Thanks so much! You’ve been a great help! I recently moved and noticed Direct TV was doing a special where you can earn 12,500 pts if you order through the Southwest website. I will be waiting until January to order my cable !!!

    • reasek says:

      Yes that’s a great promotion! I don’t have cable or a need for it so I have never been able to take advantage, but it’s a great one! Take a look at Rapid Rewards shopping for other service deals!

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