How to Get a Southwest Companion Pass Without Spending $125,000 in 2021

For the last seven years, since 2014, we've had Southwest's Companion Pass.

And I know I'll have it until the end of the year, 2021, because we re-qualified last year.

I'm not a “travel hacker” or some guru. I'm a regular person like you.

I have little interest in getting a dozen credit cards, joining half a dozen rewards and loyalty programs, and figure out the most efficient way to convert hotel points into airline points into whatever. I don't want to do a spreadsheet to track it all. I don't want to download any calculators.

To the folks who love that stuff, I salute you. I'm a huge nerd myself and love a good spreadsheet, everyone knows that, but travel hacking isn't one of those things.

That said, I see why it's appealing. Going on nearly free trips, staying at swanky hotels for nearly nothing, and getting the most out of a credit card is fantastic.

Here's step by step how I did it.

Before I got the Southwest Companion Pass, I was looking into the whole travel hacking phenomenon. I learned it wasn't for me, except with one exception — Southwest Companion Pass. We live near BWI airport (Baltimore/Washington International, Thurgood Marshall Airport), which is a big Southwest hub, so this was a perfect fit. From BWI, we could fly to many destinations including international airports like Aruba.

Southwest Companion Pass was the way to go.

The Best Way to Get Companion Pass in 2021

For a really short time, Chase and Southwest offered Companion pass and points as a new sign-on bonus.

That offer has since expired and now we are back to the more standard offerings, though the minimum spend is much lower than previously.

Do you run a business? If so, the new Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business credit card will give you 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. There's a $199 annual fee but you also get 9,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.

Here are the best offers on those cards (currently the bonus is all the same):

How I Got My Southwest Companion Pass (2014 – 2021)

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit CardIt's very simple — the credit cards.

On the personal and business cards, they will frequently run 50,000 Rapid Reward point promotions. I waited for one of those times.

For years, the standard promotion is 25,000 miles for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months. That's not very good. So they upped it.

Sometimes they offer 60,000 points but that's rare. The current 75,000 offer is unheard of.

When it's not 60,000 – you can wait for it but I'd rather get the points sooner and fly more. That's a personal choice.

You want the 50,000 points (or more) version (or the 40,000 if you're in a hurry). Anyone with an existing Southwest credit card can refer you to this offer, plus they get 10,000 points too (and those points count towards Companion Pass!).

How to get the Companion Pass for Southwest Airlines (updated with current promotional amounts):

  1. Get the personal consumer credit card, like the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card and you spend the $2,000 for the first tier of bonus — that's 82,000 points.
  2. Spend $10,000 more to get the 30,000 additional RR points — that's 122,000 points – you're almost there.
  3. If you want, stack on a Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card too, it runs smilar promotions, which right now is 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account. That also has a $99 annual fee. Don't have a business, read our applying for a Business Card section below because you can have a business.
  1. Otherwise just spend another $3,000 and you're in.
  2. With 125,000 points, you'll get SW Companion Pass for rest of the current year AND the next year!

Remember the Chase 5/24 rule! Chase has a rule that if you've been approved for 5 cards in the last 24 months, you will be declined for new cards. You probably can remember when you applied for a card but if you've forgotten, the best way to check is to check your credit reports.

If you don't see the 50,000 or better promotion, be patient and wait. The standard 25,000 point version just isn't as good and the 50,000 comes back all the time. Southwest also offers a Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card (instead of Premier) which has a lower annual fee ($69) and a few other smaller bonuses (3,000-anniversary points instead of 6,000 for example). There are often 40,000 Rapid Rewards point bonuses too – you can take those if you want but 50k is ideal.

In total, this will cost you the annual fees of the cards you get, which don't count towards the required bonus spending on either card.

Want other ways to earn RR points without the credit card OR flying? My list of Southwest Airlines money-saving hacks explains how their various point-earning programs work, from the Dining program to electricity supplier reward programs.

Common Questions about Companion Pass

If you have questions about Southwest Airline's Companion Pass or the strategy, you're not alone.

Here are the most common ones I've been asked, hopefully, it answers your questions!

What Is Southwest Companion Pass?

Companion Pass lets you name one person who can fly with you for free (you only pay the September 11th fee) anywhere you fly on Southwest. No blackout dates. You fly, they fly free (you still pay fees like the September 11th security fee)

It's an amazing perk and we've saved thousands each year because of it. It's probably one of the best frequent flyer perks out there, and you don't even need to be a frequent flyer. 🙂

To earn a Southwest Companion Pass, you need to earn 125,000 Rapid Reward points in a single calendar year. When you do, you get the Southwest Companion Pass for the rest of the year in which you earned it plus the following year.

If you get it January 1st 2021, you'll have Companion Pass until December 31st, 2022.

If you get it December 31st, 2020 then you'll only have it until December 31st, 2020!

There's a huge difference. When earning your miles, you want to get it as early in the year as possible to maximize your free flights.

The fastest way to earn miles is by getting the bonuses on their credit card. They often run promotions where you can get 50,000 miles for spending $2,000 in the first three months. More on that shortly.

Best Time to Earn Southwest Companion Pass

You want to get your SW Companion Pass as early in the year as possible since you'll get it for the remainder of the year… plus the next year.

The best time to apply for the cards is near the end of the calendar year. That way you get the cards at the start of the year, hit your spending goals, and earn Companion Pass. If you apply roughly in mid-November, get the cards shortly thereafter, you have three months (December to February) to spend the $2,000 on each card to get the bonus 100,000 miles.

You know your spending habits. Adjust your application date to when you will be able to reach the tiers.

Personally, I applied in December, got the cards in January, and reached the spending limits sometime in February. My Companion Pass congratulations email arrived on March 6th, once all the points posted.

Can I Spend My Points Before I Get Companion Pass?

Yes. You don't need 125,000 Southwest Rapid Reward points in your account, you only need to earn 125,000 Rapid Reward points in a calendar year.

So if you earned 5,000 points in January, that's 5,000 towards that year's Companion Pass eligibility.

You can spend those points on flights, your meter will still have the 5,000 points that you earned. If you log into your account and at the top, it'll show your progress towards A-List and Companion Pass:

I've already earned it for 2018 and 2019, so mine is completely blue.

As you accumulate points, it'll fill up to the 125,000 points you need. (A-List is always a tease though!)

Can I get points for both the Southwest Plus and Premier Cards?

No!

Why can't I get both the Plus and Premier cards? On April 5th, 2018, Chase added new language to the terms of the landing page of the promotions:

This product is not available to either (i) current Cardmembers of this credit card, or (ii) previous Cardmembers of this credit card who received a new Cardmember bonus for this credit card within the last 24 months. To qualify for your bonus points, you must make Purchases totaling $1,000 or more during the first 3 months from account opening. Please allow up to 8 weeks for bonus points to post to your Rapid Rewards® account. (“Purchases” do not include balance transfers, cash advances, travelers checks, foreign currency, money orders, wire transfers or similar cash-like transactions, lottery tickets, casino gaming chips, race track wagers or similar betting transactions, any checks that access your account, interest, unauthorized or fraudulent charges, and fees of any kind, including an annual fee, if applicable.) To be eligible for this bonus offer, account must be open and not in default at the time of fulfillment.

Booo. 🙁

Can an Authorized User Get the Bonus Later?

When we got our first Southwest credit card, I was worried about putting my wife on as an authorized user because I wanted her to be able to apply for the card and get the bonus in the future. It turns out my concerns were not warranted!

I asked Southwest and Chase on Twitter and they told me that…

If the authorized user hasn't gotten bonus points then they are eligible to get it as the primary cardholder!

What if I cancel my card and re-apply, can I get the bonus?

The basic rule governing this is that you cannot get the same bonus on the same card in any 24 month period. If you opened a Chase Southwest card last year, earned the bonus last year, then you won't be eligible until 24 months after you earned that bonus. If the bonus was awarded in January 2017, you have to wait until at least January 2019 before you are eligible to get that same sign up bonus.

Let's say you're beyond the 24 month period but you're still using the card. Can you cancel today and get the card and bonus again?

Yes… but you have to wait 60 days before you apply for the card. It takes that long for their systems to be updated. If you apply earlier than 60 days, you risk being denied because their systems think you still have an activated account.

Other Things to Remember

Before we go into the business card section, some last few thoughts:

  • You only need to spend purchase requirements in the first three months to get the bonus point promotions on each card. That's the only time limit. The remaining amount you can spread out over the rest of the year, but it's better to spend it earlier so you'll have Companion Pass for longer.
  • The goal is to earn 125,000 Southwest Rapid Reward points in a year, so all the other ways of earning them (like flying, renting cars, hotels, etc.) are all in play. We focused on the credit cards and putting the points in terms of spending because it was easiest to explain. You don't have to spend $6,000 to get the other 6,000 points, you can earn them in more traditional ways.
  • You can change your flight Companion up to three times in the validity period.
  • Check out these other Southwest Airline hacks to earn miles easily, like Rapid Rewards Dining and joining Rocketmiles if you stay in a lot of hotels.
  • The best part is the Southwest credit cards are also Visa Signature cards so you get all the promotions and protections associated with Visa Signature.

Big Change to Southwest Companion Pass qualification RR Points

There was a big change on January 1st, 2017 – the only way to earn Southwest Companion Pass eligible Rapid Reward points:

  • paid revenue flights on Southwest Airlines,
  • points earned through spending on a Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards credit card (including the bonuses),
  • points earned through transaction with Southwest Rapid Rewards partners.

That means e-Rewards, e-Miles, converted points from hotel and car loyalty partners, Valued Opinions and Diners Club will no longer count towards qualification for Companion Pass. You still get the points, they just don't count towards the 125k you need each year.

Years ago, a popular strategy was to convert Chase Ultimate Rewards points and this change closed that method.

🙁

“Spending” without Spending?

Where do you live?

If it has four walls and a roof, chances are you're paying rent or a mortgage. Most landlords and all banks will not let you pay rent or a mortgage with a credit card. Credit cards charge the merchant fees and landlords aren't a fan of those. 🙂

But if you are getting close to a bonus, or Companion Pass, and just need a little more to get there… using a service like Plastiq to pay your mortgage is an option.

They charge fees, because they pay the merchant fee to the credit card, but if you need a few hundred or a few thousand points to get to the bonus and time is running out, it might be worth it.

Applying for the Business Credit Card

If you have a business, awesome! (if you don't, your best option is the Personal Plus card)

Use all the information you have from that.

What if you don't have a business? You're in luck, you might have a business and not even know it. In the United States, if you earn income outside of a job reporting your income on a W-2, then you are operating a sole proprietorship. You don't need to be incorporated, you don't need to have any employees, and you don't even need to make that much money.

In fact, if you've made a profit three out of the last five years, the IRS considers that a business and not a hobby.

Get an Employer Identification Number. It's free, nearly instant, and you never need to use it.

Getting an EIN won't guarantee you'll be approved but it's a step up from using your Social Security Number on the application.

If you want to really improve things, get yourself a website.

Otherwise, fill in the application truthfully.

Here are some more tips on getting a business credit card.

Pending Review???
Once you apply, your application will be approved or “pending review.” Pending review is not always bad but it means they couldn't verify your business or need more information.

Wait a day or two, then call the reconsideration line and ask them that you'd like to check on the status of your application. Be prepared to answer these types of questions about your business:

  • What is your business and what do you do?
  • How long have you been in business and what were your annual revenues and profits?
  • How much do you expect to make this year, revenue and profit?

Whether they approve you will be up to the representative but here are a few tips for a reconsideration call.

When I got the card, I had to call the reconsideration line even though I've had a revenue-generating business for years. They can't verify anything on the application through a third party so the approval process is effectively the same as for the personal card. And remember, when I applied, I told them I was a blogger.

How much have we used it?

ALL THE TIME. (before the pandemic, that is)

I can't even remember the last time we flew an airline other than Southwest. We've since gotten a few flights to New York to visit my parents, Boston to visit my sister and her family, plus vacations to San Juan, PR and soon a flight to Aruba.

The most expensive flight we've gotten for “free” (you pay taxes and fees) will be the one to Aruba. That baby cost me $727.50 and will cost my lovely wife just $70.60. That comes out to be just under $400 per person.

$400 for a direct flight to Aruba? I'll take it.

The 125,000 points we get via promotions are valuable too. They're worth about 1.77 cents on the best Wanna Get Away fares ($108 o/w from BWI to ISP), so that's worth about $1900+ in and of itself.

All in all, this experience has been a very positive one.

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About Jim Wang

Jim Wang is a thirty-something father of three who is a frequent contributor to Forbes and Vanguard's Blog. He has also been fortunate to have appeared in the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Entrepreneur, and Marketplace Money.

Jim has a B.S. in Computer Science and Economics from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.S. in Information Technology - Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a Masters in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. His approach to personal finance is that of an engineer, breaking down complex subjects into bite-sized easily understood concepts that you can use in your daily life.

One of his favorite tools (here's my treasure chest of tools,, everything I use) is Personal Capital, which enables him to manage his finances in just 15-minutes each month. They also offer financial planning, such as a Retirement Planning Tool that can tell you if you're on track to retire when you want. It's free.

He is also diversifying his investment portfolio by adding a little bit of real estate. But not rental homes, because he doesn't want a second job, it's diversified small investments in a few commercial properties and a farm in Illinois via AcreTrader.

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These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

  1. Carolyn says

    I just signed up for both personal Premier and Plus cards and have hit the spending limit on both. Now I’ve received a letter from Chase telling me I’m not eligible for the the bonus on the Plus card since I’ve already received it on the Premier card, since they are in the “same family of cards”. I’m not really sure what to do. I thought you could get the bonus points on both personal cards?

    • Jim Wang says

      I’ve never tried it but people have told me that they successfully got points on both Premier and Plus cards… I’ll try to do more research.

      • Tony says

        We received 50,000 bonus points for each of both the plus and premier cards in my wife’s name in early Feb of this year for cards we applied for in Nov/Dec of 2016.
        This could be a change in policy for Chase (they gave away a lot of Ultimate Reward points and cash with their Sapphire Reserve card promo earlier this year – 100,000 per account, $300 travel credit, $100 Global entry Fee etc. – so maybe they need to cut back!). There was no mention of “families” of cards when we applied so I would carefully check the language on your particular offer and push back if it is not clearly stated that the bonus point offer is invalid on multiple cards. Maybe you can cancel one and get the fee back, or at worst, see if a business card would qualify and apply for one of those so you don’t lose the benefit of the bonus points on your first card, and still hopefully get to 110,000 points this year. It’s still a great deal even if you have to pay another $69 fee and can meet the spend requirement without spending $$ you wouldn’t otherwise have spent and plan to do some flying in the next 1-1/2 years or so.

  2. Ellen says

    I got the premier card in June and was planning to apply for the plus card at some point this year so I could combine the points for the companion pass. Should I wait until later in the year so I hit the 110k mark in early Jan.?
    In other words, does the “year” mark for the companion pass begin when you earn the 110k OR is it retro back to when you opened your first card OR does it have to be in the same calendar year? Hope that makes sense…

    • Jim Wang says

      If you earned the points from the Premier card already (and you should have), then they were accrued for 2017. You’ll want to earn the rest of them as soon as possible because they won’t count towards 2018. The year is calendar year.

  3. MJ says

    I currently have a SW Chase Visa Premier card. My RR account says I have 45K of the 110K points as of today 7/30/17.
    My question is – Can these existing 45K (plus whatever I accrue additionally later this year) points be used toward a Companion Pass that is obtained in early 2018 for 2018 and 2019? Or will these 45K+ points basically become null (for the purposes of Companion Pass) on 1/1/18?
    If they do become null on 1/1/18, is the only way to obtain Companion pass for 2018-2019 to close my current SW Chase Visa Premier card sometime over the next few months and then reapply for BOTH the Premier and Plus cards in late 2017 (so points do not post till early 2018 after the $2K is spent on each card)? That way, I can follow your suggested process as outlined.
    Thanks very much in advance, Jim.

    • Jim Wang says

      They will become null on 1/1/18 for the purposes of Companion Pass. You won’t be able to close and re-apply because if you earned bonus points (on sign up) within the last two years, you can’t earn them again until that two year period expires.

  4. Kris says

    Just wanted to say Thank you! We followed this blog 3 months ago and just got my companion pass! We applyied for the southwest premier and the plus the same day. And you were correct that we got a pending on the plus and had to call in and confirm it was a fraud alert for two cards in one day. It worked out quiet easy because we put our kids college tuition payment on the card then paid it immediately off to avoid interest. Something for parents of college kids to think about, why not get a perk back paying college expenses that you would be paying anyway! Thanks Jim!!!

  5. Jacqueline says

    Hi Jim!

    Thanks for posting this helpful information! Just to clarify…If I apply for and get the card in Nov. 2017, I should hold off on purchases until January 2018 so that the points start accruing in the 2018 calendar year for me to earn a CP for 2018 and 2019? Or…does it matter if I get the card in Nov. 2017 and start spending in Nov? If my spending in Nov 2017 posts in Dec 2017 and I earn the bonus points in Dec 2017, that will ruin it right? Just wanted to check to make sure I understand this correctly 🙂

    • Jim Wang says

      Personally – I wouldn’t cut it that close. I’d probably get the card in December or early January and then make purchases in 2018 to get the CP for 2018 and 2019.

      If you time it correctly, you can do it the way you explain. You want the last of the spend to be in 2018. But I hate timing things that tightly. 🙂

  6. Kathy says

    Thanks for all the great info!!! Just a few questions:
    1. If I currently have 36,000 points I have accumulated through flying SW on my Rapids Rewards number, will those points count toward the CP points needed? I applied for the Premier card in June and think I only get 40,000 points after the three months.

    2. I asked for an additional card for my husband but his RR number is not listed under his name on his card. Now i am wondering if I should have him apply for a Premier card and business card in November/December of this year, especially if my 36,000RR points from simply flying don’t apply towards the CP. HELP!

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