The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is the single greatest travel perk available. If you regularly fly Southwest with another person, it's often worth planning your 5/24 applications to earn this valuable perk. If you're unfamiliar with Chase's 5/24 rule, give this post a read. Timed correctly, you can hold the Companion Pass for almost 24 months. The fall is the ideal time to strike, as we explain below.
Companion Pass Overview
The Southwest Companion Pass allows the holder to bring a companion for free on as many flights as they wish. You can earn the Companion Pass in one of two ways. You must either accumulate 135,000 Rapid Rewards points or fly 100 qualifying one-way flights in the same calendar year.
Once you earn the Companion Pass, it's valid until December 31 of the following year. So if you earn the CP at any time in 2023, it's valid until December 31, 2024! If you earn the Companion Pass in January, you can take advantage of it for basically two years. You would get to fly with your companion for half off as many times as you want over the next 18+ months!
There are no gimmicks or tricks. Any time you want to fly your companion with you, the only cost is the taxes ($5.60 each way for domestic flights). The one restriction is that you can only change your companion 3 times per calendar year.
At the risk of stating the obvious: you cannot book a companion to fly by themselves. Your companion must fly with you on your same flight.
Here is how this perk gets even better: earning the Companion Pass doesn't cost you 135,000 Rapid Rewards points. Once you earn 135,000 points and receive the Companion Pass, those 135,000 points are still yours to use. You can use those points to book flights for yourself and then add your companion for free! These 135,000 points are worth about $1,800 in travel ($3,600 once you tack on your free companion).
If you travel so much that you use up all 135,000 points booking flights, you can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest (at 1:1) for more free flights for the two of you.
How to Earn 135,000 Rapid Rewards Points
Chase does not allow you to hold multiple Southwest personal cards. So the best current method of earning 135,000 Rapid Rewards points is applying for a Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card(review), which has a welcome bonus of 80,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months. This card has a $199 annual fee.
You can then add one of the personal cards, like the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card(review). This card has a limited time offer sign-up bonus of 75,000 points after spending $3,000 spend in 3 months and a $69 annual fee. These two sign-up bonuses plus the required minimum spend for each card get you beyond the required 135,000 points to earn the CP. And, starting in January 2023, Southwest credit card holders on the first day of the calendar year earn 10,000 non-redeemable, but Companion Pass-eligible miles, thereby reducing the requirement to 125,000 miles needed for the CP. For Southwest card approvals after 1/1/23, the 10,000 non-redeemable miles will be deposited within 30 days.
Traditionally, Southwest and Chase offer increased SUBs on the personal cards during Q4 every year. This held true in Q4 of 2021, when Chase and Southwest had announced all-time high offers on all 3 personal cards. It's likely they will continue the trend in 2022.
You can earn 75,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months for each of the personal cards (the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, $69 annual fee; Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, $99 annual fee; or, Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, $149 annual fee). This means any personal card plus a Performance Business card will earn you the Companion Pass.
Alternatively, you can try to open both the Performance Business card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card and earn 140,000 points from the two SUBs. But Chase is traditionally difficult with approving folks for more than 3 business cards. So you have to determine if getting 2 Southwest business cards is worth it to you.
Lastly, keep in mind that points transfers do not count towards earning the Companion Pass. You cannot earn the CP by transferring points over from Chase or Marriott. Buying points also does not count towards earning the Companion Pass.
Application Rules for Southwest Credit Cards
Next, for each of the Southwest personal credit cards, you cannot hold more than one Southwest personal card. So if you already have any of the 3 Southwest personal cards, you must cancel that card if you want to apply for a new one. Also, you will not qualify for a sign-up bonus for a Southwest personal card if you've earned a sign-up bonus from any Southwest personal card within the past 24 months.
Chase's rules for Southwest business cards are slightly more lenient. You cannot open a Southwest business credit card if you already have that same card. This means you can have one of each of the two Southwest business cards. You just cannot have two of the same card. Meanwhile, you will not qualify for a sign-up bonus for a Southwest business card if you've earned a sign-up bonus from that same Southwest business card within the past 24 months.
If you do not meet Chase's rules for card and bonus eligibility above, you will not be able to get the Companion Pass through credit card SUBs.
Timing of the Southwest Credit Card Applications and Meeting Minimum Spend
October through December is the time to apply! If you plan to apply for either of the business cards, you must be 0/30 at the time of your application. Chase automatically denies business applications if you have opened another card in the prior 30 days. You will then have about 105 days to meet your minimum spend. (Chase typically gives extra time to complete the minimum spend.)
Do NOT put much spend on your new Southwest credit card in 2022. Do NOT get close to the minimum spend in 2022. Chase is notorious for awarding Southwest SUBs if you get close to the minimum spend amount. Sometimes Chase grants the SUB even if you are as far away as $1,000 from meeting the minimum spend. Plan to wait until AFTER your December 2022 statement cuts to hit the minimum spend. Ideally, you should wait until January 1, 2023 if you can, just to be safe.
Also, once you have your business card and your first statement closes, we recommend changing your statement close date. Ideally, you should request sometime between the 3rd and the 5th of the month. You can do this by sending a secured message to Chase. This means your third statement will hit on January 3-5, 2023. So as long as you hit the minimum spend after your December 2022 statement, your SUB will hit on the January 2023 statement. While you're at it, you can also ask Chase to confirm the deadline for meeting the minimum spend requirement. This way you have a firm deadline in writing.
If you are following the business application with a personal application approach, wait about 30 days from the first application and then apply for a personal card. Then follow the same procedures above for timing your minimum spend.
The key to getting the Southwest Companion Pass for as long as possible is organization. Know understand your 5/24 status, check when was the last time you received a SUB for a Southwest card. Make sure you're 0/30 when applying for a Southwest business card. Have a good plan for meeting minimum spend on both cards. And, most importantly, do not come close to meeting your minimum spend until January 1! We see dozens of horror stories every year where people lose track of their spending and hit the SUB too early. Remember, BOTH SUBs must hit your Southwest account in the year you want your CP to begin. If one SUB posts on December 31 and the other posts on January 1, then you won't get a CP with those SUBs.
Do you plan to earn the Southwest Companion Pass this year? Join the discussion in our Facebook group!