The Chase Southwest Companion Pass is one of, if not the, best airline perk out there. For people who fly domestically, it is an absolute must-have.
Even for people who don’t fly domestically that often, it can still provide incredible value and is probably worth getting.
What is the Southwest Companion Pass
The name of the card is not intended to fool; the Southwest Companion Pass is exactly what it says it is.
The pass allows a companion (spouse, mother, friend, favorite blogger) to fly free with you when you fly on Southwest.
And unlike many other airlines, Southwest does not make the rules super confusing. In fact, the process is fairly straightforward:
1. Once a person earns the Companion Pass (how to earn it is discussed below) they will designate the individual they want as their companion.
2. The Companion Pass arrives in the mail.
3. When the person is booking their tickets online, there is an option to choose to use the Companion Pass. When the person is booking over the phone, they simply have to tell the representative they want to use the Companion Pass.
4. The companion will fly for free.
About as easy as it gets, right?
Why the Southwest Companion Pass is Awesome (with a capital A!)
There are five things that make this companion pass especially awesome. Let’s take a look at them:
1. You can use this pass as many times as you’d like.
This is not a one-time pass, but instead allows a companion to fly free with you EVERY TIME you fly Southwest.
Yes, you are hearing me correctly: EVERY SINGLE TIME you fly Southwest.
Theoretically, I could fly Southwest every day and my companion would fly free with me each and every time.
2. The Companion Pass is valid for the remainder of the year that you earn it AND THE ENTIRE NEXT YEAR.
Again, you may think you are
mis-hearing mis-reading me, but you aren’t. It is good for the year you earn it and the next calendar year as well.
Example: Let’s say you get your Companion Pass on October 1st. Your Companion Pass will then be good for October, November, and December of 2012 and then all of 2013, for a total of 15 months.
Of course, the way to squeeze maximum value out of it is to get it as early in the year as possible (like January) and then you’d have it for a full 2 years.
3. The Companion Pass is a legitimately free pass.
With most things in life, free doesn’t mean free, and a lot of times there is enough red tape and rules to make the “free” item not even worth it.
This is NOT the case with the Southwest Companion Pass.
In this case, free really does mean free.
The only thing that the companion will be required to pay is a government-mandated September 11th security fee, which is a maximum of $10 roundtrip (and impossible to waive).
Other than that, there are no costs for the companion whatsoever.
And in case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last two years, you should be aware that bags fly free on Southwest (awesome commercial evidence here, here, and here), so the companion won’t even have to worry about that cost!
4. The Companion Pass can used on both paid and award flights.
Whether you pay out of pocket for your flight or use some of the Southwest miles you’ve accumulated to get an award ticket, your companion can still fly free with you.
This is basically unheard of in the airline world, as every other companion pass (that I’m aware of) requires the original person to pay for their ticket.
Not on Southwest.
So whether you pay $500 for a last minute ticket, $150 for their normally cheap regular fares, or fly free yourself using your Southwest miles, your companion can come along as well.
What’s better than one person flying free on Southwest?
TWO PEOPLE FLYING FREE ON SOUTHWEST!
5. You can change your designated companion up to three times.
This is perfect for people who like to engage in fickle relationships or who have tons of friends who love to mooch off of them (I only fall in to one of these categories)!
After you originally designate your companion you can change it and get a Companion Pass reissued with another person’s name up to 3 times during the validity of your Companion Pass.
This can be done instantly over the phone and is an awesome perk that often gets overlooked among all the other amazing things about the pass.
I’ll give you a good example of how I plan to use this to my advantage.
Naturally, Heather (my wife) will be my companion on many of my trips.
However, instead of designating her as my original companion, I plan on designating my best friend Jon because we are planning a trip together down to Florida.
After we take our trip and he flies for free (saving him anywhere between $150-300), I’ll call in and ask to designate Heather as my new companion.
Then, we’ll use the Companion Pass to fly all over this awesome country of ours (You could even go visit old friends!).
You can even designate a new companion (i.e. Jon), change it to someone else (Heather) and then change it back to the original person (Jon).
Convinced about the awesomeness of the Southwest Companion Pass and ready to learn about how to get your hands on one? Read on.
How To Earn the Southwest Companion Pass
Technically, there are actually two different ways to earn the Companion Pass:
1. Take 100 qualifying one-way flights with Southwest in a calendar year.
2. Earn 110,00 Southwest points in one calendar year.
Unless you love flying Southwest so much that you take a roundtrip flight each week (or your company pays for you to), there is realistically only one way to get the Companion Pass, and that is to earn 110k Southwest points in a year.
At first glance, this may seem difficult, but in fact, it’s not hard AT ALL.
Step 1: Earn 100,000 by Opening Two Credit Cards
The reason getting the Companion Pass is so easy right now is because Chase is currently offering 4 different Southwest credit cards which EACH earn you 50,000 Southwest points (a good deal in its own right) and these points DO COUNT towards the Companion Pass.
All you have to do is open up 2 of these credit cards and you’ll be at 100k Southwest points!
Plus vs. Premier
First thing to be aware of is that there are two types of Southwest cards, the Plus and the Premier. These cards differ slightly:
- The Plus has an annual fee of $69 and offers 3,000 Southwest points as an anniversary bonus each year you keep it open. Also, it charges a foreign transaction fee of 3%.
- The Premier has an annual fee of $99 and offers 6,000 Southwest points as an anniversary bonus each year you keep it open. It has no foreign transaction fee, so you pay nothing extra when you use it abroad.
The second thing to understand is that both of these cards offer a personal card and a business card.
That means there is a Plus personal card, a Plus business card, a Premier personal card, and a Premier business card.
The most surefire way to make sure you get both the signup bonus for both cards and get your full 100k (and my recommendation) is to open up 1 personal card and 1 business card.
Since 1 is a personal card and 1 is a business card you can apply for them at the same time and there shouldn’t be a problem with getting approved.
Here are some tips to get approved for a business card.
If you don’t feel comfortable getting a business card and still want the Companion Pass, you MAY be able to get 2 personal cards (1 Plus and 1 Premier) and earn the 100k that way.
Personally, I think this is a much riskier strategy than going for 1 personal and 1 business, but if you are going to do it, I’d make I’d make sure to have the first one open for a while (at least 3 months) before applying for the second one and offering to close it.
And just remember, those 100k Southwest points that you earn are actual points that you can redeem for free travel.
100k Southwest points equates to $1,667 worth of Wanna Get Away Fares on Southwest in their own right, so not only are earning almost all of the points you need towards the Companion Pass, but you are also getting $1,667 worth of free Southwest travel!
Talk about some major double dipping!
Step 2: Earn the additional points through a variety of ways
After getting the signup bonus for two cards, you’ll still be sitting 10k short of the Companion Pass.
However, you will have earned 4k points just for meeting the minimum spend on both cards ($2,000 each), leaving you with 6k left to earn. This can be done in many different ways.
Just a quick (but very important) heads-up: Not all ways that you can get 6,000 Southwest points counts towards the Companion Pass, so be careful.
For example, buying 6,000 Southwest points WILL NOT count towards the Companion Pass, nor will transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points directly to Southwest.
1. Spend $6,000 on the Southwest credit card.
For each dollar you spend, you’ll earn 1 Southwest point, so if you spend $6,000, you’ll earn 6k points! I’d recommend this for anyone who has a big purchase and can hit the $6,000 limit right away.
2. Transfer hotel points.
Transferring points from hotels does count towards the Companion Pass. Each hotel has a different ratio, so check to see how many hotel points it takes to earn the 6k you need.
For example, it takes 20k Hyatt points earn 9,600 Southwest points, whereas it takes 30k Marriott points to earn 10k Southwest points.
Hotels that transfer include Best Western, Choice Hotels, Hyatt, Marriott, and Wyndham.
3. Transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Hyatt and then to Southwest.
While transferring directly from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest WON’T COUNT towards the Companion Pass, transfers from hotels do.
That means that in order to make your UR points count towards the Companion Pass, you’ll first have to transfer them to Hyatt and then transfer them to Southwest.
If you’re UR points rich and money poor, this might be an ok option. Personally though, I’d rather…
4. Buy hotel points and transfer them to Southwest.
If you don’t have any hotel points to spare, you can always buy extra hotel points and then transfer them to Southwest.
I don’t normally condone buying miles or points, but in this case, the end result of the Companion Pass is well worth it.
The cheapest way of going about this is to buy 30k Marriott points, which will cost you $375.
Those 30k Marriott points will convert to 10k Southwest points, which are worth $167 of Wanna Get Away Fares, so in essence you’ll be paying $208 extra to earn the Companion Pass.
I hate spending “extra” money, but this is a great deal for what you’ll be getting.
5. Open up another credit card, receive the bonus, and then transfer part of the bonus to Southwest.
This works well for people who don’t have hotel points right now to transfer and don’t want to spend money buying points.
You could very easily open up a card now, make the minimum spend requirement, and get the signup bonus for that card.
Then, transfer those points to Southwest and get the additional points.
You could consider getting a hotel card, like the Chase Marriott, or a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Plus and transferring those points to a hotel and then to Southwest.
Personally, I transferred 30k Marriott points, which I earned from opening up the Chase Marriott card, to Southwest to earn my Companion Pass.
The Southwest Companion Pass is an amazing, amazing perk and even those who only occasionally fly domestic should consider it.
For anyone who flies a decent amount (or would like to if it was cheaper) its an absolute must.
With Chase offering 50k for each card right now and those points counting towards the Companion Pass (two things that could change without warning) the time is now to jump on it.
Grab a personal and business card, figure out what way to to earn the additional 10k, find a good companion, and enjoy the joys of free travel!
If you’ve got the Southwest Companion Pass, weigh in below. Is my love for it justified? Where have you gone with it? If you don’t have it, how do you plan on getting it? Fire away!