If you travel regularly–particularly domestically–you’ve probably heard of the Southwest Companion Pass (CP), which can basically be viewed as a golden ticket within the travel industry. You can read about it on Southwest’s website and on The Points Guy, but I wanted to share my own experience in obtaining the Companion Pass because we managed to get it for nearly two entire calendars years!
If you’re unfamiliar, a little background: The CP is a “pass” that allows you–the pass recipient–to designate a “companion” who can fly with you for free any time you travel together on Southwest. (You do have to pay taxes + fees, but they’re around $12 for roundtrip flight.) You can only change your companion up to three times per year, so it’s most beneficial if you have a close friend, partner, or family member with whom you travel or plan to travel with very regularly. Here’s the kicker…the CP is valid for the remainder of the calendar year in which it’s obtained, plus the following calendar year. I’ll elaborate below, but we strategically timed it so we’d have it from early this year through the end of 2020. Considering Southwest is now flying to Hawaii, the CP has the potential to save you a LOT of money!
How do you get the Companion Pass?
There are two ways to earn the CP. You either need to accumulate 110,000 Southwest miles in the calendar year or you need to take 100 one-way flights during the calendar year. Unless you travel a lot, the first option–what we did–is probably the most feasible for you.
You can obviously accumulate the 110,000 points through flying, but that would take awhile (and be very expensive)! The quickest way to reach that threshold is to open two Southwest credit cards with large point bonuses that are granted when you hit a designated minimum spend within a certain timeframe. Southwest tends to change the rules surrounding how you can actually earn the point bonuses, but right now, your best bet is to open one personal and one business credit card, if you have a business. If you don’t, you can open two personal cards, but there are some restrictions around actually qualifying for the bonus points depending on what recent cards you may have opened. Read about that here!
I opened the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card (a personal card) and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card because my blog + freelance business are incorporated as an LLC, so qualifying for the business card was easier than it would have been for J since he doesn’t have a tax ID, etc. The Points Guy updates this article regularly, so I’d go there to determine the card combinations that are most realistic for you.
If you’re in the market for the CP, there are currently three personal cards offering a 60,000 bonus (rather than 50,000, till June 10) when you spend $2,000 in the first three months of owning the card, and the business card offers 60,000 when you spend $3,000 in the first three months. Obviously the faster you meet the spend, the quicker you’ll get your CP!
Also, hopefully this goes without saying but I am not a financial expert! Do not open credit cards if you can’t pay off the full balance each month!
How we got the Southwest Companion Pass for two years
As I mentioned before, we were determined to maximize our time with the CP (and hold it for as close to two years as possible). This meant opening the cards last fall–I applied for the business one in October and the personal one at the end of November. The key was making sure we didn’t hit 110,000 points before 2019, since if we did, we’d only get the pass for the remainder of 2018 and all of 2019. By hitting 110,000 in early 2019, we obtained the pass for the rest of this year as well as all of 2020. Yay!
We spent a good deal of time doing research to make sure we were timing this correctly, so even though I’m sharing our experience in this post, it doesn’t hurt to pore over some Points Guy articles as well! Ashlee also wrote a great post on how she got it for two years, and I referenced it regularly when I was paranoid we were going to miscalculate our timelines and when the points would actually hit our account :)
One thing re: hitting the minimum spend to get the bonus…plan your shopping and budget accordingly! The minimum spends aren’t low and if you open the two cards I did, you’ll need to spend a combined $5,000 to get your bonus points. We used the cards for everything and pushed off a couple large purchases until we had them in our hands.
My favorite part about the Companion Pass
Obviously flying two-for-the-price-of-one is wonderful, but my other favorite part about earning the CP is that you actually get to keep the 110,000 miles! They aren’t cashed in in order to earn the pass…once you hit the number, you get the pass and keep the points. This is hugely valuable when it comes to booking flights, since Southwest has no blackout dates for award travel and every single flight can be purchased with points. When you pay close attention to the cash vs. points value, 110,000 of them go a long way!
So there you have it! How J and I are basically flying BOGO from March 2019 to December 2020! We’re lucky that Southwest has many flights out of DCA and that Baltimore–a Southwest hub–is a relatively short train ride away. I know this probably sounds intimidating if you aren’t used to the travel credit card points game, but with a little patience, some research, and planning, the CP is so, so worth the work–we’ve already saved hundreds of dollars this year and that feels well worth a little strategizing! As always, happy to answer any questions if you have them! Shoot me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to help!