How to Get 23 Months of Free Flights with the Southwest Companion Pass

Act by 10/4 (ideally *on* 10/3) to Maximize the Best Deal in Travel, Worth More than $1,800

The Southwest Companion Pass is arguably the best deal in travel. It allows a companion to fly for free with you on any Southwest flights you book. The pass is good from the time you earn it until the end of the following calendar year. The opportunity has arisen to enable a companion to fly for free with you for 23 months: most of 2018 and all of 2019. But you have to act by October 4, 2017 (and, ideally, on 10/3) to take advantage of this opportunity.

The Southwest Companion Pass works on all Southwest flights.

Following is more about the Companion Pass and exactly what you need to do by October 4th in order to score 23 months of free flights for your companion (and a lot of free flights for you as well):

How to Earn a Southwest Companion Pass

There are two ways to earn a Companion Pass:

  1. Flights. Fly 100 qualifying one-way flights within a calendar year. (Ouch.)
  2. Points. Earn 110,000 qualifying Southwest points in one calendar year. (Now we’re speaking my language! My wife and I each have a Southwest Companion Pass, and this is how we earned them.)

From now through October 4th, each of the three Southwest credit cards is offering a 60,000-point signup bonus. The opportunity thus exists to open two of the three cards, earn 120,000 combined Southwest points, and score the Companion Pass in the process.

Here are the specifics on the three cards:

After October 4th, the bonus is likely to drop to 25-50k on the cards.

How to Time this Deal Well

Timing—both when you apply and when you meet the cards’ minimum spend—is very important in order to maximize this deal. Here’s what to do:

  1. Get First Card.

    Apply for one of the three above cards on the morning of October 3rd. If you have a business, I’d recommend applying for the business card first. If you don’t have a business, I’d recommend applying for the Plus card first. Apply in the morning so that you have all day to complete this step and the next step. I don’t recommend waiting until October 4th in case something goes wrong that final day.

    If the online system doesn’t instantly approve you, call the Chase credit card reconsideration line in order to speak with a representative who might be able to approve you. The number is (888) 270-2127 for personal cards, (800) 453-9719 for business cards. (For what to say during the reconsideration call, see this excellent guide.) Once you are approved for your first card, proceed to the next step.

  2. Get Second Card.

    Apply for one of the other cards listed above. If you first got approved for the business card, I recommend you now apply for the Plus card. If you first got approved for the Plus card, I recommend you now apply for the Personal Premier.

    This time, you probably won’t get instantly approved. Follow the process from the previous step to call the appropriate reconsideration number in order to speak with a representative about getting that second card approved. You’ll need a valid reason for wanting this second card. A common reason is to separate expenses. For instance, you might put business expenses on a business card and personal expenses on a personal card. Or, if you’re applying for two personal cards, perhaps you could use one of them for HSA/medical expenses and the other for all other expenses, or some such thing.

  3. Carefully Meet the Minimum Spend.

    Once you receive the two cards, you want to begin working toward meeting the minimum spend. (A card’s annual fee does not count toward minimum spend.) BUT YOU DON’T WANT TO FULLY MEET THE CARDS’ MINIMUM SPEND UNTIL JANUARY 1, 2018. Leave some small amount of minimum spend for January 1st.

    Then, on January 1st, complete the minimum spend. By completing the minimum spend in 2018, you will earn the cards’ 120,000 combined bonus points as early as possible in 2018. Doing so will thereby earn you the Southwest Companion Pass for the remainder of 2018 and all of 2019—approximately 23 months.

What Can Go Wrong?

Although I have successfully earned the Southwest Companion Pass by means of the above process, I don’t want to give the impression that it’s a slam dunk. Any of the following can go wrong to ruin the opportunity for you:

  • Above “Chase 5/24.” With very few exceptions, Chase will not approve you for the Southwest cards if you’ve opened 5 or more cards from any issuer within the past 24 months. That is known as the (dreaded) “Chase 5/24 Rule.”
  • Not Approved for Two Cards. If Chase doesn’t approve you for two cards, you won’t be able to get the Companion Pass as described above. That said, if Chase only approves you for one card on October 3rd, you still have options. In that case, I’d recommend waiting to see if the big, 50k or 60k bonus returns on the cards before December 31st. If it does, I’d suggest waiting at least 32 days from the time you were approved for your first card to try again to get a second card.
  • Meet Minimum Spend too Fast. If you meet the minimum spend too fast, your 120,000 bonus points may post in 2017 rather than in 2018. In that case, you’ll still earn the Companion Pass, but it will be valid for a much shorter period of time: the rest of 2017 and all of 2018.

How Much is this Opportunity Worth?

Southwest points are worth approximately 1.5 cents apiece. So 120,000 points are worth about $1,800 toward travel on Southwest. Not a bad deal at all even without taking the Companion Pass into account.

Aside from modest taxes and fees (often $5.60 for a one-way domestic flight), your companion can fly for free with you on any Southwest flight you book, regardless of whether you book with cash or points. The value of the Companion Pass thereby increases the more your companion flies with you.

Probably the best use of the Southwest Companion Pass I’m aware of occurred in the case of my buddy and his wife before they had kids. My friend traveled often for work, and his wife worked remotely for her company. So almost any time my buddy had to travel, he booked on Southwest, and his wife joined him on the trip for free. But even if you just use the Companion Pass a few times per year (as my wife and I do), the pass can still easily save around $1,000 per year on your companion’s flights.

Other Benefits

As if the above-mentioned benefits of the Companion Pass were not enough, Southwest allows you to change the person you designate as your companion 3 times per calendar year. So, as an example, you could choose your wife, brother, then wife again in 2018. And then friend, wife, and brother in 2019.

Also, once you choose a companion, you can add them to reservations you made previously.

Conclusion

The Southwest Companion Pass is possibly the best deal in travel. My wife and I recently used our two Companion Passes to fly two of our kids with us for free—a savings of $474—on our recent $56 vacation to San Diego.

Earning a Companion Pass as outlined above maximizes the deal by netting you 110,000 Southwest points and a Companion Pass for approximately 23 months of free travel.

Question: What questions do you have about the Southwest Companion Pass or how to earn it? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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Hat tip: Doctor of Credit

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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20 thoughts on “How to Get 23 Months of Free Flights with the Southwest Companion Pass

  1. Is there a reason to wait until October 3rd to get the cards? What about going ahead now?

    Also, let’s say [hypothetically] that one of your blog novices has decided to give this whole rewards via credit cards thing a shot again, and in the last few weeks has, say, opened up 5 cards because he/she didn’t know about the 5/24 Chase chastening. Should they even try this Southwest deal? Or should they sit this one out for 24 months? I suppose their spouse could do this, right (assuming they would allow said novice to be their companion)? Lastly, did you and Sarah both do this deal separately to maximize (a total of 4 cards and 240,000 points split between the 2 of you)? Thanks!

    • Steve,

      For some reason this comment and your following comment went to “Spam.” Sorry. I guess I have an overactive comment filter. :-/

      Pulling the trigger on the deal too soon could have resulted in meeting the minimum spend in 2017 and earning the 120,000 points and the Companion Pass in 2017. The pass would then be good only for the rest of 2017 and all of 2018 (so about 12.5 months rather than 23 months). Fortunately, anyone who jumped too early may still be okay for 2 reasons that I didn’t want to mention in the post. First, Chase unofficially (but, like, always) gives 115 days rather than 3 months to meet minimum spend. Second, as long as you complete minimum spend after your December statement closes (which could be early, mid, or late December), the points should post in 2018, not 2017, which is good. I didn’t want to mention those aspects in the post because they are somewhat speculative, more of a safety net than something to depend on.

      The Chase 5/24 rule is firmly established. Anyone who opens 5 or more personal accounts (and some, but not all business accounts), won’t get approved by Chase for most of their best cards, including the Southwest cards.

      I did this deal as described above some years ago. Sarah then did it as described above a couple of years later. The way we each have a Companion Pass now via points (rather than via flight segments) is by each having converted a lot of Marriott points into a 7-night Marriott stay plus enough Southwest points for the Companion Pass. Long story. Southwest ended that possibility on March 31, 2017, so it’s sort of a mute point now.

  2. Following up on my last comment, I have more other practical question. You may have already covered this in a previous blog, but do you and Sarah share the same rewards account (such that the 240,000 points would all go to 1 rewards account)? Or do you both have separate rewards accounts? I ask because having just 1 account seems more manageable (less to keep track of). This question applies not only to Southwest Rewards, but any Rewards program. 2 of each seems like double the tracking, double the paper work, double the points expiration dates to monitor, etc. I guess I’m assuming that Rewards programs allow for combined accounts for spouses/households, but separate credit cards linked to a single joint rewards account to double up on the points? But I have no idea. Thanks for any insights!

    • Very few programs allow for a shared account. British Airways might. Some (possibly British Airways, definitely Hilton) allow for point pooling after earning points in one’s own account. So we mostly have 2 accounts for each program. And whenever one of us opens a credit card, we do so using our own reward program number.

  3. Hi Brian,
    Can you clarify two things for me? When you reach the necessary 110,000 points for the companion pass are you trading in your points for this pass or do you keep your points as well as get the pass? At the end of your allotted time with the companion pass, how does Southwest begin calculating towards your next potential pass? Let’s say you earned 90,000 points during that time you had the companion pass, do those points count towards your next pass? Or if you are able to keep your points from the start, can you keep your points balance above 110,000 to qualify again when eligible? Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Francesca,

      Thanks for these clarifying questions.

      When you reach 110,000 points, you do not trade them for the Companion Pass. You get to keep them along with the pass. Really awesome, especially considering you can then book flights with the points and bring your companion along with you — all for free.

      To earn the pass via points (rather than one-way flight segments), you need to *earn* 110,000 qualifying points within one calendar year. It doesn’t matter how many points you carry over into a new calendar year.

      I hope that answers your questions. If you need further clarification, just let me know.

  4. What do you suggest if you have already inherited an AirTran card turned Southwest? Apply for the premier version as well? Have your spouse apply?

    • Hi Maria,

      I’m going to record here what I told you offline later the day you posted this comment.

      You need 110,000 points to earn the southwest companion pass. So if that is what you are going for, signing up for just one card won’t suffice.

      It is possible to get the sign-up bonus again for the Southwest card that you already have (since it’s been more than 24 months — much long, in this case — since you earned the bonus on that card). But to do so, you would first need to close that card, then wait at least a few days, then reapply for it.

  5. Thank you for this post! I completed the applications and obtained both the plus and the personal cards in early October. Coming into the end of the year, I have spent roughly $1,750 on each card. Do I have to wait until after January 1st to complete the minimum spend? The third month’s billing cycle will start in early December which would then post the miles in the new year. Or am I misunderstanding this process?

    • Congratulations, Jon.

      Yeah, so, depending on your precise billing cycle, it is possible to complete the minimum spend toward the end of December, triggering the points to post in 2018. Ensuring that the points post in 2018 is the key, you are right.

      That said, I recommend folks complete the minimum spend on January 1 just to be 100% sure that the points will post in 2018, not 2017. But if you’re already 100% sure they will post in 2018, then there is no downside to completing the minimum spend prior to January 1.

  6. I could use your help thinking through what to do. Amidst obtaining a flurry of credit cards this fall (including Southwest Premier and Plus cards), I temporarily lost my mind and thought the Southwest threshold was $3,000 in the first 3 months. So, on my Premier card, I exceeded the $2,000 for a few days, which triggered the 60,000 points. Once I realized my error, I actually returned a big ticket item to get my balance back below $2,000 before my statement was released, but the deed was done – Chase looks at purchase total, not balance total. I had the Chase research team try to take back my 60,000 points, but my purchase had already triggered Southwest to give me the 60,000 points and Chase said they could not reverse it. Sigh. My Plus card is sitting at $1,975 for 2017. What should I do now? Is there a chance I could score another 50,000 points via credit cards or some other way in 2018–and so delay getting my Plus card’s 60,000 points until 2018? Or, should I go ahead and reach the $2,000 limit on my Plus card in 2017, so that I can get the Companion Pass for all of 2017 and 2018–a bummer for sure, but better than being stuck with 60,000 points in 2018 from my Plus card and no chance of a Companion Pass. Thank you. –Deflated.

    • Hi Steve,

      Sorry to hear that. You’re better to play the game and make some mistakes than not to play the game at all. But I know that is probably little consolation at the moment. . . .

      Okay, so here’s how I’d suggest thinking through it.

      Option 1: Go for Companion Pass in 2018

      If you delay completing minimum spend on your Plus card in order to trigger the 60k bonus points to post in 2018, is there a relatively easy way you can pick up an additional 50k or so points in 2018 to earn the Companion Pass in 2018? If so, that’s probably what I’d do.

      The main way to do that would be via another Southwest credit card signup. The two questions in this regard are: (1) Do you qualify for the bonus on the third Southwest card? Importantly, has it been at least two years since you last earned the bonus on that card (or have you never earned the bonus on it)? (2) Have you opened 5 or more credit cards of any variety within the last 24 months? If so, you won’t be able to open another Chase Southwest card due to Chase’s 5/24 rule.

      The other way you could earn 50k Southwest points in 2018 is by a combination of flying SW and spending on your Southwest card. If you fly/spend a lot, that is a viable option.

      Option 2: Go for Companion Pass in 2017

      If Option 1 doesn’t work well for you, you can try to earn the Companion Pass still in 2017. In that case, you’d want to complete the spend ASAP. After completing the spend, I’d even pay the credit card bill off early in the hopes that doing so helps the points to post in 2017. If the points *do* post in 2017, then you’ll have the Companion Pass for the rest of 2017 and all of 2018. Not ideal, but 120,000 Southwest points and a Companion Pass for a year is still pretty great.

      If the points *don’t* end up posting in 2017 (which is possible depending on your December statement close date), then you’re back to Option 1, trying to figure out how to earn the Companion Pass in 2018.

      • Question : “Importantly, has it been at least two years since you last earned the bonus on that card”
        Are you saying that you can earn the bonus on an existing card????

        • Yes. Sort of. 🙂

          Let’s say you opened the Southwest Personal Plus and earned the bonus on it more than two years ago. If you now close the card, reapply, and are approved, you are eligible to receive the bonus.

          You can’t earn the bonus on a card if you currently have the same card open or if you earned the bonus on it within the past 24 months.

      • Hi Brian,

        Agreed – now that I’m in the game, I’m glad I’ve done it. Coordinating all of my credit card statements and reconciling with my budget is a hot mess right now, but I believe I can work through it–especially most of the new credit card spending is a 1-3 month surge, and then can drop off completely once reaching the reward targets.

        Anyway, so (1) I’ve never had the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card. I actually figured I couldn’t get it b/c I’m not a business owner, but I realize that’s probably not a blocker…so I should apply! (2) So, I was actually sweating whether or not I could even open up the Premier and Plus cards due to the 5/24 rule…I had opened 4 prior to the Premier and Plus in just the last 3 months–never mind 24 months (1 AMEX, 1 Mastercard, 2 Visa – only 1 was related to Chase). Hence my moment of temporarily losing my mind and mixing up the reward threshold. I got the Premier approved just fine (#5), and then the Plus required a phone call to Chase, and they let me open it provided I transferred some of my balance limits from 1 of my other Chase cards to use for the Plus balance limit…I was like…Um, YES, please. I don’t know if I became an exception to the 5/24 rule or if one of my other cards didn’t trigger Chase’s 5/24 rule. If I was an exception, I guess there’s no harm to trying to tempt fate a 2nd time?

        If that doesn’t work, is it possible to earn 50,000 SW points just by spending on the 2 Southwest cards? OR, do they limit how many points can be earned via card spending alone? I don’t fly much, so committing to this approach would require heavy-to-complete reliance on spend.

        THANK YOU

        • I remembered that I’m an independent distributor for a network marketing company, and therefore do in fact have a business. So, I just tried to apply for the business card, but was rejected because of the 5/24 rule. Tempting fate twice = no joy. Well, at least I tried. BTW, even though this is a little late, what’s the negative impact to my credit score of being denied this account?

          With this 24 month window in mind now, do you have a past blogpost or article you can share that talks about how to approach closing credit card accounts (e.g., timing, spending after getting the rewards–if this even matters, what to watch out for, etc.)? I want to minimize or eliminate the negative impact to one’s credit score, as well as avoiding getting blacklisted from companies when trying to re-apply in two years (I read in Southwest’s fine print that if they feel like you are just trying to get the rewards points, they can deny you).

          I did just talk with Chase about any Southwest Rapid Rewards limits from spending; the guy I spoke with said he wasn’t aware of any, but gave me the disclaimer that “Remember, you’re talking to Chase, not Southwest, so I don’t know for sure. But, I haven’t heard of any such limits.”

  7. Hi Brian! I’m in the process of trying to earn the companion pass for 2018/19 and I’m being super careful with my balances! I have two questions: can I buy gift card to meet my balances, or is there some caveat that these don’t qualify? Next question, is it ok to meet the balance on 1 of the 2 cards before jan 1st? Thank you! (I got the business and the plus card)

    • Hi Melissa,

      Yes, you can buy gift cards to meet the minimum spend requirement. There are reports of *AMEX* not awarding signup bonuses when customers purchase large amounts of gift cards. But I haven’t heard of that problem with *Chase*, nor have I heard of that problem with modest gift card spend. Similarly, you can complete minimum spend by reloading your Amazon gift card balance and/or sending money to a friend for a small fee via a service like Venmo or SquareCash.

      Regarding your other question, I would *not* recommend meeting the minimum spend on either card prior to January 1. Doing so runs the risk of you earning the signup bonus on that card in 2017. That would be a big miss if the signup bonus on one card were to post in 2017 while the signup bonus on the other card were to post in 2018. You need to earn all 110,000 points *in the same calendar year* in order to get the Companion Pass. (And the calendar year in which to do so is 2018, thereby giving you about 23 months with the Companion Pass rather than about 11 months.)