If you are interested in the Southwest Companion Pass for 2017 and 2018 this is a great time to apply for 1 or 2 Southwest credit cards (which is the easiest way to earn most of the 110,000 Rapid Rewards points needed to earn the Southwest Companion Pass).

What is the Southwest Companion Pass?

The Southwest Companion Pass allows your companion to fly almost free anytime you fly – either on a paid or award booking.  The Companion Pass is basically a buy one get one free deal but even better because your companion can fly free with you even if you use points to book your ticket.  Both the member and the companion must be booked on the same flights and dates. Southwest Companion Pass travel has no blackout dates or seat restrictions.

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The Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is valid the remainder of the calendar year it is earned and for the entire calendar year immediately following. This means if you earn the Companion Pass early in 2017 it will be valid for the rest of 2017 and all of 2018.

The member is limited to one companion at any time but may change his/her designated companion up to three (3) times each calendar year that the member maintains Companion Pass status. The full terms of the Southwest Companion Pass can be found in the terms and conditions on southwest.com.

How to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass

To earn the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass you must either: fly 100 qualifying one-way flights OR earn 110,000 Qualifying Points in one calendar year.

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Even if you don’t fly Southwest very much you can easily earn most of the 110,000 points needed for a companion pass by earning a sign up bonus for 2 Southwest credit cards in the same calendar year.  You don’t need to use your 110,000 points for the companion pass so those points are available to you to book free award flights.

Earning the Sign Up Bonus on 2 Southwest Airlines Credit Cards in the Same Calendar Year

The sign up bonus for Southwest credit cards counts towards the points needed to earn Companion Pass status.

There are 3 versions of the Southwest credit card – 2 personal versions and 1 business version.  All 3 versions frequently offer a sign up bonus of 50,000 points (usually after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months).

Earning the sign up bonus in the same year for 2 Southwest credit cards will earn you 104,000 out of 110,000 points needed to earn a companion pass (50,000 sign up bonus plus 2,000 points earned for spending $2,000 x 2). That leaves you only having to earn 6,000 more Qualifying Points in 2017 in order to earn the Companion Pass (more on that later).

One strategy to earn the Southwest Companion Pass quickly is to apply for 2 Southwest credit cards on the same day – either 1 personal and 1 business version OR 2 personal versions. If you are denied for the second card or have concerns about being approved for 2 Southwest cards on the same day you can apply for the 2nd card 1-3 months after the first card.

To get the most time having Companion Pass status in 2017 and 2018, this is the ideal time to apply for 1 or 2 Southwest credit cards and have complete your spending as early as possible in 2017. Please note that if you will likely not be approved for a Southwest credit card if you fall into the Chase 5/24 rule.

TIP:  If you apply for a Southwest credit card make sure to use an application link offering a sign up bonus of 50000 points instead of 40,000. See How to Find a Southwest Credit Card 50,000 Sign-Up Bonus.

Earning the Remaining 6,000 Companion Pass Qualifying Points

There are several ways to earn the remaining 6,000 Companion Pass Qualifying Points in 2017 including the following:

•  Flying on Southwest revenue flights booked through Southwest Airlines
•  Spending more money on your Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards credit cards
•  Points earned from Rapid Rewards Partners. This includes online shopping.
•  Redeeming points from one of Southwest’s hotel partners but the ratios are very bad so this would be my last resort.

The following DO NOT COUNT for the companion pass according to Southwest:

“Points purchased for personal use or as a gift, transferred points, points earned from program enrollment, Tier bonus points, flight bonus points, and Partner bonus points (with the exception of the Rapid Rewards Credit Cards from Chase) do not qualify as Companion Pass Qualifying Points.”

Directly transferring Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest does not count toward the Southwest Companion Pass. There is, however, an indirect way to transfer Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest but at very unfavorable ratios. If you have a lot of Ultimate Rewards points you can transfer them to Hyatt and Marriott and then transfer those hotel points to Southwest. (For example, you can redeem 5,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points for 2,400 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points or 20,000 Marriott Rewards Points for 5,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Points.)

An easy way to earn the remaining points is to pay your rent or mortgage with Plastiq (our referral link).

If you are thinking of applying for Southwest credit cards to earn the Southwest Companion Pass for 2017 and 2018, I would recommend applying in the next couple of weeks so that you can meet your minimum spending requirements in early 2017.

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