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Arguably the best deal in all of travel is the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass. After earning 125,000 points in a calendar year from qualifying sources you can bring a companion along on your Southwest Airlines travels.
Right now Chase is offering a Southwest Airlines Companion Pass valid through February 28, 2022 as part of the initial bonus offer on all three Southwest personal cards. And they’re offering points, too. Specifically new cardmembers are eligible to receive a companion pass and 30,000 points after $5000 in purchases on the card within 3 months of account opening. The offer at these links end before end of day on 3/10/2021.
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card ($149 annual fee)
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card ($69 annual fee)
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card ($99 annual fee)
I think anyone that lives in a Southwest city – who has gotten fewer than 5 new cards in the last 24 months, does not currently have a Southwest credit card, and hasn’t received a bonus from one in the last 24 months – should consider this card.
What’s amazing is that the companion flies with you for the cost of taxes whether you are buying a ticket or even redeeming points. That means you can even transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards from a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card over to Southwest and redeem those points, travel with a companion, and effectively double the value of your points.
This Was Offered In 2019, And Before That Really Limited
This is probably the best deal in all of travel right now, and something we’ve only seen once before broadly. Before 2019 it was offered on a very limited basis.
In late 2017 the companion pass was offered as part of the Southwest card’s initial bonus for California residents, part of the strategy to combat the new West Coast strength of Alaska Airlines-Virgin America. At the time this was seen as about the best initial card bonus we’ve ever seen, but unfortunately required a California address to be eligible.
What was exciting to me (as a non-California resident) about the offer was it demonstrated Southwest was using the companion pass as a strategic tool — and therefore, despite being more valuable than just about anything offered in travel, wasn’t likely to be discontinued any time soon, something I’ve long feared because it’s just too good.
What I like about Southwest is that they have no points redeposit fees, you can use your points even to make a speculative booking. It’s always great to have Southwest points around, even if you book mostly international award tickets. You might need a domestic flight to get to the city your international award ticket leaves from. Or book the Southwest flight, and if award availability opens up to include a domestic flight on your other ticket, great, there’s no change fees. Southwest points are great insurance. They don’t charge for your first two checked bags, either.
Which Southwest Card Should You Get?
I think the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card represents the best overall value for someone who flies Southwest — which someone who has a Companion Pass certainly will. This is a $149 annual fee card that gives you a $75 Southwest travel credit and 7500 additional points at cardmember anniversary — each of which give you value worth at least half the fee.
Then you get 4 upgraded boardings per year – A1-15 boarding, which you purchase at the gate and get statement credit back for and 20% back on Southwest inflight purchases like inflight cocktails and internet.
And spending contributes towards elite status: 1500 tier qualifying points for each $10,000 in purchases (up to $100,000 in purchases annually or 15,000 tier qualifying points).
Of course the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card has the lowest annual fee at $69, if that’s your primary concern.
What You Can Do With Your Companion Pass
Southwest Airlines is, in normal times, the largest carrier of domestic airline passengers in the United States. Their route network is more extensive than you may realize. But they also fly internationally, to several great vacation destinations such as Mexico and the Caribbean as well as Hawaii. Of course Florida and the Southeastern United States are great places to travel on the airline as well.
I wrote up a complete FAQ on using your companion pass. It should answer any questions you have.
Can You Get the Card, and How to Keep the Companion Pass
Usually the ‘quick path’ to a companion pass is getting both a personal and a small business Southwest card from Chase. Of course all of the Southwest cards are subject to ‘5/24’, meaning that Chase will generally only approve customers who have had fewer than 5 new cards in the last 24 months.
Note that if you currently have a personal Southwest card you aren’t eligible for the bonus, or if you have gotten a bonus within the last 24 months.
How This Compares To Other Southwest Offers
For people who spend a lot of money on credit cards, I like the big point bonuses (like the recent biggest-ever 80,000 point offer) more than making companion pass part of the initial bonus – because you can spend a lot on your card and still earn the companion pass, and you have more points too. But this is the best, most straightforward way to easily get a Southwest Airlines companion pass.