New Rules for Earning a Southwest Companion Pass

The Southwest Companion Pass is the best deal in travel for many. But with the New Year there’s a change in what points count towards earning one.

With the major airlines devaluing their programs, I’m finding Southwest more attractive. And of course checked bags are free.

southwest companion pass

I’m a fan of two key elements of the Southwest program:

  1. no change or redeposit fees on awards
  2. a Southwest companion pass after earning 110,000 points in a year

How Does the Southwest Companion Pass Work?

A Southwest Companion Pass lets a companion fly with you free when you travel on Southwest — even when you are flying on a Rapid Rewards award ticket.

You choose the person you want as your companion. When you book your tickets, you have the option to also use the Southwest companion pass for your designated person. (You can also book companion pass travel by phone.) You pay for your ticket, the companion flies for just the cost of security taxes. That’s it.

You can use the Southwest companion pass as many times as you’d like, and you can change your designated companion three times during its validity.

You can earn this by taking 100 flights on Southwest, but who wants to do that? You also receive a Southwest companion pass when/ you earn 110,000 points in a year.

Your flights and credit card bonuses and spend count. Transfers in directly from Chase Ultimate Rewards and purchased points have not counted, however.

Since points from the Southwest Airlines co-brand credit cards count — including signup bonus — that’s been a major part of the strategy of earning a Companion Pass. But there’s a change in how the Companion Pass is earned, in terms of what points still count.

Effective January 1, 2017 transfers from hotel and rental car programs no longer count per the Southwest Rapid Rewards terms and conditions. (HT: Julian Mark Kheel)

Here’s the key passage:

Companion Pass Qualifying Points are earned from revenue flights booked through Southwest Airlines, points earned on Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Cards, and base points earned from Rapid Rewards Partners.

Purchased points, transferred points transferred between members, points converted from hotel and car loyalty programs, and e-Rewards, e-Miles, Valued Opinions and Diners Club, 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.

While Chase transfers did not count towards companion pass before, other transfers into Rapid Rewards now do not count either.

That means the workaround of transferring from Chase to Hyatt to Southwest is dead. And so are Marriott Travel Package redemptions for earning a Companion Pass.

southwest companion pass

You can still get two Southwest credit card bonuses and earn nearly enough points for a companion pass. You can still spend a lot on Southwest cards and earn a companion pass. And you can credit non-flight activity to your account to earn the points you need, for intance online shopping through the Southwest Rapid Rewards portal and earn points for the things you were going to buy anyway.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. So the 110,000 miles have to be earned in a year — with no roll-over from previous years. So shouldn’t you start a start a new SWA Credit Card in January, so the points earned during the first three months before bonus also count?

  2. @Kent – then you’d give up a couple of months of validity of the companion pass, to me you want to time it so the bonus posts in January not the points from spend in the prior year

  3. Thank you. My concern relates to the need to earn 110,000 points within a year — as I understand. That would stretch my resources — although I not sure how much I would have to spend. Of course any SWA Chase card bonuses would subtract from that 110,000 points. I already have a SWA Chase Premier Card and about 60,000 points — but I understand that would not count, because earned before 2019. Southwest/Chase has been inviting me to upgrade the card I already have to the newest one — but I’m not sure how that would now benefit me or not — maybe yes in 2019?
    Re: “You can still get two Southwest credit card bonuses and earn nearly enough points for a companion pass. You can still spend a lot on Southwest cards and earn a companion pass.” As I already have one SWA Chase card — could I possibly get two new SWA Chase cards, with bonuses that kick in after January 2019?

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