I’m a big fan of the Southwest Companion Pass, but changes in April have made it more difficult – but far from impossible – to earn the 110,000 points that will let one person fly with you for nearly free for more than a year.
What changed? Chase, the issuer for the three Southwest credit cards (Rapid Rewards Premier and Rapid Rewards Plus personal cards and the Chase Rapid Rewards Premier Business card), announced that an individual can no longer hold two personal Southwest credit cards.
You can, however, sign up for a consumer card and a business card and you will be just about to the 110,000 points you need for a Companion Pass (more on this later).
The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date. Please see the bank’s website for the most current version of card offers.
A closer look at the new rules
The consumer cards’ new terms and conditions for its credit cards state you cannot apply for a Southwest personal card if you currently have one or have had one in the past 24 months. Chase already has a 5/24 rule barring new card approvals for people who have signed up for five cards in the past 24 months.
Previously, you could apply for either one personal and one business Southwest card or two personal Southwest cards and get most of the points needed to earn the Companion Pass.
I earned my first Companion Pass in 2015 by signing up for two Southwest credit cards.
While the Companion Pass change upset a lot of people, don’t be. I’m currently on my third Southwest Companion Pass, and I’ve been able to earn the last two without the help of credit card bonuses.
How to earn a Southwest Companion Pass now
Here are several ways you still can earn a Southwest Companion Pass:
The business card option
Your first – and easiest way – to earn the Southwest Companion Pass is to apply for one personal card and one business card. Of course, this only works if you have not held a Southwest personal card within the past 24 months.
Though many people tell me they don’t feel eligible for a business card, it’s surprising how easy it is to qualify.
First, remember any type of side income (think of income that you would need to include on a Schedule C on your tax return or for which you receive 1099s) could qualify as a business. This could be activities such as eBay, Etsy or Amazon sales, freelancing, dog-walking, baby-sitting, consulting of any type or rental income.
To get approved for a Southwest business card, readers of my GotoTravelGal.com blog say what’s key is applying for and receiving an Employee Identification Number, or EIN, from the U.S. government.
Why? Chase (or any bank) usually likes to see an official document that includes both your name and the company name. Keep in mind you don’t need to be incorporated or an LLC. A sole proprietorship using your Social Security number works just fine.
How this business/personal card combo works
If you apply for the Southwest business card (currently offering a 60,000-point bonus) and a personal card (both now have a 40,000-point bonus), you’ll have 100,000 of the 110,000 points you need via the bonus offers.
You’ll also earn another 4,000 points by meeting the minimum spends ($3,000 in the first three months for the business card and $1,000 in the first three months for the consumer card), as the cards earn at least 1 point per $1 on most purchases.
Both bonus points and those earned through spending on the card qualify for the Companion Pass.
The personal cards often have a 50,000-point offer, and in the past have even gone up as high as 60,000 points, so it’s possible to get all the points you need with only two card applications. Talk about easy!
Note: One mistake many people make is assuming that points accumulated using Chase Ultimate Rewards-earning cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve count toward the Southwest Companion Pass when transferred to your Rapid Rewards account. They don’t.
You can use Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book free flights on Southwest, but they do not qualify for the Companion Pass.
Spending your way to a Companion Pass
Your everyday spending earns Rapid Rewards points whenever you use your Southwest credit cards.
Some readers of my blog say they earn their Companion Pass every year entirely through spending on their cards. One female reader says she charged a new car to her Southwest card to get qualifying Companion Pass points!
Get creative in your points-earning. Use your card for expenses such as college tuition, summer camps, athletic fees, back-to-school shopping, medical bills and more.
Southwest also earns 2 points per dollar for any Southwest expenditure or purchase with its travel partners, including some hotels and car rental companies. Plus, if you hold the cards for a year, you’ll earn 3,000 or 6,000 anniversary points, which qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass.
4 ways you can earn even more points
1. Shop in the Rapid Rewards shopping portal.
If you start your online shopping at the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal you earn points by clicking through to your retailer of choice. You can earn between a half point and 20 points per dollar you spend, and it doesn’t cost you extra.
The shopping portal also frequently offers hundreds of points for signing up for newspaper and magazine subscriptions, sometimes for as little as $1, as well as for subscribing to meal services like HelloFresh, switching cellphone or cable TV providers, or even buying a 23andMe genetic testing kit.
Note: Not all points in the portal count toward the Companion Pass. Anything marked as a “bonus” point will NOT qualify.
2. Book hotels through Southwest.
Southwest offers its own hotel booking website, where you can earn up to 10,000 Southwest points per night, all of which qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass.
Late last year, we needed about 10,000 points to get to 110,000 for our 2017 Companion Pass. We ended up booking a two-night stay at a hotel here in Indianapolis, and we didn’t even stay there, to earn a cheap and easy 10,000 points. (Here’s a breakdown of how I earned my Companion Pass in 2017.)
The points on Southwest’s hotel site vary wildly and change frequently, so if you see a good deal, grab it!
3. Refer friends to the Southwest cards.
You can earn 10,000 points per person you refer to the Southwest credit cards – up to 50,000 points per year across all Southwest cards.
You may not be eligible to refer friends to all cards, but you can check to see and get your referral link here. Share the link with friends and family, and don’t forget social media, too. If you can earn 50,000 points, you’re almost halfway to your Companion Pass!
4. Book Southwest flights.
Anytime you pay for a Southwest flight with your Rapid Rewards card, you’ll earn six points per $1 for the cheapest Wanna Getaway fares.
Right now, Southwest is running a targeted promotion that earns you double points for any paid Southwest flight. Check your Rapid Rewards account Promotions tab to see if you’ve been targeted.
There are SO many more ways to earn qualifying Southwest points, but this post could go on forever. Here’s are a few more options: Dining at local restaurants through Rapid Rewards dining, connecting utility bills with select companies to your Rapid Rewards account, tweeting about Southwest (I once got 5,000 points after tweeting about them!), booking a rental car through Southwest or ordering flowers (Mother’s Day is coming).
Yes, it is more difficult to earn a Companion Pass now, but by combining a business and personal Southwest credit card and/or by concentrating your everyday spending on your card, it’s still possible.
There are still plenty of ways you can earn the points you need so one person can always fly free with you on Southwest!
See related: 3 simple steps to maximize your points for family travel, The direct route to a Southwest companion pass