Airlines will hand out miles for all sorts of activities like flying, using their credit cards, and making purchases from their corporate partners. But when it comes time to actually redeem the miles for a trip, you may be faced with blackout dates, no award seats left for anywhere you want to go, or the prices may have even doubled between the time you started earning points to when you try to redeem them. Definitely not cool.
Luckily, there’s at least one frequent flyer program that’s still full of awesomeness, and it’s the Rapid Rewards program from Southwest Airlines. With this program, I’ve been able to earn a Southwest Companion Pass for about five years now, and it’s definitely one of my top tips for booking many free trips each year.
I like to tell people to think about the Companion Pass as an unlimited 2-for-1 coupon for flights. So basically, you can get two tickets for the price of one for anywhere Southwest will take you.
I’ve previously written about how my family saves thousands each year, but if you already have one and are looking for ways to maximize it, here are seven ways I recommend.
1. Earn it as early as possible in the year
The Companion Pass is valid up until the end of the following year, so if you earn your pass in January, you will be able to use it for almost two full years!
To do this, I recommend earning two welcome offers from the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card, which will get you to the 135,000 points you need to reach a Companion Pass. Be extra careful not to reach it after New Year's Day. That way, it's valid after the first of the year and for the entire second year.
2. Change up your companion
Once you have your Companion Pass, you will have to designate one person as your travel companion. But don’t worry; you can change your companion up to three times every calendar year.
I normally designate my daughter as my companion, but when I wanted to bring a friend of mine with me on a trip, I added him as my companion and then changed it back to my daughter after our trip.
One thing to note, though, is when you swap out your companion for someone else, you remove all future companion tickets for the person you removed (even if it’s just temporary), so I had to re-add my daughter to my future reservations after I made her my designated companion again. Still worth it, but good to know.
3. Call Southwest to change flights with a companion
When you want to change a flight online, you have to cancel your companion ticket, rebook your flight, and then re-add your companion.
To save time and maybe a small headache, I recommend calling Southwest since they can change your flights in just a few seconds (with zero change fees). Their customer service reps have always been unbelievably friendly and helpful, and I’ve had such a great overall experience interacting with them.
4. Add your companion to any ticket
Many people assume there are special rules for which tickets you can add your companion, but there really aren't.
That means you can add your companion to a ticket you paid for or that someone else paid for without any hassle.
You can also add your companion to an award ticket booked with your points or booked with someone else’s points. It can take a little while to fully understand all the perks, but when you do, it’s so great.
5. Get creative in finding eligible points
The most common way to earn a Companion Pass is to get points by flying Southwest or with a Southwest credit card.
But if you get creative, there are other ways to get there. For example, you can shop in the Rapid Rewards shopping portal to earn points that count toward your Companion Pass.
One thing that’s not eligible for point transfers? Transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards to your Southwest account. The points are transferable but won’t count toward earning your Companion Pass.
6. Get multiple Companion Passes
What's better than getting two tickets for the price of one? How about four tickets for the price of two?
My wife and I both have Companion Passes that overlap each other. So, I’ll get one every other year, and she gets hers on the alternate years. This allows each of us to add one of our kids as a companion and makes it possible for all four of us to fly for the price of two!
7. Save BIG money
Southwest flights are usually reasonable, but with the Companion Pass, you’ll save BIG money – especially on last-minute flights.
For example, I looked up a flight from Atlanta to New York, leaving the next day, and found Delta was charging $884 for two people, and that is just for one way.
But for a Southwest flight leaving within minutes of the Delta flight, a seat costs $223.98, and adding your companion costs only another $5.60 in taxes.
So with a Southwest Companion Pass, you can save $654 over Delta!
I’m seriously so amazed every time I see another example of how much the Companion Pass can save on flights. It makes me feel like my Southwest Companion Pass is truly a golden ticket.
When comparing the best travel credit cards, you might want to put this one on your list. If you've considered earning your own Companion Pass, I'd say go for it – this is the time to travel and enjoy!
Generous Sign-up Bonus
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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
3X points on Southwest purchases; 2X points on participating Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners; local transit and commuting, including rideshare; and on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming; and 1X points on all other purchases