FAQs About the Southwest Companion Pass Sign-Up Bonus

June CasagrandeJanuary 12, 2019
On a similar note...
On a similar note...

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

» This offer has expired

Limited-time offers for these Southwest Airlines cards have expired. See our details page on the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card for the current offer.

Southwest Airlines is generating a lot of buzz with its latest credit card sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

But is it right for your travel needs and goals?

Here are answers to frequently asked questions about the offer.

Q: What is the Southwest Companion Pass?

A: The Southwest Companion Pass is the top-tier benefit of its loyalty program, Southwest Rapid Rewards. It covers the cost of airfare for one person the flyer designates, who flies with the primary traveler. Fees apply, often starting as low as $5.60 each way.

Q: How do I get one?

A: The promotional Companion Pass welcome offer is as follows: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Cards now offering the pass are:

Members who earn 110,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards points in a qualifying year can earn the regular Companion Pass for the remainder of that year, and all of the next year. (In 2020, this requirement is increasing to 125,000 points.) “Qualifying points” include those earned from flights, from the Southwest credit card, and from certain partner offers.

Q: Are there bonus points for signing up?

A: Yes. The full sign-up bonus is as follows: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Q: If I sign up for one Southwest Airlines credit card offer, can I get another to get points toward another Companion Pass?

A: No. According to the terms and conditions: “The product is not available to either (i) current Cardmembers of any Southwest Rapid Rewards® Credit Card, or (ii) previous Cardmembers of any Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Card who received a new Cardmember bonus within the last 24 months.”

However, if you have a small business, you could open the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card to earn an additional points bonus. It’s current welcome offer is: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Q: Is this Companion Pass the same as the one Southwest has been offering for years now?

A. No. This promotional pass is different in that there is a deadline to use it: The pass is only valid through Dec. 31, 2019.

Q: Will I get a new Companion Pass every year if I get this promotional one?

A: No. This is a one-time, limited-time offer.

Q: Can my companion be a different person every time?

A: You may choose one person who can fly with the pass, but you can change that person up to three times in one year. After the third change, you will not be able to select a new companion unless you re-qualify for the Companion Pass, in which case you could select a new companion on Jan. 1 of the next year.

Q: Can my companion fly on a different day than I do or out of a different airport or make an extra stop?

A: No. You must fly together on the same itinerary for the whole trip.

Q: If I book all my travel before Dec. 31, 2019, can I take a Companion Pass trip in 2020?

A: No. According to the terms and conditions: “The beginning validity date and/or expiration date of Companion Pass status or a Companion Pass card may not be adjusted.” Which means all Companion Pass travel must be completed by the Companion Pass expiration date.

Q: I already have a Southwest-branded credit card. Will I qualify for this offer?

A: Not likely. Though you can’t be sure until you apply, NerdWallet is predicting that this offer — an aggressive promotion to win new Southwest credit cardholders — won’t be available to existing customers.

Q: I’ve applied for more than five Chase credit cards in the past 24 months. Will I qualify for this new Southwest offer?

A: Chase famously has a 5/24 rule designed to discourage people from signing up for cards just for the bonuses then quickly abandoning them. If you’ve applied for five or more Chase cards in the past 24 months, chances are you’ll be declined.

Q: Does the Companion Pass work when the primary traveler books with points?

A: Yes. If you have enough points to book a flight for yourself, you and your companion can both fly practically for free.

Q: Can we use the pass to Hawaii?

A: No one knows yet. Southwest has announced plans to begin service to Hawaii from the West Coast, but officials haven’t said when. Because this Companion Pass is good only for travel through Dec. 31, 2019, it will depend on when Southwest starts flying there.

Q: Why can’t I see Southwest flights on Travelocity or Priceline?

A: Southwest flights don’t appear in most major multi-search engines. If you want to peruse itineraries, see the airline’s website.

Q: Do cash advances and balance transfers count toward the minimum spend?

A: No.

Q: What interest rates do these cards charge?

A: Though pretty standard, these rates can quickly add up to more than you’re getting in free travel if you’re not careful.

Q: Is there any other way to get a Southwest Companion Pass?

A: This Companion Pass is promotional, but Southwest has long offered its standard Companion Pass that works a little differently. To earn Southwest’s traditional Companion Pass, you have to either fly a lot — 100 qualifying one-way trips per year — or earn a lot of Rapid Rewards points — 110,000 in a year.

The traditional Companion Pass has a longer shelf life. It’s good for the remainder of the calendar year in which you earned it plus the whole next year. The new promotional Companion Pass is good only from the time you earn it by charging $4,000 to the card until Dec. 31, 2019.

Q: Can I use the points I earn with this new offer to apply toward a standard Companion Pass for next year?

A: Yes. If you hold onto them long enough to get your Rapid Rewards total up to 110,000 points in a single calendar year. (This requirement is increasing to 125,000 in 2020.)

Q: What other rewards do these credit cards offer?

A: Each card pays you at least 1 Rapid Rewards point per $1 spent on all purchases, 2 Rapid Rewards points for every $1 spent on qualifying Southwest purchases, plus other perks that vary by card.

Q: Do the cards charge foreign transaction fees?

A: Two don’t, one does. The lowest-cost card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, charges a 3% fee on foreign transactions.

How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:

We want to hear from you and encourage a lively discussion among our users. Please help us keep our site clean and safe by following our posting guidelines, and avoid disclosing personal or sensitive information such as bank account or phone numbers. Any comments posted under NerdWallet’s official account are not reviewed or endorsed by representatives of financial institutions affiliated with the reviewed products, unless explicitly stated otherwise.