With the excitement generated by Southwest Airlines' limited-time welcome offer that includes a promotional Companion Pass and 30,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points, many travelers may be dreaming of all the places they can bring a friend or family member in their future travels.
But before you decide to charge $5,000 over three months on the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card or the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, there is a bigger question you should be asking yourself: Does this limited-time welcome offer represent a good value for my travel style?
» Learn More: Find the best airline credit card for you
As with everything in the travel world, it all depends on your personal preference.
If you are planning several trips or fly with Southwest Airlines on a regular basis, then you shouldn’t have trouble capitalizing on this offer. But if you shop based on price instead of airline, or you don’t live near a Southwest airport, your return is likely to be minimal.
What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
Arguably, the Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most sought-after benefits among all airlines. Ordinarily, flyers get the Companion Pass after flying 100 qualifying one-way flights or earning 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year (in 2020, this is increasing to 125,000). The points can be earned nearly anywhere, including from spending on a Southwest Airlines credit card, or participating in partner offers including the Southwest Airlines points mall and dining rewards.
After earning the Companion Pass, flyers can designate one person to fly with them through the year on what turns into a “buy one, get one” offer. Members must first book their flight online or over the phone before they can add their friend or family member using the Companion Pass option.
The good news about the Companion Pass is there are no blackout dates or seat restrictions: You can fly with your designated companion at any time throughout the year. But on the downside, you can only have one companion at a time and only change your designated passenger three times every calendar year.
An argument for the promotional Companion Pass
What makes this offer so compelling is the ease of getting the Companion Pass. Instead of flying 100 qualifying one-way trips or earning over 100,000 qualifying points, members can get this great benefit when they spend $5,000 over three months — which is a much easier entry level than the traditional ways of earning points. But it's only easier if you can pay off that $4,000 right away.
Those who do qualify for this welcome offer also get an additional 30,000 Rapid Rewards points. Based on our latest analysis, at a Rapid Rewards points value of1.6 cents each, the 30,000-point offer combined with 4,000 Rapid Rewards points from spending could earn you over $500 in value.
» Learn more: Southwest Rapid Rewards Program: The complete guide
Paired with the benefits of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, including the $75 annual travel credit and four upgraded boardings per year, the Companion Pass could go a long way for frequent flyers. If you enjoy flying aboard Southwest regularly, this deal would help you enjoy flying a lot more.
An argument against the promotional Companion Pass
But the Southwest Companion Pass deal isn’t necessarily right for everyone. Based on our research, the 30,000 points you would earn from this welcome bonus would only yield one round-trip flight, based on the average round-trip award price of 18,990 Rapid Rewards points.
While the Companion Pass would allow travelers to bring a friend on the award flight, it isn’t necessarily the highest overall value among welcome offers. Other credit cards could offer more bang for the buck. For example, here's the offer on Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel.
And the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers this welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases..
» Learn more: Three airline credit cards that offer companion tickets
If you are not a regular Southwest flyer, or you base your travel plans on price instead of loyalty, the Southwest Companion Pass is likely not the best offer for you. Unless you plan on doing most of your trips aboard the Dallas-based airline, you may not get the full value of your Companion Pass expiring on Dec. 31, 2019 or the credit card annual fee.
What other options are out there?
Based on your personal travel style, there are plenty of options that compare with the current promotional Companion Pass offer. Some of our favorites include:
Current welcome bonus
$4,000 in spending (excluding bonus categories) earns:
Potential value of points or miles (based on NerdWallet valuation):
Southwest Credit Cards
Companion Pass plus 30,000 points after $4,000 spent on purchases in the first three month of account opening.
34,000 Rapid Rewards Points + Companion Pass through Dec. 31, 2019
One round-trip flight (based on an average round-trip award price of 18,990)
Get a $100 statement credit, 40,000 bonus miles and Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after you make $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.
34,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles and the one-time buy one ticket, get one offer
One domestic round-trip flight (based on an average award price of 32,066 miles)
Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after you spend $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
44,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles
One domestic round-trip flight (based on an average round-trip price of 29,340 miles)
Earn 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Terms Apply.
34,000 Delta SkyMiles & $50 off a Delta flight paid for on the card
Up to two domestic round-trip flights (based on an average round-trip award price of 13,663 miles)
25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
31,000 Travel Rewards points
$310 in statement credits
Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel.
58,000 Venture Rewards miles
$580 towards travel through Capital One Venture Rewards
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases.
54,000 Ultimate Rewards® points
$675 towards travel through the Ultimate Rewards® travel center
Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months - that's a $200 cash redemption value
$340 in statement credits
Bottom line: Should I get the promotional Southwest Companion Pass?
If you “luv” Southwest Airlines, then the Companion Pass welcome offer is a great deal for you. Until the end of 2019, you will be able to fly with a friend or family member you can change up to three times on any flight you book with Southwest — including award flights.
If you have a couple trips planned this year and can take advantage of the benefits of any Southwest Airlines credit card, then the deal is good but not great. The Companion Pass will save you money when you fly with a friend, but you might be able to do better with another offer.
And if you don’t live near a city Southwest flies to, or don’t plan on flying with the airline very often, then you probably won’t get a lot of benefit from the Southwest Companion Pass. The benefits are only worthwhile if you can get a value equivalent to the annual fee from them. If you aren’t regularly flying Southwest, then you won’t get the full value out of this deal.
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 2021, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card