Southwest Airlines planes are seen in front of the Las Vegas strip, Nevada, United States April 23, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo
With the Southwest Companion Pass, a friend or family member can fly with you for just the cost of taxes and fees — for up to two years.

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Traveling can be a great adventure, but it's always better with a friend or loved one. Having a free plane ticket for your favorite travel buddy for up to two years could help you make even more travel memories. Sounds too good to be true? It's actually a thing.

The Southwest Companion Pass allows you to choose one person to fly with you on both paid and award tickets for just the cost of taxes and fees, for up to two years (provided your timing is right).

Read more: I earned 2 Southwest Companion Passes for my family this year without even traveling

If you can qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass, it's a worthwhile endeavor. 

How the Southwest Companion Pass works

The Southwest Companion Pass allows you to book a friend or family member's airplane ticket, on the same flight as you, without needing to pay any cash or points for the flight. You will be responsible for taxes and fees, but typically these do not amount to much (about $6 each way for a domestic flight).

After you earn the Companion Pass, you will be able to designate your companion. The good news is that you can change to a different companion up to three times per calendar year. This means that you can bring along different friends for different trips.

Read more: How to use Southwest's Companion Pass, which gets you two-for-one travel on both paid flights and award tickets

Try to earn the Companion Pass before March

Once you've decided that you want to earn the Companion Pass, you need to plan out the timing just right. If you're going through the work of getting a pass, then you should maximize the amount of time you have to use it. 

The pass will be good as soon as you earn it and for the rest of the year. Additionally, it will be valid for the entire year that follows. So if you earn it in December 2021, then you will only be able to use it until December 2022. However, if you earned it in January 2022 then you would be able to use it until December 2023, which effectively almost doubles the amount of time you have to use the Companion Pass.

Read more: The highest-ever Southwest credit card offers can get you 90% of the way to the Companion Pass — one of the best deals in travel

With this in mind, the best time to start planning to get the Companion Pass is toward the end of a calendar year. If you plan properly, your sign-up bonuses and spending can help you hit the required mileage for the Companion Pass early in the next year. This can mean an active Companion Pass for almost two years.

How to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass

To qualify for the pass, you need to earn 125,000 Companion Pass qualifying points or fly 100 one-way flights per calendar year on Southwest Airlines, which must be earned and posted to your Rapid Rewards account.

You can earn qualifying points by:

Points you can earn on your Rapid Rewards account that do not qualify for the Companion Pass:

  • Purchased points
  • Points transferred between Rapid Rewards members
  • Points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Points converted from hotel and car loyalty programs
  • Points converted from e-Rewards, e-Miles, Valued Opinions, and Diners Club
  • Points earned from Rapid Rewards program enrollment
  • Tier bonus points
  • Flight bonus points
  • Partner bonus points

Earn the Companion Pass with Southwest credit cards

Perhaps the easiest way to earn the Southwest Companion Pass is to earn credit card sign-up bonuses. Southwest has several credit cards, and all their sign-up bonuses count toward earning a Companion Pass.

You can only have one Southwest personal card at a time — regardless of which one you choose. However, you can earn the bonus for one personal card, plus one small-business card, within one year. Keep in mind that you may qualify for a small-business credit card — even if you're a freelancer, work a side gig, or occasionally sell things on eBay.

Read more: Guide to the best small-business credit cards

Personal Southwest credit cards

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card all offer a welcome bonus that lets you earn 80,000 points (50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months ,and an additional 30,000 points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 9 months). 

Each comes with different perks and annual fees. Here's a comparison of the three Southwest personal cards:

 

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

 

Annual fee

$99

$69

$149

Rewards rate

3x points on Southwest purchases

2x points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases

2x points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare

2x points on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming

1x point per dollar on everything else

2x points on Southwest purchases

2x points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases

2x points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare

2x points on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming

1x point per dollar on everything else

3x points on Southwest purchases

2x points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases

2x points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare

2x points on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming

1x point per dollar on everything else

Welcome bonus

80,000 points (50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months ,and an additional 30,000 points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 9 months)

80,000 points (50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months ,and an additional 30,000 points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 9 months)

80,000 points (50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months ,and an additional 30,000 points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 9 months)

Southwest benefits

6,000 points on your card anniversary

Earn tier-qualifying points toward A-List elite status

Two EarlyBird Check-Ins per year

25% back on inflight drinks and Wi-Fi

3,000 points on your card anniversary

Two EarlyBird Check-Ins per year

25% back on inflight drinks and Wi-Fi

7,500 points on your card anniversary

Earn tier-qualifying points toward A-List elite status

$75 annual Southwest travel credit

4 upgraded boardings per year when available

25% back on in-flight drinks and Wi-Fi

Review

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card review

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card review

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card review

Southwest business credit cards

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card has a sign-up bonus of Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card. So if you earn 80,000 points (50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months ,and an additional 30,000 points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 9 months) from one of the personal Southwest card bonuses and this card's bonus, you could easily qualify for the Companion Pass.

There's also the more premium Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card, which has a higher annual fee of $199 and a sign-up bonus of Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card. It comes with more perks and a higher anniversary bonus, and is suited to frequent Southwest flyers.

Here's a side-by-side comparison of the two cards:

 

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

Annual fee

$99

$199

Welcome bonus

Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

Rewards rate

3x points on Southwest purchases

2x points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners

2x points on rideshare

1 point per dollar on everything else

4x points on Southwest purchases

3x points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners

2x points on rideshare

2x points on social media and search engine advertising

2x points on internet, cable, and phone services

1 point per dollar on everything else

Anniversary points

6,000

9,000

Foreign transaction fee

No

No

Other benefits

Two EarlyBird Check-Ins per year

25% back on inflight purchases

Earn tier-qualifying points toward A-List elite status

Earn tier-qualifying points toward A-List elite status

$100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit

4 upgraded boardings per year when available

Inflight Wi-Fi credits

Review

Southwest Premier Business card review

Southwest Performance Business Credit Card review

Bottom line

The Companion Pass is an incredibly lucrative benefit for those who can qualify. It may take some extra work and some strategy in your timing of purchases, but it could be well worth it to make precious travel memories with friends and family.

And if you're interested, the end of a calendar year is a perfect time to start working toward qualifying for this benefit, so you can enjoy it for as close to two years as possible.

Learn more about the Southwest Companion Pass rules and regulations.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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