How to Quickly Earn a Southwest Companion Pass with Your Credit Card
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Southwest's Rapid Rewards loyalty program may lack the glitz and glamour of the more robust programs of American, Delta, and United, it does boast one perk that puts it ahead of the pack: After accumulating 110,000 qualifying points or logging 100 one-way flights, Rapid Rewards members earn a Companion Pass that entitles them to bring designated companions on all Southwest flights for just the cost of any taxes or fees associated with the tickets.

The Companion Pass privilege remains in effect during the year it was earned, plus the entire following year. So potentially, it's free companion flights for almost 24 months. Depending on the member's travel frequency and destinations, and the companion's ability to accompany the member, the value of a Companion Pass could easily be in the thousands of dollars. On the other hand, earning a Companion Pass by flying 100 flights is no easy matter. It's expensive, time-consuming, and just plain unrealistic for average travelers. Which brings us to the alternative route to the Companion Pass: 110,000 qualifying points.

Critically, qualifying points include those earned in connection with the Southwest-branded credit cards, including any new cardmember bonuses earned for the cards. Earning points at the normal rate of one point per $1 charged to the cards would require $110,000 in spend to earn a Companion Pass. Unless you're running your business expenses through a credit card, that's unattainable. But factor in bonuses, and the picture changes dramatically.

Welcome Bonuses for Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Cards

Southwest has three co-branded credit cards, as follows (all award two points per $1 spent on Southwest and partners, one point per $1 on other spend):

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

Welcome offer: 40,000 points after spending $1,000 within the first three months of account opening.

Annual fee: $69.

Other bonuses: Annual 3,000-point gift on cardholder's anniversary.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Welcome offer: 40,000 points after spending $1,000 within the first three months of account opening.

Annual fee: $99.

Other bonuses: Annual 6,000-point gift on cardholder's anniversary; 1,500 elite-qualifying points for every $10,000 spent.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card

Welcome offer: 60,000 points after spending $3,000 within the first three months of account opening.

Annual fee: $99. 

Other bonuses: Annual 6,000-point gift on cardholder's anniversary. 

How to Earn Southwest's Companion Pass Using Points

Combining the bonus from one of the consumer cards (40,000 points) with the bonus for the business card (60,000 points) will net 100,000 points, just 10,000 points shy of the 110,000 points needed to qualify for the Companion Pass. To earn those bonuses, you'd have to spend $4,000 with the cards. If that spend was for travel on Southwest or one of the airline's hotel or rental-car partners, thereby earning two points per $1, that would add an extra 8,000 points, bringing the total to 108,000 points. From there it's just a hop, skip, and a jump to the goal.

The strategy depends on being approved for either a Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card or the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, along with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card Card.

Which raises the question: How easy is it to qualify for a business credit card? In most cases, it's enough to claim income from a side business, as a freelancer. And if you're having trouble deciding exactly how to sum up all those miscellaneous paid projects, there's always the catch-all professional designation: consultant.

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