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Published: Feb 06, 2024 5 min read
Illustration of two people traveling together
Rangely García for Money

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Three Southwest credit cards are adding an excellent benefit to their welcome bonus: a year-long pass that lets you bring along a travel buddy on flights at no cost outside of taxes and fees.

The new introductory offer consists of 30,000 points and a Southwest Airlines Companion Pass® after you spend $4,000 in the first three months of account opening. It’s available when you apply and are approved for one of three credit cards: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card or the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card. The special flight pass can be used through Feb. 28, 2025.

A bonus offer of 30,000 points seems rather standard for airline credit cards, especially in light of the Southwest cards all charging annual fees. Other cards offer bonuses upwards of 80,000 points, and the United Gateway℠ Card, for example, offers a close 20,000-point bonus when spending $1,000 in the first three months and has no annual fee.

However, the standout feature for the Southwest cards is the Companion Pass®, a major benefit within the Southwest Rapid Rewards® program. A Companion Pass® allows you to get a second ticket for one friend or family member any time you purchase a Southwest ticket, and you pay nothing other than taxes and fees (generally $11.20 per round trip). (Note: You must put the pass in one specific person's name, and it can only be used when this person is flying with you.)

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It’s usually very difficult to get a Southwest Airlines Companion Pass. Obtaining one requires that you purchase 100 Southwest flights or earn 135,000 points in purchases (which could require spending up to or over $100,000). With this new credit card offer, the Companion Pass® is arguably more attainable than ever.

Once earned, the pass lasts until Feb. 28, 2025. This means that the sooner you apply and the sooner you reach the $4,000 milestone, the longer you (and your friend or family member) will get to enjoy it.

And yes, the Companion Pass® is also valid when you purchase a flight with points, so you can use those 30,000 to start off your journey with a travel buddy. How many points are required to book Southwest flights can vary largely based on the actual price of the flight. Some flights can be booked for as low as 3,000 points one-way, but the amount needed can go up significantly for more expensive routes and dates. (In our experience, a flight that costs about $100 can be booked for about 10,000 points, plus fees.)

What's the best Southwest credit card for you?

Southwest is launching the same offer for all three of its consumer credit cards, including one that has a pretty low annual fee.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card comes with the least expensive annual fee of the trio: $69. It offers 2x points on many categories, including: Southwest purchases, hotels and rental cars booked through Rapid Rewards®, local transit and more. Some in-flight perks include 25% back on purchases, and everyone flying on Southwest gets first and second checked bags free. There’s also an anniversary bonus of 3,000 points every year with the card.

With a higher annual fee of $99, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card offers slightly better benefits, offering 3x points on Southwest purchases, a higher anniversary bonus (6,000 points) and 1,500 tier qualifying points for every $10,000 spent, which makes going up in the Rapid Rewards® program much easier.

The more premium option, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, has a $149 annual fee. It raises the anniversary bonus to 7,500 points, offers an annual $75 statement credit for Southwest purchases and four upgraded boardings per year when available.

All three cards offer lost luggage reimbursement, baggage delay insurance, extended warranty and purchase protection. Unfortunately, there’s no trip cancellation or trip delay insurance, benefits offered by other Chase cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® one of Money’s best travel credit cards, or the United℠ Explorer Card, one of Money’s best airline cards.

The Companion Pass® lasts until Feb. 28, 2025, but there’s currently no information about how long the offer will be available for new applicants.

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