The Southwest Rapid Rewards points program offers some outstanding redemptions for travel around the U.S. and some international locations. While these redemptions are a good value on their own, you get the greatest value when redeemed with the Southwest Companion Pass.
If you haven’t heard of the Southwest Companion Pass, you’re in for a surprise! In addition to the low number of points needed to book Southwest flights in general, Southwest gives you an extra free ticket for no extra points when you have a Companion Pass!
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Southwest Rapid Rewards Points Basics
Southwest Rapid Rewards (RR) points can be earned by signing up for the Southwest credit cards:
- Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
- Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
- Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card
You can also transfer points to your Southwest Rapid Rewards account from the Chase Ultimate Rewards program at a 1:1 rate.
Southwest bases the number of Rapid Rewards points needed for a ticket on “destination, time, day of travel, demand, fare class, and other factors.”
In general, Southwest seems to exchange points at:
- Business Select fare: 120 points/$1 (e.g., $300 fare = 36,000 points)
- Anytime fare: 100 points/$1 (e.g., $300 fare = 30,000 points)
- Wanna Get Away fare: 70 points/$1 (e.g., $300 fare = 21,000 points)
Wanna Get Away fares will get you the best value for your points in almost every case.
There’s an estimated fares destination map located here to see specific rates, but fares are still subject to change depending on the many parameters mentioned above.
Best Ways to Use the Southwest Companion Pass for Vacations
Highlight: Fly round-trip in economy class from Texas to Oregon for under 11,000 RR points and get an additional ticket for no extra points spent!
By far the best redemption you can earn in rewards travel with Southwest Rapid Rewards is to have and use the Companion Pass. You’ll get 2 tickets for the price of 1, regardless of whether you paid for the flight with money or Rapid Rewards points. The Companion Pass can be used every time you fly Southwest.
This means you can fly yourself and a travel companion round-trip from Dallas to Portland in economy class for 10,988 RR points. Those points cover the cost of your ticket, and your travel companion flies for nothing extra except the occasional airport taxes and fees. Full price without the Companion Pass, this same flight for 2 people would cost about $410 total. That’s a value of 3.6 cents per point, which is an excellent redemption!
Here is a great international flight example: Baltimore to Nassau, Bahamas round-trip in economy class (“Wanna Get Away”) for 6,860 RR points.
Fees tend to be a bit higher on international flights, whereas they are quite low for domestic flights. But the redemption value is still good: this flight for 2 would give you a value of about 2.0 cents per point.
You must earn 110,000 Rapid Rewards points in a single calendar year in order to get the Companion Pass. These must be eligible points, such as points earned from flying, Rapid Rewards credit cards (including sign-up bonuses), the Southwest Dining Program, shopping portal, partners, or points transferred from hotel programs.
Note that points transferred from other programs or accounts (e.g., Chase Ultimate Rewards) will not count toward earning a Companion Pass.
Once you have earned the Companion Pass, it will be valid until December 31 of the year after the year in which you earn it. So you’ll get the most use out of the Companion Pass when you earn it in January, because you can fly with it for nearly 2 years after that (e.g., January 2016 to December 2017).
Hot Tip: If you time your spending right, you could earn the 50,000 sign-up bonus points for 2 of Chase’s credit cards before the end of the calendar year for a total of 100,000 RR points. Then you’ll only have a few thousand points remaining to earn in the month of January.
Here are some more important things to know for getting the most out of your Companion Pass:
- The companion pass is eligible for use on both paid and award travel.
- You can use the companion pass on both domestic and international flights with Southwest.
- Your companion can travel with you for only part of your itinerary if they choose, but they cannot travel without you on the Companion Pass.
- You must designate a companion with their personal information. Luckily, you can change who that person is up to 3 times.
- If you lose the physical companion pass they send you in the mail, don’t worry. You don’t actually need it to book a flight.
You’ll know you have maximized the value of your Southwest Rapid Rewards point redemptions when you follow all of the above strategies for earning and using the Companion Pass. Then all you have to do is look for great deals on domestic and international flights to take with a friend, relative, or partner.
Southwest Domestic Ticket Sales
Highlight: Go from New York to Orlando round-trip in economy for under 11,500 Rapid Rewards points
Southwest mainly serves the continental United States. There are currently no routes to Alaska, Hawaii, or Canada, so use your Rapid Rewards points if you’re looking to get around the lower 48 states.
Every so often, Southwest runs a “Low Fare” sale on certain routes. Here is an example of a few excellent sales on routes announced in January 2016:
- Philadelphia to Fort Lauderdale round-trip in economy class for 2,923 Rapid Rewards points
- New York to Dallas round-trip in economy class for 5,975 Rapid Rewards points
- Minneapolis to Denver round trip in economy class for 6,236 Rapid Rewards points
These sale prices for award flights beat out most other competitors (e.g., a standard low-cost award for domestic flights is 7,500 points or miles with programs like American Airlines). Pair any sale ticket with the Companion Pass to maximize the value of your award!
Southwest usually announces new routes (and closing routes) every year. The following are the new domestic non-stop routes that began in April 2016:
- Greenville-Spartanburg to Atlanta round-trip in economy class for 5,128 Rapid Rewards points
- Chicago to Dayton, Flint, or Grand Rapids round-trip in economy class for 5,194 Rapid Rewards points
- St. Louis to Des Moines or Wichita round-trip in economy class for 5,194 Rapid Rewards points
- St. Louis to Pittsburgh round-trip in economy class for 8,514 Rapid Rewards points
- St. Louis to Seattle round-trip in economy class for 14,397 Rapid Rewards points
- New York to Las Vegas round-trip in economy class for 15,416 Rapid Rewards points
- New York to Orlando round-trip in economy class for 11,380 Rapid Rewards points
- Wichita to Phoenix round-trip in economy class for 11,673 Rapid Rewards points
Keep in mind that these points prices may change depending on your dates of travel.
Check out all routes on Southwest’s interactive route map.
Hot Tip: Get Ding! Ding is Southwest’s own alert system that will notify you when flights to your chosen destination from your selected airports go on sale. You can get it for your desktop or in the iTunes store for iOS.
Southwest International Ticket Sales
Highlight: Fly from Denver to Los Cabos, Mexico round-trip for 7,000 RR points
Currently, Southwest has a few international routes, and they seem to be adding more all the time.
In addition to the route from Baltimore to Nassau mentioned above, look out for sales posted on the same Low Fares page, such as the following available as of the beginning of 2016:
- Atlanta to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic round-trip in economy class for 18,060 Rapid Rewards points
- Austin to Cancun, Mexico round-trip in economy class for 11,340 RR points
- Baltimore to Aruba round-trip in economy class for 19,040 RR points
- Chicago to Montego Bay, Jamaica round-trip in economy class for 17,780 RR points
- Denver to Los Cabos, Mexico round-trip in economy class for 7,000 RR points
- Houston to Belize City, Belize round-trip in economy class for 13,720 RR points
- Houston to Liberia, Costa Rica round-trip in economy class for 13,720 RR points
- Houston to San Jose, Costa Rica round-trip in economy class for 11,060 RR points
- Santa Ana to Mexico City, Mexico round trip in economy class for 13,440 RR points
- Tampa to San Juan, Puerto Rico round-trip in economy class for 12,460 RR points
U.P. Pro Tips
You now know some of the best ways to use Southwest points and your Companion Pass, a powerful and perhaps under-appreciated benefit!
I always switch back and forth between points and full payment on flights when using Southwest’s flight search. This enables me to determine if it’s worth it to use the points, or if I should simply pay for the flight in cash.
Getting the Companion Pass is a no-brainer! It’s also relatively easy to get considering the many ways available to earn Southwest RR points.
You can pair the Companion Pass with any of the above award tickets on domestic and international flights to maximize the value you get out of your trip. Take advantage of this amazing deal!