If you fly Southwest, the Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most valuable perks in the credit card, points and miles world. The Companion Pass allows you to choose one person to fly with you, free of airline charges (other than taxes and fees that are usually $5.60 per segment), every time you purchase or redeem points for a Southwest flight. You can change your designated “companion” up to three times each calendar year.
To earn a Companion Pass, you’ll need to fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 110,000 Qualifying Points in a calendar year. Once earned, the Companion Pass is good for the remainder of the year in which it’s earned, plus the entirety of the following year. Thus, a Companion Pass earned in November 2018 will be good through the end of December 2019, whereas a Companion Pass earned in early 2019 will be good for almost 2 years, through the end of December 2020.
We focus on earning a Companion Pass by amassing 110,000 Qualifying Points, since points earned from purchases on Chase’s Southwest co-branded credit cards count. This includes bonus points received from sign-up offers.
The Case Study Question – How Does My Husband Earn a Companion Pass?
Middle Age Miles recently received a question from a friend about earning a Southwest Companion Pass. We thought we’d present the question plus our answer and analysis here, so all Middle Age Miles readers can benefit. Here’s the question:
Dear Middle Age Miles,
I have a Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa card, which I’ve held for several years. I am about 25,000 points shy of earning a Companion Pass in 2018. What are my best options to earn a Companion Pass?
Middle Age Miles reader
Middle Age Miles’ Answer and Analysis
Additional Facts and Assumptions
The first thing we’ll note here is that there’s a bit of uncertainty in the question. Chase issues three different versions of the Southwest Visa card (Priority, Premier and Plus), and it’s not clear which one he currently holds. One version, the Priority card, was introduced recently, so we can rule that one out. Beyond that, though, it’s not going to matter much to our analysis which card our reader currently holds.
The next thing to note is that it matters whether our reader is over or under 5/24 for purposes of Chase’s “5/24 Rule.” [We discuss the Chase 5/24 Rule at length in our article, “What Card Should I Get First? A Getting-Started Points-and-Miles Strategy with Chase.”] All of the Chase Southwest co-branded cards are subject to the 5/24 Rule. We happen to know that our Middle Age Miles reader is “under” 5/24, which helps. If he was over 5/24, his options would be much more limited since he couldn’t get a new card and its sign-up bonus.
Our Analysis and Advice
Sizing up this situation, here are the options as we see them:
(1) To get the Companion Pass this year (good through 12/31/2019):
(a) Amass an additional 25,000 qualifying points before the end of 2018, by flying and/or spend on the current Chase Southwest Visa card. For spend on the card to count for 2018, it needs to be done before the statement closes in December.
(b) Get a Chase Southwest Premier business card immediately (if our reader has a business or can otherwise qualify for a business card; see the “Personal & Business Credit Cards” section of our Credit Card Basics article, and note that a sole proprietorship is an option). Meet the minimum spend ($3,000) before the statement closes in December. Note that this is a very quick turnaround for meeting the minimum spend.
(c) Close the current Chase Southwest personal card and apply for a new Chase Southwest personal card. Note that our reader can get a sign-up bonus even on the card he currently holds once he closes it, since he would not have received a bonus within the past 24 months. Meet the minimum spend ($1,000) before the statement closes in December. Again, note that this is a very quick turnaround time for meeting the minimum spend. For safety’s sake, given that card closings take some time to work their way fully through the system, we advise that our reader should apply for a different version of the Chase Southwest card than he currently holds. If he’s unsure, he should check with Chase, or alternatively, just apply for the Priority card since we know he doesn’t currently hold that one.
The other alternative would be to simply wait to get the Companion Pass until after the first of 2019, and then earn a Companion Pass that would be good through the end of 2020.
(2) To take this approach, and get a Companion Pass that is good through 12/31/2020:
(a) Close the current Chase Southwest personal card. Get a new Chase Southwest personal card (40,000-point sign-up bonus after $1,000 spend) AND a new Chase Southwest Premier business card (60,000-point sign-up bonus after $3,000 spend). Meet the minimum spends on both. Our reader could apply for these cards at any time, even now, but he must be sure to not hit the minimum spend requirement of either card until after January 1, 2019. [This is mission-critical, the mistake of hitting the spend too early cannot be fixed, and we read data points of people messing this up every single year.] Once our reader hits the minimum spends and gets the sign-up bonuses, he’ll have 104,000 qualifying points. Spend another $6,000 on the cards, and/or take some flights, to hit the requirement of 110,000 qualifying points as soon as possible during 2019.
Ultimately, it’s going to have to be up to our reader to decide which of these options he prefers, based on his own individual preferences and circumstances. But we’re glad to be able to lay out the options clearly so he can make a good choice.
More Information on the Companion Pass
In terms of other options beyond credit cards and flying to earn qualifying points toward the Companion Pass, note that base points earned from Rapid Rewards partners count. Most notably, this would include base points earned through the Rapid Rewards shopping portal and base points earned through the Rapid Rewards Dining program. Other activities that do not count toward earning a Companion Pass include purchased points, points earned from Rapid Rewards program enrollment, tier bonuses, flight bonuses, and partner bonuses (other than the sign-up bonuses for the Chase Southwest Visa cards).
For more information on the Companion Pass, here are the Southwest Rapid Rewards Terms and Conditions, which contain a section on the Companion Pass, and here is the “Companion Pass Tips” page from Southwest’s website.
If you have questions about earning the Southwest Companion Pass, please feel free to ask us in the Comments!
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