Can You Spend Any of Your Points Before Getting The Southwest Companion Pass?

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Million Mile Secrets reader Mark writes in:

Hi Daraius,

To get the companion pass you need to accumulate/earn 110,000 miles, I got that.  This may be a counter intuitive question, but can you use some of the miles on an account before getting the companion pass and have those miles still count towards the 110,000 goal?

Like if I had 90,000 miles and I used 8,000, leaving me 82,000 — would I have accumulated 90,000 or 82,000 towards the companion pass?

What is the Southwest Companion Pass?

Our favorite airline perk is the Southwest Companion Pass.  Where else can a companion get unlimited travel – on both points or cash tickets – for up to 2 years?!  Here’s a post on everything you need to know about the Southwest Companion Pass.

It Is Very Easy to Get The Southwest Companion Pass!

It Is Very Easy to Get The Southwest Companion Pass!

All 4 Southwest credit cards currently have a 50,000 point sign-up bonus after spending $2,000 within 3 months.  50,000 points can get you up to ~$850 in Southwest flights, which is pretty good for just one credit card.  Even better, the 50,000 point sign-up bonus currently counts towards the Southwest Companion Pass.

Don’t forget to see this post on whether you should get the Southwest Companion Pass now…or at the end of the year.

What’s the Deal With the 110,000 Points?

Southwest has 3 types of points:

  • Redeemable points (which you use for award flights etc.)
  • Companion Pass points (which count towards the Companion Pass)
  • A-List points (which count towards Southwest elite status)

Mark needs to earn a total of 110,000 Companion Pass points in ONE calendar year (January to December) to earn the Companion Pass.

But he does NOT need to trade-in 110,000 Companion Pass qualifying points to get his Southwest Companion Pass.  He’ll get the Companion Pass as long as he earns 110,000 Companion Pass points within 1 year, regardless of whether he spent any Southwest points on flights.

His Companion Pass points do NOT decrease if he redeems Southwest points for an award ticket.  This may be confusing, but if you redeem Southwest points for a flight, only your redeemable points balance will decrease.  Your Companion Pass balance remains the same!

For example, here’s a screenshot of my Companion Pass counter for 2013.  It shows all the Companion Pass points which I’ve earned.  I earned the Companion Pass in January 2013 as soon as I crossed 110,000 Companion Pass points.

I have

I Have 132,370 Companion Pass Points Which is More Than The…

In contrast, here’s my redeemable point balance.  There are only ~66,000 points because I redeemed some points for award flights.

I Have

…66,123 Redeemable Points In My Account.

In short, Mark can redeem ALL his current 90,000 Southwest points, but will still have 90,000 points towards the Companion Pass status up to December 31, 2013.  But his 90,000 Companion Pass points will become Z-E-R-O Companion Pass points on January 1, 2014.

If Mark expects to earn the Companion Pass soon, he should book flights for himself with his points now, because he can always add a companion once he earns the Companion Pass.

You can earn Qualifying Companion Pass points in lots of ways such as:

  • Flying on Southwest
  • Southwest credit card signup bonuses (this could change)
  • Southwest credit card purchases
  • Through Rapid Rewards partners such as Hyatt, Marriott, Hertz,  Rapid Rewards dining program, etc.

Bottom Line

Mark will earn the Companion Pass once he has earned 110,000 qualifying points.

Booking flights with his Southwest points will NOT lower the number of Companion Pass qualifying points he has earned in the year.

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30 responses to “Can You Spend Any of Your Points Before Getting The Southwest Companion Pass?

  1. Susan from MN

    Can you explain A-List points on Southwest? You’ve helped me receive a Companion Pass for my husband, now I’m wondering how I can achieve Elite Status with Southwest?

  2. Enough about Southwest! I doubt most of your readers care about domestic-only Greyhound-style flying.

    • @Susan from MN – You need 25 one-way flights or 35,000 points to earn A-List status points. You earn A-List points only on paid tickets, though.

      @Mike – There’s more coming up and you’d be surprised at how many people want to have a companion fly for close to free!

  3. Thanks for this info. Very useful. I have one more question about the Companion Pass that I was hoping you might know about. If you book an international flight through the Rapid Rewards site, pay with southwest points and have a companion pass, do you get a second flight free? Or does the companion pass only count towards domestic flights on SW planes? Thanks.

  4. Mike & Steve – My Greyhound tix are getting two people to Puerto Rico for half the points with my companion pass! So I’m here to tell you it’s not just free domestic flights.

  5. Thanks for this info on the Southwest Companion Pass. I would like some clarification on the timing to maximize the pass. If someone starts accumulating the 100,000 points during the balance of 2013 using the 2 credit card sign-up bonuses and then makes sure they hit the 110k mark in January 2014 through spending and travel, will the pass be valid for the balance of 2014 and all of 2015? Or does the starting point of credit card spend need to be same calendar year (i.e. open cards in Jan 2014, hit 110k in the following months)? Thx.

  6. 668 miles short as of now, should be over the 110,000 by next week.

  7. @Edward – The pass is good for the current year plus the next year on the day the pass is EARNED. It doesn’t matter when you start accumulating the points, only when you hit the 110k point.

    Also, for those wanting to go for A-List and A-List preferred status the best way to hit those is to wait until Southwest offers a promotion that earns double tier-qualifying points and then start booking Business Select tickets which will earn 24 tier points per dollar. I only started flying Southwest for this year, and just for personal trips, and have managed to get the Companion Pass and A-List Preferred already and have 230,000 points in the bank. This was done through the double credit card signup plus the double tier point promotions. Plus once you hit the regular A-List level you will earn an additional 25% points on top of everything else, and once you hit A-List preferred you will earn 100% on top. So once you are A-List Preferred if you fly during a double point promotion you can earn 36 points per dollar on Business Select, and if you pay with your Southwest credit card you’ll earn another 2 points per dollar, so 38 points per dollar! At this level when you buy a $500 ticket you earn 19,000 points, which is around $300 in free tickets, more than 50% back on your purchased ticket!

  8. Hi,

    Thanks everyone for all the info. Sadly I missed the 50K point bonus, but manage to fly enough on Southwest to be ~57K points away from the Companion pass. It looks like though I can’t double up by signing up for another credit card for the next 50K points based on this detail:

    “This one-time bonus offer is valid only for first-time Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Credit Card cardmembers with new accounts. Previous and existing Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card cardmembers/accounts are not eligible for this bonus offer. Note: the bonus may be earned on one first-time personal and one first-time business Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card new account.”

    So if I don’t have my own business am I totally out of luck? 🙁 Has anyone ever tried calling Southwest to get the bonus? I just opened my card in May so really sad I didn’t wait it out a little longer.


  9. Mike is SO WRONG.

    I got both cards this year and hit the spending requirement this month so I can’t wait to get my companion pass. I recently found out I can use SW points for international travel via More Rewards so I plan to book a flight from CDG (Paris) to Athens for next vacation. I’m blown away by how many ways you can use SW points.

    Just showing SW some well deserved love here!! …. Absolutely wonderful airline and the best in customer service too. No assigned seats…bummer….aah well. Guess not. But I’ll live with that.

    • @Edward – You have to hit the 110,000 points in ONE calendar year, so if you start in 2013, you have to earn the FULL 110,000 points by December 31, 2013. Your Companion Pass points will reset to ZERO on January 1, 2014. If you get the cards in late 2013, and the points post in 2014, you will have the entire 2014 to earn the remaining points.

      @Les Silber – Very nice! Hope you’re doing fine!

      @Alice – There are 4 different versions of the Southwest card, so you should get the sign-up bonus for a different version. That said, this does appear to be new language, but you could get a business card if you have a business.

  10. Daraius, I wrote to you about this in email, but there is more to the story so I’ll ask it here. I am embarrassed to say that I opened a SW business card and didn’t make the minimum spend. I called Chase and asked if they would consider extending the promotion period for me because I am a loyal Chase customer and have a lot of spending coming up. As expected, I was turned down. So, I know that you can only get the bonus miles once per card with Chase. Do you think that if I closed my business card account and tried opening it again in a year or two, that I could get the bonus miles for the spend then? It would be the first time that I’d get the bonus miles, but obviously not the first time that I got the card. Thanks for all of your help!

  11. Mike you don’t have to read it! I love the Southwest information and keep it coming.

  12. Equivalent to yearly salary and spending of salary. Spending your salary does not affect what your total yearly compensation/gross income.

  13. I was wondering to take advantage of the Southwest Rapid rewards card offers a sign a bonus of 750 miles to join. Would it be better if I applied for the Credit Card and then the Rapid Rewards card or vice versa? Do you have any thoughts on this?

  14. Good info. As for the naysayers (@Mike) that refer to Southwest akin to Greyhound: Who cares? As long as I arrive at my final destination safely and in a timely manner, I am fine with it. Most domestic flights would be 4 hours in length or less. Southwest could wedge me sideways into a overhead bin compartment or make me stand up holding onto a strap hanger for that length of time for all I care. It is the destination I value, not how I got there in those 4 hours.

  15. Mike, do us a favor, get lost! You have no idea what SW can bring you, and you don’t deserve to know.

  16. Does points transfered from Chase Ultimate Rewards points count towards the companion pass?

  17. Hey Darius,

    Hope Emily and yourself are keep busy and running all round the globe.

    Southwest companion pass seems exciting. In your opinion do you think the promotion would be valid towards the end of the year. I want to try and qualify for the companion pass closer towards the beginning of the year so I can gain the most time on the pass.

    Also, if I open a personal and business card. Would I earn 50K on each. So getting me closer to the magic number.

    • @Katie – If you didn’t get the bonus, you should be able to apply for the card again. That said, there are 4 different cards, so you could try for a different card.

      @Danya Peevy – Sign up for the Southwest account first and then use that same number in your credit card application.

      @dae – Not if you transfer them directly, but they do when you transfer them to Hyatt and then to Southwest.

      @Ankur – We’re fine and hope you are too! I expect the offers to be back in Thanksgiving, so you could wait until then. You do get 50K from 1 business and 1 personal, so you’d have only 10K more to get.

  18. Hey Darius,
    I have 62 A+ credits. If I convert them to Rapid Rewards points (1 credit to 1200 Rapid Rewards points) and apply for one of the Southwest credit cards, will I be awarded a Companion Pass?

  19. It’s back:

    Darius please update the link with your referral link. I plan to do this with the wife and prefer you get the commission if there is one.

  20. hey Darius

    Quick question. I dont have a business, but signed up and was approved for the personal…. I see you mentioned the Hilton Honors points transfer towards the Companion pass…. therefore if I signed up for the American Express Hilton Honors Reward card with the 50k pts bonus, would I be able to transfer them to my SW acct towards getting a companion pass?



  21. Shoot… my mistake. I guess I would need Hyatt Points…. I do not own a business…. So any other tips on other ways to get the 50k pts now since the fine print now says the bonus is only for ONE business and ONE personal account?

  22. Alright, I few questions. If your card falls Dec 31 2013 then does ur companion pass run the next calender year? Janice

  23. Well, we’ve now got two Chase SW cards in my wife’s name. Unfortunately, I appear to be running short of options to making up the remaining 10,000 miles by the end of the year. Could you give some suggestions that could help speed up the process? I am wary of putting all our spending on one of these two cards – unless that is the only way of getting there.

    – Porcupyn