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Southwest Credit Cards
Southwest Companion Pass
About a month ago, I wrote that the Southwest Plus and later the Southwest Premier card were both offering a 50,000 point sign-up bonus. Well, now all 4 versions of the Chase Southwest credit card are offering a 50,000 mile (~$710 in travel or $500 in gift cards) sign-up bonus after spending $2,000 within 3 months.
This is great news because it makes it easy to get almost all the 110,000 Southwest points needed to get the Southwest Companion Pass!
Emily and I have a Companion Pass and this is perhaps the best miles and points perk which we have. Why? Because it lets a companion travel with you for free whenever you travel on Southwest. It doesn’t matter if your flight is booked with points or paid for with cash – your companion flies free!
We’ve used our Companion Pass much more than we intended including for 5 weekends in a row this summer. From using it to take flights to our departure city when visiting Paris or Bora Bora, to meeting Travel by Points and Travel Whimsy in Las Vegas, to traveling to Ohio for our wedding!
Some folks sneer at Southwest, but what’s not to like about them? The flight attendants and ground crew are friendly, the boarding process is among the most efficient, they don’t fly small regional jets, you can check 2 bags for free, they have a lot more non-stop flights than other airlines, and they don’t file for bankruptcy.
The best way to get the Companion Pass is to apply for 1 Southwest personal card and 1 Southwest business card and then get the extra 6,000 points needed — after accounting for the $2,000 in minimum spending which earns points — to get the 110,000 points for the Southwest Companion Pass.
2 Southwest 50,000 point credit cards and 10,000 transferred points can get you at least ~$3,332 in free flights!
I’ve been getting a lot of comments and emails on the Southwest Companion Pass and what’s the best way to get the Companion Pass, so I’d thought I’d answer commonly asked questions here. Please comment if you have more questions to add!
A) What is the companion Pass?
1. What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
The Southwest Companion Pass is the best airline perk because it lets a companion travel with you for free whenever you travel on Southwest. It doesn’t matter if your flight is booked with points or paid for with cash – your companion flies free as long as Southwest is selling seats on that flight (even if they are business select seats).
2. Can My Companion Travel For Free if I Book My Ticket Using Points?
Yes, your companion can still travel free. You only have to pay a very small amount (~$10) for taxes and there is no limit to the amount of times your companion can fly with you.
3. What Is This Worth?
Getting the Companion Pass means that the 50,000 points credit card sign-up bonus is not worth ~$710, but twice that or $1,420. So 2 credit cards can get you $2,840 worth of flights on Southwest? I earned my Companion Pass last year and have used it a lot!
4. How Can I Get a Companion Pass?
You need to fly 100 1-way flights (within a calendar year) on Southwest to qualify for the companion pass.
You need to earn 110,000 points (within a calendar year) to qualify for the Companion Pass. And points from the Southwest credit card currently count towards the Companion Pass.
5. When Do I Need To Earn the 110,000 Points By?
You have to earn the 110,000 points within ONE calendar year (January to December). Your Companion Pass is valid from the date you earn 110,000 Companion Pass qualifying points up to the end of the next calendar year.
For example, if you earn the companion pass on November 14, 2012 it is valid up to the end of 2013.
If you earn the Companion Pass on January 1, 2013, it is valid up to the end of 2014. So earning the Companion Pass in early 2013 can get you close to 2 years of free flying on Southwest.
6. Can I Still Redeem 110,000 Points For Flights Once I Earn The Companion Pass?
You don’t lose your 110,000 Southwest points when you earn the Companion Pass. You can still use the 110,000 Southwest points to book flights, and your companion flies for free if you have the Companion Pass.
7. Can My Companion Use Points From Her Account To Book My Flight And Then Fly For Free?
Yes. As long as you have a Southwest ticket in your name (either via cash, using your points, or using points from someone else’s account), you can add your companion to the flight.
8. Can My Partner And I Each Earn The Companion Pass & Fly the Kids For Free?
Yes, you and your partner can each earn the Companion Pass and add your kids, parents or friends as companions. However, 1 person cannot earn more than 1 Companion Pass.
9. How Many Times Can I Change My Companion?
You can change your designated companion up to 3 times per calendar year. So if you have the Companion Pass for 2 calendar years, you’ll get 6 changes TOTAL (3 each year).
The terms say: “…The Member may, however, change his/her designated Companion and request issuance of a new Companion Pass card up to three (3) times each calendar year that the Member maintains Companion Pass status.”
So choose wisely!
However, you have to designate a companion when you 1st get the Companion Pass, so this means that up to 7 separate persons can be designated as your companion (if you have the pass for 2 calendar years).
You can switch back to an earlier companion, but it would count as a “switch” and eat into the 6 changes permitted.
10. Can I Use my Southwest Companion Pass on Air Tran?
No. You can’t use your Southwest Companion Pass for flights on Air Tran. However, Southwest is gradually absorbing Air Tran routes and flights into Southwest and you can use your Companion Pass for any flight on Southwest.
11. How to Activate Your Southwest Companion Pass
See this post on how to activate your Southwest Companion pass.
12. How to Use Your Southwest Companion Pass
See this post on how to add a companion to your Southwest reservation.
B) Southwest Credit Card
1. Does The Credit Card Sign-up Bonus Count Towards The Companion Pass?
The terms and conditions say that “Partner bonuses do not count toward Companion Pass status.” But they also say that “points issued on Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Cards” count towards the Companion Pass. So it is a bit ambiguous.
In practice, the credit card sign-up bonuses currently count towards Companion Pass status. But it could change anytime.
Even if the points don’t count towards the Companion Pass, you can still redeem them for regular flights on Southwest – 50,000 will get you ~$710 worth of flights.
2. Is The Annual Fee Waived For First Year?
The $69 annual fee for the Plus card and $99 annual fee for the Premier card is NOT waived for the 1st year.
However, you get 3,000 Southwest points worth ~$43 (3,000 points X 1.43 cents per Southwest point) with the Plus cards & 6,000 Southwest points worth ~$86 (6,000 points X 1.43 cents per Southwest point) with the Premier cards for renewing the card each year.
3. Can I Get The Sign-on Bonus If I Had The Earlier Southwest Cards From Rapid Rewards 1 Which Offered Credits & Gift Cards?
If you had earlier Southwest credit cards which offered 16 or 32 credits or gift cards, you can still apply for the new Plus or Premier cards and get the bonus.
For example, if you had the Southwest Plus card with 16 credits and cancelled it, you should still get the 50,000 points if you reapply.
4. Can You Get The Bonus For The Business & Personal Version?
Yes, you can get the bonus for 1 personal (either the Plus or Premier version) & 1 business Southwest card (either the Plus or Premier version). In my opinion, this is the best route to take if you want to apply for 2 Southwest credit cards. I’d apply for the personal card first and then the business version.
You could also get the bonus for 2 personal cards, but I don’t have experience with this and it could be harder to explain why you need 2 personal cards.
5. But I Don’t Have A Business?
As I’ve written before, many folks may qualify for this card even if they don’t currently have a business, but are thinking of starting one. Or if you’ve dabbled with a business (sold something on ebay, had a garage sale, sold crafts or cookies etc.), but now want to concentrate a bit more on it.
Or you could want a business card to keep your reimbursable business expenses at work separate from your personal expenses.
You usually have to enter your social security number on the application form and the credit inquiry will appear on your personal credit report, but the credit line will not appear on your personal credit report.
This means that the average age of your credit history should not decrease because the business credit line doesn’t sit on your personal credit report.
When applying for a business credit card as a sole proprietor, I enter my social security number as the Tax ID in the application form and enter my name as the business name.
If you don’t get approved call the business reconsideration telephone line.
6. Should I Apply For 1 Personal & 1 Business Card At The Same Time or 1 After The Other?
If you apply for 1 Chase card, your 2nd application almost always will be declined online. But if you call the Chase reconsideration line you can usually negotiate an approval for the card.
I’d apply for the personal card first and then the business version.
7. What Are The Personal & Business Reconsideration Telephone Numbers?
More details in this MilePoint thread.
8. What Questions Does The Business Reconsideration Department Ask?
The questions have got more detailed over the years. Expect to be asked when you started your business, how long it has been established, what your business does, your revenue, sales, and profits from the last 2 or 3 years.
What are your future projections for revenue, sales, & profits?
9. Can You Get The Bonus For The Plus & Premier Personal Cards or Plus & Premier Business Cards?
Usually you can get the bonus for different card types (Plus vs. Premier) with Chase. I’ve personally got the bonus on the Plus personal card, cancelled it and got the bonus on the Premier card and so have other readers.
But I haven’t had the Plus AND the Premier at the SAME time. But you can eventually get the bonus for all 4 cards.
10. Can 2 People Apply For The Cards Separately, But Put In The Same Southwest Rapid Reward Account Number? Or Do We Have To Put In Our Individual Rapid Rewards Numbers.
You should always put in your Rapid Rewards number in the application. However, some readers have entered in a different Rapid Rewards number in the application (mistakes happen), but have got the points credited to a different Rapid Rewards account.
But this could be a big pain to sort out if the Southwest points don’t post to your account, so do this at your own risk.
11. How Do I Know If I Have Already Have the Plus or Premier Version?
a. You could call the number at the back of the card to ask.
b. The Premier cards have a $99 fee, but the Plus cards have a $69 fee. You can check your statements online and the 1st or 2nd statement will have the annual fee.
c. The Premier cards are blackish in color and the Plus cards are bluish in color. See the image of the cards on the Airline Credit Card tab and compare them to the cards you have.
1. Any Idea When These 50,000 Point Offers End?
I don’t know, but I expect them to last for at least ~1 month. The 50,000 point offers have come and gone every 2 or 3 months for the last 2 years so I wouldn’t worry about missing it, because they will likely happen again.
2. When’s The Best Time To Apply For These Cards? Now Or Wait For Some Time?
In my opinion, you should apply for the cards in the last few months of 2012. Start spending on the card, but don’t spend more than $2,000 in your 1st billing cycle.
3. Why Should I Not Spend $2,000 In My 1st Billing Cycle If I Want The Companion Pass Up To 2014?
If you spend $2,000 in your 1st billing cycle, the 50,000 points credit-card sign-up bonus *may* hit your Southwest account in 2012. In that case, you will have to earn the remaining points for the Companion Pass in 2012 (the points you earned toward the Companion Pass will reset to 0 in 2013).
And your Companion Pass will be valid only up to the end of 2013…instead of up to the end of 2014.
4. What Should I Do To Get A Companion Pass Valid Up To The End Of 2014?
If you apply for the cards now, you should get them in ~10 days or by the 3rd week of November. You have 3 months or up to the 3rd week of February 2013 to complete the $2,000 minimum spending requirements on each card.
You can start spending on the card, but BE SURE (this is important!) not to spend more than $2,000 in the 1st billing cycle which ends in December 2012.
Note that whatever amount you spend in your 1st billing cycle, say $500, will NOT count towards the Companion Pass in 2012, because the Companion Pass counter resets to 0 on January 1, 2013. However, this could be worth not having to rush to complete the minimum spending in a shorter period of time.
By putting off the minimum spending you ensure that the points don’t post to your Southwest Rapid Rewards until 2013, which means that you have the whole of 2013 to earn the 110,000 points needed for the Southwest Companion Pass.
If you earn 110,000 Companion Pass points in 2013, your Companion Pass is valid from when you cross 110,000 points up to the end of 2014.
5. What If I’ve Already Got 50,000 Southwest Points Earlier This Year?
If you’ve already got 50,000 Southwest points from earlier this year, you don’t have much time to earn the remaining points needed for the Companion Pass. Log into your account to see how many Companion Pass qualifying points you have.
You could get another credit card for 50,000 points and spend $2,000 as soon as possible and ideally ~8 days before your statement closes to ensure that the points post in 2012 and help get you to 110,000 points for the Companion Pass. But it will be very close.
D) Other Ways to Earn Companion Pass Qualifying Points
1. How To Check How Many Companion Pass Qualifying Points You Have?
You can check how many points you have towards the Companion Pass by clicking this link and signing into your Southwest account.
2. How To Get Extra Points For The Southwest Companion Pass?
If you apply for 2 Southwest credit cards and spend $2,000 on each of them and the points post post to your account in 2013, you will have earned 104,000 points out of the 110,000 points needed for the Southwest Companion Pass. That’s 100,000 points from 2 credit card sign-up bonuses & 2,000 points on each card by meeting the minimum spending requirements.
So you need an extra 6,000 Companion Pass qualifying points to earn the Companion Pass. Of course, you can spend $6,000 on your credit cards, but there are easier and cheaper ways. Here are 3 possible ways (not necessarily the best ways for you):
a) Transfer Choice Hotel Points. Buy 18,000 Choice hotel points for $198 and transfer them to 5,400 Southwest points. Thanks to mike fien for suggesting this because it is cheaper than buying Marriott points. 5,400 Southwest points are worth ~$90, so your net cost is $108. Note: This no longer works.
b) Buy Flowers. Teleflora offers 1,000 Southwest points for buying flowers. So you could buy flowers for $45 per 1,000 Southwest points (~$30 for the flowers + $15 delivery charge). So you’d spend ~$270 for flowers and earn 6,000 Southwest points (worth ~$100).
Update: Adam K posted a link to a Teleflora offer with up to 2,000 Southwest points per purchase (depending on the purchase amount)
c) Chase Ultimate Rewards Points. For example, you can transfer 12,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt and from Hyatt transfer them to 6,000 Southwest points.
See this post on 10 ways to get extra Companion Pass qualifying points by crediting car rentals, transferring hotel points etc.
3. Can I Transfer Points From Chase Ultimate Rewards Towards Companion Pass Requirement?
You can transfer points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest in a 1:1 ratio, but those points do NOT count towards the Companion Pass.
But you CAN first transfer points from Chase Ultimate rewards to either Hyatt or Marriott hotels, and then you can transfer Hyatt or Marriott points to Southwest Airlines. However, the transfer ratio is NOT 1:1, so you will “lose” some Ultimate Rewards points, but this is totally worth it to get a companion to fly with you for free for close to 2 years! For example, you can transfer 12,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Hyatt and from Hyatt transfer them to 6,000 Southwest points.
4. Can I Transfer Points From American Express Membership Rewards Towards Companion Pass Requirement?
American Express Membership Rewards points (the loyalty program of certain American Express credit cards) CANNOT be transferred directly to Southwest Airlines.
But you can transfer 20,000 Membership Rewards points to 20,000 Choice hotel points and then transfer 20,000 Choice hotel points to 6,000 Southwest points.
The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the best miles and points deals for domestic travel. And if timed correctly, you can have a companion fly with you for free for almost 2 years!
As always, there is no guarantee that the points earned from the credit cards will count towards the Companion Pass, but here’s hoping they continue to count!