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It’s a fantastic Southwest perk that lets a friend or family member fly almost free with you from the time you earn it until the end of the following year.
But timing when to earn your Companion Pass is key to making it last as long as possible – and can be confusing. So I’ve asked Lyn to share tips on timing, especially because the increased sign-up bonuses on the Chase Southwest cards end on October 4, 2017.
Lyn: I am on my second Southwest Companion Pass, and like Daraius and Emily, I believe it’s the absolute best deal in travel! It lets you eliminate using points to fly 1 person in your family, which means you can stretch Southwest points really far! My family of 4 almost always fly free on Southwest when traveling in the US thanks to this amazing Southwest benefit.
As we head toward the end of 2017, folks are wondering if they should take advantage of the 60,000 point offers on the personal Chase Southwest cards NOW before they go away October 4, 2017, to try and earn the pass this year, making it good through 2018.
But it’s also possible to apply for the cards in early October and time the completion of the minimum spend for your Southwest points to credit in January 2018, for a 2018 pass good through the end of 2019.
Time Your Southwest Companion Pass Precisely
To get the Southwest Companion Pass, you’ll need to earn 110,000 qualifying Southwest points in 1 calendar year. That means January 1 through December 31!
If you do not earn all 110,000 points by the end of the calendar year, you have to start all over again. I can’t tell you the number of people who tell me they have made this mistake. Don’t let it happen to you!
Another key word is “qualifying.” Not all Southwest points are created equal.
Anything Southwest describes as “bonus” points do NOT qualify toward earning the pass, with the exception of the bonus points earned after meeting the minimum spend on the Southwest credit cards. Also, points transferred from flexible travel programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards points do NOT qualify. Nor do purchased points, points transferred from a different Southwest account, or points transferred from a hotel loyalty program.
Here are the points that DO qualify for the Companion Pass.
Should You Earn Your Pass This Year or Next?
The first thing to decide is whether you want to earn your Companion Pass this year or next. If you earn it this year, it will be good until December 31, 2018. If you earn it in 2018, it will last through the end of 2019.
The trick here is completing the minimum spending requirements on the Chase Southwest cards at the right time. Because you have 3 months from the date of approval (NOT when you receive or activate the card) to complete the minimum spending and earn the sign-up bonus.
Of course, earning the pass early in 2018 will allow you to use it for the longest possible time – almost 2 full years! However, there are a few reasons you may want to go ahead and earn the pass this year.
1. You Have Lots of Qualifying Southwest Points
If you already have points earned this year and are not far from 110,000 qualifying points, you may want to go ahead and earn the pass in 2017. Otherwise, the points you’ve earned in 2017 will NOT count toward next year’s Companion Pass. You’ll have to start from scratch. If only 1 credit card sign-up bonus of 60,000 points would get you there, earning the pass this year is worth considering.
2. You’re Concerned the Rules May Change
We never know what they will change about the Companion Pass – or even if they will still have it – come January 1. There are no indications it will go away, but you never know. Last January 1, for example, they changed the rules to no longer allow points transferred to Southwest from hotel loyalty programs to qualify for the pass.
I’m all about grabbing it now while you can and you know for sure it’s still available. In fact, I’ve earned both of my passes in December!
3. You’re Not a Risk Taker
To earn your pass in 2018 using the current 60,000-point offers will be tricky – and you’ll have to time it exactly right for everything to work. That’s a bit too nerve-racking for me, but it absolutely is possible. I’ll show you how next.
But there’s one more thing to remember for those of you going for a 2017 pass. Make sure you complete your minimum spend BEFORE your December credit card closing date (this will be listed on your statement and is different than your payment due date) to ensure the points credit on or before December 31, 2017.
If your credit card closes very late in the month, call Chase and ask them to move it earlier in the month so you don’t run the risk of your points not posting until January 2018.
Timing Your Pass for 2018 Using the Current Offers
And now is a GREAT time to earn the pass with all 3 Chase Southwest cards offering their highest 60,000-point sign-up bonus. You only need to apply for 2 cards, earn the bonus, and the Companion Pass is yours!
Here are the key factors.
1. Consider Minimum Spend
For this to work, your Southwest points earned after meeting the minimum spending on your cards would have to credit ON OR AFTER January 1, 2018. Because the points post to your Southwest account after closing date of the billing cycle in which the minimum spend is completed, that closing date will also need to be on or after January 1, 2018.
I have verified with Southwest that you can complete the minimum spending in December 2017 and have your points post in 2018, so long as your credit card closing date is in January 2018. Daraius says you should finish your minimum spend AFTER your December statement closes and that you’ll actually need to complete it 5 to 10 days BEFORE the closing date to ensure they are credited in January 2018.
You can also call Chase and ask them to move your closing date to early in the month of December if you want more time to put holiday shopping toward your minimum spend.
For example, if your closing date is December 3, you can complete the minimum spend any time after that date (but before 3 months has passed since you opened the card) and have your points count toward 2018.
Another thing to consider is that you have 3 months to complete your minimum spend after your card is approved (not when you get it in the mail). For example, if you apply on October 3 and are approved, you have until January 3, 2018, to complete your minimum spend. So you’ll want to apply as close to October 4, 2017 (the offer end date) as possible. But don’t leave it until October 4, because sometimes offers disappear early in the day on their end date!
When you get your new card(s), pay special attention to the credit card closing date. This will be listed on your statement. However, if you want to know what it is before you get your statement, you’ll need to call or send Chase an online message to ask.
2. You Need 2 Card Approvals
To earn the Southwest Companion Pass for 2018 in 2 steps, you’ll need to apply for 2 Chase Southwest cards. While Chase will generally not approve you for 2 cards within 30 days, some readers have had success applying for 2 cards within the SAME day before Chase is notified of the other application. Or by applying for one business and one personal card. I have not personally tried this!
To time your pass for 2018, you’d have to apply for both cards within a short timeframe and cross your fingers, because you don’t have enough time to wait 30 days between applications with the personal offers going away October 4, 2017. Chase has had the business card 60,000-point offer for a long time, so it’s possible it may remain, and you could apply for it 30 days after your personal card.
3. Are You Close to “5/24”?
Chase will NOT approve you for most cards if you’ve opened 5+ cards in the last 24 months (except Chase business cards and certain other business cards) according to their 5/24 rule. For example, if you are at 4 total cards and can only apply for 1 more, you may want to go ahead and apply.
Then you can time the pass so the points post in 2017, which is ideal if the extra points will earn you the Companion Pass. Or, time it for early 2018, which will give you the rest of the year to earn the required 110,000 qualifying points!
But to quickly earn the pass, you’ll need to be approved for 2 Chase Southwest credit cards – which you will NOT be able to do if you are maxed out on the 5/24 rule.
If you’d rather be safe than sorry, I’d suggest that you finish earning your Southwest Companion Pass points before December 31, 2017, and have a pass in hand good through the end of next year. The increased offers on the Chase Southwest cards end October 4, 2017, so there’s not much time left to decide.
But if you’re willing to take a risk and feel confident you can make the timing just right, you can try and go for a pass valid for 2018 and all of 2019. You’ll have to be very careful about when you complete the minimum spending and ensure the closing date of the statement in which you met the minimum spend is after January 1, 2018.
Let us know how you do!