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Million Mile Secrets reader Mike comments:
I have called [Southwest Airlines] SWA 5 times to ask if the 50,000 [points] apply toward the companion pass. 2 agents said yes, 3 others, however, said they are bonus points and DO NOT count. Any insight?
What Is The Southwest Companion Pass
The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the best ways to save money on airline tickets for travel within the US.
Why? Because it lets a companion fly with you for free whenever you fly on Southwest. And it doesn’t matter if you pay for your flight with points or cash – your companion flies free (~$10 in taxes and fees) either way!
You have to earn 110,000 Companion Pass qualifying points within 1 calendar year (January 1 to December 31st) to get the Companion Pass.
Currently, the 50,000 point bonus from the Southwest credit cards are counting towards the companion pass (although this could change at any time).
All 4 versions of the Southwest credit cards currently offer 50,000 Southwest points after spending $2,000 within 3 months – until October 30, 2013. Mike can redeem 50,000 Southwest points for ~ $710 to $850 in Southwest flights or for ~$500 in gift cards.
2 Southwest credit cards and 10,000 extra points can get Mike ~$2,840 to $3,400 in Southwest travel and a Southwest Companion pass so that his companion can fly free (pay ~ $10 taxes and fees) for up to two years!
Here are 10 other ways to earn points for the Southwest Companion Pass after you get the 50,000 point sign-up bonus.
Yes, But Does the Sign-up Bonus Count?
The 50,000 point signup bonus has counted towards the Southwest Companion Pass for me as well as for other readers, and still currently counts towards the Companion Pass. However, the terms say that “partner bonuses” do not count towards the Companion Pass.
Purchased points and points earned from program enrollment, Tier bonuses, flight bonuses, and partner bonuses do not count toward Companion Pass status.
Readers often ask if the credit card sign-up bonus is considered a “partner bonus.”
By “partner bonuses,” I suspect that Southwest is referring to bonus points earned with their partners which are above the minimum amount of points you would usually earn.
For example, you usually earn 600 Southwest points for staying at a partner hotel and crediting the points earned from the stay to Southwest. These 600 points usually count towards the Companion Pass.
Currently, Southwest is offering a 300 point bonus which means that you can get 900 points for staying in a partner hotel.
This extra 300 points is a “partner bonus” and won’t count towards the Companion Pass.
I’m sure there will eventually come a time when the sign-up bonus does not count towards the Companion Pass, but for now, it does count!
The terms also say:
Companion Pass Qualifying Points are earned from revenue flights, points issued on Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Cards, and points earned from Rapid Rewards Partners.
This makes it clear that points earned from spending on your Southwest credit card do count towards the Southwest Companion Pass. And it is broad enough to include the 50,000 point sign-up bonus.
After all, the 50,000 bonus points are points issued on the Southwest Airlines credit card!
But even if the points don’t count towards the Companion Pass, Mike can still redeem them for regular flights on Southwest. 50,000 points will get you ~$833 worth of flights if redeemed before March 31, 2014 and ~$714 worth of flights redeemed after March 31, 2014.
The Southwest Companion Pass is the best deal for travel within the US. Now’s the best time to apply for any of the Southwest credit cards because all 4 versions offer a 50,000 point sign-up bonus which currently counts towards the Companion Pass.
And if Mike earns the companion pass in 2014 (see this post on how to time it right!), it is valid until the end of 2015.
The current terms and conditions are ambiguous, so you can argue for and against the 50,000 point credit card sign-up bonus counting towards the Companion Pass
But for now – in practice – the points from the signup bonus still count towards earning the Companion Pass!