Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.
Sign-up bonuses are a BIG part of getting lots of free travel, so it’s important to know when the miles or points you earn will post to your account.
This is especially true if you want to use your travel rewards sooner rather than later!
Million Mile Secrets reader Nancy asks:
How long does it take for the sign-up bonus from a Chase Southwest card to post? I just met the minimum spending requirement for my Chase Southwest credit card, but don’t see the points yet. Can I book a ticket with cash now, and switch to paying with points later?
Thanks for writing in, Nancy. That’s a great question!
Understanding the Timing of a Credit Card Welcome Bonus
Typically, the sign-up bonus from a Chase Southwest card will post to your Southwest account after the closing date of the billing cycle in which the minimum spending requirement is completed.
And while there’s no way to pay for a ticket with cash and then switch to points later (or vice versa), you could book a refundable paid ticket now if you’re concerned about locking-in the flight. Because Southwest has no change or cancellation fees, you can cancel a paid ticket and re-book with points once the points post to your account.
BUT … there are a few important things to consider before you proceed.
Between the time you pay for a ticket and when you receive your bonus points, the ticket price could go up (or down). So you could end up paying more (or less) by going this route.
A few other things to keep in mind:
- If you originally booked a refundable Southwest fare and you want to change your flight, I would recommend canceling it altogether and then booking a brand new flight. This gives you the option to purchase a refundable fare, whereas if you simply changed your flight without canceling, your new fare would now be non-refundable
- If you end up needing to cancel a non-refundable fare, such as Wanna Get Away fares, you will only get a credit towards future purchases with Southwest. These credits expire in 1 year.
Why Timing Is Important
The timing of a bonus important for anyone looking to book an award ticket, but it’s also crucial to understand if you’re trying to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass. Because to get the Companion Pass, you need to earn 125,000 qualifying Southwest points in 1 calendar year. That means January 1 through December 31! And you’ll have to make sure any points you earn through credit card sign-up bonuses or spending post to your account within the same year.
If you’re interested in earning the Southwest Companion Pass, check out this post. It answers all of the frequently asked questions about earning and using the pass.
Chase Southwest Cards
A great way to quickly earn Southwest points is to open a Chase Southwest credit card. And the simplest method for earning the Companion Pass is to open the Chase Southwest Business card plus one of the Chase Southwest personal cards.
Just remember, there are a couple of caveats when applying for Chase Southwest cards:
- To earn the sign-up bonus on a Chase Southwest personal card, you can NOT currently have any Chase Southwest personal card or have received a sign-up bonus for any Southwest personal card in the last 24 months
- Chase will NOT approve you for most of their cards, including ANY of the Southwest cards (personal or business), if you’ve opened 5+ cards from any bank (NOT counting Chase business cards and these other business cards) in the past 24 months
Other Ways to Earn Southwest Points
Link: Chase Sapphire Reserve
You can transfer the Chase Ultimate Rewards points you earn with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, Ink Business Preferred, and Chase Ink Bold or Ink Plus (no longer available) directly to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio. But they will NOT count towards the Southwest Companion Pass.
If you need even more Southwest points, check out Million Mile Secrets contributor Lyn’s post on 10 unusual ways to earn Southwest points!
The welcome bonus from a Chase Southwest card typically posts to your account after the closing date of the billing cycle in which you completed the minimum spend requirement.
If you want to book a ticket with Southwest points, but they haven’t posted yet, you can book a refundable ticket with cash and take advantage of Southwest’s no change or cancellation fee policy. Then cancel and re-book with points at a later date.
Ticket prices change frequently though, so you could end up paying more (or less) for your flight.