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Late 2019 and early 2020 is the best time to be thinking about the Southwest Companion Pass. WHY? Because if you earn your pass in early 2020, your pass will be good through the end of 2021! Get going now and maximize your free travel. =)

Important Note on Timing: You can sign up and get these cards now AS LONG AS YOU HIT YOUR BONUS SPENDING IN JANUARY. If you hit your bonus spending in 2019, then that bonus will not count towards the pass for 2020 and 2021.

The companion pass is quite simply the best thing in free travel for most domestic travelers. If you don’t take big international vacations, you’re probably always looking to Southwest for the best deals on domestic travel (and some nearby Int’l destinations). Regardless of the companion pass, we love using Southwest Rapid Rewards because this airlines and their miles rock! They allow free bags and their miles are normally great miles to cash value. If you are booking 14+ days out, you can normally find super deals on using your points for nonstop routes.

Also, unlike other airlines, Southwest has no cancellation fees for using miles. You can cancel at any time and get your miles back immediately. That’s why my wife and I love SW points so much. If we’re 50/50 on taking a trip, we can book the flights and know that we can always cancel. An example… in 2017, I was so excited about going to a Coldplay concert in Mexico City. But in Denver, snow was in the forecast for my flight, so I booked another flight the next day on Southwest as a backup. When I was able to make my original flight, I cancelled the Southwest flight for free and got all of my miles back.

 

Here’s the best thing: the Southwest Companion Pass.

 

The Companion Pass allows you to add a travel companion who can travel for free (have to pay taxes and fees) on any flight that you book using cash OR Rapid Rewards points. The pass is good for the rest of the year in which you earn it AND the following year! So if you earn it in 2020, the pass is good for ALL of 2020 AND ALL of 2021. That is a lot of value right there, especially if you get on this early in the year. Unlike other airline incentives, the Southwest Companion Pass can be used an unlimited number of times!!!

The only real restriction is that you can only change your companion on the pass up to three times per year. You choose one person at a time to be your companion. However, you can change that person three times per the calendar year.

To earn a companion pass, you have to accumulate 110,000 Rapid Rewards Miles in a calendar year. Starting Jan 1, 2020, this requirement will be 125,000 miles. Yikes! BUT, the way Travel Freely members earn this easily is through the sign-up bonuses of Southwest credit cards. Check out the eligibility rules from Southwest:

“Companion Pass Qualifying Points are earned from your revenue flights booked through Southwest Airlines, your points earned by making purchases with a Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card, and your base points earned from Rapid Rewards partners.”  – from Southwest on the Companion Pass.

The base points earned from Rapid Rewards partners include sign-up bonuses from Rapid Rewards credit cards. Here’s what does and does not qualify.

 

“Qualifying points” for Southwest are:

  • Points earned from revenue flights booked through Southwest Airlines
  • Points earned on Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards
  • Base points earned from Rapid Reward Partners

The following do NOT count toward earning the Southwest Companion Pass:

  • Points transferred to Southwest (from programs such as Chase Ultimate Rewards)
  • Points you purchase from Southwest
  • Points you convert from hotel and car loyalty programs
  • Points you earn from Rapid Rewards Program enrollment
  • Points you transfer from another Southwest Rapid Rewards member

 

So here’s how Travel Freely members earn the Southwest Companion Pass:

 

The Travel Freely EASIEST Strategy: Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses

 

Until the Spring of 2018, you could sign up for multiple personal Southwest cards and easily earn the companion pass through those bonuses. But the rules changed in Spring 2018. It’s a little trickier. You can only be approved for a Southwest personal credit card if a) you do NOT currently have a Southwest personal credit card; and b) it has been 24 months since your last bonus on a Southwest Personal Credit card. So, if you’ve had a card in the past 28 months, you need to know the date opened, and you might need to consider having a significant other get the Companion Pass instead.

The easiest and fastest way to earn this pass is that you (or a spouse) sign up for one personal card (Priority, Plus, or Premier) and one Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier or Performance Business Card, which have currently have great sign-up bonuses. By getting a personal AND business card, you can easily reach the 110,000 miles required after hitting the bonuses! The same person must sign up for both cards – in other words, the primary cardholder of both cards must have the same Rapid Rewards number so that the bonuses go to the same account.

UPDATE (as of Oct 17, 2019): Now that Southwest has upped the requirement to 125,000 miles (starting January 1, 2020), the #1 strategy will be to apply for both the SW Business Premier and SW Business Performance cards so you can earn both business card sign-up bonuses whilch will add up to an instant companion pass. Time will tell if they will continue to allow approvals for both business cards. I wonder if they will eventually restrict you to only one business card approval (the way they have rules in place for personal cards right now).

Note: The old strategy was to have the same person sign up for one personal card and one business card. Now, you really need to scrutinize current offers and do the math. If you’ll still have to spend a lot AFTER earning sign-up bonuses to reach the Companion Pass, you need to think hard about if it’s worth doing. Your options should be a) to think about getting both business cards, or b) how often you will fly on Southwest to justify the extra time it will take to earn the companion pass. In my opinion, you could apply that extra spending towards hitting sign-up bonuses on other rewards cards that may bring more overall value. Be sure to check out the section below on how to earn additional points.

If you do go ahead with the two card sign-ups, remember that the same person must sign up for both cards – in other words, the primary cardholder of both cards must have the same Rapid Rewards number so that the bonuses go to the same account.

Note: Many people stop when they realize they have to get a business card. But, it is possible to get a business card even if you don’t run a large company. Read our post “Am I Eligible For a Business Credit Card?”. Note: It’s not necessary to have an EIN number to apply for a business credit card if you are a Sole Proprietor. If you are, then you use your SSN as the EIN and make sure to put your actual name as the business name instead of the business name.

 

Southwest Personal Cards

Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Priority Card
40,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months
Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
40,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months
Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Card
40,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months

Southwest Business Card

 

Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Performance Business Card
70,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months
Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card
60,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards after you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months

 

3 Details to Remember:

 

Detail #1: Chase Rules Regarding Sign-up Bonuses

If you have had a personal or business card in the past, you can only get that same card again IF: a) it has been 24 months since you received a bonus (normally 28 months since the card opened date); and b) You do not currently have the card. This is why the Travel Freely software is SO helpful. It will track these dates and the CardGenie will only recommend cards you are eligible to receive. Sign up for free (no credit card required).

Detail #2: It’s Important to know your 5/24 Number

Chase is the bank issuer for these cards. They are subject to their “unofficial” 5/24 rule. So, make sure you cards are added to your Travel Freely dashboard and make sure your 5/24 number is under 5. Not sure what you’re 5/24 number is? Here’s an article that is also in our Travel Freely resources. Basically, you need to prioritize signing up Chase credit cards above others in order to be approved for Chase cards.

The Southwest Companion Pass is by far the best deal in free travel for the average domestic traveler. There’s no comparison. While we still recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred as the best starter card for those with good credit, this is the best play for those ready to get more than one card. If you can jump on this early in the year, it brings even more value.

Detail #3: Remember Transfer Points Will NOT count

Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to Southwest Rapid Rewards. BUT, these transferred points will NOT count towards your Companion Pass points total.

 

When to start? NOW!

 

Important Note on Timing: You can sign up and get these cards now AS LONG AS YOU HIT YOUR BONUS SPENDING IN JANUARY. If you hit your bonus spending in 2019, then that bonus will not count towards the pass for 2020 and 2021.

Some people have been successful at getting approved for both a personal and business card on the same day, but it is more difficult compared to spacing out applications. Best strategy is to separate your personal and business card applications by 30+ days. So, if you want to space them out, you can apply for one now and then the other 31 days later.

Note: If you already have 2 tickets booked in early 2020 on Southwest, people have been able to convert those flights to a free companion flight retro-actively once you earn the Companion Pass. You have to earn the Companion Pass before you take those flights, though.

 

Earn Additional Points

Besides sign-up bonuses, the easiest ways to quickly earn points is through:

To earn the remaining points, or if you’re not interested in opening a business card, there are a few ways to earn a larger amount of Southwest miles. Remember that miles need to be earned in January 2020 or later:

  1. Consider booking hotels through SouthwestHotels.com where you can sometimes earn up to 10,000 miles per night!
  2. Use Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal. Note, anything earned specifically as “bonus” points will not count towards your Companion Pass total.
  3. Put additional monthly, everyday spending on this card.

Ready to go for the companion pass? Have a question specific to your situation? Please email Zac at [email protected] for any help.

Lastly, remember that Travel Freely can earn a commission when you sign up with our links found in this article, or by going to Best Cards on the top menu. Thanks for considering our links to keep Travel Freely free!

Travel Freely is the free, simple app that allows you to earn $1,500+ in free travel every year. Spend 30 min per month and let us do the rest. We automate your reminders and credit card recommendations. Try for free today.

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