Southwest is currently offering 50k bonus point sign ups on its personal and business credit cards after spending $2,000 in three months until November 18, 2013.

You can get both the personal and business cards at once, and after meeting their minimum spending requirements, you will have 104,000 Rapid Rewards post to your account in early 2014 if your time your spending well.

Earn another 6,000 Rapid Rewards with the cards or a few other ways–getting to 110k points total–and you will earn the best deal in all of travel hacking: a Southwest Companion Pass.

If you have the Southwest Companion pass, you can designate a companion who flies for $2.50 per segment on every Southwest flight you fly. That’s every Southwest flight–including paid tickets, regular awards, and special loophole awards–and soon to be every AirTran flight until the end of 2015.

The free travel from the 110k Rapid Rewards and Companion Pass are worth at least $3,142 even after Southwest’s recent devaluation, and are worth more if you can use some of the points in early 2014.

What is a Southwest Companion Pass? How can you get one from two credit cards? How can you ensure that you can use it for 23+ months of 2-for-1 travel?

There are two ways to earn the Southwest Companion Pass: fly 100 paid segments or open two credit cards and use one of several methods to get the last 6,000 points.

This post will be about the easier and cheaper way: getting the credit cards.

The Cards

The easiest way to earn a Southwest Companion Pass is to earn 110,000 qualifying points in one calendar year. At the moment, qualifying points can be earned from credit card sign up bonuses, credit card spending, Rapid Rewards shopping portal points, or hotel points transfers among other ways.* Qualifying points CAN NOT be earned by transferring points directly from Ultimate Rewards.

Right now both Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Card and the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Card are offering a 50k Rapid Rewards sign up bonus after spending $2,000 in the first three months.

Each card requires $2,000 spending in 3 months to unlock the bonus miles. Each card has a $99 annual fee that is not waived the first year. Each card comes with 6,000 anniversary Rapid Rewards if you hold the card through the next annual fee.

You can and should get both the same day if you want to get the Southwest Companion Pass. The best information I have is that the 50k point offers will end November 18, 2013, so act soon if you want to get the best deal in travel at the best of year to get it.

The Strategy to Get 104k Southwest Rapid Rewards (and Why This Is the Best Time of Year to Get These Cards)

Sign up for both cards,and ensure that you meet both of their minimum spending requirements in January 2014 (or at least during the statement that closes January 2014.)

The Companion Pass is earned when you reach 110k points earned, and it is good through December 31 of the next calendar year. If you earn your 110k points in January 2014, you will have the Companion Pass for 23+ months until December 31, 2015–that’s 23+ months of 2-for-1 travel.

Meet both spending requirements, and you’ve earned 104,000 qualifying points, just 6,000 short of the threshold for a Companion Pass for nearly two years.

Here’s where the fun begins. There are three great ways to get those 6,000 points and your free companion pass good through December 2015.

1. Spend $6,000 more on either card. The 6,000 Rapid Rewards points earned will put your total at 110,000.

2. This one is multistep, but should only take a few minutes.

  • Transfer 13,000 Ultimate Rewards points to 13,000 Hyatt points. Inside your Chase account, go to the Ultimate Rewards section, Transfer Points, and select Hyatt. The 1:1 transfer should be instantaneous.
  • Transfer 12,500 Hyatt points to 6,000 Rapid Rewards here. The 25:12 transfer may not go through immediately, but when it does, you will be over 110,000 points, and you’ll have a companion pass.

Why can’t I just transfer 6,000 Ultimate Rewards to 6,000 Rapid Rewards? They are transfer partners.

Ultimate Rewards transferred directly to Rapid Rewards do not count toward the 110,000 qualifying points threshold. But hotel points transferred in do count, and this two-step process gets the 6,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards at the cost of the fewest Ultimate Rewards.

3. through 10.

There are more than just these two options to get the 6,000 points that we need after meeting the credit card spending requirements. Here is Million Mile Secrets with ten ways.

Maximizing the Value of the Pass

There are two easy ways to maximize the value of a Southwest Companion Pass.

1. Use All Four of Your Companions:

From southwest.com’s FAQ on the Companion Pass:

The Companion Pass is not transferrable. However, the Member may change his/her designated Companion and request issuance of a new Companion Pass up to three (3) times within the validity period of the Pass. Requests must be made in writing and accompanied by the current Companion Pass card, which will be cancelled, to: Southwest Airlines, Rapid Rewards, P.O. Box 36657, Dallas, TX 75235. In addition, please include the new Companion’s name, address, phone number, social security number, and date of birth. Allow 21 business days for processing.Sign up for the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Card and the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Card on the same day before November 18, 2013. Spend $2,000 on each within three months, ensuring that you hit the spend threshold on the statement that will close in January 2014 or later. That’s 104k Southwest points.

You can switch back and forth between companions, designating a new companion four total times–the original companion and three changes. You can only have one companion at a time, but there is still some value in efficiently using your changes.

2. Fly as Many Flights as You Can by March 31, 2014

Early on in your Companion Pass’s validity, the price of Rapid Rewards award tickets on Wanna Get Away? fares jumps from 60 points per dollar to 70. Try to get as many of the 60 point per dollar flights in as you can to conserve extra points for later trips.

If all your travel with the companion pass came between April 1, 2014 and December 31, 2015, 110k Rapid Rewards plus a Companion Pass would equal about $3,142 in travel. If all the travel came before March 31, 2014, the value of 110k Rapid Rewards plus a Companion Pass $3,667.

Recap

With a few easy steps, you can get $3,142 to $3,667 worth of travel on Southwest:

  1. Open both the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® PremierCard and the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Card on the same day before November 18, 2013 while their bonus are 50k Rapid Rewards each.
  2. Meet the minimum spending requirement on each during the statement that closes in January 2014. Do not let the 50k bonuses post in 2013 or you’ll earn the Companion pass only through 2014 instead of 2015.
  3. Then get the last 6,000 points needed to get to 110,000 qualifying points and a free Companion Pass on Southwest through the end of 2015 for $6,000 in spending or 13,000 Ultimate Rewards.
  4. Designate a companion to fly for $2.50 per segment on Southwest every time you fly on Southwest, whether you’re flying a paid ticket or an award.

Bonus

Why not have both parents get the Companion Pass and each name a chile as a companion? That would be a 4-for-2 travel deal for up to two years.

Getting the Cards

Application Link: Chase Southwest Personal Card

Application Link: Chase Southwest Business Card

*From southwest.com: “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.  Purchased points and points earned from program enrollment, Tier bonuses, flight bonuses, and Partner bonuses do not count toward Companion Pass status.”

In everyone’s experience, people have earned qualifying points from the 50k Chase card bonuses. They have also earned points from hotel transfers but not direct Ultimate Rewards transfers. A lot of people ask about the last part: “Partner bonuses do not count.” In everyone’s experience, this does not exclude the credit card bonuses from counting toward the 110k. This could change, and your mileage may vary, but I am reporting how hundreds of people have gotten the companion pass.

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