Timing the Southwest Companion Pass to Last Two Full Years

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UPDATE 10/18/19: A few key details about the Companion Pass and the offers for the Southwest co-branded Chase credit cards have changed since this post was originally published. The Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card‘s bonus dropped from 80k to 70k Rapid Rewards for meeting a $5,000 minimum spending requirement within three months of opening the card. All of the consumer Southwest credit cards, the Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card bonuses all dropped to 40k Rapid Rewards for spending $1,000 within three months. And most importantly, the you must earn 125,000 Rapid Rewards instead of the prior 110,000 to qualify for the Companion Pass as of 2020.

Therefore, the bonus from the Performance Business Card + the bonus from one consumer card will no longer cut it for earning a Companion Pass anymore. The easiest way to earn the Companion Pass now is to open both of Southwest’s business cards, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card + the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card and earn both bonuses in the very beginning of 2020. You could also open the Performance Business Card and one consumer card, but would be left 9k Rapid Rewards short after earning both bonuses and need to either make up for that with more credit card spend, flying paid Southwest flights, or one of the other ways you can earn qualifying points.

If you’re aiming to earn a Southwest Companion Pass via sign up bonus(es) from Chase’s co-branded Southwest card(s), now is the time to take a closer look and move on applying. It’s the ideal time to set yourself up for full maximization of a Companion Pass (that will last all of 2020 and 2021), and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card comes with a humungous 80k Rapid Reward bonus that makes earning it way easier. I also don’t think we’ll see that inflated bonus last a whole lot longer. 

What’s a Companion Pass?

The best deal in domestic travel.

Here’s a brief review for those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about: the Companion Pass allows you to designate a companion who flies for just the taxes on every Southwest flight you fly.

That’s $5.60 each way within the United States and a bit more on Southwest’s international routes. That’s every Southwest flight–including paid tickets and awards. There are two feasible ways to earn a Companion Pass:

  • flying 100 paid segments
  • accumulating 110,000 Rapid Rewards within a calendar year
    • This can be accomplished by spending a lot of money on one Southwest Card, flying a bunch of paid flights, a combo of those two actions, or by opening and meeting the minimum spending requirements on two Southwest Credit Cards
The ways to earn qualifying points for a Companion Pass.

It’s the cheapest and easiest to earn the Companion Pass via the sign up bonuses on two Southwest Credit Cards. Let’s look at how to time earning the points in order to maximize  the Companion Pass.

Maximizing a Full Two Years of the Companion Pass

The Companion Pass is good for the calendar year (January 1 to December 31) in which you earn the qualifying points as well as the following year, so timing when you earn it is wise if you want to fully maximize its potential value. To get two full years of Companion Pass benefits, you’ll want to meet the qualifying point requirement in the beginning of the calendar year so your companion can fly free for all of that year as well as the following.

Southwest is currently offering 60,000 point sign up bonuses on its four personal credit cards and one of its business credit cards. The other business card offers a whopping 80k bonus, the biggest boost towards a Companion Pass by far. 

Southwest Cards 

  • Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
    • Sign-up bonus:
      • 40,000 Rapid Rewards for spending $1,000 in three months
      • An additional 20,000 Rapid Rewards for spending a total of $12,000 within 12 months
    • Anniversary Bonus: 3,000 Rapid Rewards
    • Annual Fee: $69
  • Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
    • Sign-up bonus
      • 40,000 Rapid Rewards for spending $1,000 in three months
      • An additional 20,000 Rapid Rewards for spending a total of $12,000 within 12 months
    • Anniversary Bonus: 6,000 Rapid Rewards
    • Annual Fee: $99
  • Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
    • Sign-up bonus
      • 40,000 Rapid Rewards for spending $1,000 in three months
      • An additional 20,000 Rapid Rewards for spending a total of $12,000 within 12 months
    • 4 upgraded boardings a year
    • $75 in Southwest travel credit each year
    • 20% credit towards inflight purchases
    • Anniversary Bonus: 7,500 Rapid Rewards
    • Annual fee: $149
  • Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card
    • Sign-up bonus: 60,000 Rapid Rewards for spending $3,000 in three months
    • Anniversary Bonus: 6,000 Rapid Rewards
    • $99
  • Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card
    • Sign-up bonus: 80,000 Rapid Rewards for spending $5,000 in three months
    • 3x on Southwest purchases
    • 2x on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable and phone services
    • 4 upgraded boardings a year
    • Inflight WiFi Credits (365 $8 credits per year)
    • Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit
    • Anniversary Bonus: 9,000 Rapid Rewards
    • Annual fee: $199

None charge foreign transaction fees, and all offer 2x or more on Southwest purchases.

Important Eligibility Notes

  • Chase 5/24 applies to all cards
  • You cannot hold two consumer Southwest cards at the same time. 
  • Holding a consumer and business Southwest card simultaneously is possible 
  • You can hold both business Southwest cards simultaneously
  • Do not apply for two cards (whether they are consumer or business, doesn’t matter) on the same day as that will likely trigger automatic denial of one. Space out the applications by at least a couple days and you should be ok.

As long as you follow the above eligibility rules, you can open two of those cards and by meeting their minimum spending requirements, earn more than enough points to qualify for a Companion Pass. If you need the full three months in order to meet those spending requirements, then you’ll want to apply soon so you can get the pass as early in January as possible. If you waited until the end of November, for example, and it took you three months to meet the spending requirements, you would be missing out on Companion Pass status for all of January and most of February.

Southwest Performance Business Card 80k Bonus’ Days are Numbered 

I am surprised it has lasted this long. I’ve never seen a bonus as big as 80,000 Rapid Rewards offered for a Southwest credit card. When the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card debuted in June of this year, the 80k bonus was obviously meant to stir up excitement and get people signed up. Historically Southwest card bonuses go up and down throughout the year, and the elevated bonuses don’t stick around for long. The fact that this one has lasted almost four months is shocking.

Meeting the Performance Business Card’s $5k minimum spend in three months for its 80k bonus + meeting just the first tier of one of the consumer cards’ bonuses ($1k in three months to reap 40k Rapid Rewards) earns you 126,000 Rapid Rewards–more than enough points for a Companion Pass. 

Nailing the Timing

But if you apply now, will your Rapid Rewards post to your Southwest account in 2020 (which is what you want to get two full years of Companion Pass status)? Yes, they should, as long as you time your spending correctly. You want your bonuses to post in January, not December. 

Photo by Dafne Cholet
Photo by Dafne Cholet

You earn the Companion Pass for the year in which you earn 110,000 Qualifying Rapid Rewards and for the following year. That year is defined as a calendar year, not a rolling year, so you need to earn all of the 110,000 points in 2020. You wouldn’t want to meet the threshhold in 2019, and essentially limit your Companion Pass to lasting a year (the very end of 2019 and then 2020). Open a couple Southwest cards now and make sure your bonuses don’t post until January of 2020.

So when does a sign up bonus hit your account? Once your card statement closes on which you’ve met the minimum spending requirement. You technically have 90 days to meet Chase’s minimum spending requirements, but anecdotally Chase gives most people 115 days. You can figure out how many days you have exactly by sending Chase a secure message in your online account or calling.

Bottom Line

The new Southwest Performance Business Card has an 80k Rapid Rewards bonus that makes earning a Companion Pass much easier. I expect that bonus to drop soon, so if you’re eyeing a Companion Pass for 2020/2021 now is the time to apply. 

Make sure to time your spending so that you earn your qualifying Rapid Rewards, whether that be through credit card bonuses, flying paid Southwest flights, or a combo, in January and not December of 2019, or else you could lose a whole year of Companion Pass status. You’ll get bonuses after the statement closes in which you met the minimum spending requirement, and you earn Rapid Rewards from paid flights right after the flight is flown.


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Sarah
    Don’t forget the renewal bonus I got the $149 Priority card . I just got the 7500 points and I booked MDW>BNA with 1k points left over and will use the $75 next trip . The (4) A1-A15 comes in very handy because I’m flying there when the 24hr checkin hits . Remember too think LONG term with Chase I’m keeping mine I don’t think their ever give me another card .
    CHEERs

    • Yep, these cards are worth keeping longterm thanks to those anniversary bonuses… unless of course you want to earn the Companion Pass again in which you case you need to close any card you plan on repeat opening.

  2. Could you elaborate on the 80K bonus on the Performance card? Following your link, the landing page says 70K… Thanks.

    • The structure of the Companion Pass has changed in the last few days, unfortunately. Southwest is now requiring 125,000 qualifying points be earned instead of the prior 110,000, effective for 2020 and onward. At the time of writing this, the bonus on the Performance card was 80k. It just dropped to 70k, which makes getting the Companion Pass harder if you can’t open both the business cards. The Southwest Performance Card + a Southwest consumer card will garner you 116,000 points if you meet both’s minimum spending requirements for their bonuses, which leaves you 9,000 points short of the amount needed for the Companion Pass. The easiest way to get the rest of the points needed is by spending more on your cards, or flying paid Southwest flights.

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