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As described in a prior post, the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is the single greatest travel perk available. If you regularly fly Southwest with another person, it's often worth planning your 5/24 applications to obtain this value perk. If you're unfamiliar with 5/24, give this post a read. Timed correctly, you can hold the companion pass for almost 24 months. Now is the time to move forward, as we explain below!
Companion Pass Overview
Once a Southwest Rapid Rewards member earns 125,000 points in the same calendar year, that member can fly a companion with them for free on as many flights as they wish until December 31 of the FOLLOWING year. That’s right: if you earn the companion pass on January 2, you can enjoy this benefit for two years. This means we can fly for half off as many times as we want over the next 18+ months. There are no gimmicks or tricks. Any time you want to fly your companion with you, the only cost is the taxes ($5.60 each way for domestic flights). The one restriction is that you can only change your companion 3 times per calendar year. At the risk of stating the obvious: you cannot book a companion to fly by themselves. Your companion must fly with you on your same flight.
Additionally, you can use the Rapid Rewards points you've earned to buy tickets for the CP holder. There is no need to “cash in” the points for the CP. There is also no requirement that the 125,000 points remain available for the CP to remain valid. These 125,000 points are worth about $1,650 in travel ($3,300 once you tack on your free companion)! If you travel so much that you burn through all 125,000 points booking flights, you can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards to Southwest (at 1:1) for more free flights.
How to Earn 125,000 Rapid Rewards Points
Chase does not allow you to apply for multiple Southwest personal cards. So the best current method of earning 125,000 Rapid Rewards points is applying for a Southwest Performance Business credit card with a welcome bonus of 80,000 points for $5,000 spend in 3 months. This card has a $199 annual fee.
Alternatively, you could apply for the Southwest Premier Business credit card for 60,000 Rapid Rewards points after $3,000 spend in 3 months. This card has a $99 annual fee. You can then add one of the personal cards, like the Southwest Plus credit card for 50,000 points after $2,000 spend in 3 months and an additional 50,000 points after a total of $12,000 spend in 12 months and a $69 annual fee. These two sign-up bonuses (SUBs), plus the required spend for each, get you well past the required 125,000 points.
Traditionally, Southwest and Chase offer increased SUBs on the personal cards during Q4. Right on cue, Chase and Southwest have announced all-time high offers on all 3 personal cards. For each card (Plus, $69 annual fee; Premier, $99 annual fee; or, Priority, $149 annual fee) you can earn 50,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards for $2,000 spend in 3 months, plus an additional 50,000 Rapid Rewards after a total of $12,000 spend in 12 months. Any personal card plus a business card will earn you a companion pass. Alternatively, you can try to combine the Performance Business with a Chase Southwest Premier Business and earn 140,000 points in a short timeframe. But Chase is difficult for more than 3 business card approvals. So you have to determine if getting 2 Southwest business cards is worth it to you. NOTE: all these applications require you be under 5/24. The business application(s) do not add to the 5/24 count, so you can get a CP in various ways if you are at 4/24 or lower.
If business cards are not an option for you, or you have already earned a SUB from ANY Southwest personal card in the past 24 months, you can't obtain the CP via SUBs. Your best bet would then be to use Rocket Miles to book hotel rooms for up to 10,000 points per night, book rental cars for up to 1,200 points per day, or just use your existing Southwest credit card for everyday spend. It doesn't matter how you earn the 125,000 points, as long as the points are all earned in the same calendar year. Please note that points transfers from transfer partners like Chase or Marriott do NOT count towards earning SWA status or the CP.
Timing of the Southwest Credit Card Applications
The time is NOW! If you plan to apply for either of the business cards, you must be 0/30 at the time of your application. Chase automatically denies business applications if you have opened another card in the prior 30 days. You will then have about 105 days to meet your minimum spend. (Chase typically gives extra time to complete the minimum spend.)
Do NOT put much spend on your new Southwest credit card in 2021. Do NOT get close to the minimum spend in 2021. Chase is notorious for awarding Southwest SUBs if you get close to the minimum spend amount. Sometimes Chase grants the SUB even if you are as far away as $750-$1,000 from meeting minimum spend. Plan to wait until AFTER your December 2021 statement cuts to hit the minimum spend. Ideally, you should wait until January 1, 2022 if you can, just to be safe.
Also, once you have your business card and your first statement closes, we recommend changing your statement close date. Ideally, you should request sometime between the 3rd and the 5th of the month. You can do this by sending a secured message to Chase. This means your third statement will hit on January 3-5, 2022. So as long as you hit the minimum spend after your December 2021 statement, your SUB will hit on the January 2022 statement. While you're at it, you can also ask Chase to confirm the deadline for meeting the minimum spend requirement. This way you have a firm deadline in writing.
If you are following the business application with a personal application, wait about 30 days from the first application and then apply for a personal card. Follow the same procedures above.
Please, please, please track the spend you put on Southwest cards. There are dozens of horror stories every year where people lose track of their spending and hit the SUB too early. Remember, BOTH SUBs must hit your SWA account in 2022. One on 12/31 and one on 1/1 means you won't get a CP, unfortunately. Also remember that Chase will award SUBs early. Do NOT get anywhere close to the minimum spend before your December statement cuts and stay at least $1,000 below that amount. If possible, stay at least $1,000 shy of the minimum spend until 1/1/22 or later.
Do you have any questions about earning the Southwest Companion Pass? Come ask them in our Facebook group!