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As described in a prior post about Southwest Airlines, the Southwest 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 to fly until December 31 of the FOLLOWING year. That’s right, if you earn the companion pass on January 2, you and a companion could spend every waking minute of the next 729 days inside a Southwest plane. For most of us, this means that we’re getting 50% off airfare for as many times as we want over the next 18+ months. There are no gimmicks or tricks. Other than restricting you to only 3 companion changes per calendar year, anytime you want to fly a companion with you, the only cost is the taxes ($5.60 each way for domestic flights). Additionally, you can use the Rapid Rewards points you've earned to buy tickets for the CP holder, as there is no need to “cash in” the points for the CP, and there is no requirement that the 125,000 points remain available for the CP to remain valid. These 125,000 points are worth approx. $1,650 in travel ($3,300 once you tack on a free companion)!
How to Obtain 125,000 Rapid Rewards
As of April 2019, Chase no longer allows you to apply for multiple Southwest personal cards. Prior to April 2019, you could apply for 2 of the 3 Southwest cards, obtain bonuses on both, and immediately obtain the CP upon meeting the minimum spend (assuming the SUBs were 60,000 each).
The best current method of obtaining 125,000 Rapid Rewards is applying for a Southwest Performance Business credit card with an 70,000 Rapid Rewards 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 40,000 points after $1,000 spend in 3 months and a $69 annual fee. These two SUBs, plus the required spend for each, gets you very close to the required 125,000 Rapid Rewards. Traditionally, Southwest and Chase offer increased SUBs on the personal cards (often as high as 60,000 Rapid Rewards) during Q4. An elevated personal SUB and a business SUB will earn you a companion pass. Alternatively, you can try to combine the Performance Business with a Chase Southwest Premier Business and earn 130,000 Rapid Rewards in a short timeframe. Technically, this is the “easiest” way to obtain the Companion Pass, but with Chase tightening credit, YMMV if you get back-to-back business card approvals. 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 obtain 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 to obtain 125,000 Rapid Rewards and a CP is 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 does not 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 Marriott or Chase UR 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, as Chase automatically denies business applications if you have opened another card in the prior 30 days. You will then have approx. 105 days (Chase typically gives extra time to complete the minimum spend) to spend your $5,000. Do NOT put much spend on this credit card in 2020. Do NOT get close to the minimum spend in 2020. Chase is notorious for awarding WN bonuses if you get close (sometimes as far away as $750-$1,000) from the MS amount. Plan to wait until AFTER your December 2020 statement cuts to hit the minimum spend, and preferably after January 1, 2021. Also, once you have your business card and your first statement cuts, I recommend sending a secured message to Chase and moving your statement closing date to sometime between the 3rd and the 5th AND confirming the deadline for meeting the minimum spend requirement. This means your third statement will hit on January 3-5, 2021 and, as long as you hit the MSR after your December 2020 statement, your SUB(s) will hit on the January 2021 statement.
If you are following the business application with a personal application, wait approx. 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 (if not hundreds) of horror stories every fall where people lose track of their spending and hit the SUB on one of the cards too early. Remember, BOTH SUBs must hit your SWA account in 2021. 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 a MS before your December statement cuts and stay at least $1,000 shy of that amount. If possible, stay at least $1,000 shy of the minimum spend until 1/1/21 or later.
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