What’s the deal with the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass?

I had a question from a reader (my brother) recently about how the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass works.

It’s known across the board as one of the best “travel hacks” out there.

What’s the deal?

If you earn 110K Southwest miles in one calendar year, they’ll give you a Companion Pass that allows you to bring a companion with you for free on any Southwest flight, paid or award.

The pass is good for the rest of the year that you earn it in, and the whole year following.

This means if you earn the pass in January, you’ll have almost two full years to bring a travel partner with you for free on SW Airlines flights.

As you can see, I’m pretty far away from my pass:

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-11-17-24-am

How do you earn the pass?

You could either fly a TON of miles on Southwest in a year, or you could take the route most people take: credit cards.

Southwest has three different credit card options from Chase bank that often have sign-up bonuses of 50K miles.

As Million Mile Secrets posted today, all three of those cards currently have a 50K-mile sign-up bonus.

So…get on with it…how do you earn the pass with credit cards?

Sign up for two of the 50K-bonus credit cards. Consecutively, or at the same time.

That puts you at 100K miles, and the $2K minimum spend required on each card will give you at least another 4K miles.

You just need to earn another 6K miles somehow, by either spending on your SW credit cards, or by taking a flight or two on Southwest.

This post from MMS has an awesome chart comparing each of the three cards:

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-10-56-09-am

Screenshot from Million Mile Secrets.

For a comprehensive Q&A on the deal, check out this post from MMS.

Can I get two SW cards at the same time? Is it safe?

This question is complicated.

First of all, the SW cards are from Chase bank, meaning you won’t be approved for them if you’ve already gotten 5 or more new credit cards in the last 24 months (overview on 5/24 rule is here).

Second, whether or not getting two new credit cards at the same time is safe depends completely on your situation. Can you meet the minimum spend of $2K on each card within 3 months without spending more than you normally would? Are you able to pay off the cards without garnering debt on them?

Third, these cards may or may not be the most profitable Chase cards for you to use your 5/24 freedom on.

Chase’s Sapphire Reserve card currently has a bonus of 100K transferable points, in addition to its many, many other benefits. Check out one of the gazillion articles on the card, but basically: it can’t be beat if you can afford the $450 annual fee.

Example scenario:

  1. You decide earning the SW companion pass would be the most lucrative use of your 5/24 freedom.
  2. You sign up for the SW Plus card in December, complete the minimum spend by mid-January, and receive your first 50K-mile bonus.
  3. Remember, you have only 3 months to meet the minimum spend of $2K. If you need to spread out your minimum spend over more than 3 months, you could follow up your SW Plus card with an application for the SW Premier after you complete step 2. If you can organically spend $4K in three months, I would recommend signing up for the SW Plus and the SW Premier on the same day. Why? Because Chase should combine your two credit inquiries into one. This is good because credit inquiries, while not harmful, do stay on your credit report for years and cause a temporary dip in your credit score. The fewer you can get away with, the better. Here is an overview on which banks do and don’t combine your same-day credit inquiries. As a note, they won’t combine inquiries if you apply for a business card and a personal card. Two personal cards only.
  4. In January, February or March, you complete the minimum spend on your second SW card and receive your second 50K-mile bonus. Including the 4K miles you earned from spending on your cards, you should now have at least 104K miles. You’re only 6K away from your Companion Pass.
  5. To get those last 6K miles, the easiest thing to do may be to take a flight or two. There are other options that don’t require flying though. Here is a pretty good list from the Points Guy.
  6. The earlier in the year you can hit the 110K mark, the better, since that will maximize the amount of time you have your pass. But remember that all 110K miles have to be earned in the same calendar year. If your bonus from your first SW card hits your account on 12/27, you won’t be able to combine those with your subsequent earning.
  7. You’ve got your Companion Pass and 110K miles to burn with your travel buddy. On Southwest, 110K miles can go a long way, so prep yourself for a lot of (free) traveling all over North America.

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-1-26-48-pm

My apologies for the block of text above, but there you go!

As a note, that example scenario is one I can only dream about, since I don’t see myself being under Chase’s 5/24 rule any time soon.

A couple of my related posts:

  1. Southwest requires you to earn miles at least once every 12 months, or your miles will expire. Here’s an easy way to keep your miles alive.
  2. Southwest has a lot of fare sales, but they’re usually not worth paying attention to. Unless…
  3. Excluded from the Companion Pass by 5/24 or trying to get back under 5/24? Here are six pretty good cards that Chase isn’t able to count against you.

Thanks to Million Mile Secrets, Doctor of Credit and thepointsguy.com for a lot of the info for this post.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

3 thoughts on “What’s the deal with the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass?

  1. This is something I struggle with. Do I keep churning credit cards that are getting harder and harder to get for redemptions that are going up in price and becoming increasingly harder to use? (from my experience). Or do I start focusing on Cash Back travel or using UR and MR points for cash travel instead of point travel and only churn the Southwest card until this benefit goes away? I am not THAT far off of getting below 5/24 so in about a year I could be under. Before then my fiance could get the cards and we could use her companion pass for the 2 years. Slowly but surly points are losing a lot of value and I think we are going to have to make a change sometime soon… but hopefully I am wrong!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the thoughts jmk! I’m in the same boat. For example I’m having a tough time finding a decent way to burn my Prestige points. Although, I’m just now hitting my first anniversary of the credit card game, so there are still a lot of cards I’d like to try out. But yeah, I’d like to eventually try your idea of chilling until I can do the Southwest deal!

      Like

  2. Pingback: The first 15 credit cards to get if you want to travel for free-ish | easyjourneys

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