This time of year I get lots of questions about timing of the Southwest Companion Pass, which lets one person fly free with you for up to two years after you earn 110,000 qualifying points. My family uses this amazing benefit to fly all over the United States AND the Caribbean almost entirely free!
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Why Timing the Southwest Companion Pass Is Important
1. You MUST earn all 110,000 points within ONE CALENDAR YEAR (that’s January 1 to December 31)!! So if you don’t get ALL 110,000 points by the end of the year, you start at ZERO. Don’t make that mistake! If you learn nothing else from this post, make it this!
2. The Companion Pass lasts the longest when you earn it as close to the BEGINNING of a calendar year as possible. That’s because the pass is valid from the time you earn it until the END of the following year. So earning it early in 2019, for example, means it will be good for the longest possible time: until the END of 2020. That is almost TWO FULL YEARS, which is ideal.
This time of year, lots of people are trying to figure out if they should go for the Southwest Companion Pass this year, especially if they’ve already earned a huge chuck of the 110,000 points so they don’t go to waste, or wait until early January to start at 0 points, but so that it’s good through the end of 2020.
The Difference in Earning the Pass This Year Versus Next
2018 Southwest Companion Pass
A 2018 Southwest Companion Pass will let you fly one person free with you (aside from the mandatory $5.60 security fee each way) through December 31, 2018.
2019 Southwest Companion Pass
A 2019 Southwest Companion Pass will let you fly one person free with you (aside from the mandatory $5.60 security fee each way) through December 31, 2020.
So you can see why some would prefer to earn the pass in 2019, making it good for nearly two years!
Which Should I Go For?
Of course, we have no idea if the Companion Pass will still be around next year or if they will change the rules. We have no indication of changes, but one never knows. They made a significant change to the rules January 1, 2017 that no longer allowed points transferred from hotel loyalty programs to count toward the pass and in 2018 no longer allowing us to hold two personal Southwest credit cards, which make it a bit more difficult to secure the pass.
I am an advocate of getting it now while we definitely know it’s available, especially if you already have a bunch of points that qualify for the Pass! To check this, go to Southwest.com, log in to your Rapid Rewards account and click on Rapid Rewards/My Account (top right).
You’ll see the below screen and under “Earn your next Companion Pass” will be a snapshot of how many of the 110,000 qualifying points you’ve earned.
If you go for a pass this year, remember, you can always earn it again in early 2020. I have earned all three of my passes in December, making them only good for one year!
You may want to check out how I earned my 2017 Southwest Companion Pass. This is one of my most popular posts!
I wrote a very detailed post on MillionMileSecrets.com which helps you decide which year’s pass you should go for.
Timing Your Credit Card Applications
Earning a Southwest Companion Pass is most easily accomplished by signing up for Southwest credit cards and earning their bonus offers, which DO count toward the points you need to qualify for the Companion Pass.
BUT, you have to time your application and completion of the minimum spend (after which your points will be awarded) correctly! You MUST complete your minimum spend within THREE months of the card’s approval (NOT when you get it in the mail or activate it).
To apply for any of the credit cards included in this post, please start at the TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS link in my main menu above. This helps me to earn a commission — at no cost to you — to help me pay the blogging bills and continue to bring you great content free! Thank you for taking this step!
To earn all 110,000 Southwest points needed to qualify for the Companion Pass through credit card sign-ups, you’re going to need to sign up for TWO Southwest cards. This now must be ONE personal and ONE business card, as they no longer allow you to hold TWO personal Southwest credit cards.
For a 2018 Pass (good through 12/31/19)…
If you’re going for a pass this year, I’d recommend applying for 1 card as soon as possible and then applying for the second 30 days later. You will need to complete both minimum spends BEFORE your December credit card close dates (see next section), so make sure that is reasonable without putting yourself in debt.
2019 Pass (good through 12/31/20)…
If you’re going for a pass next year, you’ll need to complete your minimum spend AFTER your December close date (and there’s no way to know what date that will be until you get the cards) so the points credit in January, counting toward a 2019 pass.
Since you have three months from card APPROVAL to meet the minimum spend, you’ll need to apply no earlier than October so you can postpone completion of the minimum spend until AFTER your December close date. More about this in the next section.
Your Plan for Timing the Minimum Spend Completion
You have 3 months from the date of card approval to complete your minimum spend in order to earn your bonus points.
If you want to earn a 2018 pass, your points MUST CREDIT by December 31, 2018.
If you want to earn a 2019 pass, your points MUST CREDIT on or after January 1, 2019.
Timing is critical.
Track your progress toward completing your minimum spend with my handy Minimum Spend Calculator. It’s one of 6 tools you can get as part of my Southwest Toolkit for just $15 to help manage your progress toward flying free and earning the Southwest Companion Pass! Learn more about the Toolkit. Thanks for supporting Go to Travel Gal!
Because your points are credited upon the credit card closing date (different from your payment due date) in which the minimum spend was completed — and according to MillionMileSecrets.com, you should complete your spending five to 10 days BEFORE the close date to ensure everything has processed — you need to have a plan in place.
1. Find out the close date of your credit card in December (it is generally the same date every month).
This will be listed on your statement OR if you just applied for the card, you can call or message Chase to ask when the closing date is. You can also REQUEST TO CHANGE your closing date if you want.
2. Decide if you want to earn the pass this year or next.
3. If you want a 2018 pass, complete your minimum spend five to 10 days BEFORE your December 2018 credit card close date.
Keep in mind things like returns or credits. I had a reader last year, who because of a refund she wasn’t expecting, caused her NOT to meet the minimum spend as she had planned.
4. If you want a 2019 pass, complete your minimum spend AFTER your December 2018 credit card close date.
I have confirmed with Southwest that purchases made in December AFTER your credit card close date will count toward your minimum spend completion in January AFTER your January credit card close date.
Again here, don’t forget about ANYTHING you may have put on the card, on autopay, etc., which could cause your card to meet the minimum spend BEFORE you intended.
Too Much Stress?
If you want a 2019 Companion Pass and this is all a bit too stressful ;-), wait until next year to apply for your cards. You can still earn the Companion Pass easily with one 40,000-point offer and one 60,000-point offer. Then take your time completing the minimum spend, knowing it will FOR SURE credit in 2019.
Let me know in the comments if you’ll be going for a 2018 or a 2019 pass!
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