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Update: While this is reported to be working, I am concerned from the report in the comments from Noob Traveler that his packet from SW said that credit card sign-up bonuses don’t count toward Companion Pass. If that is the case, then perhaps the time for this awesome deal has ended (or will be in the very near future). I would say proceed with caution.
Update #2: False alarm with Update #1, the language in that packet that Noob Traveler is the same language that Southwest has been using for a while. See the comments in this post for more details. All is well in Companion Pass Land.
…or at least that is what is being reported on Flyertalk (see post #517 in that thread). This is great news on two levels. First, the great news is that the 50,000 point sign-up bonuses for both the personal and business credit cards are alive and well. The 50K bonuses were pulled from the affiliate channels a few months ago, but there are still some functioning links out there, like this one. The second big news is that the credit card sign-up bonuses are still counting toward Companion Pass qualification in 2012! There were some rumors and concern that this loop-hole (if it is a loop-hole) would close once 2012 rolled around, but so far that seems to not be the case. A Companion Pass is just like it sounds – it is a pass for a travel companion to fly for free with you (just pay the September 11th fee) anytime you fly Southwest. This even works when the Companion Pass holder is flying for free on points. I even have a friend who used their companion pass to fly for free with their whole family of four. The husband had earned the pass, named the wife as the companion, and they each took one of their twin babies as a free lap child. Talk about maximizing the value of the pass!! You can also change your traveling companion up to three times, so you can be strategic about who you name based on when/where your travel plans will take you.
In case you are new to the Southwest Airlines and Companion Pass world, let me explain why this is awesome. First, if you apply for and receive the personal and business Southwest cards you will receive a total of $1666 in Wanna Get Away fare credit from the 100,000 total bonus points. The bonus points are awarded upon first use of the card, so just one purchase will result in the points being awarded. You do have to pay a $69 annual fee for each card. Second, once they are awarded for both cards you will only be 10,000 points away from qualifying for a Companion Pass. You can earn those 10,000 points by actually flying Southwest on paid fares, by spending $10,000 on the cards, or by transferring the points in from another partner program.
For example, you can transfer 5,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points for 2,400 Rapid Rewards Points. Members can also redeem 50,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points for 24,000 Rapid Rewards Points and receive a bonus of 6,000 additional Rapid Rewards Points for a total of 30,000 Rapid Rewards Points. Assuming that you receive 100,000 points from Southwest Credit Card sign-ups, you would just need to convert 21,250 Hyatt Gold Passport points to transfer just over 10,000 Southwest points. This transfer method is reported to work as Companion Pass Qualifying points, but I have not tried it myself, so I can’t speak from personal experience. Another method discussed on Flyertalk is transferring Marriott points or Choice Hotel points. If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Ink Bold, then you could choose to transfer some of those Ultimate Reward points to either Hyatt or Marriott, and then transfer them from those programs to Southwest. You do lose some points in the conversion process, but the value of the Companion Pass may still make it a worthy endeavor. While you cannot yet transfer points from Ultimate Rewards directly to Southwest, it is reported that they will not count towards CP once you can do the direct transfer – though you never know how that will work in practice. Just as a warning, I would not recommend applying for more than one personal and one business Chase application at at time.
After you have hit 110,000 Companion Pass Qualifying points in a calendar year, the pass is good for the rest of that year. plus the whole next calendar year. That means that getting in on this early in 2012 effectively lets your chosen travel partner travel with you for free for almost two years!
Hopefully this method of getting lots of free travel will be around for a while, but there are certainly no guarantees. I do recommend being somewhat cautious with applying for these cards if you already have lots of recent Chase applications, but otherwise this is a phenomenal deal that Southwest flyers might want to strongly consider.
Disclosure: The Southwest links in this post are not mine, but they are reported to be working links, and they are certainly the best offers out there. The Ink Bold and Sapphire preferred links are mine, so I would receive a commission if you were approved for those card using my links. They are also to the best available offer out there.