How to Finish Earning the Southwest Companion Pass This Year

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It’s interesting how the questions I get via email go in cycles, and when I see a topic trending it sometimes reminds me it is probably worth covering here.  The trending question of the month is definitely how to finish up getting the Southwest Companion pass this year.

The Southwest Companion Pass allows the pass holder to designate a companion to fly with them on Southwest operated flights basically for free – just pay the taxes.  It doesn’t matter if the pass holder is flying in a paid fare with cash or using points, the companion can still fly with them.  It’s the best value in family travel if Southwest is a convenient airline for your family.

Now, before I go further answering this question, I want to be clear that this is not the best time of the year to qualify for the Companion Pass for most people because the pass is good the year you earn it and the entire following calendar year.  That means earning it at the end of the year results in less valid time for the pass.  All things being equal, the better play is to qualify early in a calendar year, thus giving yourself as close to 24 months of validity as possible.  However, if you are already getting close to earning the pass in 2014, it can absolutely make sense to finish up that qualification rather than letting the work you have done go to waste.

Southwest Companion Pass

In other words, if you haven’t already started toward the Southwest Companion Pass in 2014, don’t.  Wait until 2015 and get it done as early in the year as possible.

How Companion Pass Points are Counted:

One common point of confusion for people is how the 110,000 points you need for the Companion Pass are counted.  That count is not based on how many Southwest points you currently have in your account, it is based on how many points you earned in 2014 that were Companion Pass eligible.  As far as the Companion Pass goes, it doesn’t matter if you have used points, hoarded points, or whatever.  It just matters how many you earned, and in what year.  So, if you earned 105,000 Companion Pass eligible points in 2014 and still have those points available to use in 2015 it doesn’t matter.  If you didn’t earn them in 2015 then they will no longer help you earn the pass once the calendar turns years.

Also keep in mind that not all points earned on Southwest count toward the Companion Pass.  Check your 2014 progress toward the Companion Pass here.

If you see that you are within striking distance of 110,000 points, and I would personally define that as at least half-way there, then read on to see some ways to make up the remaining points needed.  If not, then read this post only as a guide for next year, don’t start now for 2014.

First, here are the terms and conditions on Companion Pass qualifying points:

Companion Pass Qualifying Points are earned from revenue flights booked through Southwest Airlines, points issued on Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Cards, and points earned from Rapid Rewards Partners. Points purchased for personal use or as a gift, transferred points, points earned from program enrollment, tier bonuses, flight bonuses, and Rapid Rewards Partner bonuses (with the exception of the Rapid Rewards Credit Cards from Chase) do not count toward Companion Pass status.

Here is a breakdown into actionable steps to earn more points:

  • Get a co-branded Southwest credit card with a 50,000 point sign-up bonus.  As View From the Wing shared here, it is currently possible to get some of the Chase Southwest credit cards with a 50,000 point sign-up bonus.  This bonus goes back and forth between 25,000 and 50,000 points, so I would personally only strike at the 50k level.  These points do count toward the Companion Pass, and are the quickest and easiest way to get almost half-way to 110,000 points at once.  There are four versions of the card (two business, two personal).  If you do this and want the points to count for 2014 then meet the spending requirement to trigger the bonus as fast as possible.  It must post in 2014 to count for this year.  If it posts in 2015, it counts for 2015.
  • Put spending on the Southwest co-branded credit cards that posts in 2014.  The spending you put on the Southwest credit cards also counts toward the Companion Pass, so the more you charge on the cards that posts in 2014, the closer you get.  It should go without saying, but of course don’t buy extra stuff you don’t need to earn the Companion Pass.  Again, if the points don’t post until 2015 (like for some December purchases), they won’t count for 2014 Companion Pass purchases.
  • Fly Southwest.  The points you earn flying on paid Southwest fares also count, so I would give Southwest flights preference if you are needing to squeeze every point you can to get the pass this year.  Business Select Fares earn 12x points per dollar, Anytime Fares earn 10x points per dollar, and Wanna Get Away (cheapest) fares earn 6x per dollar.
  • Dining Program Make sure that you are using the Southwest Dining program to earn points.  The occasional bonuses may not count toward the Companion Pass, but the 3-5 points per dollar you earn eating out at participating restaurants do count.
  • Hotel point transfers.  You can transfer points from hotel programs to Southwest and have those count toward the Companion Pass.  A popular option is Hyatt Gold Passport.  In fact, I know some people who transfer Ultimate Reward points to Hyatt and then move them from Hyatt to Southwest to top-off to the Companion Pass.  You will lost points in the transfer process as it is not a 1:1 ratio from Hyatt to Southwest but rather a 2.5:1 ratio, but it can work in a pinch.  Note that you cannot transfer Ultimate Reward points directly to Southwest in order to earn the Companion Pass.  Marriott is also a popular choice via their Hotel + Air packages, assuming you have a six figure Marriott points account.  Million Mile Secrets has a good breakdown of hotel transfer options and ratios here.  You can also credit hotel stays directly to Southwest and earn points that way.
  • Use the Rapid Rewards Shopping portal.  You can earn points that are Companion Pass eligible by shopping online via the Rapid Rewards Shopping portal.  We have seen some increased payouts in the neighborhood of 10x recently, so that can add up quickly if you had some shopping to do.  Those who takes things a step or two further than me have even bought merchandise via the portal to resell and racked up points in the process.  Proceed with caution on that one. 
  • And more.  If you are really scraping the bottom of the points barrel looking for ideas (and I don’t blame you), there are others options to get toward the Companion Pass like using other Southwest partners such as car rentals, ordering flowers, etc.  The Companion Pass is hugely valuable so I don’t blame you for pushing as hard as you can to get the rest of the way there, but just keep your extra spending to get there in check.

If you have been racking up points to earn the Companion Pass, I’d love to hear what methods are working for your family!

 

 

Comments

  1. so lets say I finish up my qualifying points in early december (I only need like 30k more) and could probably make it happened with a card sign up. from when to when will my companion pass be good for?

    • Aub, it is good the rest of the year you earn it and the following calendar year. That means if you earn in early December 2014 then it is good the rest of 2014 and all of 2015.

  2. All points transferred from hotels do qualify, including Marriott. Those directly from credit cards, apart from the Southwest card don’t.

  3. Seems like E-Miles and ERewards post as companion qualifying points too. I use these mainly to keep points from expiring in programs I don’t use very often.

    Not a big source of miles, but 500 or 2000 could make the difference needed for someone a little short.

  4. Note that, when you transfer hotel points, they count as of the date of transfer, not the date of posting. In late December 2013, I transferred some hotel points knowing they would post in early January 2014. I was expecting them to count toward early 2014 CP qualification, but they did not. For those trying to qualify in late 2014, this is good – even if they don’t post by Dec 31, they will count toward 2014 CP.

    • Joey, yes, and you don’t even have to be paid on dollars, traveling on points is still fine for having the guest come along for just the taxes on the flight ($5.60).

  5. I’m a bit confused about what qualifies toward the companion pass. I recently qualified for the 50k bonus on the Marriott Rewards card. Will I be able to use 30k Marriott points to transfer 10k to Southwest and have those points qualify for the Companion Pass?

  6. I’ve heard others say that this is actually a good time of the year to get the card as long as you don’t complete the required spend until Jan 2015. This way you get a leg up on your spending and by completing it early in 2015, you essentially have two full years to use the companion pass, 2015 and 2016.

    • David, it can be a good time to jump start 2015 but only if you are very careful to not muck up and accidentally have the points post in 2014.

  7. Sorry to be slow, but I’m still confused on the timing. Another site says that you could go ahead and work toward the min spend for the remainder of the year (and those $$s/points could post) as long as you don’t complete the min spend during this calendar year. You seem to be saying that you would need to wait until Dec to spend and make sure the billing cycle doesn’t end until after Jan 1 in order to get those spend points to count toward the bonus. Please clarify. Sorry!

    • Tammy, it all comes down to when the points from the credit card spending post. If they end up posting in 2014 they count for 2014. If they post in 2015, they count for 2015. So, you certainly can get the card now, work toward spending requirement not, but not hit the spending requirement until early 2015 since you have three months.

      Just be very careful to not hit it too early.

  8. I saw someone post on another site that one of the terms (not sure if this is new) is that transferred points do NOT count towards the Companion Pass. I’ve got Hyatt points ready to go but don’t want to transfer them if it’s not going to get me the CP. Got the RR Credit Card with 50k pts a few months ago, and at about 81k points on the year towards the CP. Anyone tried transferring hotel pts and have had it count towards the CP recently?

    • I transferred Choice Privileges points late in 2013; they counted. I believe hotel points do count, but Chase Ultimate Rewards point transfers do not count. (Note that hotel points count as of the date of transfer, not the date of posting.)

  9. Greetings All – I have over 300,000 Marriott points that I have been hoarding and have decided I should wait until after January 1st and do the Marriott Air + Hotel Package that is 270,000 points for a Category 1-5 hotel plus 120,000 Rapid Rewards Points. If everything I have been reading on the Internet is correct, if I do this on January 1st this should automatically give me the Companion Pass for all of 2015 and 2016 as these points count toward to CP, is this correct?

    I feel like their language of “and points earned from Rapid Rewards Partners.” is so ambiguous and open to interpretation and could be changed at anytime

    I just want to make sure because I am panicking that I will use up all the Marriott Points I have and then somehow they will have changed their policy and I’m out 270,000 Marriott points with no Companion Pass to show for it!

    I am only about 30,000 points away from earning it in 2014 and was going to cash in some Marriott points for the difference and decided it made more sense to wait and do it after the first of the year so I could keep the CP for almost two years and it is a much better conversion ratio.

    Is there anyone who has actually ever done the Marriott Air + Hotel package and knows for sure that those Rapid Rewards Points count towards the Companion Pass?

    Thank you any help you can offer!

    • I am in the same boat as Kelly except I have a ton of Chase Ultimate Reward points that I am waiting to transfer to Marriott to then redeem one of those hotel/flight packages above. I’ve read on another site that it is not changing, but someone commented that they actually called Southwest and were told it wouldn’t count towards the Companion Pass. Not sure who to believe on this one!! I don’t want to be locked into a ton of Marriott points if I don’t have to. Please let us know if this is still gonna work in 2015!
      Thanks!

      • Johnny, it absolutely has been working in real life regardless of what you are told. Anything can always change, but it has been working for years.

        • Thanks for the response, glad to hear it looks like it is going to continue. I currently have just over 300K Marriott points and am counting down the days until January 1st and praying that the Marriott Hotel & Air package count towards the Companion pass or I’m not going to be a happy camper. But, like you said, things could always change but I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

  10. Just wanted to share with all of you who may be afraid like I was that this absoutely worked. I called Marriott on 1/2/15 and used 270,000 points to get 7 nights at a Category 1-5 plus 120,000 Rapid Rewards points. I woke up this morning and the 120,000 points were already showing in my Rapid Rewards account and it says I have 100% achieved Companion Pass status!!!

    • Congratulations, Kelly!! Last year I earned CP on January 12; I thought that was the record. Now you’ve set a standard that will be hard to beat!!!

  11. I have 139k points at 94% towards CP…which is easy to achieve since I fly weekly for business. My question is once I reach CP status thats good for the rest of this year and next year…when do I start to accumulate the points towards the next CP? Thanks!

  12. is there a way to move unitedplus miles to southwest? I just got the rr plus card, but i already have the premiere card from last year and though I haven’t used those 50k+ points, they won’t count towards 110k for 2015…I just got the unitedplus card with 50k mile bonus, and am trying to find a way to convert those to sw towards my cp for 2015
    I also have a few k ultimate rewards, maybe from my chase ink card?

    • Rachel, United miles cannot really transfer to Southwest. Ultimate Reward points can if you go through Hyatt, but there will be a loss in the process. It’s not a bad amount if all you need is a small number, but it wouldn’t be the best way to get a large number of points. Maybe get a business version of the Southwest card?

  13. I am looking to apply for the Premier and Plus SW cards as this year comes to an end so that I can score the companion pass early in 2015 if I time my spending right. Looking at the offers right now, it doesn’t appear that there is a 50,000 point bonus for the Plus card. Any insight on this plight of mine?? 🙂

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