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Update: Great news! Southwest has officially extended the deadline for hotel point transfers to count towards earning the Companion Pass until March 31, 2017
The first bad miles and points news of 2017 was unquestionably that earning the valuable Southwest Companion Pass got harder without any advanced notice. The Southwest Companion Pass is very popular in miles and points family travel circles because it permits a designated companion to fly free with you on Southwest flights for up to close to two years, depending on when you earn it. It is good the entire calendar year in which you earn it, and the following calendar year.
While you can thankfully still earn the Southwest Companion Pass largely through getting the co-branded Chase credit cards and their sign-up bonuses that can be as high as 50,000 points each, you can no longer make progress towards earning the 110,000 needed points for the Companion Pass by transferring in hotel points from Marriott, Hyatt, and the other Rapid Rewards hotel partners.
Companion Pass Qualifying Points are earned from your revenue flights booked through Southwest Airlines, your points earned by making purchases with a Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card, and your base points earned from Rapid Rewards partners. Purchased points, points converted from hotel and car loyalty programs, and e-Rewards, e-Miles, Valued Opinions and Diners Club, points earned from Rapid Rewards program enrollment, tier bonuses, flight bonuses, and partner bonuses (excluding points bonuses earned on the Rapid Rewards Credit Cards from Chase) do not count toward Companion Pass.
These rules took effect January 1st, and while that is a logical date to make such as change since Companion Pass qualification runs on a calendar year schedule, a no notice change means that you could have just purchased hotel points with one of their partners with the intent to transfer to Southwest, or even already pressed the transfer button assuming they would continue to count towards the Southwest Companion Pass once the transfer processed.
Southwest has stated that the points transferred in from hotel programs and similar will or won’t count towards the Companion Pass based on the date they post to your Southwest account, not the date you transferred them. Sadly this means you could have executed the transfer on 12/31/16 thinking they would count towards earning the 2017 Companion Pass when they posted a few days later, only to have them not count towards a pass at all because of the 1/1/17 change. That seems a bit unfair on the part of Southwest, to say the least. Since there are a limited number of people impacted by the transfers that were caught in the middle of this transition, I sincerely hope they make one-off exceptions for them.
Current ways to earn towards the Southwest Companion Pass:
- Rapid Rewards Credit Card purchases and sign-up bonus points
- Paid Southwest Flights
- Base points earned with the Rapid Rewards Hotel, Rental Car, Ground Transportation, Dining, and Shopping partners
Unfortunately the number of ways to earn towards the Southwest Companion Pass has officially shrank beginning on January 1st, but the Rapid Rewards credit cards and their sign-up bonuses are still a viable pathway to the Companion Pass for now. However, it would not shock me if that changed at some future date…potentially in a similarly unannounced fashion.
How does this change impact your Southwest Companion Pass strategy?