No Notice Changes to Earning the Southwest Companion Pass

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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.

The new rules state:

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?

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  1. I totally got screwed, I was considering doing a 2016 transfer since I was halfway there and held off to go with 2017 for a two year companion pass.

    Had I know the changes were coming I wouldn’t have waited and would have done a one year version.

    Very lame of them to not announce these changes.

  2. WTH………I am currently waiting for a LARGE majority of my Sapphire Reserve points to transfer to Marriott with plans to book a 5 or 7 day stay with the air miles. Of course, I was going to choose Southwest to get the Companion Pass. I can’t even tell you how mad I am right now.
    Any suggestions?

    • I remember reading this on some blog? Anyone have a link?

      I have Sapphire Reserve points times.

      What is the stop by step to do this?

  3. I’m working on hitting the $2,000 spending limit on both cards now – and I’m trying to do it as fast as possible. One thought I had was to go to the grocery store & buy a bunch of gift cards to places we normally eat/shop at. That will still count towards the $2,000/50k pts bonus right??

    • Yep! Or you can pay bills in advance. Example my electric bill is $100.00 a month, so I paid $500.00 on my SW card and the left over $400.00 remains as a credit on my electric. The $500.00 still shows a $500.00 purchase on my credit statement for the month. Do this for paying up to 4 bill at once and you hit your $2000.00 spending for the points needed towards the CP. Additionally, you don’t have to spend the extra $$ for the fees for the gift cards.

  4. I am one of the people that got caught right in the middle. We were staying at the Hyatt Ziva PVR, amazing btw, and needed the companion pass for my daughter for our flight home tomorrow. I bought the flight/hotel package from Marriott on 12/31, and points posted today, 1/4. I called Southwest airlines to discuss, and all they said was sorry, that is our new policy. I had to purchase a 51,000 point nonstop Southwest flight for my daughter due to this change and NO availability. I’m outraged at the no-notice change and the inability of the CSR’s to help in any way.

    Any suggestion on how to contact in Southwest to somehow make an exception?

  5. HOOOOOOORAY! My Chase points transferred to Marriott this morning, I’m calling as soon as customer service opens, and fingers crossed, will have that Companion pass in my SW account sooner than later! I had a feeling that they would step up regarding this. Happy New Year!

  6. I agree with “e”……..yay, Southwest! My Marriott certificate has already posted to my account, and my SW points should show up in the next couple of days. I can’t wait to have the CP, and book some travel for my husband and our family. Quick question………does the 120,000 points earn you A list status for priority boarding, etc?? 🙂 and THANK YOU to all of you bloggers who keep us informed, and bring these great deals to light…….xoxo

    • Great! A list status points are really just earned through flying Southwest, so you will have the Companion Pass, but not A list status.

  7. For anyone that has done the transfer, I have a quick question. I have the starwood points in my account, but can I have them put the southwest points into my wife’s account instead of mine? When do you give them the account number and does the name have to match?

    Or do I need to transfer the points to her (she doesn’t have a spg account, so is there a 30 day delay?)

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