I Have The Southwest Companion Pass, Now How Do I Achieve A-List Status?

by on August 11, 2013 · 6 comments

in Elite Status, Southwest, Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

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TPG reader Adam has earned a Southwest Companion Pass, but now wants to reach the A-List level.

@thepointsguy I’ve knocked out the Southwest Companion Pass for the next 18 months, but do you have any advice for working on A-List, or is that pure bum-in-seat?” 

Last year Southwest really revamped its A-List elite program and added some great perks for their frequent flyers such as:

  • Priority boarding
  • Priority check-in
  • Priority security screening
  • Priority standby
  • Complimentary WiFi (for A-List Preferred)
  • 25% earning bonus.

There are two ways to earn elite status, either A-List and A-List Preferred, with Southwest. The first option is to fly 25 one-way flights for the base A-List status or 50 one-way flights for A-List Preferred status.

Southwest offers A-List and A-List Preferred Status.

Southwest offers A-List and A-List Preferred Status.

The second option is to accrue tier-qualifying points. Southwest awards different levels of tier-qualifying points for every fare that you purchase. For a Business Select fare, you will earn 12 tier-qualifying points per dollar spent. For an Anytime fare you will earn 10 points per dollar spent, and lastly, for a Wanna Get Away fare you will earn 6 points per dollar spent. In order to get status, you need 35,000 tier qualifying points for A-List and 70,000 for A-List Preferred.

If you have either the personal or business Southwest Premier Rewards credit card, you will earn 1,500 tier qualifying points for every $10,000 you spend on the card, with a maximum of 15,000 tier qualifying points per year. That would mean you would be spending $100,000 on your Southwest card in one year – even after that you still won’t have enough points for base elite qualification, although it will help.  If you’re buying Southwest fares, especially Business Select fares, it will make it easier to accrue status if you’re spending on the credit card as well.

Southwest A-List perks include

Southwest A-List perks include priority boarding and 25% earning bonus.

One thing to keep in mind is by putting so many expenses on your Southwest card there’s an opportunity cost. The Southwest card isn’t the best card out there in terms of earning multiple points per dollar in different categories. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 2 points per dollar on all dining and travel (including public transit) along with a 7% points dividend at the end of the year. The Chase Ink Bold and Ink Plus cards earn 5x on office supplies, while the Premier Rewards Gold card from American Express earns 3 points per dollar on airfare and 2 points per dollar on gas and groceries.

Basically every dollar you put on your Southwest card, you are foregoing these bonus categories and valuable points in other areas.

Southwest A List Preferred

Southwest A-List Preferred fliers get free WiFi.

What I would suggest is to look at those A-List benefits and see how valuable they are to you. While it is nice to have free WiFi and Priority Boarding – is it worth missing out on the valuable points you would earn with other credit cards?

It takes a little bit of time to understand Southwest’s system but the main thing to understand is that the two ways to qualify for elite status are either by flying or spending on fares and the Southwest credit card, you cannot mix and match the two options.

I hope this answers your questions. Good luck and enjoy all that Southwest flying!

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Adam

    Great great answer, thanks! You’re probably right that my spend would be better served elsewhere.

  • Wandering Sheppard

    One thing to note on qualification, the BIS requirement is “flights” not “segments” as on the legacy carriers. So if you thought about following the metal and grab a bunch of segments, it equals one flight on SW. Although, if you hit A-List you certainly will have first grab at seats (value equals the cost of Early Bird per flight, $12.50).

  • Steeler

    Would you feel the same way if I was solely utilizing my WN card to renew my companion pass? I was thinking that I could renew my pass and earn A list at the same time.

  • Josh

    The technique I used this year to achieve A-List Preferred was simply to take advantage of Southwest’s “double tier qualifying miles” promotions by booking Business Select tickets and earning 24 points per dollar. Using this strategy I paid about $3000 in fares (and put the spend on other credit cards that earned better bonuses or points). Not only did I end up with A-List Preferred status but I also had 72,000 points which is worth about $1200 in fares. So for $3000 I got Business Select travel on multiple trips, A-List Preferred status through the end of 2014, and $1200 in free travel for future trips.

  • xQuizx

    If you have a business you can sign up for Swabiz. Earlier this year there was a promotion where you would get double points through Swabiz, that piggybacked on the double tier qualifying promotion. I was getting 24 tier qualifying points for business select fares, but I was gaining 48 southwest rewards points. 12 from business select, 12 from the double tier bonus, 12 from Swabiz bonus and 12 from A-List Preferred status (100% points). My $1,000 round trip flights were only costing $200.

  • xQuizx

    The perks I love about A-List status is bypassing security lines and automatic check in. I live in Chicago and at the most it takes 10 minutes to get through security, compared to 30 minutes in the other lines.

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