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TPG reader Megan is going for the Southwest Companion Pass but wants to know if she can put her points to use before reaching the qualifying threshold of 110,000 points. Here’s the question she tweeted me.
“@thepointsguy: Southwest Companion Pass? I’m assuming I can’t use any points until I get the 110k? Then do I trade points for the pass?”
The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the best airline benefits out there! If you accrue 110,000 Companion Pass Qualifying points in a calendar year, you get to take a companion travel with you on both paid and award tickets on Southwest and AirTran for the rest of that year and the following year – so if you earned it now, it would be good through the rest of 2014 and all of 2015.
The short answer to Amanda’s question is – you don’t have to wait. So use your points all you want!
Any points you earn during the calendar year count. Whether you use them on awards or not, it still counts toward your Companion Pass Qualifying balance – sort of like elite qualifying miles you earn flying in a year on other airlines still count towards your elite status even if you use the miles in your account to book an award trip.
Like other airlines, with Southwest, there are two separate mileage trackers for your points. There are the regular points that you get to redeem for flights, and there are Companion Pass Qualifying points that are completely separate with a calendar-year tally that shows you how close you are. Once you hit 110,000 qualifying points, you automatically get the Companion Pass. You don’t need to redeem points to get the pass, so go ahead and redeem your Rapid Rewards points for travel. Just keep track of your overall points-earning so that you know to hit that 110,000 in a calendar year so you get the pass. Obviously earlier in the year that you qualify, the more value that you pass has because it will be valid for longer.
Remember, the Southwest credit cards bonuses and earning on spending do count towards the Companion Pass, so if you did happen to get one of those past 50,000-point offers (or even two of them), you should be well on your way on getting that pass. Unfortunately, Chase Ultimate Rewards points transferred into Southwest (which you can do if you have the Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold or Ink Plus) do not count toward Companion Pass qualification.