This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

TPG reader Mercedes sent me a message on Facebook to ask about earning the Southwest Companion Pass:

“I’m about 23,000 points away from earning the Companion Pass this year. I was thinking about buying ink cartridges through Rapid Rewards online shopping (to earn a bonus of 20 points per dollar), or maybe taking a quick trip somewhere. Do you have any other suggestions?”

I always get a lot of questions about earning elite status this time of year, as frequent flyers try to resecure their existing status or reach for the next tier. While the Southwest Companion Pass isn’t an elite status level in the traditional sense, it can be highly valuable.

Usually, one good way to earn points quickly is with a sign-up bonus from a co-branded credit card. For example, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card currently offers 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months. However, you’d need to sign up, meet the spending requirements in your first monthly statement and have the bonus reach your account by the end of the year. It’s doable, but you’d be cutting it pretty close. Fortunately, there are some other possibilities.

The Rapid Rewards shopping portal is one good option, especially during the holiday season (when bonuses tend to be higher and more frequent). Through Thanksgiving, Southwest is offering 5,500 bonus points when you spend $1,500 on qualifying purchases through the portal, and that’s in addition to whatever points you would earn normally. If you have shopping to do, you should at least check the bonuses offered by your favorite retailers.

That said, I don’t recommend buying stuff you don’t need or want just for the points. Even at 20 points per dollar, you’d have to spend $1,150 on ink cartridges to earn those 23,000 points. Unless you have a use for all that ink or you’re certain that you’ll get significantly more value than that from the Companion Pass, it doesn’t seem worthwhile.

Sout
The Rapid Rewards shopping portal is offering bonus points for purchases through Thanksgiving.

Another option is to transfer points in from hotel programs like Marriott Rewards, Choice Privileges or Hyatt Gold Passport. While the transfer ratios aren’t great, you’ll come out ahead if you get a lot of mileage from the Companion Pass. If you have any upcoming vacation plans that involve a lengthy hotel stay, you should also check out Marriott’s Hotel + Air packages. Unfortunately, transfers from Chase Ultimate Rewards do not count toward Companion Pass status, so don’t try to hit your goal that way.

Southwest has other partners that offer Rapid Rewards points, including hotels, rental cars, dining programs and more. None of those are likely to get you a large haul of points at once, but incorporating them into your long-term rewards strategy could help you qualify this year or in the future.

As for actual flying, Southwest awards points based on your fare, so mileage running won’t help. You’d need to spend about $1,900 on Business Select fares or $3,800 on Wanna Get Away fares to earn 23,000 points, so you’d be better off with the other options above. However, you can qualify for the Companion Pass with 110,000 points or 100 one-way flights, so flying could make sense if you’re close to meeting the flights requirement and there are cheap tickets available.

Finally, keep in mind that the Companion Pass is valid for the remainder of the year in which you earn it, plus the entire following year. That means in general you should aim to earn it early in the year, so you can maximize the time you have to use it.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and free rides in the U.S. up to $15 each month, plus a bonus $20 in December. That can be up to $200 in annual Uber savings.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$550
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.