Mistiming the Southwest Companion Pass — Reader Mistake Story

Feb 21, 2017

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here: Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

One of the things I love most about being The Points Guy is getting to hear stories from readers about all the positive ways award travel has affected their lives. That being said, while I love hearing about your successes, I think there’s also a lot we can learn by sharing our mistakes, and I’m calling on readers to send in your most egregious and woeful travel failures.

From time to time I’ll pick one that catches my eye and post it for everybody to enjoy (and commiserate with). If you’re interested, email your story to info@thepointsguy.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Include details of exactly how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Please offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what precautions the rest of us can take to avoid the same pitfalls. If we publish your story, I’ll send you a gift to help jump-start your next adventure (or make up for any blunders from the last one).

Recently, I posted a story from Jeff, who was denied entry into Mexico due to a lightly damaged passport. Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Steven, who missed out on one of the most valuable travel rewards after misunderstanding the qualification requirements. Here’s what he had to say:

One day can mean the difference between earning a bonus and missing out. Image courtesy of bee32 via Getty Images.

 

I obtained the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card from Chase last year, because I thought I had a good chance of earning the Companion Pass, which is a sweet deal.

In mid-December, the Southwest website said that my Rapid Rewards account had 92,000+ points toward Companion Pass status. Based on that information, I used my Southwest card to charge roughly $20,000 in purchases in the last week of December. That should have put me over the 110,000-point requirement to earn the companion pass, though I didn’t get any acknowledgement from Southwest.

After emailing and calling the airline, I was given some bad news. My understanding of the requirements was that I had to accrue 110,000 points via flying or credit card charges during the calendar year in order to qualify. Because my purchases were made during the 2016 calendar year, I thought they would count toward my 2016 total, but that was apparently incorrect. Since my credit card billing period ended on December 26, the charges that I made between December 27-31 do not count!

So, it is not a calendar year requirement as they would have you believe. A calendar year is January 1 to December 31; it’s not based on credit card billing cycles! I think this is misleading, and I urge you to publish this nuance to your readers.

There are two important factors at play in Steven’s story: One is how Chase awards points for spending on credit cards, and the other is how Southwest counts those points toward Companion Pass status. Southwest’s claim (that the Companion Pass is based on earnings for the calendar year) is accurate. The problem is that you haven’t officially “earned” those points until they reach your Rapid Rewards account, and if you’re using a co-branded credit card, that timing depends on when your statement closes.

Southwest addresses this issue directly in the Companion Pass terms and conditions online:

“Points earned during a billing cycle on a Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card from Chase are not available for redemption or qualification for Companion Pass status until they are posted on your billing statement and posted to your Rapid Rewards Account.  Only points posted on your billing statements and posted to your Rapid Rewards Account during the same calendar year are available for qualification for Companion Pass status.”

Unfortunately, Steven’s spending in late December went on his January card statement. That means it will count toward his 2017 Companion Pass status, but couldn’t help him qualify in 2016. Similar rules apply to many other credit card benefits, including elite bonuses and annual travel credits. To avoid missing out on these rewards, I urge you not to cut your spending too close to the deadline. Give yourself ample time to meet the requirements, and don’t overlook the fine print!

When a large bonus is at stake, get familiar with the fine print. Image courtesy of kupicoo via Getty Images.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Steven for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on his travels.

I’d like to do the same for you! If you’ve ever arrived at the airport without ID, booked a hotel room in the wrong city, missed out on a credit card sign-up bonus or made another memorable travel or rewards mistake, I want to hear about it. Please indulge me and the whole TPG team by sending us your own stories (see instructions above). I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

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.

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