Do I Get Southwest A-List When I Transfer Points for the Companion Pass?

Mar 10, 2017

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“Reader Questions” are answered three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — by TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel.

With only a few weeks left to transfer hotel points to Southwest for a Companion Pass, today’s Facebook question from Bill is a timely one…

By transferring 100,000 points from Marriott to Southwest for the Companion Pass, do I also qualify for A-List Preferred and the perks that come along with that as well?

TPG Reader Bill

Even though Southwest doesn’t feature a first or business-class cabin on its planes, it does have an elite program for its frequent flyers. Southwest A-List or A-List Preferred elite status can’t get you upgraded to a cabin that doesn’t exist, but it does come with priority boarding — which under the Southwest cattle-call boarding process means getting into the incredibly important “A” boarding group so you can grab your favorite seat before anyone else — priority check-in at the airport, access to the priority security line, a recently much improved same-day standby benefit and bonus points, among other perks.

But how many points do you need for A-List and A-List Preferred? Well, A-List is earned with 35,000 points or 25 one-way flights, while you get A-List Preferred at 70,000 points or 50 one-way flights. So it seems like a transfer of 100,000 points should cover that, right?

The points you’ll need for Southwest A-List status aren’t the same points you get when transferring from hotel programs.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way, because like most airlines, Southwest uses a separate set of points called Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs) to calculate elite status, and TQPs are earned only by flying or high spend on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card. So the points transferred from Marriott or other hotel partners for the Companion Pass won’t count.

It’s also important to note that the Companion Pass itself has its own set of qualifying points, which aren’t the same as Tier Qualifying Points or even redeemable Rapid Rewards points. In other words, even though all Companion Pass points are also redeemable Rapid Rewards points, not all redeemable Rapid Rewards points are Companion Pass points and neither are always Tier Qualifying Points.

Confused yet? The easiest way to think about it is in terms of the different ways you can earn Southwest points…

  • Almost all points you earn on Southwest, no matter how you earn them, are redeemable Rapid Rewards points.
  • Points earned from a specific subset of activities, including flying, making purchases with a Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card, base points earned from Rapid Rewards partners and points transferred from hotel and car loyalty programs until March 31, 2017, count as Companion Pass qualifying points.
  • Points earned from an even smaller subset of those activities — specifically flying and spending large amounts on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card (and none of the other Southwest credit cards) — count as Tier Qualifying Points.

Hopefully it all makes sense now, and thanks for the question, Bill. If you’re a TPG reader with a question you’d like answered, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or send an email to info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured image courtesy of Scott Olson/Getty Images.

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