Why now is the best time to apply for Southwest Airlines credit cards

Oct 20, 2021

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One of the best deals in travel is the Southwest Companion Pass. For the value it offers, you’d be surprised how easy it is to earn.

No other travel perk allows you to create your own reusable buy-one-get-one airfare voucher. This pass allows you to bring a partner, child, parent or friend with you on all of your Southwest flights — for just the cost of taxes and fees on their ticket.

Whether you book your Southwest flight with dollars or Southwest Rapid Rewards points, your designated companion can come along with the Southwest Companion Pass. That’s an amazing benefit no matter how you slice it — but the deal is even better when you time things carefully. I’ll show you how to secure a Southwest Companion Pass for nearly 24 months (if you hurry).

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In This Post

How to perfectly time a Southwest Companion Pass

(Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
(Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

To earn the Southwest Companion Pass, you need to earn 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year.

It’s worth noting that for 2021, Southwest members with an account opened by Dec. 31, 2020, with 25 qualifying flights and 25,000 Companion Pass-qualifying points, are only required to earn 100,000 points. If this describes you, I urge you to avoid earning the Companion Pass this year, though.

Here’s why: The Companion Pass is only valid during the calendar year you earn it as well as the following calendar year. In other words, if you earn the Companion Pass in November 2021, it will only be valid through December 2022 (14 months). But if you wait to earn the Companion Pass in January 2022, it will be valid through December 2023 (24 months).

Most Rapid Rewards bonus points (such as Chase Ultimate Rewards transfers or any points earned through the Southwest shopping portal) don’t count toward earning the Companion Pass. But the sign-up bonuses from Southwest credit cards do. Southwest defines Companion Pass-qualifying Rapid Rewards points as follows:

“Companion Pass qualifying points are earned from revenue flights booked through Southwest, points issued on Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Cards and base points earned from Rapid Rewards partners in a calendar year.”

For that reason, if you open a Southwest credit card now, you may want to wait to complete the minimum spending on the card until this upcoming January. If the bonus posts to your account in 2022, you’ll be 100,000 points closer to your goal of 125,000 qualifying points.

Earning the points you need to achieve the Companion Pass

Now is the perfect time to start plotting your Southwest Companion Pass acquisition. With enhanced Southwest credit card offers, you should apply for one — or even two — Southwest cards to earn the pass through Dec. 31, 2023.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card ($69 annual fee), Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card ($99 annual fee), and Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card ($149 annual fee) all offer the same increased bonus. You’ll receive up to 100,000 bonus points after meeting tiered spending requirements:

  • Earn 50,000 points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
  • Earn 50,000 additional points after spending a total of $12,000 on purchases within the first 12 months of account opening.

That’s substantially higher than usual. It means that with the 100,000 points earned from a Southwest personal card — and the 12,000-plus points you’ll earn by meeting its tiered minimum spending requirement — you need to earn just 13,000 additional qualifying points to snag the Companion Pass.

(Photo by Andrea Bacle Photography for The Points Guy)

Think of that! A single credit card offer on its own can get you nearly 90% of the way to a Companion Pass. And there are many ways to earn the remaining points, such as additional credit card spending, actually flying on eligible Southwest fares, partner activity — even opening a Southwest business credit card in tandem with your Southwest personal card.

Southwest small-business cards are currently offering eye-catching bonuses of their own:

Strategy for earning the Southwest Companion Pass in early 2022

Unfortunately, Chase doesn’t allow you to have more than one Southwest personal credit card open at a time. But those restrictions don’t apply to the business versions.

The easiest way to achieve a Companion Pass is by earning both a small-business card bonus and a personal card bonus — no additional spending or activity required.

For example, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card offers fantastic Southwest perks and comes with 80,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. If you were to open this card along with any Southwest personal card, you could earn the Companion Pass by:

  • Spending $5,000 on the Southwest Performance Business (80,000 points).
  • Spending $2,000 on a Southwest personal card (50,000 points).

Just $7,000 in spending would net you 130,000 points and a Southwest Companion Pass! Of course, you’d probably still want to earn those extra 50,000 points with the personal card at some point since they’re valued at around $750 according to TPG valuations.

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

Again, transferring points earned on cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to your Southwest Rapid Rewards account do not count toward the Companion Pass. However, once you have the Companion Pass, you can transfer points to Rapid Rewards from Chase Ultimate Rewards to book your Southwest award tickets and have your designated companion fly with you for virtually free.

Who is eligible for a new Southwest credit card?

The personal Southwest cards are offering their best-ever bonuses. If you’re curious about your eligibility, here’s what Chase has to say:

“The product is not available to either (i) current Cardmembers of any Southwest Rapid Rewards® Credit Card, or (ii) previous Cardmembers of any Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Card who received a new Cardmember bonus within the last 24 months. This does not apply to Cardmembers of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Business Card and Employee Credit Card products.”

What this means is that you can only get the new cardmember bonus on one Southwest personal credit card within a given 24-month cycle, so be sure you are getting the best bonus possible. Also note that, if you currently have any Southwest personal credit card open, you won’t be eligible for these offers.

The same restriction does not apply to the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card or the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card. The business card restrictions state:

“This new Cardmember bonus offer is not available to either (i) current Cardmembers of this business credit card, or (ii) previous Cardmembers of this business credit card who received a new Cardmember bonus for this business credit card within the last 24 months.”

This means you can theoretically earn a bonus from a small-business version and a personal version of the Southwest card in the same calendar year to trigger the Companion Pass. That’s how many of us have earned ours in the past.

Alternately, you could get two small-business card bonuses. You just can’t get two personal cards.

And don’t forget about Chase’s 5/24 rule. If you’ve opened five or more new personal credit cards across all card issuers in the last 24 months, you’ll likely be denied if you apply for a Southwest card.

Bottom line

Now is a great time to solidify your plans for earning the Southwest Companion Pass. If you’re able to open a personal card and small-business card, you can time the sign-up bonuses so that they post to your account in early 2022. That’ll give you nearly two full years of Companion Pass.

Read our post on how to use the Southwest Companion Pass for everything you should know about one of the best deals in travel.

Additional reporting by Chris Dong and Joseph Hostetler.

Featured photo by Karl Magnuson via Unsplash.

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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