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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – View the current offers here – Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit CardSouthwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

You probably already know by now that Southwest just launched what some might call the airline’s best credit card offer yet for those looking to earn the Southwest Companion Pass. Traditionally, you need to earn 110,000 qualifying points in a single calendar year to receive this pretty amazing pass that allows you to take a companion on any paid or award trip for just the cost of the ticket’s taxes. With this limited-time offer, just meeting the minimum spend on a single credit card sign up will give the pass to you for the rest of the year. Pretty awesome, right?

Official application links: Earn the Companion Pass and enjoy 2-for-1 travel for the rest of 2019 with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card or the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card.

interior of Southwest aircraft
Have a family member fly with you for free on any Southwest flight you take throughout the entire year with the Southwest Companion Pass!

The one downside to this offer is that the Companion Pass is only valid through Dec. 31, 2019. If you were to receive the pass the “hard” way — by earning 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year — the pass is actually valid for the rest of the calendar year in which it is received plus the entire following calendar year. That means if you were to earn 110,000 points in 2019, the pass wouldn’t expire until Dec. 31, 2020.

But what if I told you that you could earn the pass quickly with the current offer and then still have it through Dec. 31, 2020 — giving you almost two years with the pass instead of just one? This approach gives you the both of best worlds with near-term access and longer term use.

Get Your Companion Pass ASAP

First off, you’ll want to make sure to earn the Southwest Companion Pass as soon as possible. Having the pass sooner than later will allow you to use it right away and start saving money on your family travel pronto. Since you need to spend $4,000 on your new Southwest credit card to actually receive the pass, you’ll want to do that as quickly as you responsibly can. Ideally, put the $4,000 on your card before your first statement closing date to earn the pass as quickly as possible.

From my experience of many years of having the Companion Pass, it will hit your Rapid Rewards account a few days after your statement closes, once you hit the minimum spend requirement. If you get approved ASAP and are able to put $4k of spending on your card quickly (and responsibly), you should be able to earn the pass as early as February 2019. At that point, the pass will expire 11ish months later at the end of the calendar year. Note: The annual fee does not count toward the minimum spend requirement.

Get Two Years Out of the Companion Pass

You are then all set with having the pass for 2019 with the credit card offer, but I’m assuming you’d love to fly 2-for-1 as long as you can, right? Part of the sign-up offer with all three personal versions of the card is that you also earn 30,000 Rapid Rewards bonus points when you meet the minimum spend requirement. The points earned from credit card spend, including the sign-up bonus, count toward the 110,000 qualifying points required to earn the pass through the traditional method.

Now that you are already at least 34,000 points closer to earning the pass for 2020, you still need to earn another 76,000 points. While this might sound like a lot, it is really do-able with a little bit of effort.

Have your child fly with you for free!
Fly 2-for-1 on Southwest for all of 2019 and 2020. (Jennifer Yellin / The Points Guy)

1. Apply for the Southwest Business Credit Card

Although Chase only allows you to have one Southwest personal card open at a given time (and only earn one personal Southwest bonus every 24 months), there is still the opportunity to apply for the small business version of the card. What throws many people off from applying for the personal version and the business version of the Southwest card during the same time period is that it is a large amount of minimum spend to hit at once.

Since the personal version will give you the pass for the rest of the year via the current limited-time offer, you can wait a few months and apply for the business version of the card later in the year when you are ready to space out your minimum spend requirements. This will also give you some time for a previous card or two to fall off your Chase “5/24” radar.

Currently, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card offers 60,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months. Upon meeting the minimum spend on this card, that will give you a total of at least 97,000 points earned just with the bonus offers and spending to trigger those offers (34,000 points from the personal card + 63,000 points from the business card). This means with just the two credit card offers, you are already at 97,000 qualifying points — leaving you with just 13,000 more points to go by the end of 2019 to have the pass for all of 2020.

Just make sure that the points earned from the credit card sign-up post in 2019, so don’t wait too close to the end of the year.

Points earned from the Southwest Business card will also get you one step closer to earning the pass for 2020.

2. Make Regular Purchases on Your Southwest Credit Card

Your family’s everyday purchases can also count toward the Southwest Companion Pass. If you are able to earn the 97,000 from being approved for both the personal and business card, this means you’ll “only” need to spend $13,000 between the two cards. While I understand that can still be a lot for a family, you’ll have the entire year to spend the money assuming you get the personal card with the limited-time Companion Pass offer now. If you break the spending out over an 11-month timeframe, that means spending $1,182 a month on your card over and above the minimum spending requirement.

Again, only purchases made before your December 2019 statement closes will count toward the 110,000 qualifying points you’ll need in this calendar year, so don’t cut it too close.

Smiling young woman holding a credit card and typing on a laptop.
Use your Southwest credit card for all purchases throughout the year.

3. Shop Online

Anytime you go to shop online, remember one thing: Go through the Rapid Rewards shopping portal first if you are pushing for the full Companion Pass. With this online portal, you’ll earn Southwest bonus points for almost every single purchase you make online at more than 800 partner merchants (think Gap, J. Crew, Pottery Barn, Home Depot, etc.). Once you set up your account, it takes an extra 30 seconds at most to earn points on your purchase. Just go to the portal first, search for your store and click “Shop Now.” You’ll then be directed to the store’s regular shopping site and your purchase will be tracked in the background. While every store has its own timeframe on when the points are posted, you are typically looking at just a few weeks (although you might need to wait up to 10 weeks).

To make your life easier, there is also a plugin where you can install the Southwest shopping portal in your browser and every time you go to a partner store, a pop-up will appear essentially asking you if you want to activate earning points. Say yes! They are literally handing you points without you even having to remember to go to the portal site first.

While earning bonus points on your purchases is great, the points earned also count toward your Companion Pass. You might be surprised to see how many points you end up earning throughout the year on purchases you were going to make anyway. Not that periodic sitewide bonuses that award bonuses for sitewide spending (like 1,000 bonus points for $350 in purchases) won’t count toward earning the pass.

4. Fly Southwest

Although you’ll receive 30,000 bonus points as part of the sign-up offer, if you are trying to earn the pass for 2020 as well, you might want to instead pay for your Southwest flights throughout 2019 until the Companion Pass is secured. This is because paid flights (versus flights booked with points) will earn you points toward the Companion Pass. You can then use those 30,000 bonus points for other family members’ flights.

The number of points you earn on Southwest depends on the fare type purchased:

  • Wanna Get Away Fare: 6 points per dollar spent
  • Anytime Fare: 10 points per dollar spent
  • Business Select Fare: 12 points per dollar spent

Since you’ll already have the Companion Pass for 2019, my assumption is that you’ll actually fly quite a bit on Southwest throughout the year. If you take four flights at a cost of $250 per round-trip on a Wanna Get Away Fare, that will earn you approximately 6,000 points toward the pass (taxes/fees paid do not earn points, so make sure to take that into consideration).

5. Credit Partner Bookings to Southwest

Southwest has many partners where if you credit your reservation/purchase to Southwest, you can actually earn a decent amount of points throughout the year. Some popular partners that can really increase your point balance (and count toward the Companion Pass) include:

  • Rocketmiles — A third-party hotel site where you’ll earn a set number of airline miles instead of the hotel points you’d earn directly with a hotel. When searching through the Rocketmiles site, make sure to select the “Southwest Rapid Rewards” option in your search criteria. You’ll then see an entire list of participating hotels and the points you’ll earn.
  • Rental Cars — You’ll earn 600 Southwest Rapid Rewards points per rental with Alamo, Avis*, Budget*, Dollar, Hertz, National, Payless and Thrifty. With Avis and Budget, only participating locations allow you to earn partner miles/points (usually limited to just on-site airport facilities. Note: Some discounted rates (typically corporate rates), do not allow you to earn partner miles or points.
  • 1-800-FLOWERS — Use promotion code RR22 and you’ll earn 1,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points on every purchase over $29.99. 

Bottom Line

I love how the limited-time Chase Southwest credit card offers make it easy to get the Southwest Companion Pass very early into 2019, while also adding to the qualifying points you need to retain it for all of 2020. Why settle for one year of the Southwest Companion Pass when you can get two?

Jennifer Yellin covers family travel deals for TPG and blogs at Deals We Like. Follow her family’s adventures on Twitter and Instagram.

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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.