TPG credit card reader question: When does Southwest calculate Companion Pass points?
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This is the time of year when a lot of people start planning their next year's elite-status strategy for their favorite airlines and hotel brands, including which benefits they can maximize. Although it's not really a tier of elite status, one of the most valuable airline benefits a lot of people look forward to earning each year is the Southwest Companion Pass. The Companion Pass is basically a two-for-one travel certificate good on both paid and award travel – and depending on how much you use it, it can amount to tremendous savings.
With the Southwest Companion Pass, timing is everything, though. You must earn 125,000 Companion Pass-qualifying points in a calendar year to achieve it. For that reason, it's important to understand how Southwest calculates these points and when you can expect them to be credited to your Rapid Rewards account. Thinking ahead, TPG reader Kyle asked the following question:
[pullquote source="Kyle H."]The Southwest points from my first statement hit my account one day after statement closing. Does Southwest calculate Companion Pass points by the date they hit my Southwest account or the actual date of charge?
I appreciate any feedback.[/pullquote]
Let's dive in and see if we can shed some light on Kyle's query.
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An overview of the Companion Pass
The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most coveted benefits in travel, and it can save Southwest frequent flyers thousands of dollars each year in flight costs.
Essentially, the Southwest Companion Pass lets the holder bring a designated friend or family member for (almost) free on any Southwest flight they take. You just pay the taxes and fees on the second seat reservation. The benefit can be used on both paid and award tickets, which makes it even more valuable.
To qualify for the Companion Pass, you typically have to earn 125,000 qualifying points or take 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year. The Companion Pass is then valid for the rest of the calendar year in which you earn it, plus the entire following year. This means that the earlier in the year you can earn the pass, the more time you have to squeeze as much value as possible from the benefit.
While not all Rapid Rewards points count toward qualification requirements, points earned with one of Southwest’s cobranded credit cards (including those that come with the sign-up bonuses on the cards) do count toward earning the Companion Pass.
When does Southwest start calculating Companion Pass-qualifying points?
Because timing is everything with earning the Companion Pass, Kyle brings up an excellent question. That's because not only do you earn Companion Pass-qualifying points from flying Southwest but you also earn them based on spending with a cobranded Southwest Airlines credit card, among other activities.
With the former, Southwest tells us that any Companion Pass-qualifying points from flying will post within 72 hours of completion of your entire trip.
However, the points you earn from credit card spending can appear in your Rapid Rewards account up to 30 days after your statement cycle date, not on the date of a transaction itself. This includes not just everyday purchases, but also the sign-up bonus you'll receive after achieving minimum spending requirements with a new Southwest credit card.
For those who spend money on a Southwest credit card in December 2021 but don't see the points hit their Rapid Rewards account until January 2022, those points will count toward 2022’s Companion Pass qualifications. With some strategic spending you could credit both your new Southwest credit card sign-up bonus and your day-to-day purchases toward earning the Companion Pass in 2022 and then have it for the rest of that year plus all of 2023.
When should you earn the Companion Pass?
If you've been eyeing the Companion Pass, it's best to earn it as early in the calendar year as possible. Remember, it's valid for the remainder of the calendar year in which you earned it as well as the following calendar year. By earning the Companion Pass in January, it'll be valid for nearly two full years.
To do so, you could open a Southwest credit card now, but be sure you don't achieve the minimum spending requirements until January. That way you know for certain they'll post in 2022 and will count toward the Companion Pass in the coming year rather than for the end of this one.
What makes this such a compelling plan at this moment is that there are currently massive bonuses for all three personal Southwest cards.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card are all offering up to 100,000 bonus points after you meet the following tiered spending requirements:
- 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
- 50,000 additional points after you spend a total of $12,000 on purchases within the first 12 months of account opening.
Earning one of these full bonuses will nearly get you nearly all the way to a Companion Pass. Just keep in mind that you can only hold one at a time and that these cards are subject to the Chase 5/24 rule.
To game this out, let's say you opened one of the new cards now. You'd have to be careful not to hit the first $2,000 spending tier until after your final statement in 2021 closes (assuming you get one in December). Then you would need to hit $2,000 as quickly as possible for 2022 and start swiping your card toward the $12,000 second tier to earn the full 100,000 points as early as possible in 2022. By meeting the spending requirements and earning the 100,000 bonus points in 2022, you should have at least 112,000 Companion Pass-qualifying points in your account. You'd then need just 13,000 more to get the Companion Pass, and you can earn those through a combination of spending and flying.
Depending on how fast you get to that finish line, you could score the Companion Pass for nearly two full years.
The points you earn from Southwest credit cards are not credited to your Rapid Rewards account based on your transaction dates, but rather once they post to your account after your card's statement closes.
That's what makes now the best time to open a Southwest credit card. You can wait to earn the bonus until January, which will help you to earn the Southwest Companion Pass early in the new year, giving you nearly two years of effectively BOGO flights.
Again, all three Southwest personal credit cards are currently offering up to 100,000 bonus points after you meet tiered spending requirements. This is the highest point bonus we've ever seen for these cards and provides an easy path toward earning that ultra-valuable Companion Pass.