If you are a loyal blog follower, you already know that I absolutely love the Southwest Companion Pass. It has allowed me to save thousands and thousands of money over the past 10+ years and is by far my favorite perk in the entire points and miles world. While there are many ways to earn the pass, one of the easiest and most common ways is by applying for one (or two!) Southwest co-branded credit cards, including the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, and Southwest Rapid Rewards Business Premier Credit Card. This is because the bonus points earned from the sign up offer count towards the 110,000 qualifying points you need to earn within the calendar year to get the companion pass. Getting the bonus offer for one card gets you more than half way there and getting the bonus offer for two card automatically gets you the pass!
If you are looking to go the credit card route to earn the pass, that is great, but make sure to not make these mistakes!
1. Points reset on January 1st
All qualifying points towards the companion pass reset on January 1st of every single year. That does not mean you lose your points to redeem for a free flight, it is just that the companion pass counter resets back to zero. So if you have 50,000 points now for example, and are looking to earn another 60,000 points from the credit card, those 60,000 points must post to your account in the same calendar year, regardless of when you make the purchases. Let’s say your statement close date is December 15, 2018. If you meet your minimum spend on December 16, 2018, those points should not post until your January statement closes, so most likely January 18th-ish. Even though the purchases were made in 2018, since the points do not post till 2019, those 60,000 points will count towards 2019 and will not be combined with the 50,000 points earned in 2018.
2. Credit card fraud will trigger the bonus points to post
For those looking to earn the pass for 2019/2020 you want to make sure to not hit your minimum spend until January 1, 2019 or after. However, if your credit card number is stolen and someone charges $500 to your card (and it goes through), for example, if that puts you over the minimum spend, the points will post to your account. If the points post in December, that will count towards your 2018/2019 companion pass points and NOT your 2019/2020 companion pass points. Even if Chase is able to square away the fraud activity and remove the charges from your account, it will still trigger the points to post, even if the deduction was made during the same billing cycle. And unfortunately Chase and Southwest will not make any accommodations to help you out! Because of this, I personally recommend not putting even a cent on your card until January 1, 2019. The more transactions you make, the higher your risk of someone stealing your credit card number.
3. Going over your minimum spend, then making returns in the same billing cycle will still trigger the bonus points to post.
If you are looking to earn the pass in 2019/2020, make it your job to make sure you do not hit the minimum spend on your card in 2018. Once you hit the minimum spend, even if you make a return within the same billing cycle to theoretically put you under the minimum spend threshold, the points will post after the statement closes. If you happen to do that now, the points will post in 2018 and the counter will be reset come January 1st.
4. Purchases made after your December statement closes should not post until 2019, but tread with caution
Points earned from the companion pass typically post a few days after your monthly statement closes. So purchases made after your December statement closes will not post until a few days after your January statement closes. Theoretically that means if you are looking to earn the pass for 2019/2020, purchases made in December after your December statement closes will not post until 2019. And while 99.99% of you will not have an issue with this, you do not want there to be an error that causes your points to post in 2018. While I have never heard of a scenario where Chase post points right after the purchase was made, stranger things have happened and you might not want to be the one to test it out! You also want to 100% make sure you are aware of your statement close date — this is different then your statement due date!
5. Points post after your statement close date, NOT your billing due date
There are two different dates that come with each statement — your statement close date and your billing due date. Points earned will post a few days after your statement close date for all purchases made within that statement period, NOT your billing due date!
6. Points typically post a few days after your statement close date, but it could take longer.
99% of the time your points will post a few days after your statement close date and if the points earned from that statement put you over the 110,000 qualifying point mark, you’ll earn your Companion Pass within a day or two. Once you earn your pass, you can use it immediately! For those looking to to take a trip in late January or February, you are going to want to earn the pass as quickly as possible. But if the points do not post after the first statement cycle and instead do not post until the 2nd cycle, you might not earn the pass in time for that upcoming trip. Unfortunately, I have heard of a few reports where this did happen. Make sure to always book a fight for the passenger just in case the companion pass doesn’t come through in time. If you wait until the last minute, the price for that ticket might be astronomical. If you book ahead of time with points, you can always cancel with no fee. Also, since Southwest does not overbook their flights this also means that there is a seat for you in case the flight is sold out when your pass eventually does come through.
7. The Annual Fee Does Not Count Towards the Minimum Spend
The three personal cards require you to spend $1,000 to earn 40,000 points and then an additional $11,000 to earn 20,000 more points, while the business card requires you to spend $3,000 to earn 60,000 points. When calculating your minimum spend, keep in mind that the annual fee charged to your card DOES NOT count towards the pass! If you just look at your total charges for the statement, your annual fee will be included, so take that charge into consideration (for the billing cycle where the annual fee is charged).
The Southwest Companion Pass is awesome and it allows a companion to fly with you an unlimited number of times during the life of the pass. The pass is valid for the remainder of the year it is earned, plus the entire following calendar year. So if you earn the pass in December 2018, it will be valid through December 31, 2019. However, if you earn the pass in January 2019, it will be valid until December 31, 2020 — giving you almost two years of the pass! You can change your companion up to three times per year, which is great! This allows flexibility to have a friend, family member, whoever you want to fly with you throughout the year for almost free! You just pay the taxes/fees.