Be Strategic: When to Apply for the Southwest Credit Cards

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With the increased Southwest credit card bonus offers that were just announced, you might be wondering if right now is the best time to apply for the card. Or, maybe you should wait until later this year to apply? I’ll help you figure out the best time to apply for one depending on your end goal…

While the points you receive just for signing up are great, one of the real reasons many readers apply for these cards is due to earning the amazing Southwest Companion Pass. The Southwest Companion Pass allows another passenger to fly with you for free an unlimited number of times for the life of the pass!

Key Links: 

Southwest Credit Card, Southwest Companion Pass

Applying for the Southwest credit cards will get you one step closer to the Southwest Companion Pass

Fortunately, the bonus points earned from the sign up offer count towards the 110,000 qualifying points to earn the pass. If your goal is to earn the pass primarily by applying for the Southwest credit cards, you’ll want to be strategic in your timing since all the points earned have to be in the same calendar year and do not carry over to the following year. The pass expires December 31st the year AFTER the pass is earned.

Earning the Pass for 2019 and 2020

If you want to earn the Southwest Companion Pass to use in 2019 and 2020 then right now is the perfect opportunity to apply for the credit cards. You’ll actually want to apply as soon as possible and then also meet the minimum spend quickly. This will allow you to start using the pass sooner than later. Although keep in mind it will probably only give you 14 months to use the pass. With that being said, that might be extremely helpful if you have many Southwest flights already planned in 2019.

Unfortunately, Chase changed the rules last year where you couldn’t have two personal Southwest credit cards open at the same time. Although they still allow you to have a personal and business card open (or two business cards, if you qualify). This means you can earn 40,000 points with one of three personal cards and then 60,000-70,000 points with one of the two business cards. This will then give you 100,000-130,000 points from the welcome offers alone. Since you only need 110,000 qualifying points to earn the pass, you’ll receive the pass right off the bat. Hello free flying! NOTE: Starting Jan. 1, 2020, Southwest will require you to earn 125,000 points to earn the Companion Pass.

TIP: The points earned from the welcome offer will post to your account within 2-3 business days after your statement closes where you meet the minimum spend, NOT when you actually make your purchase.

(Photo by Ralph Freso, Getty Images)

Earning the Pass for 2020 and 2021

If you are not flying Southwest in 2019 and instead believe you’ll fly more in 2020 and 2021, then you might want to hold off on earning the pass right now. Which also means you’ll want to hold off a few weeks to actually apply for the card(s). Personally, this would be my recommendation.

With the Southwest Credit Card offers you have three months to meet the minimum spend requirement. That brings you into mid-December if you were to apply now — meaning the points will post in 2019. You do NOT want this to happen. As mentioned above, the 110,000 qualifying points must be earned in the same calendar year and qualifying points do not carry over to the following year. On January 1st, the counter will start back at zero.

For this situation, you’ll want all points to post in 2020. Best scenario is when points post in January 2020 so you’ll have the pass as long as possible — almost 24 months. Ideally, applying for the Southwest credit cards in the fall works well for this situation, which is right around the corner. You apply for the cards between October and December and then meet the minimum spend on January 1st. This means, you just need to hold off a few weeks to apply until Oct. 1st hits. Fortunately, the offers will still be around at that point, so do not worry!

(If you want the points to post in 2020 and just applied for the card, there are some possible work arounds, if needed).


The Southwest credit cards are a great way to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, but you’ll want to make sure to time it correctly. I’ve had the pass for the past 11 years and it has saved my family thousands of dollars over the years. I love the flexibility that Southwest offers and the fact that I can use my points to fly for free while also adding my companion to the ticket (and my companion flies for free as well!). The Companion Pass is extremely easy to use with hardly any restrictions. As long as there is one seat left for sale on the flight, the seat is yours. No blackout dates, no capacity control, no route restriction — truly no strings attached).

Learn more about Southwest Companion Pass

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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.


  1. How do you have it for 11 years? After qualifying by getting the cards, then what do you do after the two years run out? Just spend that same qualifying amount each year? Seems a lot!

  2. I need clarification with the timing of the points. I have a personal southwest visa card in Jan and I have about 50K points now. If I apply for a business card, I can get an additional 60K or the new business card will give me 80K. When should I apply for the business card and when should I complete the minimum purchase so it will be good for late 2020.

    Thank you!

    • @Larissa – Great question! Since you already have the 50k points in your account now, you’ll want the 60k/80k points to post to your account in 2019. This means you’ll want to apply for the card asap and meet the minimum spend asap as well. This will then get you the pass for 2019/2020 (expiring December 31, 2019).

  3. I own a small business and have never had a SW card. I only have around 3000 SW points earned with paid flights.
    I have no new cards in the past 5 years and excellent credit.
    So to be clear, to reach companion pass status in early 2020 which would last until 12/31/2021, my best strategy would look like this:
    1) Apply for the personal card in November 2019 (assuming it offers 40-60,000 points) and start using the card immediately but don’t go over the $3k minimum spending required until after 1/1/2020 thus actually earning the 60k points in 2020
    2) Apply for the business card in December 2019 (offers 60-80,000 points) but also don’t go over the $5k minimum spending until after 1/1/2020 which would earn the 80,000 points in 2020.
    Does this sound correct?
    Thank you!

    • @rick – Correct, although I would maybe apply for the business card first. The business card is definitely harder to get approved for. Although since you have a small business shouldn’t be as difficult. Enjoy the companion pass for 2020 and 2021!

    • @Kathleen – If it POSTS in January, then it will go towards the 2020 qualifications. Theoretically, if you meet the minimum spend in December AFTER your December statement closes, then the points will post in Jan.

  4. I just got a different offer in the mail today for the Southwest Plus Card. The offer is for 10 points per dollar on your first $6000 in purchases in the first 6 months of the account being open. This sounds like a pretty good deal but I guess we’d have to wait to start spending until early 2020 so that most of the 60k points post in 2020. What do you think about that offer vs the one online?

  5. So do you cancel your credit cards and start over to get more points since you can only have 2 cards at once or are you just able to spend a lot to get up to the 110,000 points?

  6. Hello! I need some advice since I just got approved for the SW Biz card 9/24. I haven’t received the card yet and the closing date for first statement is Nov. 10th,2019. 90 days from being approved is in December, what would be a work around for my welcome points being able to post within 2020, like the timeframe? Am I pushing it or should I just meet 110k by 2019 to be safe Please help with this. I will hold off until 2020 for the personal card. Thanks!

    • @Vsn – Typically with Chase cards you actually have 103 days from being approved to meet your minimum spend. I would call Southwest and ask when the exact date is for your application. If it is a date that is after your Dec. statement close date and you want the points to post in 2020, then meet the minimum spend after your statement close date (which I assume is Dec. 10th) and before the timeframe where you have to meet your minimum spend. Points do not post until a few business dates after your statement closes, so anything put on your card after your Dec. statement close date will not post until after your Jan. close date. Hope that makes sense. If not, feel free to send me an email!

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