Toward the end of the year I get lots of questions about the timing of the Southwest Companion Pass, which lets one person fly free with you for up to two years after you earn 135,000 qualifying points.

My family uses this amazing benefit to fly all over the United States AND the Caribbean almost entirely free!

Download my free cheat sheet below that shows you 10 Things You Must Know to Earn the Southwest Companion Pass:

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You can also watch my live webinar below where I explain timing the Southwest Companion Pass, as well.

 

 

Top Tips for Southwest Companion Pass Timing

Trust me, you don’t want to mess up the timing on this, as I’ve seen WAY too many readers miss out because of missed timing!

Why Timing the Southwest Companion Pass Is Important

Go to Travel Gal Southwest Companion Pass 2018
Timing the Southwest Companion Pass is KEY!

1. You MUST earn all 135,000 points within ONE CALENDAR YEAR (that’s January 1 to December 31)!! So if you don’t get ALL of the required points by the end of the year, you start at ZERO. Don’t make that mistake! If you learn nothing else from this post, make it this!

2. The Companion Pass lasts the longest when you earn it as close to the BEGINNING of a calendar year as possible. That’s because the pass is valid from the time you earn it until the END of the following year.

So earning it early in 2021, for example, means it will be good for the longest possible time: until the END of 2022. That is almost TWO FULL YEARS, which is ideal.

At the end of the year, lots of people are trying to figure out if they should go for the Southwest Companion Pass in the current year, especially if they’ve already earned a huge chuck of the 135,000 points so they don’t go to waste, or wait until early January of the following year to start at 0 points to start earning a pass that will be good for the following year AND the year after.

Southwest Companion Pass Timing

 

The Difference in Earning the Pass This Year Versus Next

2020 Southwest Companion Pass

A 2020 Southwest Companion Pass will let you fly one person free with you (aside from the mandatory $5.60 security fee each way) through December 31, 2021. 

2021 Southwest Companion Pass

A 2021 Southwest Companion Pass will let you fly one person free with you (aside from the mandatory $5.60 security fee each way) through December 31, 2022.

So you can see why some would prefer to earn the pass early the NEXT year, making it good for nearly two years

 

Which Should I Go For?

Of course, we have no idea if the Companion Pass will still be around in any given year or how they will change the rules, especially in light of COVID craziness. For example, as of January 1, 2020, the increased the number of points required to get a pass from 110,000 in one year to 135,000 in one year.

They also made a significant change to the rules January 1, 2017 that no longer allowed points transferred from hotel loyalty programs to count toward the pass, and in 2018 no longer allowed people to hold two personal Southwest credit cards. Each year it’s become a bit more difficult to secure the pass.

I’m an advocate of getting it now while we definitely know it’s available, especially if you already have a bunch of points that qualify for the Pass!

Plus, THIS YEAR Southwest gave everyone who had a Rapid Rewards account as of April 1, 2020, 25,000 points toward a Southwest Companion Pass. These points CAN NOT be used to book free flights, so they don’t show up in your main Rapid Rewards points total. Instead, they show up on the screen shown below on the “dial” that shows you how many points you’ve earned toward Companion Pass.

Those points will disappear January 1, so if you don’t earn your Companion Pass this year, you effectively let these go to “waste.”

To check how many Companion Pass-qualifying points you have, go to Southwest.com, log in to your Rapid Rewards account and click on Rapid Rewards/My Account (top right).

You’ll see the below screen and under “Earn your next Companion Pass” will be a snapshot of how many of the 135,000 qualifying points you’ve earned.

Companion Pass progress

If you go for a pass this year, remember, you can always earn it again in early 2022. If you follow my process, it’s actually quite easy to keep earning it over and over.

I’ve earned all four of my passes in December, making them only good for one year! I just keep earning it again every year…

You may want to check out how I earned my 2017 Southwest Companion Pass, which is pretty much the same way I do it every year. This is one of my most popular posts!

 

The Quickest and Easiest Way to Earn a Southwest Companion Pass

Earning a Southwest Companion Pass is most easily accomplished by signing up for a Southwest credit card and earning its bonus offers, which DO count toward the points you need to qualify for the Companion Pass.

To apply for any of the credit cards included in this post, please start at the TRAVEL CREDIT CARDS link in my main menu above (shown in the image below) or use the links in this post. This helps me to earn a commission — at NO COST TO YOU — to support our free content like this post! Thank you for taking this step!

travel credit cards link

Right now, you can earn 65,000 points after completing a $2,000 minimum spend in 3 months when you are approved for any of Southwest’s three personal credit cards. 

This offer ENDS Monday, September 14!

These include:

Compare and contrast these cards HERE.

You’re eligible for this offer if you don’t currently hold a Southwest personal card (if you do, you can close it) AND if you haven’t earned the bonus on ANY personal Southwest card in the last 24 months.

You can either complete your minimum spend this year BEFORE your December close date and get the points for a 2020 pass or complete your minimum spend AFTER your December card close date for a 2021 pass good through the end of 2022. Keep reading to find out more about the timing.

 

Timing Your Credit Card Applications

All that said, you have to time your application and completion of the minimum spend (after which your points will be awarded) correctly!

You MUST complete your minimum spend within THREE months of the card’s approval date (NOT when you get it in the mail or activate it).

 

For a 2020 Pass (good through 12/31/2021)…

If you’re going for a pass this year, apply for the Southwest personal card as soon as possible. You will need to complete the minimum spend BEFORE your December credit card close date (see next section), so make sure that is reasonable without putting yourself in debt.

 

2021 Pass (good through 12/31/2022)…

If you’re going for a pass next year, you’ll need to complete your minimum spend AFTER your December close date (and there’s no way to know what date that will be until you get the cards) so the points will credit in January, counting toward a 2021 pass.

Since you have three months from card APPROVAL to meet the minimum spend, you’ll want to apply CLOSE to the deadline of September 14. so you can postpone completion of the minimum spend until AFTER your December close date. More about this in the next section…

 

Your Plan for Timing the Minimum Spend Completion

Rapid Rewards Shopping

You have 3 months from the date of card approval to complete your minimum spend in order to earn your bonus points.

If you want to earn a 2020 pass, your points MUST CREDIT by December 31, 2020.

If you want to earn a 2021 pass, your points MUST CREDIT on or after January 1, 2021.

Timing is critical. 

Because your points are credited upon the credit card closing date (different from your payment due date) in which the minimum spend was completed — and according to MillionMileSecrets.com, you should complete your spending five to 10 days BEFORE the close date to ensure everything has processed — you need to have a plan in place.

 

1. Find out the close date of your credit card in December (it is generally the same date every month).

This will be listed on your statement OR if you just applied for the card, you can call or message Chase to ask when the closing date is. You can REQUEST TO CHANGE your closing date if you want to make the timing easier. 

 

2.  Decide if you want to earn the pass this year or next.

 

3. If you want a 2020 pass, complete your minimum spend five to 10 days BEFORE your December 2020 credit card close date.

Keep in mind things like returns, automatic payments or credits. I had a reader, who because of a refund she wasn’t expecting, caused her NOT to meet the minimum spend as she had planned.

 

4. If you want a 2021 pass, complete your minimum spend AFTER your December 2020 credit card close date.

I suggest you call Chase and ask them to move your close date to early in the month, say December 3. That way you have time to meet your minimum spend AFTER the close date but BEFORE your 3-month minimum spend deadline (which would be December 11, if you were approved for the card September 11).

I have confirmed with Southwest that purchases made in December AFTER your credit card close date will count toward your minimum spend completion in January AFTER your January credit card close date.

Again here, don’t forget about ANYTHING you may have put on the card, on autopay, etc., which could cause your card to meet the minimum spend BEFORE you intended.

 

Too Much Stress?

If you want a 2021 Companion Pass and this is all a bit too stressful ;-), wait until next year to apply for your cards.

You can still apply for the Southwest cards next year (though we don’t know what the offer will be; they’ve never been less than 40,000 points) to help you more easily earn the Companion Pass. Then take your time completing the minimum spend, knowing it will FOR SURE credit in 2021.

Let me know in the comments if you’ll be going for a 2020 or a 2021 pass and if you have any questions, as I know the timing can get a bit confusing.

Author

  • Lyn Mettler

    Lyn Mettler is a longtime travel writer for US News & World Report, USA Today 10Best and The TODAY Show who created Families Fly Free, a program which teaches families her simple system to use travel rewards to fly for free.

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