Southwest Companion Pass Year End Considerations and Preparations

I’ve written a few times about the Southwest Companion Pass.  The Companion Pass is undoubtably the best frequent flyer incentive for domestic travel.

With a calendar year end coming up quickly, it’s important for you to review your Southwest Companion Pass strategy.

A Quick Southwest Companion Pass Review

  1. Earn 110,000 qualifying Southwest points in a calendar year, and you’ll receive a Companion Pass.
  2. The best way to get a pass is by getting a Southwest personal card (with 50,000 point bonus), and a Southwest business card (with 50,000 point bonus), and then find a cheap way to earn the extra 10,000 points.
  3. The Companion Pass is valid from the date you earn it until December 31st the year after you earn the pass.
  4. With a Companion Pass, anyone you designate can fly with you for no charge – includes both revenue tickets and award tickets.  The companion does need to pay the taxes and fees of up to $5 each way.
  5. You can change your designated companion three times.  That means you can start with person A and then change it to B, C, and D.

Unless you’re forced to, I wouldn’t recommend going for a Companion Pass right now.

Why?

If you get it now, it will be valid until December 31st, 2013.  However, if you wait until early January or February 2013, you’ll get it until December 31st, 2014.  That’s almost two years of free companion flights.

You might consider getting it now if you don’t think you can reach 110,000 points next year, but you can this year.

Remember, Southwest has two personal cards.  If you already have the bonus for one, you could wait until next year and then apply for the other Southwest personal card and the business card.  That means you’re not exactly out if you’ve already applied for the personal card.  There is, of course, the risk that you won’t be approved for a second Southwest personal card.  I know I had one version in February and then in November I applied for the other version and was approved with the bonus (but I had to cancel the other card).  Still, your miles will vary.

Risks to waiting:

There might not be another 50,000 point promotion.  I’d say this is a low risk since they seem to do it every two or three months.  The other risk would be if their system didn’t allow bonus credit card miles to count towards the pass.  I don’t think either of these are big risks, but I wanted to mention them.

A Few Ways to Get the Additional 10,000 Southwest Points

  1. Transfer American Membership Rewards Points to a qualifying hotel program.  30,000 American Express Membership Rewards to Choice Privileges account.  You can then transfer those Choice Privileges points for 9,000 Southwest points.  From there, you can get the extra 1,000 points with a $1,000 credit card spend.
  2. Buy enough points to transfer into Southwest.  Remember, you can’t buy Southwest points and have those count towards the pass.  However, you can buy points and transfer them into Southewest.  The best way to do this would be to buy 30,000 Marriott points for $375.  When you transfer those points to Southwest you’ll end up with 10,000 Southwest points.  The Southwest points (10,000) are worth $208 worth of Wanna Get Away fares, so essentially you’re paying $167 for at least a year worth of free flights.
  3. Transfer Ultimate Rewards points to a qualifying hotel program.  This could include either Marriott or Hyatt.  Again, you’d need 30,000 Marriott points.  With Hyatt, you could transfer 20,000 points into 9,600 Southwest.  From there, you’d only be within 400 of your miles needed and you could probably do that with spending.
  4. Other existing hotel balances.  If you have Best Western or Wyndham points, you can also transfer those to Southwest.

Back when I got the Companion Pass, I used my Membership Rewards points and transferred them to Choice.  With the potential value in the new Avios program I wouldn’t do that today.  Instead, I’d probably take the $167 hit and just buy points from Marriott.  My last choice would be to transfer Ultimate Rewards, as they are just too valuable.

Questions?

Comments

  1. Paul S. says

    There are two personal cards? What is the other one? Can you apply for both at the same time or a few months apart? For those of us without business income, that may be the only reasonable way to get the companion pass.

  2. Kurtis says

    You mentioned transferring UR points to a hotel program then to Southwest. Couldn’t a person just transfer UR points directly to Southwest?

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