Reader Request: Help Me Understand Southwest Companion Pass Before My Head Explodes

FeaturedImageI created The Honeymoon Guy to help others get great honeymoons and vacations so I welcome emails, Facebook posts, etc. from readers looking for travel guidance.

Well the Southwest Companion Pass is a hot topic these days.  A friend was asking me questions about it last week.

Then yesterday, a reader named Kathy G. emailed me (with a funny subject line – see this post’s title), asking for clarification on the topic:

I’m so sorry to admit that at the ripe old age of XX (age redacted for privacy) I just don’t get it!  I’ve read thru your posts on Southwest’s credit cards with bonus miles – the best by far, btw – and also went to Flyertalk, which was much less clear.

Here’s my question – husband and I have excellent credit and a business with a TIN.  We want to apply for both the personal and the business cards.  Our only travel is 3 times a year to TPA… So my confusion comes as to when (if?) we should apply for it this Fall, and if so, when?  Should we have one in his name and one in mine?  We both have RR accounts.

Maybe I’ve just been reading too many posts but I’m so confused as to the spend date and the billing date that I wonder if I shouldn’t just wait and apply in November and forget about having 2 years of the CP.  I’m so afraid I’ll goof up the dates and end up with nothing for next year, let alone 2017!

Many thanks for any advice AND thanks for having such a great website – very helpful!

Kind regards,

Thank you for reading, Kathy!  Thank you also for the compliments on the site!  I’m happy to answer your questions.

Kathy, and others, shouldn’t feel bad at all for being confused about the Companion Pass.  Timing the acquisition of the pass correctly yields a huge payoff but it can be a bit tricky!

Since Kathy read my previous posts on the Southwest Companion Pass (CP) she probably understands the basics of the CP and so I won’t rehash them all here.  For anyone else interested in getting the CP, after you read this post, check out these other posts for all the details you’d ever want to know about getting the CP:

Now, Kathy’s request for clarification breaks down into two fundamental questions.  One is timing related and the other is account related.

I’ll address the account-related question first.

One Rapid Rewards Account or Two?

Kathy asks:

Should we have one [credit card] in his name and one in mine?  We both have RR accounts.

Featured Image for CP Info Post
If you’re looking to use credit card signup bonuses to get you towards a Southwest Companion Pass, make sure the signup bonus points are all going to the same Rapid Rewards account.

The answer to this question is straightforward – you want to get both cards in the same person’s name and ensure that both cards are associated with the same Rapid Rewards account.

If Kathy and her husband each get their own Rapid Rewards credit card with a 50k point signup bonus, they’ll each be well short of the 110k point threshold for the CP.  Southwest doesn’t offer an option to combine accounts or transfer points between them, not even for spouses.

Some folks have applied for a Southwest credit card using their own information and their spouse’s Rapid Rewards account number.  This has usually ended poorly so I definitely don’t recommend doing so.

However if Kathy (or her husband) gets two Southwest credit cards with 50k point signup bonuses, both in her name, after meeting the minimum spending requirements she’ll have earned at least 104k Southwest Rapid Rewards points.  If those points are all earned in the same calendar year, Kathy (or her husband) is well on her way to the 110k point requirement for CP!

How Should I Time My Applications?

Kathy writes:

So my confusion comes as to when (if?) we should apply for it this Fall, and if so, when?  ….  Maybe I’ve just been reading too many posts but I’m so confused as to the spend date and the billing date that I wonder if I shouldn’t just wait and apply in November and forget about having 2 years of the CP.  I’m so afraid I’ll goof up the dates and end up with nothing for next year, let alone 2017!

When someone obtains the CP, they’re awarded it effective immediately for the remainder of the calendar year in which they earned it, and also for the entire subsequent calendar year.  For example if a CP is obtained in the beginning of November of this year it will be valid for November and December of 2015 and all of 2016, which equates to 14 total months of validity.

If instead that person obtains the CP in the beginning of February of 2016, the CP will be valid for the remaining 11 months of 2016 and all of 2017, for a total of 23 months of validity!

You can see from those two examples that timing is important for maximizing the CP!

Understand These Dates to Avoid Disappointment

So let’s dive deeper into the details.  Kathy was asking about spend dates, billing dates, etc.

There are three major dates to focus on if you’re looking to time the CP acquisition and get maximum value:

  • Account approval date
  • Statement closing date
  • Date on which minimum spend requirement is met

Account Approval Date

If you received an instant approval when applying online, then the approval date is the same as the application date.  If you weren’t approved instantly, but approved day(s) after submitting your application, then the approval date is of course after the application date.  At any point after your account is approved you can call Chase to learn of or confirm your exact account approval date.

The account approval date is important because you officially have 3 months from this date to meet the minimum spending requirement.  Years ago Chase reps told me that Chase gives consumers some “margin” and actually allots 103 days from account approval for the minimum spending requirement to be met.  However, when I’ve asked about spending requirement deadlines recently, the reps have replied by simply adding 3 months to the approval date.

In other words, if account approval date is 18 October 2015, the spending requirement must be met by 18 January 2016, at least according to most of the reps I’ve spoken with recently.  It’s possible that Chase has tightened up their policy.  It’s also possible the 103 day policy remains but that reps are either unaware of it or have been instructed to advise customers of a simple 3 month window to avoid confusion.  I wouldn’t recommend taking a chance with this.  If at all possible, be sure to meet the spending requirement within 3 calendar months of account approval date.

Statement Closing Date

Whenever a Southwest credit card statement closes, Chase’s system calculates the earned points, including any bonus points, for that statement and then transfers the appropriate number of points to the cardholder’s Rapid Rewards account.  This transfer usually takes place 1 or 2 days after the statement closing date.

This is an important date in the context of the CP because of the calendar year nature of pass qualification.  If you earn 50k points in December of 2015 and 65k points in January of 2016 you won’t get CP for either year based on those earnings alone.  You must earn the 110k CP-qualifying points within a calendar year.

So to maximize CP duration you really want to meet the spending requirement for Southwest credit cards early in a calendar year.  If you meet the spending requirement in December but after the December statement closing date, then the Rapid Rewards points won’t actually be transferred into your Southwest Rapid Rewards account until the January statement closing date (or a day or two after).  This can of course work out in your favor.

Date on Which Minimum Spend Requirement is Met

Of course Chase will only award you signup bonus points after you’ve met the minimum spend requirement.  The points will be transferred into your Southwest Rapid Rewards account a day or two after the statement closing date for the statement period in which you met the spending requirement.

For example, if you meet the spending requirement on 12 Feb 2016 and your next statement closes on 02 Mar 2016, then you should receive the signup bonus points around 03 Mar 2016.

So What Should the Plan be for Kathy and Others?

My recommendation for Kathy and others interested in the CP is to apply for two of the Southwest cards between mid-October and late November of this year.  If your account is approved in mid-October you’ll have until mid-January to meet the spending requirement.  If you wait a bit longer to apply, and get approved in late November, you’ll have until late February to meet the spending requirement.  It is very important though that you monitor your spending and ensure that you don’t meet the spending requirement until 2016 (or at least after your December 2015 statement closes), or the bonus points will be issued in 2015.

If you won’t naturally meet the spending requirement of two cards ($2,000 each x 2 = $4,000) simultaneously then you may want to stagger your applications (i.e. apply for one card in mid-October and apply for another later this calendar year or early in 2016).

Credit card offers do change so there is certainly a chance that one or more of the current offers get reduced in the next couple weeks but that isn’t very likely in my opinion (the personal Premier link below is valid until 15 Jan 2016).

Which Cards To Get?

Though it is not always the case, all three major Southwest cards are currently available with 50k point signup bonuses.  Two of those are personal credit cards and one is a business credit card.  Because Kathy and her husband have a business they have two primary options to get over 100k points toward the CP – two personal cards in the same person’s name or a business card and a personal card in the same person’s name.

Three Southwest Card Images
There are three Southwest credit cards currently offered. They are all somewhat similar and look alike in general but have some different features.

The Southwest Airlines® Rapid Rewards® Plus (personal) card has a $69 annual fee.  Each year upon renewal the cardholder receives 3,000 extra Rapid Rewards points.  See this post on how to access the 50k point signup offer for this card.

The Southwest Airlines® Rapid Rewards® Premier (personal) card, which as of writing has a 50k point signup bonus offer, has a $99 annual fee but has two significant benefits above and beyond the Plus card: the cardholder receives 6,000 (instead of the 3,000 for Plus) extra points each year when the card is renewed and the card doesn’t have any foreign transaction fees.

The Southwest Airlines® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Card, also available with a 50k point signup offer as of writing, is analogous to the personal card of the same type.

Many people have obtained a personal Plus and a personal Premier card in the same day.  My most recent experience involved getting the personal Plus card first and then getting the personal Premier card a month or two later.  A Chase rep did question why I wanted a second Southwest card so shortly after I received one.  I explained that I was going to be traveling internationally so I wanted the Premier card because it doesn’t invoke foreign transaction fees and also to keep certain expenses separated.  My explanations worked!

Is There Anything Else to Be Aware Of?

Yes, there are several other notes of interest:

  • Credit card annual fees are not purchases so they do not count toward the minimum spend requirement.
  • The behavior of Chase’s system if you surpass the minimum spend requirement and then return an item is unpredictable.  Depending on timing of algorithm runs your account may be registered as having met the minimum spend requirement.
  • The points you earn for purchases made with the card post a day or two after the statement closing date.  If you make $1,500 of purchases in November but hold off until January of the following year to surpass the $2,000 minimum spend threshold, you’ll still have the 1,500 points from the $1,500 of purchases in November but they won’t count towards the CP because they were earned in a previous calendar year.
  • Only posted charges count toward the minimum spend requirement; pending charges don’t.  It is common for it to take a day or two for a purchase to post so keep this in mind if you’re cutting it close in terms of meeting the minimum spend deadline.
  • The bonus offer for each of the aforementioned cards is available to you as long as you have not received a new cardmember bonus for the same product in the past 24 months.

What Next?

Kathy, I hope the advice here pays off for you and your husband.  Once you’ve earned 110k+ points and obtained your CP, it’s vacation time!  With TPA as your general destination, I suggest checking out Siesta Key beach, directly west of the airport.  It’s one of the best beaches in the world!

Siesta Key
With a Southwest Companion Pass, Kathy and her husband can fly to TPA and check out Siesta Key, shown here, one of the best beaches on Earth!

Good luck and please follow-up with any additional questions and to let us know how your CP pursuit worked out!

Have you acquired the Companion Pass?  How’s it working out for you?  Share with us in the comments below!

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6 thoughts on “Reader Request: Help Me Understand Southwest Companion Pass Before My Head Explodes

  1. Thank you so much for answering my questions! I’m definitely applying for 2 Southwest Rapid Rewards cards right around the middle of October. I know I ended up doing too much research online, so your comments really cleared things up for me! And thankfully, you reached out to me before my head exploded – my grandkids are so relieved – lol! Best regards to you!

    1. Hi Kathy! Glad the post helped you understand the Companion Pass acquisition process better! Feel free to follow up with any further questions/requests through the comments section here. That way other readers can learn also or even chime in with their suggestions. Good luck!

  2. Hey Michael – my husband got an application via email last week for the Premier business card so I went ahead and filled it out today using my name. With our business, I’m the treasurer so it was easy enough to do. I took advantage of the extra card for an additional “employee/owner,” but they didn’t ask for his Rapid Rewards number, so hopefully, we’re good. I was approved within 3 or 4 minutes, which is good. Next, I’m going to apply for the SW Premier personal card and want to be sure I use the correct link from your website. Do you think I should apply right away or wait a day or two? Let me know if I can just use the link from your post above. Hope all is well – I’m looking forward to (hopefully) getting the companion pass by the end of January but nice having until mid-February just in case.

    1. Hi Kathy!

      That’s great! Make sure the Rapid Rewards account you enter is the same for both the business and the personal card. You need the 100k bonus points from the two cards to post to the same Rapid Rewards account.

      When applying for one business card and one personal card it’s not very risky to apply for both within a day of each other. If you don’t get instant approval for the Premier personal card, you may want to hold off on calling in to Chase right away. A lot of people are reporting that they’re not getting instant approval but without calling Chase the card application is still approved within a week or two. On the other hand, some folks that have called in lately have been given a bit of a hassle lately.

      Let me know how it all turns out!

  3. Hi Michael – I applied for the SW Rapid Rewards Premier personal card online last Wednesday (using your link!) and got a screen asking me to call a 1-800 number. I did, answered a few questions and was told I would know within a week or two whether or not I was approved. You had emailed me that some people were calling CS and not getting the results they hoped for, so I decided to wait and see what happened.

    Received my Premier Personal card (and the one I requested for my husband, linked to my Rapid Rewards account) today. I was pleased to see that mine has my RR number actually imprinted right on it.

    I can’t thank you enough for guiding me thru this process! I have activated all the cards and will put a minimal amount on each one before the end of the year. Thank you for hosting such an informational website! I’m spreading the word!

    1. That’s excellent news! Glad you got another approval!

      Having read your note about the business card (that you requested it for your husband but linked it to your RR account) my one suggestion is to keep an eye on that account.

      When your first statement for the business card closes, make sure that any points associated with spending for that statement cycle show up in your Southwest Rapid Rewards account. If the business card has your name and your RR account number on it, you should be all set. If the business card has your RR account number on it but your husband’s name on it then you might run into an issue. Some people have had issues with Chase not posting RR points if the cardholder’s name doesn’t match the name on the Rapid Rewards account. I’m not sure if that describes your situation or not and I believe the issue arises moreso for personal cards than business cards but it’s something to keep an eye on, and you should know very quickly (after the first statement closes) if there’s an issue.

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