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Last week I
To earn CP status, it takes 110,000 points to be earned in a calendar year. Points are most typically earned by flying… and that is a lot of flying, which means a lot of money, so how is it so attainable?
Well, surprise surprise, this is where credit cards come in. Southwest has 4 branded credit cards, and the sign-up bonus on these cards range from 40,000 to 60,000 depending on the current offer.
How’s this work?
Sign-up bonuses are triggered after an established “minimum spend” has been hit on a card. Most verbiage sounds something like this: “Spend 1,000 in the first 90 days of having the card and you’ll get an extra 40,000 points”. Now the key thing about this sign-up bonus is that it counts towards the 110,000 points needed to get the Companion Pass!
Southwest could always change it’s policy, but for now, this works! Unfortunately, other methods, like transferring points from partners, does not count towards the Companion Pass.
The role of Credit Cards
I know lots of people are really iffy about the whole credit card thing. And trust me, I understand. Credit is a big deal these days, and you should always try and be educated about any credit-related decisions you make. Need a refresher? Head here for a crash course and here to dispell any myths.
The reality is, without credit cards and their sign-up bonuses, the Companion Pass is sorta unattainable to most people. But with credit cards, it becomes a possibility.
Credit Card Options
Southwest has 4 branded credit card products. The Premier, the Plus, the Priority, and their business card. Three personals and one business. It used to be relatively straightforward getting to 110k points – just apply for two personal cards on the same day at the same time. But back in April, Chase added some fine print that restricted you to 1 personal card at a time. This makes it a little more complicated to get to 110k points.
First, I’m going to run down some timing specifics. How the
Timing is key
The Companion Pass is good for the remainder of the calendar year it is earned in and the following year. Because of how I time my spending, I technically apply for the cards the year before I want the Companion Pass and then ensure that the bonus hits my account right after January 1st of the next year. There is a 90-day window to get the sign-up bonus, which is how this is possible
Typically every year, the Southwest cards get an increased sign-up bonus to 60,000 points. That doesn’t always happen, but I wouldn’t recommend applying for their cards when they are showing under 50,000 sign-up bonus points unless you have to.
In early October 2017, the Southwest personal cards had an increased sign-up bonus of 60,000 points that was going to end on October 5th. Sarah applied for both personal cards on October 4th and after a call to Chase’s reconsideration hotline, she was approved. Side note: don’t apply for credit cards when you are outside of the country. Banks might not take you seriously.
After sorting out that issue, both cards came in the mail and we were in the clear. The only thing left to sort out was making sure we timed the spend right. The key to this is not spending too much too early, while also making sure you can hit the spend. For example, I knew we’d be good hitting the $4k spend ($2k on each card), because our car insurance was about to be due.
Any points you earn during a month will hit your Southwest account several days after the end of your billing period. Since we applied on October 4th, our billing period ended the 4th of each month. I made sure that we stayed below our $2,000 minimum spend until after our December post date. Once December posted, I knew I had the entire month to hit that minimum spend and every dollar I spent would count towards the Companion Pass because my next post date was January.
That probably sounds pretty complicated, so let me sum it up. There are 3 months to hit the minimum spend, which triggers the sign-up bonus. Applying after October 1st puts the minimum-spend-eligible post date in the next year. The first two months of card ownership, don’t spend more than $1,750 on each card (just for some wiggle room). Then once the December post date is over, finish the minimum spend, which triggers the sign-up bonus and it posts early January.
What if I mess up?
Best-case scenario, two cards are applied for and their sign-up bonuses hit in January with enough points to automatically qualify for the Companion Pass.
As a reminder, Companion Pass status is earned based on 110,000 points in a calendar year, so while the worst case scenario probably precludes you from CP status, you still have over 100,000 SW points to play with.
I’m sure the whole timing discussion was very soothing. Haha, yeah right. Another option, of course, is just to apply in December or January and not worry about the timing. That is definitely the safest option, but for me, the 60k point offer was about to
Timing: Check. Now What?
I’ve run through the options on timing that will maximize the time with the Companion Pass and now to look at some different options. Now that Chase restricted users to 1 personal card at a time, Companion Pass status is a little more complicated.
Option 1: Personal + Biz
If you have any kind of side hustle, the Companion Pass is pretty attainable. Southwest’s business card usually sits at a 60k sign-up bonus, which is more than halfway to CP status. And as a bonus, business cards don’t hit your personal credit score or count against Chase’s 5/24 rule (no more than 5 cards opened with any bank in the previous 24 months). With 1 business card (60k points) + 1 personal card (40k – 60k points), you’ll be close to CP status or there already!
Option 2: Personal + Personal
The Companion Pass is tied to one person’s account and points earnings. Therefore, the same person has to earn all of the points for them to count towards the Companion Pass. It is possible to earn the Companion Pass with two personal cards, just won’t be as lucrative as the other option.
I would look into applying for a personal card in October, November or January and hitting the minimum spend. Use the card faithfully for the next 10-12 months and then cancel it shortly before the annual fee posts. Once you do this, you’ll be free to apply for another personal card with Chase and earn the sign-up bonus on that card before the calendar year is up. This will get you CP status for any remaining months, plus the entire next year.
This isn’t a perfect solution but is the best option available if you are unable to apply for a business card.
The Simple Summary
Companion Pass status is hands-down one of our favorite travel perks. We’ve spent the first four years of our marriage traveling all over for only $5.60 per person each leg of the trip and while points got us places, the Companion Pass stretched them twice as far!
Earning the Companion Pass has gotten more complicated, but it is definitely doable. 10/10 recommended; and even if it doesn’t work out, you’ll still have an account full of points! Comment below with questions or drop a note at [email protected]