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The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most rewarding travel perks available with airline loyalty programs. Essentially it is an unlimited Buy One Get One (BOGO) for you and a designated companion — even on award tickets! However, in line with most other companies that have devalued and changed their reward programs in the last couple of years, Southwest has announced some changes to the Companion Pass program effective January 1, 2017.
The Companion Pass
The Companion Pass is very straightforward. Once you have earned it, you are entitled to take a companion with you when you travel, free of charge. This applies whether you have purchased the ticket outright, or are flying on a Rapid Rewards award ticket. The only cost which needs to be paid is the security taxes for the companion.
The Companion Pass can be used as many times as you like during its period of validity. You need to pre-nominate your companion; however, you are allowed to change your registered companion up to 3 times per period.
Companion Passes can be earned in two ways. You can fly 100 flights on Southwest in a year, which is not an attractive or practical proposition, or secondly, by earning 110K points in a year. The second route is one of the main ways travelers have been earning the Pass in the last few years. So far, credit card spends and bonus sign-ups have counted, as well as transfers from hotel and car rental programs. This is where Southwest is implementing some changes from January 1, 2017; which points will count is being redefined.
Points That No Longer Count Towards the Companion Pass
With a subtle but significant change to their terms and conditions illustrated below, Southwest has closed the option of transferring points from car rental and hotel programs to earn the Companion Pass. While you can still transfer the points to redeem for an award flight, they won’t count towards the Companion Pass.
Historically, Chase Ultimate Rewards points could not be transferred and credited towards Companion Pass eligibility. While this remains the case, from now on other transfers into the Rapid Rewards will no longer count either. The good news is that Southwest co-branded credit cards signup bonuses and spending still count, which is one of the main strategies most people use to earn sufficient points for a Companion Pass.
Terms that no longer allow transferred points to count towards earning the Companion Pass
A Member who earns 110,000 Companion Pass Qualifying Points or who flies 100 qualifying one-way flights booked through Southwest Airlines per calendar year will qualify for Companion Pass. Companion Pass Qualifying Points are earned from revenue flights booked through Southwest Airlines, points earned on Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Cards, and base points earned from Rapid Rewards Partners. Purchased points, transferred points transferred between members, points converted from hotel and car loyalty programs, and e-Rewards, e-Miles, Valued Opinions and Diners Club, points earned from program enrollment, tier bonus points, flight bonus points, and partner bonus points (with the exception of the Rapid Rewards Credit Cards from Chase) do not qualify as Companion Pass Qualifying Points. Points earned during a billing cycle on a Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card from Chase are not available for redemption or qualification for Companion Pass status until they are posted on your billing statement and posted to your Rapid Rewards Account. Only points posted on your billing statements and posted to your Rapid Rewards Account during the same calendar year are available for qualification for Companion Pass status. No points or Companion Pass Qualifying Points will be awarded for flights taken by the Companion using the Companion Pass.
These changes have killed one of the main loopholes used to boost points and earn a Companion Pass, since Chase Ultimate Rewards points could be moved to Hyatt, and then moved on again to Southwest to qualify for the Companion Pass. Alas, this is no more. Also, the changes close the loophole in Marriot Hotel + Air redemptions, which previously counted towards earning a Companion Pass.
Other Earning Options
Some options are still open to earn the Companion Pass. For instance, there are two Southwest co-branded credit cards, that will earn you a hefty signup bonus, nearly enough to qualify for a Companion Pass. Loading the cards up with shopping you intended to do anyway will yield more points, and shopping through the Southwest Rapid Rewards Program Shopping Portal will let you earn even more points towards hitting your Companion Pass goal.
Let's face it — this was too good of a deal and it had to eventually go away. However, there are still several options open and available to earn a companion pass, so to those who regularly use a Companion Pass you'll have to be more imaginative and jump through a few more hoops to earn it this / next year.
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