Update 12/4/22: The increased consumer offers mentioned in this post are scheduled to end on 12/5/22. For current offer information, see our Best Credit Card Offers page.
Yesterday, a member of our Frequent Miler Insiders Facebook group shared a Southwest Companion Pass strategy that was so brilliant that I couldn’t help but share it. I can’t believe I haven’t seen this suggested before, but if you have a family of at least four people and you can qualify for new Southwest Airlines credit cards, this could be a great play to slash the cost of your flights for nearly two full years.
Companion Pass Basics
The Southwest Companion Pass is arguably the best deal in domestic travel and we recently dedicated an entire episode of our podcast to the fact that now is the time to consider going after it.. For those unfamiliar, the gist of it is that if a member earns earn 135,000* Companion Pass-qualifying points within a single calendar year, a companion can fly for free with the Companion Pass holder an unlimited number of times for the rest of that calendar year and all of the next calendar year (they just pay the taxes for their ticket). This is true whether the Companion Pass holder’s ticket was purchased with miles or money and their companion can be added at any time up until 10 minutes before takeoff as long as there is any seat left for sale on the flight (it doesn’t need to be in the same fare class). Furthermore, the companion can be changed up to 3 times within a calendar year.
*Note: The requirement has historically been 125,000 Companion-Pass qualifying points within a single calendar year, but this figure is increasing to 135,000 points in 2023. Those who have a Southwest Airlines credit card will get credit for 10,000 Companion Pass-qualifying points and will therefore need to earn an additional 125,000 points within a calendar year.
The easiest way to earn the Southwest Companion Pass is through credit cards, but you’ll need to be aware of the application rules surrounding Chase credit cards.
Keep in mind that in order to get approved for these cards, you’ll need to be under 5/24.
|Chase's 5/24 Rule: With most Chase credit cards, Chase will not approve your application if you have opened 5 or more cards with any bank in the past 24 months.
To determine your 5/24 status, see: 3 Easy Ways to Count Your 5/24 Status. The easiest option is to track all of your cards for free with Travel Freely.
There was a time this year when we were receiving reports that the Southwest cards (at least temporarily?) may not have been subject to the 5/24 rule, but I’m not aware of any long-term change on these cards (if you have recent data points indicating that the rule isn’t being applied to the Southwest cards, please share them in the comments).
Furthermore, you have to understand that the welcome bonus on a Chase consumer card is not available to you if you:
- Currently have a Southwest consumer card
- Have earned the welcome bonus on a Southwest consumer card in the past 24 months
The restrictions above do not apply to the business cards. Rather, for each of the two business cards, you can not earn the welcome bonus again if you currently have that specific business card or if you have earned the welcome bonus on that specific card within the past 24 months. Earning the welcome bonus on one business card does not prevent you from also earning the bonus on the other business card, nor will business cards prevent you from getting the bonus on a consumer card or vice versa. I do not believe you can get the same Southwest business card for multiple businesses, but you can get each of the two business cards if you’d like.
|Applying for Business Credit Cards
Yes, you have a business: In order to sign up for a business credit card, you must have a business. That said, it's common for people to have businesses without realizing it. If you sell items at a yard sale, or on eBay, for example, then you have a business. Similar examples include: consulting, writing (e.g. blog authorship, planning your first novel, etc.), handyman services, owning rental property, renting on airbnb, driving for Uber or Lyft, etc. In any of these cases, your business is considered a Sole Proprietorship unless you form a corporation of some sort.
When you apply for a business credit card as a sole proprietor, you can use your own name as your business name, use your own address and phone as the business' address and phone, and your social security number as the business' Tax ID / EIN. Alternatively, you can get a proper Tax ID / EIN from the IRS for free, in about a minute, through this website.
Is it OK to use business cards for personal expenses? Anecdotally, almost everyone I know uses business cards for personal expenses. That said, the terms in most business card applications state that you should use the card only for business use. Also, some consumer credit card protections do not apply to business cards. My advice: don't use the card for personal expenses if you're not comfortable doing so.
If you currently have a Southwest card but earned the intro bonus more than 24 months ago, you can close your current Southwest card and open a new one (best practice is to wait at least a few days to a week before applying again to give the system time to realize you don’t still have the card). The important date is when you last earned a welcome bonus, not when you opened or closed the card. The 24-month clock starts when you earned the bonus.
Finally, understand that Chase business cards do not add to your 5/24 count, but Chase consumer cards do. In other words, while you’ll need to be under 5/24 to qualify for either card, a Southwest business card will not increase your count. For that reason, you may want to apply for business cards first. For instance, if you are currently at 4/24, it is possible to get approved for a Southwest business card and you’ll still be at 4/24 and could get approved for a Southwest consumer card. However, if you first applied for a Southwest consumer card, your count would increase to 5/24 and you would no longer qualify for another Chase card.
|Chase 5/24 semantics ("Subject to" vs. "Count towards"): Most Chase cards are subject to the 5/24 rule. That means the rule is enforced in making approval decisions. In other words, you probably won't get approved if your credit report shows that you opened 5 or more cards in the past 24 months. Meanwhile, most business cards (such as those from Chase, Amex, Barclaycard, BOA, Citi, US Bank, and Wells Fargo) are not reported on your personal credit report. These cards do not count towards 5/24.
Example: Chase Ink Business Preferred is subject to 5/24, so you likely won't get approved if over 5/24. If you do get approved, it won't count towards 5/24 since it won't appear as an account on your credit report.
Southwest card multi-referrals
In part, the strategy below leverages Southwest’s cardholder-friendly multi-card referrals to make it possible for one player to earn the companion pass from two new card bonuses and the other player to earn the companion pass from one new card bonus and two referrals. Points earned from referrals are Companion Pass qualifying.
The key thing to understand is that if you have a Southwest credit card, you can refer someone to any of the 5 currently available Southwest credit cards (one of the 3 consumer cards or either of the 2 business cards) and you receive a referral bonus no matter which card your referee chooses (provided that they click through your link to apply). In other words, if you have one of the Southwest consumer cards, you can refer someone to sign up for a Southwest business card or one of the other consumer cards — once they click through your link, they can choose whichever of the Southwest cards they want. That’s going to make it possible for 2 people to each get the Companion Pass with just 3 total new cards.
To find your Chase Southwest referral link, go to the Chase Refer-a-Friend portal and enter your card information.
A 3 Card, 2 Companion Pass Strategy
This strategy is so simple that I can’t believe it never occurred to me before and it is very doable for a couple of people working together in two-player mode provided that they are both eligible for Chase Southwest Airlines credit cards.
For the rest of this post, I’ll refer to P1 for “Player 1” and P2 for “Player 2” — two imaginary people working together (perhaps a married couple or two family members, etc). Here’s the strategy:
P1 opens the Southwest Performance Business credit card under the current welcome bonus of 80,000 points after $5K in purchases in the first 3 months (valid at the time of writing). Wait to meet the spending requirement until January. You want the welcome bonus points and the points from spend to post in January 2023 or later (so you may hold off until December to set this strategy in motion if you think you’ll need more time to meet the spending requirements). This puts P1 at 85,000 points in early 2023.
In January 2023, P1 refers P2 for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business card (note that you could alternatively refer P2 to the Performance Business card if you want more points and can meet the higher spend). P1 earns a referral bonus of 20,000 points for this referral upon P2’s approval. P1 now has 106,000 Companion Pass Qualifying points.
P2 earns 60,000 points after $3K in purchases in the first 3 months for a total of 63K points with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business card (at the time of writing).
Also in January 2023, P1 refers P2 for a Southwest consumer credit card. All three cards currently (at the time of writing) offer the same welcome bonus of 75,000 points after $3K in purchases in the first 3 months. I’ve argued that I think the Southwest Priority Card is the best of the bunch given its features, but with all three consumer cards currently offering the same welcome bonus it doesn’t matter which you open for the purposes of this strategy. P1 earns a bonus of 20,000 points for this referral upon P2’s approval. P1 now has 125,000 Companion Pass qualifying points. Since P1 is a cardholder, they get credit for 10,000 points toward the Companion Pass on 1/1/23 and therefore P1 earns a Companion Pass by earning 125,000 qualifying points and having the credit for 10K points toward the Companion Pass.
P2 earns 75K points after $3K in purchases in the first 3 months for a total of 78K points. Added with the 63K points from the business card, P2 has earned 141,000 points and a Southwest Companion Pass.
In total, Player 1 and Player 2 would have at least 267,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points (worth well over $3,000 towards airfare) and two Companion Passes after a total of $11K in purchases. If Player 2 opted for the Performance Business card instead of the Premier Business card, they would need to spend an additional $2K on purchases, but the two-player team would earn a total of 290,000 points plus the two unlimited-use Companion Passes good through 12/31/2024. That’s nearly 2 full years of 2 Companion Passes assuming both players can meet the spending requirements of the cards in early 2023.
This is a solid strategy that could work out very well for a family. Consider two parents who travel with two kids pursuing this strategy: they would end up with enough points to book $3,000+ worth of airfare for P1 and P2 and then be able to add P3 and P4 to those trips for just the taxes. It isn’t accurate to say that the points are worth double with the Companion Pass, but at the end of the day you’ll be able to get $6,000+ worth of airplane seats for $3,000 or $3,000 worth of points. That’s a pretty incredible haul.
Possible snag: current consumer offers will end in December
The strategy above sounds great with one catch: the currently-increased welcome offers on the Southwest consumer cards are scheduled to end on December 5, 2022. That means that in order to get the current welcome offers, P1 would need to refer P2 to a consumer card before 12/5 (the business card offers currently have no scheduled end date and have carried their current bonuses for a long time).
Because of that, P1 would need to refer P2 to a consumer card before 12/5/22 in order to earn the points as outlined above. The potential problem with this strategy is that by referring P2 in 2022, there is some risk (though I think it is small) that the 20K referral bonus points for referring P2 could post in 2022 and then P1 would be 20K points short of the Companion Pass in 2023. However, there may be a workaround.
Southwest points that come from credit cards – whether welcome bonus points, referral points, or points from normal spend – typically post to your Southwest account after your following statement cuts. Referral bonus points are frequently slower to post, sometimes taking two statements.
If P1’s statement cut date is in early December (let’s say December 1st), P1 should be able to refer P2 after the December statement period has ended (i.e. on December 2, 3, or 4). The 20K referral bonus points (and any points earned from spend or welcome bonuses) usually do not post until at least the next statement cut date, so with this strategy I think P1 could refer P2 to a Southwest card on, for example, December 3rd and P1 would earn the 20K referral bonus points in January 2023. I believe it should be possible to call Chase and change your statement cut date to the 1st of the month if you have recently opened a card and you want to pursue this strategy. Alternatively, if P1 opens their business card around December 1st, their first statement likely will not cut until January and it should theoretically be safe to refer P2 and hope the points all post in 2023.
Obviously also keep in mind application strategy regarding 5/24. If P2 is at 4/24, they will want to apply for a Southwest business card first. P1 would need to refer P2 first to the business card and then to the consumer card. I’d be sure to have P2 start fresh and click through the referral link again to start the second application. It’s been years since we last did this in my household, but my wife opened both a business and a consumer card on the same day years ago. I believe that is still possible.
The strategy above will require $11,000 in total spending, but the return is huge: at least 267,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points and two unlimited-used Companion Passes good through December 31, 2024 if you play your cards right. This strategy does rely on both players being able to qualify for Southwest credit cards, but if you’re in that situation and you need two free companions, this seems like a great way to do it. Sure, both players could alternatively get two cards each to achieve a Companion Pass (and still potentially take advantage of multi-referrals to pick up another referral bonus!), but I thought this strategy was brilliant in its simplicity and efficiency. For a family of four that primarily travels to destinations served by Southwest Airlines, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better strategy to cover domestic travel.