2 Southwest Companion Passes and a boatload of points with just 3 cards

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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.

For more detail and answers to common questions, see our Southwest Companion Pass Complete Guide.

*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.

Application Rules

Chase 5 24 Rule

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:

  1. Currently have a Southwest consumer card
  2. 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.

Bottom line

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.

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EatMoreChicken

Nick, thanks for the informative articles and podcast. My father-in-law wants to get a Companion pass using a modified P1 method: one 75k personal card, and two referral bonuses 20k ea (me and my wife). That will bring him to 118k including the $3000 to achieve the SUB. Can we use the 1000 point bonuses from 1800flowers.com w/ RR22 code seven times to achieve the 125k threshold? And if so, can I use my SW CC to pay for the expenses, but enter his RR number in the Member ID box?

Last edited 41 minutes ago by EatMoreChicken
Martina

Assuming P1 and P2 both get the companion pass in Jan 2023 – how does one go about booking flights? Can you book 4 flights under the same rapid rewards number and apply 2 companion passes (2 adults, 2 kids)?

[…] 2 Southwest Companion Passes and a boatload of points with just 3 cards […]

[…] 2 Southwest Companion Passes and a boatload of points with just 3 cards […]

Gary

Do you think there is any chance Chase will increase the sign up bonus to 100,000 points with a higher minimum spend requirement after the current offer expires on Dec. 5?

mike B

How did P1 open a 80k card with a 5k spend (85K points ) then do a referral for 20k and end up with 106K points……………..where did the extra 1000 points come from ?

Also, I recently opened a 80K business and a 75K plus Personal plus and NEITHER card is showing a referral.

You are also ASSUMING the 10K points for being a card holder is going to post in a timely manner, since this is new we don’t have any DP on when the 10K will post although it says they will post by 1/31/20xx but in reality who knows.

Same on the referrals, Chase referrals often take months to post. According to my notes my WN referral took 2 billing cycles to post so if a persons card had a closing date of Jan 15 they may not see the points until March

mike B

There are two southwest business cards so there is no need to use ANY 5/24 slots ( as long as you are below 5/24 ) to get CP.

Just get the 80K Performance Business card ($199 AF, $5k Spend) and the 60K Premier Business card ($99 AF $3K spend) .

Performance card has 4 upgrade gate boardings, unlimited wifi reimbursement and TSA precheck reimbursement…Premier gives 2 EBCI plus some other perks if you transfer points to someone so both annual fees are a wash assuming you use the benefits.

The spend is higher at $8k per person but you get more points (296K plus 40K referrals so 336K points total) and never touch a 5/24 slot.

This is what we did to get CP and I also changed our closing date to December 1 so we can start the spends around December 4 and finish up whatever we need to spend via gift cards around December 20 which should be in time for the bonuses to post on the January 3 (ish) 2023 statement giving us CP in early January 2023.

mike B

Mistake on the closing date, I asked for 3rd of the month, my next PAYMENT due date on both cards says December 1 so the statement closes a couple days later. I already paid both annual fees but won’t use either card until the December statement closes and I SM again to check the January closing date just to be safe.

Bmo

The problem with this strategy is that it requires P1 to be a card holder already. So this really takes 4 cards to do.

Bmo

Oh shoot you’re right I thought Chase separated the business from personal referrals like they do the ink cards but they don’t so your write up still holds true. I stand corrected. Good job for figuring this out!

Michael

Thank you so much for this! Such a cost saving tip! We are a family of 4 and my husband and I are going to try this and add our kids to be our companion..so what if my husband and I both have companion passes and want to take a trip without our kids. could we switch one of our companions to each other so we still can take advantage of BOGO? Does that make sense? Also can you do a podcast on timing the southwest card to the tee to get the pass for 2023 as soon as 2023 hits? Your podcasts are amazing.

LarryInNYC

Yes you could switch longer that, then switch back later. Remember, though, only three switches allowed.

DMoney

Chase isn’t very good at tracking the referrals to a particular account and secondly, it isn’t quick either to award that referral bonus. AMEX does a phenomenal job in this regard. For my most recent referral, AMEX credited the referral bonus to my account instantly after the person that I referred to applied and was approved for the card. That’s lightning fast! On the other hand, I referred my brother and brother-in-law to Chase United Cards last month and they both applied and were approved for their respective cards (one business, one personal) within a week of me sending that referral link. However, I still haven’t received the referral bonus from either applications. I see 10,000 pending points on my account, which is presumably from one of the approvals. However, those miles won’t hit my United MileagePlus account until the Nov. billing cycle ends. There is no word about the other referral bonus yet. If this holds true across the board, that’s quite a lag when you are relying on these referral bonuses to become eligible for the companion pass.

Clueless

I feel the post should specify that chase needs you to submit proof of your business for business cards. The ebay example provided in the post won’t work anymore. Its a but misleading to say the business cards are easy to get without an actual business when they are not anymore.

Clueless

Yes Nick it happened to me on 2 occasions. Once for ink once for southwest business.On both occasions they said they couldn’t find me in some sort of small business registry(forgot the name they mentioned) and asked me to send in proof of my business.

Last edited 20 days ago by Clueless
Zac

It sounds like they just can’t match up the business name with an address. This is common if you make up a business name instead of using your own name (if you are a sole proprietorship). Verifying that info then comes down to a simple utility bill with your name and address. FM has an article on how to apply as a sole proprietorship. That should do the trick.

LarryInNYC

I’ve never been asked for any proof of business. I am actually a business (freelance computer programmer) and could easily prove it, but have never been asked to. It’s always possible they have another way of knowing, but without access to my taxes I’m not sure what it would be.

J A

I’ve never encountered a “proof of business” request with Chase, and I don’t know anybody in the space who has either.

George

I go thru as many credit cards as I can per year, to get lots of Airline Miles & Hotel Points & even Cash Bonuses-about 12 credit cards per year ; & I still have a high700 / low 800 credit score.

And with Chase Banks restrictive 5/24 rule, that means that I take my business elsewhere.
That way I am not limited to just one Domestic Airline ; but can fly on many Domestic & International Airlines – all over the world, have free hotel nights, and sometimes even free cash in my pocket.

Chase Banks 5/24 policy is not only restrictive ; but I suspect that it might even be illegal, as it might violate the Fair Lending Laws !!!!
And if that’s true, any company (like Southwest) who partners with Chase Bank, would be enabling Chase Bank, for their own agendas !!!!!
But I am not an attorney.

What I do, probably takes a lot more determination, detailed planning, and is a lot more work ; but In any event, I take a much “bigger picture approach”, to marking money off of credit cards bonus offers.

But on the other hand the rewards I end up earning are more varied, more useable and much larger !!!!!

LarryInNYC

Chase Banks 5/24 policy is not only restrictive ; but I suspect that it might even be illegal, as it might violate the Fair Lending Laws !!!!

But I am not an attorney.

Well, one of those two statements is true!

What I do, probably takes a lot more determination, detailed planning, and is a lot more work ; but In any event, I take a much “bigger picture approach”, to marking money off of credit cards bonus offers.

Yes, the problem with Frequent Miler is definitely thinking too small. You should start a blog!

George

And well…. both of my statements could also be true !!!!

Because Banks are powerful, they don’t always follow the law ; but until Consumers band together and file a Class Action Lawsuit, we won’t know for sure.

Beyond that, I don’t personally have the time nor the inclination to have my own blog.

I saw this post, and just wanted to help other consumers with other greater options, that have worked for me and many others for decades to save potential way more money on travel expenses and even make money with credit cards !

But thank you for the compliment !!!!

usernamechuck

Is the 20K referral amount fairly standard? It seems to me that trying to do this in Jan/Feb makes this more of a tricky dance than may be necessary. I’m thinking that if P1 gets the 80K card on 12/1, she can refer P2 to an 80K card before 12/5, and in January once both people meet min spend we’ll have 105K (P1) and 85K (P2). As long as the 20K referral would remain available, we could refer P1 to P2 several months later (e.g. waiting for a higher offer), esp if we don’t have any SW flights in the meantime. Obviously there’s some utility in having the CP earlier in the year, but there may also be other Chase cards that one wants to get. P2 in my example will be at 4/24, so it might be preferable to wait a few months before getting the consumer card (which rarely drops below 40k anyway)

Last edited 20 days ago by usernamechuck
Jay

I don’t think the 10k bonus for holding the card is per calendar year… you would have to hold the card for 12 months in this scenario which shouldn’t count towards the 2023 companion pass until late in that year. The overall strategy still works but I think you’re over counting by about 10k. Easily made up with flowers or sw hotels of course.

Jay

Nvm just reread what you wrote… disregard. You weren’t referring to the bonus miles you get from holding the card but rather the new 10k companion qualifying bonus towards the new 135k limit.

Paul

I have benefited from credit card bonuses for years, but this strategy feels like it is over the top, ethically speaking. Southwest is a decent airline. It doesn’t feel right to take 267,000 points and two mulityear companion passes for spending $11k without ever flying.

Larry

I could live with the guilt.

LarryInNYC

Personally, I’ve never understood the economics of WHY airlines are so very determined to get you signed up for co-branded cards, but they are. They must be making money from them.

In the case of Southwest they even advertise that the credit card points are Companion Pass qualifying. No one is cheating Southwest by getting the Companion Pass through credit card signups, nor have they found a “hole” in the system that Southwest doesn’t know about.

People who earn the Pass “without flying” aty unlikely to take full advantage of it. I’m sure there are a small number of couples that make out like bandits but I’ll bet the figures are still, net net, heavily in Southwest’s favor.

Tony

Corporations are not people. They are offering these programs and utilizing them as intended isn’t out of line. And the $11k isn’t a small amount to spend. Churn and burn…the corporations will devalue on you in a heartbeat. But by all means, it leaves more for the rest of us.

Paul

Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Nick. I did not mean to question your ethics. In fact, your blog is the only one I subscribe to, and I enjoy it.

I may be projecting, but I suspect most readers of the blog who take advantage of this strategy will end up meeting the spend requirement(s) and then put the cards in their sock drawers until they cancel them when the next annual fee comes due. If that still works out well for Southwest, then I am all for it.

Nicole

Do points count toward qualifying for companion pass if they are transferred to the account from another chase card (not earned through reversals and purchases)?

LarryInNYC

While this is a great play for a family of four, it should also work for two otherwise unrelated couples that cooperate to get one pass for each couple.

As always it’s only a good value of you travel relatively frequently on Southwest with another person. While I do travel on Southwest I’m usually alone, so the world’s greatest travel deal isn’t that great for me.

Lisa

Do you think the minimum spend will go back to $1000 for the consumer card after December 5th?

Marc

Currently I have the SW PRIORITY Consumer card. I never received the bonus because I did not meet the the required spend. (I know!). I got the card in March of 22. Does this count against me? Can I get another consumer card?

Lynn

My kids played travel hockey when they were younger and we were constantly having to fly to tournaments. This got expensive very quickly. My husband and I each got a companion pass twice (so a total of 4 years) and designated our 2 boys as the companions and this made a huge difference in our budget! Wish this had been a strategy then!

mike B

That is quite the travel team, kids flying to tournaments. No wonder participation in hockey is down in a lot of areas. I played in Connecticut and had 6K fans at some games, 45 years later the school ( and others in the area) can’t even field teams and had to link up with players from several cities on the same High School team

Brant

I realize that what I’m about to say is second nature to those of us who are have been in the travel hacking game for a while, but I thought it worth mentioning to those who are new to it. The SWA Companion Pass used to require that you accumulate 125,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards points. This amount has recently increased to 135,000 RR points. At first blanch, this may seem like a devaluation of sorts. That is definitely not the case. Why? Because you are not spending any points to receive the companion pass. You are simply earning those points for you to keep and use! The bar for earning the companion pass is slightly higher, but you get to keep and use all those points for future travel and if you were to use all 135,000 RR points while traveling with a companion, it’s like using 270,000 RR points without the Companion Pass. Truly amazing redemption value here folks.

Another Jeff

If you hold a SW credit card companion pass is still 125k. You get 10k companion pass qualifying miles (not spendable) for holding a card.

Brant

Great point! Almost everyone who wants to achieve a companion pass would have a SW CC. However, for those who don’t and travel a great deal on SW, for their company perhaps, their total would be 135,000 spendable points. I was actually reinforcing the fact that, unlike using points to buy status for something like IHG Intercontinental Ambassador, the Rapid Rewards points are yours to keep and you once you earn them and you still get the Companion Pass.