Southwest Airlines has announced that, effective January 1, 2023, the Southwest Companion Pass will require earning 135,000 Rapid Rewards points within a calendar year. That’s an increase of 10,000 points over the current requirement of 125K points. This only affects those looking to earn the pass in 2023 for use through December 31, 2024 — if you have earned or are en route to earning 125K points this year, you will still earn a companion pass valid through December 31, 2023.
As part of the same e-mail, Southwest also announced that Rapid Rewards credit cardholders would now get a yearly bonus of 10,000 Companion Pass Qualifying Points, effectively negating the increased qualification threshold. These points are qualifying only (not redeemable) and are awarded on the first business day of the calendar year if you hold a Southwest credit card at that time.
What it means
In reality, this is a fairly modest increase as devaluations go. The companion pass is still one of the best deals in travel (provided you can utilize it sufficiently) and the last time requirements were increased was January 2020. Southwest took the additional step of giving RR credit cardholders a 10,000 qualifying point bonus annually, meaning that those who plan to get a companion pass via credit card spend and/or bonuses will have the same threshold as before. Here’s the current list of Southwest card welcome offers:
At the time of writing, it is still possible to earn a companion pass with two new card welcome offers since there is one business card offering a bonus of 80K and a couple of personal card offers that can fill in the gap once you have met minimum spending requirements.
Now is still the best time to go after a Companion Pass
Timing is key when it comes to the Southwest Companion Pass. That’s because you need to earn the points required within a single calendar year in order to qualify but, once you earn it, your pass is valid for the rest of the year in which you have earned it AND the entire following calendar year
So, in order to maximize the value of a Southwest Companion Pass, you want to meet the spending requirements to earn your welcome bonuses as early in the year as possible. Since you usually have 3 months to meet minimum spending requirements, the best strategy is to open new Southwest cards at this time of year and then wait until after January 1st to meet the spending requirements. The bonus points will then post with your January statement and your Companion Pass will be good for nearly two years (until the following December 31st).
All Southwest cards are subject to 24-month language: if you have any of the personal Southwest credit cards currently or have received a new cardmember bonus on any of the personal cards within the past 24 months, you are ineligible for the bonus on a new personal card. You would need to close any currently open Southwest personal cards and be outside of the 24-month window since you last earned the bonus in order to earn a bonus again. Note that the 24-month clock starts when you last earned the bonus, not when you last opened the card.
Also note that all of the Southwest cards are subject to the Chase 5/24 rule.
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.
Other changes: no show policy updated / slight change to boarding policy
The other changes announced to the Southwest Rapid Rewards program are:
- Companion Pass holders can now board together with their Companions (unless the Companion Pass holder purchased a Business Select fare, purchased Upgraded Boarding, or added the Companion after they had been assigned a boarding position)
- When you book Wanna Get Away or Wanna Get Away Plus travel with your Rapid Rewards points, if your plans change and you want a points refund, you must cancel the reservation at least 10 minutes before the flight’s original scheduled departure time. Failure to cancel the trip 10 minutes before takeoff will result in forfeited points, starting summer 2023.
Previously, you could cancel award travel after a flight had departed and still get a points refund. Starting this Summer, that will no longer be possible and you’ll have to cancel at least 10 minutes before departure. This seems to be a perfectly reasonable change.
While it’s never nice to see a devaluation, it’s good to see that the Companion Pass will still be achievable with credit card bonus points (and that the requirements for credit cardholders effectively remain unchanged). The path isn’t as easy as it used to be due to the 24-month language and the Chase 5/24 rule, but it’s still possible to earn the pass through welcome bonuses. See our Complete Guide to the Southwest Companion Pass for more.
[…] you will need to earn 135,000 Rapid Rewards Miles in order to get the companion pass for 2023 (card holders get a 10k waiver). However you will only need 125,000 Rapid Rewards to get the Pass for 2022. Seeing how 2022 is […]
Can you apply for both business cards using separate LLC’s and get approved or do I need to apply for 1 business and 1 personal card at the same time for successful approval.
I wonder if this is a sign that Chase won’t increase the bonuses on the personal cards this year. If Southwest is raising the requirements, there’s too many people with a companion pass right now. For us churners, this isn’t a big deal. You can still get a companion pass with the 80K bonus on the Business Performance Card and the 50K bonus on one of the personal cards if you include the spend required to get both bonuses.
I’m failing to see how the card anniversary 10k will help early in the year, unless you keep a card with an anniversary date also early in the year. And do those bonus points count toward companion earning? I thought they didn’t.
It’s not an anniversary bonus. It’s an annual bonus. If you are a cardholder on 1/1 (or the first business day after), you get 10,000 qualifying points. I’m not sure which bonus points you’re referring to, but credit card welcome bonuses do apply towards the companion pass. The 10,000 qualifying points annual cardholder perk isn’t redeemable points, it’s companion pass qualifying only.