If you’ve been contemplating a plan to earn a Southwest Airlines Companion Pass during 2020, I’ve got bad news for you: the airline just raised its qualification threshold from 110,000 to 125,000 Rapid Rewards points (HT to Doctor of Credit). You’ll have to earn ~18% more points than originally planned in order to get your Companion Pass. If you were hoping to knock this criterion out of the park early in the year to give you more time to enjoy the benefits (for the rest of 2020 and all of 2021) then those plans are sidetracked, too.
Two other lesser changes: points will no longer expire (matching Delta) after 24 months, and there’s added clarification that making same-day flight changes still requires A-List and A-List Preferred members to pay government taxes and fees.
There are two main ways to earn a Companion Pass: complete 100 flights or earn 110,000 Rapid Rewards points. Because Southwest doesn’t obviously differentiate between redeemable and elite-qualifying points, you can include the points you earn from a credit card toward that 110,000-point total. However, there are a large variety of other sources that don’t qualify, so you may want to read up on DoC’s guide to earning the Companion Pass. Frankly, I’m surprised that the credit card bonus still works when Southwest has found a way to exclude all these other methods.
This is not necessarily surprising as it’s very easy to earn Rapid Rewards points with one of the several Southwest Airlines credit cards issued by Chase, and the sign-up bonuses on these cards have been increasingly generous. And since points are earned based on spend, you would expect to earn more points over time as inflation raises the nominal cost of travel. (Flying may be cheaper in real terms than it was two or three decades ago, but in many cases you still pay more dollars.)
Doctor of Credit thinks today’s change wasn’t provided with enough notice because some people are already applying for a credit card with plans to earn the bonus points and count them toward next year’s pass. But we’re two-and-a-half months from 2020. Most cards have a a three-month period for qualifying spend to earn bonus points and the points need to post in January to matter. Personally, I think if you are applying this early then that’s a risk you choose to take. Many airlines have made a habit of announcing changes to their programs in October or November.
Even with the changes, the value of the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass is incredible for those who are able to make frequent use of it. With new flights to Hawaii, there are more opportunities than ever to take advantage of that savings. I love my Alaska Airlines $99 companion fares, but Southwest’s deal is even better.