Now is the Time to Apply for the Southwest Airlines Credit Card for Earning the Companion Pass...

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    Earlier this month, Southwest announced that their 50,000 point offer after meeting the minimum spend requirements is back for all of their four co-branded Chase credit cards. Many people gain interest in the Southwest Airlines credit card as the bonus points earned from opening the card count towards earning the Southwest Airlines companion pass. Since you have three months to meet the minimum spend requirement, that takes you into January 2014.

    Key Link: Apply for the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Card and earn 50,000 points after spending $2,000 within the first three months.

    Once you accrue the necessary 110,000 points to earn companion pass status, the pass will be available for you for the entire year it was earned PLUS the entire following calendar year. So if you earn the pass in 2013, your pass will be active for the rest of the year and all of 2014. If you earn the pass in 2014, it will be available to you for 2014 and 2015.

    If you want to earn the companion pass for 2014 and 2015, you must meet the minimum spend requirements in 2014. The 50,000 points after meeting the minimum spend will hit your account a few days after your statement closes when the minimum spend is hit.

    So let’s go through a few scenarios:

    • Scenario 1: You apply for the credit card now and get approved. You receive the card and spend $2,000 on it immediately. Your statement closes on November 18, 2013 and has $2,099 in charges. You have met your minimum spend requirement and the 50,000 points will post to your account probably around November 23-ish. Those 50,000 points count towards the companion pass earning for 2013. Additionally, the 2,000 points earned from credit card spend will also post to your account at the same time and count towards companion pass earnings for 2013. Once January 1, 2014 hits those points will NOT carry over.
    • Scenario 2: You apply for the credit card now and get approved. You receive the card and spend $1,999 on it immediately. Your statement closes on November 18, 2013 and has $2,098 in charges. There is a $99 charge for the credit cards annual fee. The credit card charge does NOT count towards hitting your minimums spend requirements. Around November 23-ish, 1,999 points post to your account and count towards the companion pass earnings for 2013. On December 20 you spend $100 on your credit card and puts you over the $2,000 to meet your minimum spend requirement and you’ll earn the 50,000 points. The 50,000 points will not hit your Southwest account until a few days after your next billing statement. So your next statement closes January 18, 2014, which means those 100 points from your credit card spend and 50,000 points for meeting the minimum spend will not post to your account until January 23-ish. You now have 50,100 points towards the companion pass earnings in 2014. The 1,999 points you earned in 2013 will NOT carry over.
    • Scenario 3: You apply for the credit card now and get approved. You receive the card and put it in your sock draw and do not use it. On your next billing statement you will only receive a charge for your annual fee. Even though you haven’t used the card, make sure to pay the annual fee amount (of either $69 or $99 depending on which card you apply for). On January 1, 2014 you spend $2,000 on the card. You’ve met the minimum spend requirements! Your statement closes on January 18, 2014 and you must pay the $2,000 in charges. On January 23-ish, the 2,000 points earned from credit card spend post to your Southwest account along with the 50,000 points earned from meeting the minimum spend requirement. These 52,000 points count towards companion pass earning for 2014.

    Remember, you must earn 110,000 qualifying points in the same calendar year to get your companion pass. As of right now, the 50,000 points you earn from the credit card is worth a flat $833.33 towards a Wanna Get Away fare. However, once you earn the companion pass that points can really be worth $1,666.66 if you take a companion with you on every flight where you use points. Keep in mind though this is the valuation of today, starting March 31, 2014 points will be devalued and 50,000 points is worth $714.28. Still a great value for a credit card sign up, but unfortunate that there is a devaluation.

    There are currently four different Southwest Airlines co-branded credit cards – 2 personal and 2 business and all four come with the 50,000 point offer that counts towards the companion pass. Remember, you must earn 110,000 qualifying points in the same calendar year to get your companion pass. The points also must hit the same account and cannot be transferred between accounts. If you and your spouse apply for the card, you both will end up with 52,000 points in your account, but they cannot be combined. An individual account must earn the 110,000 points.

    Here are some of my top Southwest Companion Pass FAQs:

    Flying limitations: With the companion pass there are no black out dates or seat restrictions – if there is a seat available for purchase, it is available for your companion. The companion pass can even be used if points were redeemed for a free flight. This can result in both passengers going FREE (plus the ~$5 taxes/passenger)!

    Number of times the companion pass can be used: Unlimited! There is no cap on the number of times the pass can be used.

    Who can be a companion: Anyone can be your companion – friends, family, a complete stranger. However, the companion pass can only be switched up to three times during the validity of the pass. Since you need to allocate your companion when getting the pass, this allows you 4 people to use the pass (those people can be repeated and put back on as the companion as well but counts as one of your allowed changes). To change your companion pass, call Southwest Customer Service (1-800-IFLYSWA) and they will easily assist you on the spot.

    Companion pass expiration: The companion pass is valid the remainder of the year it was earned plus the following calendar year. For example, if you earn the pass November 2013, you will have it for the rest of 2013, plus 2014. If you earn the pass in January 2014, you will have it for the rest of 2014, plus 2015.

    Credit card to help earn the companion pass: You can apply for the Southwest card here. There are four cards in total, two personal and two business versions, but remember, the cards have different annual fees and bonus points after each year. ALL of them have the same bonus offer after meeting the minimum spend requirements.

    Let me know if you have any questions!

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