2016 Prediction: Changes to Companion Pass

One of the best domestic perks you can have is the Southwest Companion Pass. If you play your cards right, you could have 2 years of travel for half the cost. I have thought this has been too easy to earn, although I won’t complain. With all the recent changes, SPG being bought by Marriott, and American Airlines devaluation, is Southwest next with the big bombshell?

**I have no actual information this will take place, but this is something I think will happen at some point, I’m thinking around April of 2016.**

What is the Southwest Companion Pass?

The Southwest Companion Pass allows you to bring an extra person (you can only change the person 3 times) for “free.” You only pay the $5.60 taxes and fees for the flight. You can use this for award flights and for paid flights. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me. This is possibly the best perk you could have if you travel domestically with a spouse/partner. Think if it as a “Buy One Get One Deal.”

How do you earn the Southwest Companion Pass?

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You need to earn 110,000 points or fly 100 one way flights in a single year, to earn this perk. Of course you can actually fly 100 one way flights, but to receive the maximum benefit, you want to get the 110,000 points in January. This will give you almost 2 years of use with the Companion Pass.

The easiest way to earn the Companion Pass is to open up 2 credit cards. Throughout the year and typically around the end of the year, Southwest increases their Personal and Business Credit Cards bonuses to 50,000 points each. Normally, the bonus is 25,000 points, so unless you need the Southwest points now, I would wait. These cards tend to have the larger bonus a couple of times a year and there seems to be phantom links available as well. Both of these bonuses count toward your Companion Pass.

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Current Bonus

 

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Current Bonus

After you reach the spending requirement, you will have a total of 104,000 points which count toward your Companion Pass total. This leaves you 6,000 points short, so you can either earn 6,000 points from spending, or you can find a back door way to transfer points to count toward the Companion Pass.

**Transferring from your Ultimate Reward points directly to Southwest will not count toward the Companion Pass**

You can transfer 15,000 Ultimate Reward points to Hyatt, then transfer from Hyatt to Southwest. You will receive 7,200 Southwest points, that do count toward the Companion Pass. You transfer at around 2:1, but you earn your Companion Pass. You must transfer Hyatt points in 5,000 point increments

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You can also purchase Choice Hotel points and transfer to Southwest, for about 3.33:1. Choice Hotel occassionally has bonuses when you purchase miles, so you could save money if you buy the points. If they don’t, you would need 24,000 Choice points to give you 7,200 Southwest points. This will cost around $264. In the big scheme, you would save more in flights, even if you purhcased these points.

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If you register your credit cards for the Southwest dining program, those points also count toward the Companion Pass. If you don’t have your credit/debit cards registered with a dining program, you should. It’s free and easy way to earn extra miles for dining out!

Why do I think this will change?

With the increase in bonuses, it is so easy to earn this benefit. Open 2 cards, spend $4,000 in 90 days, pay the 2 $99 annual fees and either transfer points or purchase points. This could all be done in a couple of days. I thought when Southwest made changes this year, I thought this was going to be part of the change. I was wrong, but I think there is no way it stays this way.

How could this change?

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading an article over at Running with Miles, where Charlie saw a Southwest credit card with a 40,000 point bonus. He posed the question that this could either be a limited time offer, or potentially the “new normal,” when it came to an increase in bonus.

If 40,000 points offers were to be the new 50,000 points, what could that mean for earning the Companion Pass? I think there are a few possible options for changes:

  1. Southwest could easily leave the 50,000 bonus offers, but increase the amount of points needed to earn the Southwest Companion Pass from 110,000 to 120,000 or more. If Southwest does this, then they look like the bad guys here and they probably don’t want that.
  2. Southwest could reduce the “new increased bonus” to 40,000 instead of 50,000 AND increase the number of points needed to earn the Companion Pass. I think this is the most unlikely, but could happen
  3. The option I think the most likely, the increased bonus offers will reduced to 40,000 points, but leaving the Companion Pass requirement at 110,000. Southwest can say they did not change the requirement, which is true. If you opened both the personal and business card, you will be 30,000 points short for the Companion Pass! This would mean you’d need to transfer 45,000 Ultimate Reward points to Hyatt or spend almost $800 to buy Choice Hotel points to earn the Companion Pass.

Any of the possibilities above would reduce the number of people earning the Companion Pass.

Overall:

This is pure speculation on my part, but I have felt for a while now that this benefit has been very easy to earn.

If Southwest were to make changes in earning the Companion Pass, this would be a big blow to possibly one of the best domestic benefits around. Southwest would still be one of the best options for domestic travel, but anytime more miles are required for a trip, nobody is ever happy.

Do you think a change to the Southwest Companion Pass is in the future? If so, what changes do you think could occur?

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