Earlier this month, Southwest announced a newer credit card offer that sounds like a stellar deal. Through Feb. 11, consumers who sign up for one of three personal Southwest credit cards and spend $4,000 on their card within three months of account opening would qualify for 30,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points and the Southwest Companion Pass for the remainder of 2019.
If you’ve never heard of the Southwest Companion Pass before, it’s a sort of holy grail among credit card rewards enthusiasts. This pass allows a designated companion to fly free with you on any Southwest flight, whether you pay for your initial fare with cash or with Southwest Rapid Rewards points. It’s a perk that lets you save money on airfare or stretch your points further by making them worth twice as much.
And since you’ve always had to earn 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points or fly 100 qualifying one-way flights on Southwest within a calendar year to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, scoring this benefit with a single credit card signup bonus sure seems like a steal.
Why This New Southwest Offer Is Mostly a Gimmick
Like any credit card offer, however, the devil with this “once-in-a-lifetime deal” is in the details. While I know firsthand just how valuable the Southwest Companion Pass can be, the lack of notice of this offer — and the incredibly short timeline for it — makes it considerably less valuable than it might be otherwise.
For example, the traditional Companion Pass offer lasts for the remainder of the year you earn it and the entire next year. Historically, this has meant that someone who earns the Pass early in the year could score this benefit for almost two years. As an example, my husband and I both earned the Southwest Companion Pass in April of 2016. Because of that timing, we were able to take advantage of our passes for the remainder of 2016 and all of 2017.
This promotional Companion Pass is only good for the remainder of 2019, meaning you won’t have a ton of time to use it. Remember that you’ll have to sign up and spend $4,000 on your card to qualify — and that you’ll have to wait until your next statement closes for your points and your Companion Pass to post to your account. It could be March, April, or May by then, meaning you’d have only six to eight months to use it.
Another downside of this offer is the fact that the signup bonus is whittled down to just 30,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points. That’s about half of what you can sometimes earn with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, or Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card. You may be getting the Companion Pass for a limited time with this offer, but you’re giving up a considerable number of points to do so.
Is the trade-off worth it? Maybe, but maybe not.
This Offer Could Be a Great Deal If…
While it’s important to understand the face value of this offer, that doesn’t mean we think it’s a terrible deal. We actually believe that having the Companion Pass through the end of 2019 could be incredibly useful for consumers in some cases.
For example, let’s say you have a ton of travel to book for the remainder of the year. If you need to book five or six flights through the end of December, you plan to bring a companion, and Southwest flies where you need to go, then pursuing this offer could make plenty of sense. While the price of Southwest flights in points varies widely, using the Companion Pass five or six times would likely be more than enough to make up for the points you give up with this offer.
Also remember that, if you have Southwest flights booked already, there’s no penalty for cancelling and rebooking a flight on Southwest. You could easily cancel your companion’s flight, get a refund, then use your Companion Pass to cover your designated companion’s fare. Just remember that:
- The price of your flight may have changed, whether in points or cash. If the price went up considerably, this may not be a good deal.
- You can only change your designated companion three times while you have the Companion Pass.
- You do have to pay airline taxes and fees for Companion Pass tickets. These range from $5.60 per leg for domestic flights to up to $100 or more round-trip for international flights to the Caribbean.
- Southwest Airlines only flies within the U.S. and to select Caribbean destinations. If you want to fly to Thailand or China, this offer is the last thing you need.
Think the Southwest Companion Pass Offer is Underwhelming? Try This Instead
If you’re on the fence about the new Southwest Companion Pass offer, we totally get it. The lack of notice for this deal means you don’t have a lot of time to plan your 2019 travel around it. And since it may take you a while to complete the minimum spending requirement and earn the signup bonus, you could easily be left with a Companion Pass benefit that only lasts seven or eight months altogether.
That’s why we’re suggesting you sign up for an entirely different credit card if you haven’t already — the .
With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you’ll earn 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 on your card within three months of account opening. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year (unlike co-branded Southwest credit cards), and you can use your points in more than one way. You can absolutely transfer them 1:1 to Southwest Airlines, but you can also transfer them to United MileagePlus, British Airways, JetBlue, Air France/Flying Blue, World of Hyatt, Marriott Rewards, and several other Chase transfer partners. You also have the option of booking travel directly through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, and you’ll get 25% more travel for doing so when you use points in your Chase Sapphire Preferred account.
With this more flexible option, you won’t have to rack your brain trying to figure out how to maximize a Companion Pass for the remainder of 2019. Instead, you’ll wind up with 50,000 points you can transfer to multiple airlines or book travel directly, plus earn double points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases.
Also note that you can redeem Chase points for high-dollar gift cards or statement credits at a rate of one cent per point. The signup bonus alone on this card is worth $500 in rewards if you choose this option.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
The Bottom Line
While earning the Southwest Companion Pass with a single credit card sounds enticing, this offer may not be as lucrative as it sounds. You won’t have a lot of time to use it this year, and don’t forget that you’re giving up points when compared to the normal signup bonuses these cards offer.
At the end of the day, there are other options to consider. This includes waiting until this deal passes and you can earn the Southwest Companion Pass the traditional way. Other credit cards could leave you better off in the end as well, so make sure to weigh the pros and cons and have a plan before you move forward.
Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer and the author of Zero Down Your Debt. Johnson shares her obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel at ClubThrifty.com.
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