FM vs DoC: Southwest Companion Pass with 1 Card. A great deal or quite weak?

Chase and Southwest stunned the points & miles world yesterday with new offers for their consumer credit cards.  Through February 11, all three Southwest consumer cards are offering new cardholders 30,000 points plus a Companion Pass after $4K spend in 3 months.  The Companion Pass is valid only through 12/31/19.

Regarding these offers, our own Nick Reyes said: “Wow!” and “this is a great deal if you’re interested in the Companion Pass”.

On the other hand, trustworthy Doctor of Credit said: “I guess if you only have one 5/24 slot and can’t get approved for a business card and desperately want a companion pass then this is a good offer, otherwise I actually think it’s quite weak.”

How could two trusted sources in this community reach opposite conclusions?  Are these offers great or weak?  First, a bit of background…

Background

The Southwest Companion pass offers incredible value to those who would fly Southwest often with a companion.  No one disputes that.  Once you have a companion pass, you can add your companion for free (plus fees — usually just the TSA $5.60 per segment fee) to any Southwest flight that you booked for yourself.  This is true whether you booked the flight with Southwest Rapid Rewards points or if you paid cash.  And there’s no limit to how many times you can use it.  You could theoretically fly every single day while you have the pass, and add your companion for free very time.

Normally, the way to get a Companion Pass is to earn 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year.  Points earned from Southwest credit cards, including signup bonus points and friend referral points, do count.  Points transferred from a hotel program or credit card program (such as from Chase Ultimate Rewards) do not count.

It used to be possible to easily earn a Companion Pass by signing up for two Southwest credit cards at once when they offered 60,000 point signup bonuses (there were variations too, where both cards offered 50K and it was necessary to spend $10K to round out the 110K required, or one card offered 60K and another 40K, etc.).  Unfortunately, Chase made this approach more difficult by introducing new rules: now, you cannot get a bonus on a second Southwest card unless you’ve closed the previous one and have waited 24 months from the last time you got a bonus.

Business cards are the exception.  You can sign up for both a Southwest business card and a Southwest consumer card and qualify for both bonuses.  This is key to understanding why Doctor of Credit thinks that the new offers are weak.

Why the new offers are weak

  1. Companion Pass for Two Years: With the old offers, two cards (business + consumer) would get you enough points for a companion pass.  And by getting the companion pass this way it would last for the rest of this year and all of the next year.  In other words, if you signed up for these cards last week, then once you completed the minimum spend requirements you would have a companion pass good until 12/31/2020 (vs. 2019 with the new offer).
  2. More Points = Better: With the old offers, you got more points.  One could argue that 60K points without a companion pass is better than 30K points with a companion pass.  60K points can get a couple just as far as 30K points with a companion pass, but without having to travel within the next year.

Why the new offers are great

  1. No business card requirement: It’s not hard to open a business card. You may even have a legitimate business without knowing it (e.g. you own rental property, you sell things on ebay, you drive for Uber, you’re writing a novel, etc.).  That said, it’s likely that most people don’t have businesses and aren’t willing to pretend that they do.  The new offers make the Southwest Companion Pass an easy get for almost anyone.
  2. Single card requirement: Most people think of signing up for a credit card as a big step.  It’s easy for those of us who sign up for cards regularly to forget this.  The point is that most people won’t even consider signing up for two cards at once.  The new offers require only one new card.
  3. Much smaller spend vs. the 2 card approach: The most recent two-card approach required $3K spend with the business card and a whopping $12K spend on the consumer card in order to earn all 60K points on each card.  Granted you would end up with far more points and a much longer lasting Companion Pass, but $15K spend is simply not feasible for many people.  The new offers require $4K spend in 3 months.  That can still be a stretch for many, but it’s obviously much easier to achieve than $15K.
  4. More time to make the two card option work: Suppose someone signs up for a consumer card now.  After meeting the $4K spend requirement they would have 34K Southwest points and a Companion Pass good through the end of this year.  Later in the year, they could sign up for the 60K business offer (assuming it’s still available at that time).  After meeting the $3K spend requirement for that card, they would have earned a total of 97,000 points.  They would only need 13,000 points more to secure the Companion Pass for another year.  Those extra 13,000 points can be earned by flying paid flights, additional credit card spend, referring friends to the credit card, earning points through the Rapid Rewards Shopping portal, etc.

Bottom Line

The new Southwest offers are great for most people.  But, there are a few buts…

  • But 1: For those comfortable signing up for two cards (with one being a business card), and with the ability to put lots of spend on those cards, the new offers are less valuable than before.
  • But 2: The Companion Pass is only valuable if you’ll actually use it.  The more you use it, the more valuable it becomes.  If you don’t use it, it’s literally worthless.
  • But 3: None of the offers are any good if you can’t qualify for the cards. If you previously received a Southwest card bonus in the past 24 months, or if you’ve signed up for 5 cards or more from any bank in the past 24 months (the 5/24 rule), then you can’t play this game, regardless of the specifics of the offer.

What do you think? For you, are the offers great or weak?  In my case, I rarely fly Southwest so neither the new offers nor the 2 card approach is attractive to me.  Plus, I’m over 5/24 so I wouldn’t be able to get these cards anyway.

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. An even easier option is to track all of your cards for free with Travel Freely.

See also: Complete guide to the Southwest Companion Pass

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

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Mike D
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Mike D

I just finished the minimum spend for the 2 card method. 60K points for 3k spend (business) plus 50K points for 2K spend (personal, applied at the BWI airport – or available on a WN flight). I think this is FAR better than the tiered 60K on the personals and gives you 80K more points for only 1000 more in spending than the one card offer. Of course, you have to be able to qualify for the business card and Chase has become much stickier about that in the past 6 months. Oh yeah, two years instead of <1 for the pass. The smart strategy is getting the two cards in early-mid October and finishing the min spends early in January.

Barry
Guest
Barry

I personally think that the offer with the companion pass is a good offer. Even if one uses up all of their Rapid Reward points you’d still be able to buy flights in cash and still have the companion pass with the current offer. The only downside that I see of the current offer is that the pass is only good for one year. Lots of people are going to be getting a BOGO to Hawaii later this year.

Shaun
Guest
Shaun

I think for the more advanced player in points/miles game it’s a pass. But for the novice, who is leery about applying for 20 credit cards or can’t meet 10 minimum spends in a year I think this is a home run….especially if they have a decent amount of domestic travel planned.

Ben
Guest
Ben

It’s possible Chase/WN stumbled upon this by watching the churning community:

They saw how gaga churners get over the old way (which I doubt it’s what they intend for people to do even if it’s within the rules – how many WN cards does a single non-churner need?), and were looking for a way to pitch it to normals.

Ramzi
Guest
Ramzi

I think another HUGE factor for why this offer is weak is that Chase only allows you to earn a personal Southwest bonus every 24 months. So if you complete this offer, you’d have the companion pass through 2019, but be ineligible to get the pass the easy way again until 2021 (since you need both a personal and business sign up bonus). Unless you are a two-person household that can rotate applying or are simply unable to complete two sign-up offers rather than one, then this should be a pass. For a newbie, this offer is an easy win to see how the points game works, but in the long run, it won’t make sense for a lot of people.

jcb
Guest
jcb

But you could easily get it through 2020 if you do #4 recommendation in the post. That comes to the same thing right? Or I guess not with the 24 month rule

Boonie
Guest
Boonie

My campanion pass just expired in 2018 had it for 4 years, now looking at paying for flights and ouch not used to that! Depending how much travel your planning on doing I’d have to open the card under husbands name and with new job in the horizon don’t see much travel happening. So guess you have to evaluate your own plans to see if this works.

JL100
Guest
JL100

I was thinking the same thing – since I can’t get the card 5/24, and others in my family may apply, they are not going to be have a companion as they would fly alone and meet me in another city. In that case, the lower points really makes it a bad deal (because of individual situation). Hopefully the normal deal will be back in Feb.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Could b a long time till chase gives me a new card .Look @ the $149 SW card I upgraded to .I was amazed Chase @ my annual give me 7500 points instead of 3k just 3 months after I upgraded .
Look before u leap.
CHEERs

toomanybooks
Guest
toomanybooks

I think people with businesses sometimes don’t understand how many people DON’T have businesses.

So Nick for sure.

For those who do, and have the Chase slots, and and want to play this game, sure, go for the 2-year.

I think Chase is going to change the 2-card 2-year CP availability anyway. Or restrict the CP substantially in some way. Like no Hawaii maybe.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Lot of ways u can get a Bus. Card HAD many and 3 left. . Some are wanting a Tax ID number now which I don’t have or want Options for ever one here.
CHEERS

JustSaying
Guest
JustSaying

You left out my two most important buts:
1. The planet is dying and I am going to do my best to limit my carbon footprint.
2. I am old and cantankerous and I HATE economy. Hell I even hate most domestic First Class so this offer reminds me of the bad buffet restaurant in Texas. The food is horrible but the bright side is you can eat all you want!
Now if you could figure out how to get a companion pass on Air France then I am all ears!

John
Guest
John

Personally feel it’s a much weaker offer than before because i’ve applied biz card and just 47000 points away from 2 years CP.

I will need to spend more if I sign up peraonal card now ($13000 compared to $6000). I hope chase will at least bring back 40k offer after 2/11…

Beth
Guest
Beth

Player 2 and I have had the companion pass for 4 years and just completed requirements to get it again for 2 more years. For us an additional increased value in the “old” method which nets more points is their use to hold reservations. Not just the number of trips I can make with more points but also the extra flexibility with making plans. With 110,000 SW points and a companion pass I can make several tentative reservations for two of us. If I cancel them later the points return and only the taxes go onto “travel funds”. I use the travel funds eventually but even if I didn’t that’s just $5.60 to hold a confirmed reservation. And I believe if I forget to cancel the flight the points are returned anyway. Good marketing tool though, I can see it being attractive to folks who are scared or unable to apply for the business card.

frugalman
Guest
frugalman

Hey Greg, the title is too sensational, though you have absolute legitimacy to use it.

A better subject is Nick vs. William; otherwise, I had thought my two favorite blogs are falling into argument 🙂

MSer
Guest
MSer

Seems a huge waste of a hard pull.

Drew
Guest
Drew

Is the DOC on drugs?
– If any airline allowed a BOGO as part of the signup bonus, we’d all go crazy.
– If the card is at 60k, it’s a good deal.
– The companion pass is worth two cards, and here we can get it with 1 (especially given 524)

Yet, somehow this isn’t an obvious deal?

Dan
Guest
Dan

I think if you want to go to Hawaii this year or next, and have a family, it’s a great option. However, it might cost 50,000 points to get there, but you can pay cash and still get two tickets for 50% with the companion pass.

It’s not for everyone, but it will be very appealing to some people. My only complaint with southwest is it doesn’t go everywhere I want to go. However, I will go back to Hawaii this year if they can get ETOPS certification as we have two companion passes for our family of 4.

CaveDweller
Guest
CaveDweller

Wait One year after ETOPS like I will.
CHEERS

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[…] FM vs DoC: Southwest Companion Pass with 1 Card. A great deal or quite weak? […]

Miles Ahead
Guest
Miles Ahead

Comes down to two things. How much you fly with SWA, or wish to, and how often do you do so with a companion. and then of course there’s that pesky 5/24 thing. Each person’s circumstances will be different and for some this will provide a great value and for others, like me, it’s, meh….

Anon
Guest
Anon

New offer is weak. Sounds like you’re saying some people don’t want to pick up more free money, because it can be tough to carry home. A business card doesn’t count against 5/24, so if you can get the personal card, you can get the business card. No need to cater an analysis of the offers to those afraid of stepping into the hobby with both feet. A fair analysis says the new offer is weak