Southwest Airlines Changes: New Companion Pass Requirements, Points No Longer Expire

Filed Under: Rapid Rewards, Reward Programs

Southwest Airlines has just announced some significant changes to their Rapid Rewards program, including a policy change on their points expiration, and also an increase to Companion Pass requirements.

Let’s look at the details.

Southwest Airlines Points No Longer Expire

Effective immediately, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points no longer expire. They used to expire after 24 months of inactivity, though that’s no longer the case.

Southwest is the second major airline to change their policy this way in just a few weeks, as in late August United announced that MileagePlus miles would no longer expire.

As I said at the time, points not expiring sounds wholly positive, though the reality is that I always think of there as being an opportunity cost to this. People who can’t at least have some activity every 24 months aren’t engaged in the program, and points not expiring does overall increase redemption costs.

So it’s something that is done in favor of non-active members, and on some level there is a cost to this for the program.

Southwest Airlines Increasing Companion Pass Requirements

While the above is good news to most, there’s also some bad news regarding Southwest Companion Pass.

What Is Southwest Companion Pass?

One of the best values in travel is the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass. For those not familiar, it allows someone else to travel with you for the entire year.

You still have to pay the taxes on their ticket, but the Companion Pass is valid on both award and revenue tickets. You can change your designated companion three times in a year, so you can potentially even use this for different people. This is a pretty incredible value.

Southwest Increasing Companion Pass Requirements

Southwest Airlines has announced that they’ll increase the requirements for earning Companion Pass in 2020:

  • Through 2019 Companion Pass required earning 110,000 qualifying points or flying 100 segments
  • As of 2020, Companion Pass requires earning 125,000 qualifying points or flying 100 segments

In other words, the number of segments required remains the same, but if you want to qualify by points, you’ll need to earn 15,000 points (that’s about a 14% increase).

To clarify, these new requirements kick in for those looking to earn Companion Pass next year. So if you’re qualifying this year the old requirements still apply, while this only applies for qualifying next year.

What Qualifies Towards Companion Pass?

As far as “qualifying” activity goes, points earned through a Southwest Rapid Rewards Card do qualify, while the following activity generally doesn’t count:

  • Purchased points
  • Transferred/gifted points
  • Points earned from program enrollment
  • Tier bonus points
  • Promotion bonus points (with the exception of the Rapid Rewards Credit Cards)
  • Flight bonus points
  • Partner bonus points (with the exception of the Rapid Rewards Credit Cards)
  • Points transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Partner program transfers
  • Purchased promotional tier qualifying points

Bottom Line

These changes to Southwest Rapid Rewards are a mixed bag. Most people are probably happy about Rapid Rewards points no longer expiring.

The increased requirements for Companion Pass are no doubt negative, though at the same time I feel like the changes could have been a lot worse. A 14% increase isn’t huge, given that they hadn’t changed requirements for years.

Furthermore, they could have made much worse changes, like no longer counting credit card points towards Companion Pass.

What do you make of these Southwest Rapid Rewards changes?

  1. Applied yesterday for 80k Business card, assume I’ll be approved. Now I have to decide. Do I want to waste a valued slot for a personal 40k SWA card or should I pay my taxes on Jan 1st @ a cost of $219 (1.87% x 40k). Probably taxes.

  2. This news is a nothingburger compared to the routine and significant devaluations by the big 3. In contrast to the big 3, this is a notification with fair warning and it is transparent. How refreshing!
    Yep, still spending my 120K annual miles on SWA metal. I continue to vote with my wallet and wishing them continued success. Keep up the good work!

  3. The companion pass was great for me while it lasted. I had it for the last 4 years but this new change in 2020 might make it impossible for me to re- qualify. Might look to Alaska’s program next.

  4. I agree while this news is a mixed bag it’s not that bad. As long as there’s still a path to obtaining a companion pass with 2 cc bonuses then it doesn’t change the value prop too much. One can still sign up for the 80k business card and the 40k personal card and the $5k spending between the 2 to get the bonuses in the first place will put you over the threshold.

  5. Shza

    You are correct. My bad. I’m too cheap to get off my wallet for $748 so I’ll probably apply for a 40k SWA personal card. I’ve slots available, and another one drops off in early Jan.

  6. This month I applied for and approved for SW Premier business 60000 (spend 3000) and in flight application priority card 50000pts (spend 2000). Now they increased requirement to 125000. Chase told me Premier Business cant be upgraded to Performance bus.
    Q: How can I easily get additional 10,000 points to qualify for companion pass in January.
    If I pay IRS 1040-ES $10000 using one of the cards, do these charges earn companion pass qualifying miles. (will cost me about $200 and tie up $ 10,000 till I can get it refunded)
    Any other way ?
    Thanks for any input.

  7. @Rakesh I learned that Hotels booked through the SWA portal count towards CP. You may want to double check that.

  8. @Rakesh

    You have to fork out another $10k spending. The bigger question is why didn’t you go for the performance card to begin with. The extra bonus more than offset the first annual fee, which you can downgrade after a year.

  9. I am new to this so forgive my inexperience….. Monday I was approved for the 80,000 miles business credit card. I planned to qualify for the bonus points (by spending 5K) in January (so the points post then). Then, spend 25K to earn the 110,000 points to get a companion ticket for the remainder of the year, and the entire next year (2020 and 2021)….. My question is, do I now have to get to 125,000 points to earn the companion ticket? Do I still get the companion ticket for the remainder of 2020 AND 2021? Please advise – Thanks!!

  10. So long as there is one business card that offers 80,000 points it will be ok since there is always a personal card that gives 40,000. However, if the best business card goes back to 60,000, it’s going to take a lot of spending to get the companion pass.

  11. @Davey, yes, you will need 125k points total after Jan 1. Spend 15k more, being sure bonuses post after Jan 1 and you will have CP until Dec 31, 2021.

  12. Does anyone know if you still can get Referral points (10,000) from Chase Rapid Rewards cards? I’m thinking 70,000 pts (business card), 40,000 pts (personal), +6000 pts (spending criteria)=116000 pts….if you get 1 referral, that puts you over the 125,000 pt requirement for CP. Am I off the mark?

  13. I have tried to maximize points earning by using Rapid Rewards shopping portal, dining, hotels, pay all bills, and upgraded to business for all flights. I have earned 156,000 pts from Jan-Oct. so I still should be good next year. I would highly recommend using as many of the Rapid Rewards partners as possible, and obviously paying with the Rapid Rewards card. As previous posts have mentioned, Southwest Hotels has been a huge help. Pick the hotels paying the most points, I stayed in one near BWI for 14,000 pts.

  14. @giletti @Shza

    You guys are both wrong.

    1.87% of 40k is $748, but you get 40k SW points valued at x cpp.

    Taking up a slot on 5/24 is certainly an opportunity cost so all alterative pathways must be considered. Value is subjective obviously.

  15. @Eskimo
    I applied for premier business and not the performance business because I thought it may be easier to get for a very small consulting business with no previous income and history, just a gut feeling, and it served my purpose of 110K before the change.

  16. I have a general question.
    For personal card bonus: the 24 month period is from the previous card date or the bonus grant date ?? e.g. Case
    Applied/approved for a personal card 10/10/2017, received the bonus on the statement date 1/7/2018.
    IF apply now (say 10/25/2019), and time the bonus to be posted on the statement date after 1/7/2020 (which will be over 24 months of bonus posting), will it qualify for a new bonus.
    Note: The new application is after 24 months of old application but less than 24 months before the old bonus posting date. The new planned bonus date to be over 24 month after the previous post date.
    I appreciate any opinion/data points.

  17. @Lucky – do we know if hotel/car rentals points earned through the SWA website will still count toward earned points for Companion pass?

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