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If you’re a Southwest Rapid Rewards® member, heads up — you may not be rewarded quite as rapidly starting in 2020. Southwest has announced big changes to its loyalty program.
First, some good news: As of Oct. 17, 2019, Southwest Rapid Rewards points no longer expire.
But starting Jan. 1, 2020, it may be tougher to get the airline’s coveted Companion Pass benefit. At that time, you’ll need to earn 125,000 Companion Pass qualifying points in a calendar year to get a pass — a 15,000-point increase from the current requirement. The other way to earn a pass, completing 100 qualifying one-way Southwest flights, will stay the same.
For super-frequent flyers, these changes probably won’t matter. If they do, we’ve got some ideas to help you earn those extra 15,000 points.
Want to know more?
Southwest’s Companion Pass is a high-value perk — allowing travelers to have a companion fly free (plus taxes and fees) not only for the remainder of the calendar year after you qualify, but for the entire, next calendar year.
In Twitter posts like this one, Southwest said it had to change the Companion Pass points requirements to keep up with increasing business costs. Southwest also announced that it in 2021 it would start charging Southwest A-List and A-List Preferred members government taxes and fees for standby changes — though ticket changes will still be free.
It’s possible that Southwest changed the Companion Pass earning requirement in part to encourage more customers to sign up for one of its five credit cards, too — those cards are a great way to earn Rapid Rewards points.
Perhaps to try to soften the blow, the airline threw in a new benefit: Rapid Rewards points will no longer expire. Up to now, your points would expire if you didn’t earn any rewards for 24 months.
If you don’t already have a Southwest credit card, the sign-up bonuses on those cards are still going to be the easiest way to earn miles. Currently, those bonuses are 40,000 points for the personal cards and 60,000 or 70,000 points for the business cards.
Beyond that, spending on a Southwest card might not get you very far because of limited reward-earning opportunities — only the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card earns bonus rewards points on non-Southwest purchases.
Spending with a Southwest travel partner like Hertz will get you a little more bang (in points) for your buck — you can get points for a qualifying purchase and additional points if you use your Southwest card for it. With or without a card, you can also earn some Rapid Rewards points simply by buying Southwest flights, or by using Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Shopping portal, which will link you to hundreds of stores where you can earn Rapid Rewards points from your purchases.
But if you can’t budget for the additional spending you’ll need for the Companion Pass’s higher points-earning requirement, you’ll probably want to consider those 100 qualifying one-way Southwest flights instead.