If you’re looking to save money on domestic travel, there’s no better tool than the Southwest Companion Pass. This popular travel hacking tool is surprisingly attainable for those who don’t travel frequently, because the Southwest credit card welcome bonuses count toward the 135,000-point requirement to earn the pass. You can earn a Companion Pass with just two credit card applications and be on your way to enjoying two-for-one airfare for nearly two years.

Between current Southwest card welcome bonuses and the time given to complete spending requirements, October is the best time to start your journey toward earning a Southwest Companion Pass.

Here’s why you should apply for a Southwest credit card now to get maximum use from this perk.

Southwest credit cards have increased welcome offers

The Southwest personal cards current welcome offer: earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Meanwhile, the business cards are offering different bonuses, but either business card would help you meet the Companion Pass requirements:

Given those bonuses, you’ll need to be approved for and then earn the welcome bonuses of just one personal and one business card to earn the 135,000 points needed for the Companion Pass.

Past spending requirements to earn welcome bonuses have been higher on Southwest cards, making the Companion Pass less attainable. But since you could earn the welcome bonuses with a combined spending of $6,000 in three months, now is a great time to apply.

Before applying for any Southwest credit cards, remember that Chase has several application rules that impact eligibility. You’re not eligible for a Southwest card if you’ve applied for five credit cards in the last 24 months. And if you currently have a personal Southwest credit card or obtained a welcome bonus in the last 24 months, you won’t be approved for another one.

You have three months to meet spending requirements and earn the Companion Pass

January is the best time to earn the Southwest Companion Pass. The Southwest Companion Pass is valid through the end of the calendar year following the year in which it was earned. For example, if you earn it in November 2023, it expires in December 2024. But if you wait until January 2024 to earn it, it’s valid through December 2025, giving you almost two full years of use.

Since the Southwest cards give you three months to complete the spending requirements, October is the absolute best time to apply. You’ll complete the spend and qualify for the Companion Pass in January, which is the most opportune time.

Bankrate insight
Be careful not to earn your welcome bonuses before January. You can spend the first several thousand dollars toward the spending threshold now, but wait until January to finish off spending. That way you will qualify for the Companion Pass at the beginning of the year and it will be good through the end of the following calendar year.

Charging a combined $6,000 on credit cards over three months might seem intimidating but it’s achievable. You can charge your expenses to the card, including paying rent and mortgage payments with your card. You could even consider putting end-of-year charitable donations on the cards. But if that’s not enough, then timing is on your side because you’ll likely have more expenses in the coming months than ever before.

Holiday shopping season is starting

Meeting credit card spending requirements can be challenging for some people. The best approach is to charge all of your expenses to your credit card. The holiday shopping season starts earlier every year and makes this feat easier.

Even if you’re not buying holiday presents in October, you have plenty of opportunities to knock out extra credit card spending. During this time of year, people spend more money on gifts, decorations, food, donations and travel. It’s a great opportunity to channel that extra spending toward a Southwest credit card. You’ll rack up the required spending to earn the welcome bonuses and, therefore a Companion Pass, more quickly. Plus, you’ll have plenty of points to use for travel next year. It’s a win-win-win.

While meeting spending requirements and earning rewards is great, you want to be mindful of avoiding debt during the holidays. That’s an easy trap to fall into this time of year, when overspending is tempting. If you’re worried about spending more than you can afford, consider setting a budget for yourself and then overpaying your credit card by that amount. When your credit balance reaches zero, you can stop using the card for new purchases and instead use it to auto-pay utilities and recurring expenses.

You might earn the welcome bonus in time for holiday travel

While January is the ideal time to earn the Companion Pass so that it’s good for nearly two full years, Southwest points are useful year-round. If you aren’t concerned about maximizing your time with a Companion Pass, you could choose to complete your credit card spending requirements as soon as possible. You’ll have a Companion Pass through 2024 and can use the welcome bonuses from the Southwest cards to save on holiday travel this year.

Whether you’re traveling over the December holidays or planning a family vacation for winter break, having some extra Southwest points will go a long way. Southwest Rapid Rewards are worth around [insert shortcode: Southwest Airlines (35)] towards airfare, according to Bankrate’s valuations.

The bottom line

Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program is popular for a reason. If you’ve had your eye on the Southwest Companion Pass, and you want to make this airline a go-to for 2024 (and 2025!) rewards travel, there’s no better time to make your move than right now. You can qualify with two Southwest credit card bonuses and will have enough rewards for about $2,000 worth of airfare according to Bankrate valuations. Pair that with the two-for-one deal on airfare and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to travel for the next couple of years — for very close to nothing.

*The information about the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.