If you’re looking to save money on domestic travel, there is no better tool than the Southwest Companion Pass. This popular travel hacking tool is surprisingly attainable for non-frequent travelers, since the Southwest credit card welcome bonuses count towards the 125,000-point requirement. You can earn the pass with just two credit card applications and be on your way to enjoying two-for-one airfare for up to two years.

Between current Southwest card welcome bonuses and the time given to complete spending requirements, October is actually 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 lowered spending requirements

The Southwest personal cards currently offer 50,000 bonus points, while the business cards provide up to 80,000 points. You’ll need to get just one personal and one business card to earn the 125,000 points needed for the Companion Pass.

Now is a good time, because the spending requirements for personal cards are reasonable at just $1,000 within three months of account opening. Most people can complete this requirement easily by charging everyday expenses and recurring bills to the card.

The cheapest way to earn the 125,000 points for a Companion Pass is by applying for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card. You’ll earn a combined 130,000 points after $6,000 spent and incur $268 in annual fees. That’s a bargain, given the thousands of dollars you’ll save on travel.

Past spending requirements have been higher on Southwest cards, making the Companion Pass less attainable. But since you only need to spend a combined $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.

It’s also worth noting that the 50,000-point welcome bonus on the personal cards isn’t the highest we’ve seen. However, it’s still worthwhile if you can save thousands of points over two years of Companion Pass use. This brings me to my next point….

You have until January 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 after it was earned. If you earn it in November 2022, it expires in December 2023. But if you wait until January 2023 to complete the requirements, it’s valid through December 2024. That gives 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 by January, which is the most opportune time.

Charging $2,000 per month on a credit card over three months might seem intimidating but it’s achievable. You can charge your expenses to the card, including rent and mortgage payments. 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 Christmas presents in October, you have plenty of opportunities to knock out extra credit card spending. Halloween is just around the corner and after that, Thanksgiving. During this time of year, people spend more money on gifts, decorations, food and donations. It’s a great opportunity to channel that extra spending toward a Southwest credit card. You’ll complete the spending requirement and earn a Companion Pass much faster. 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 holiday season. 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, Southwest points are useful year-round. So if you end up completing your credit card spending requirements as early as November, you’re still in good shape. You’ll have a Companion Pass through 2023 and can use the welcome bonus from the Southwest cards to save on holiday travel.

Whether you’re traveling over Thanksgiving or planning a family vacation for winter break, having some extra Southwest points will go a long way. Southwest Rapid Rewards are worth around 1.5 cents towards airfare, so you can save over $1,950 on airfare with the Southwest card welcome bonuses.

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 2023 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 almost $2,000 worth of airfare. Pair that with the two-for-one deal on airfare and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to travel next year — for very close to nothing.