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Several bloggers have written about earning a 2012/2013 Southwest Companion Pass by signing up for the Chase Southwest Visa and Chase Business Southwest Visa. This is an excellent strategy and I can confirm from a reader’s experience that the 50,000 signup bonus points are posting as Companion Pass Qualifying Points as of this week. However, for those of us who already have the card or are not ready for another round of credit card applications, there may be another route.
At the end of February, the partnership between AirTran and American Express Membership Rewards ends. Normally this wouldn’t really matter to me, except I am a content Southwest Companion Pass holder and would like to keep it that way. While International Travel is my focus, the Companion Pass on Southwest is extremely valuable to me for domestic travel like this, this, and this.
Until February 29th, Membership Rewards (MR) points can be transferred to AirTran at a rate of 1500 points to 1 credit. One could reasonably assume these AirTran credits will ultimately be transferred into Southwest Points. The questions are when, how, and at what rate.
The route I am considering is to transfer enough MR points to AirTran credits which will ultimately convert into Southwest Rapid Rewards Points, qualifying for the Companion Pass. My assumptions are that the conversion occurs in 2012, credits will count as Companion Qualifying points, and will come over at a rate of 1200 Southwest Points per AirTran Credit. There are a lot of if’s here, but again, it’s a Companion Pass which can mean lots and lots of free travel!
Why I think this will work
- The policy from Southwest when performing their conversion to Rapid Rewards 2.0 last march allowed Partner credits to count toward the Companion Pass.
AirTran credits earned from Amex transfers count towards the AirTran version of the Companion Pass.
AirTran doesn’t emphasize the source of the credits you earn. It would seem relatively complex to convert all the AirTran Credits to Southwest Points and determine the source of each (source and year the credit was earned).
I believe Southwest will adopt polices during the conversion to do what they can to keep AirTran flyers loyal and away from Delta.
- In this article Southwest leadership suggests a 2012 conversion target. “In the second quarter, the company aims to allow frequent fliers to convert AirTran credits to Southwest points and vice versa, said Southwest’s chief marketing officer Dave Ridley.”
Why this may not work
Southwest may choose not to perform the system transition in 2012.
Southwest has made earning a Companion Pass far more difficult in Rapid Rewards 2.0. They may continue this trend and only count AirTran credits from flights that were flown this year.
The Bottom Line
With Amex’s current lackluster transfer partners, I think I am going to give this a shot. I realize there are several risks involved which may leave me with a whole lot of ‘domestic travel‘ points but then again, I don’t want to be burned twice by Amex (I wish I had moved all my points to United/Continental last year!) Doing the math, the transfer rate comes out to 1.33 cents per MR point which is not terrible compared to the current alternative uses for MR.
Is this approach viable? Am I missing anything here (other than it is Southwest )?