Updated: Nov 20, 2021
If you are looking to fly with a major low-cost airline in the United States then Southwest Airlines may be what you are looking for! With around 100 destinations and over 700 aircrafts Southwest Airlines has carved out a name for itself—and some awesome credit cards that you don't want to overlook.
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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
Southwest Airlines has partnered with Chase—perhaps the biggest name in the Award Travel arena—and have launched a total of five co-branded credit cards (3 personal & 2 business): Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card, and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card.
Each product has its own features and benefits. However, if you fly Southwest Airlines at least once per year, the best card of the bunch may be the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card. Although it comes in at a heft $149 annual fee, this amount pales in comparison to the rewards and benefits that can be earned and redeemed on this card! You can apply for this card here!
The Welcome Bonus
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card currently has a two-level welcome bonus of up to 100,000 Rapid Rewards® points! You can earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You earn an additional 50,000 points after you spend $12,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening.
How far will the 100,000 welcome bonus get you? If we factor in the spend ($12,000) to reach the 100,000 Rapid Rewards® points welcome bonus, we will have at least 112,000 points. If we were to plan a trip from Columbus, Ohio to Phoenix, Arizona, with our date of departure on January 31, 2022 and our date of return on February 8, 2022, we find the following nonstop itinerary:
For 20,628 points and $11.20 in fees, we can find a nonstop roundtrip itinerary. With 112,000 Rapid Rewards® points and $56 in your bank account, a family of five could take a trip to Phoenix, Arizona from Columbus, Ohio! This demonstrates the value of the welcome bonus—and we haven't even touched the other benefits! You can apply for this card here!
The first-level of the welcome bonus—$2,000 in spend within 3 months—is attainable for most of us. The second-level becomes interesting—spending an additional $10,000 within 12 months—especially when working toward the Companion Pass.
The Companion Pass is an extremely valuable benefit to have. It allows your designated traveling companion to travel for "free" with you—this includes the year the Companion Pass was earned and the following year! Your designated travel companion will only have to pay taxes on the ticket. We will get more into the Companion Pass later.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card earns 3X Rapid Rewards® points in the following category:
Southwest Airlines purchases
It earns 2X Rapid Rewards® points in the following categories:
Local transit and commuting, including rideshare
Internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming
Rapid Rewards® hotel and car partners
It earns 1X on everything else.
Southwest Airlines is a transfer partner of Chase. That means your points earned from any Chase Ultimate Rewards®-earning credit card can be transferred to Southwest Airlines—provided you have a premium Ultimate Rewards®-earning credit card. (E.g. Chase Sapphire Reserve®; Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card; or the Chase Ink Business Preferred®.) In my opinion, the best travel credit card for beginners to get started with is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. You can learn more about this card in the following post: Chase Sapphire Preferred—The Best Credit Card Just Got Better! You can apply for this card here!
Southwest Annual Travel Credit & Cardmember Anniversary Points Bonus & Annual Fee
The $75 Southwest annual travel credit and 7,500 Cardmember anniversary Rapid Rewards® points bonus offset the $149 fee. If you fly at least once per year, the annual travel credit and anniversary points bonus bring more value than $149! I assign Rapid Rewards® points a value of 1.3 cents per point. This would bring the value of these two benefits to ~$172.50. In other words, you would make ~$23.50 by just holding onto the card and not even using it!
The best travel credit cards have an annual fee. It is important to look past the annual fee and see the bigger picture—the welcome bonus, the rewards, and benefits the card brings to the table. Having a "farsighted" view as opposed to a "nearsighted" view is an important facet to develop in the Award Travel arena. There are many individuals who loose out on hundreds—even thousands of dollars—because of lacking the ability to see beyond the annual fee.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card comes with 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available, 25% back on inflight purchases, 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points towards A-List Status for every $10,000 in spend, and no foreign transaction fees.
In addition, Southwest Airlines in general offers the following benefits to all passengers:
First and second bags are checked free
No change fees
Unlimited reward seats with no blackout dates or seat restrictions
Rapid Rewards® points don't expire
Welcome Bonus Stipulations
The current 100,000 Rapid Rewards® points welcome bonus does come with some stipulations. One of the aforementioned requirements is that you will need to spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening to earn 50,000 points and an additional $10,000 spend on purchases in the first 12 months to earn another 50,000 points.
Additionally, you aren't eligible for the welcome bonus if you currently have a Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, or have received a new cardmember bonus within the last 24 months. This does not apply to their business and employee credit card products.
Chase's 5/24 Rule
In addition, because Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is a co-branded Chase credit card, there is what is known as "Chase's 5/24 rule." This "rule" indicates you will not be approved a Chase credit card if you have opened five or more credit cards—across all banks—within the last 24 months. (I.e. American Express, Capital One, etc.)
However, Chase does not have a published policy to validate the 5/24 rule. Interestingly, there are data points where an individual has been over "Chase's 5/24 rule" and has been approved a Chase credit card. Nonetheless, most data points support the conclusion that an individual will need to be under "Chase's 5/24 rule" to be approved for a Chase credit card.
The Companion Pass is an amazing perk offered by Southwest Airlines. It allows you to designate a companion to fly with you on any Southwest Airlines flight for free; your traveling companion will only need to pay the taxes for the ticket.
When the Companion Pass is earned, it is valid for the remainder of the calendar year it is earned plus the entire following calendar year! Logically, the earlier you earn it in the year, the more value you can get out of it!
Once earned, you will have to designate one person to be your traveling companion. However, you are allowed to change your designated traveling companion three times in a year. This means you could potentially use the Companion Pass on four different people.
How do you earn the Companion Pass? To qualify, fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year. Flying 100 one-way flights may be out of reach for most of us in a year! However, the 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year may be doable for some!
Qualifying points are earned from revenue flights booked through Southwest, points earned on Southwest Rapid Rewards® Credit Cards, and base points earned from Rapid Rewards® partners. The following do not count toward the 125,000 qualifying points: purchased points; points transferred between Members; points converted from hotel and car loyalty programs; e-Rewards®; Valued Opinions, and Diners Club®; points earned from Rapid Rewards program enrollment; tier bonus points; flight bonus points; and partner bonus points (except for the Rapid Rewards Credit Cards from Chase).
Simply meeting the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card minimum spend requirement to reach the 100,000 Rapid Rewards® points welcome bonus will give you 112,000 points—just 13,000 shy of the 125,000 goal! If you qualify, and can open one of their business products—Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card (80,000 Rapid Rewards® points welcome bonus) or Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card (60,000 Rapid Rewards® points welcome bonus)—and meet the minimum spend to reach the welcome bonus—you will have far surpassed the 125,000 qualifying points and will have earned your Companion Pass!
If you are unable to open a business product—to qualify for the Companion Pass—you will need to spend ~$13,000 after you reach the 100,000 Rapid Rewards® points welcome bonus threshold. This option may be doable if you have a large bill or upcoming purchase. In addition, flying revenue flights on Southwest Airlines will also get you closer to your goal.
Having a strategy—aka timing—is extremely important. Would you rather earn the Companion pass in December of 2021 or January of 2022? If you earn it in December, you will be able to use it for ~13 months. If you earn it in January, you will be able to use it for ~24 months! This demonstrates the importance of timing!
"Southwest's Companion Pass is the Golden Goose of Award Travel."
You will want to sign-up for one of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Credit Cards—or two if you are opening a business product as well—late in the year. If you are going to open two, I recommend spacing each application ~30 days apart. The first application should be anytime between October 1st and December 31st.
Be sure to spend on your card(s) up to the minimum spend amount—but not over until after January 1st. If you hit the minimum spend amount too early, your bonus points will hit your account late in the calendar year and they will not count towards the 125,000 points requirement in the following calendar year. This could effectively wipe out your opportunity to earn the Companion Pass for that calendar year!
After January 1st, hit the required threshold to receive your welcome bonus points—they will post to your account after January 1st which will allow you to earn the Companion Pass earlier into the calendar year. This is an extremely valuable perk that can be earned by having the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card. You can apply for this card here!
Calculate "Your" Value of Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
Everyone has their own "custom" spending habits. Therefore, selecting the right credit card is a personal decision. Wouldn't it be great if there was a "custom" calculator that generated a value based upon your spending habits?
There is! AwardYourMiles has developed a Miles & Points Calculator. Select the credit card and enter the amount of money you spend on average per month in the corresponding category. It will calculate the following:
The monetary value of your first and second years using the credit card; and
The miles/ points generated from your spend.
AwardYourMiles has also developed a Credit Card Selector Calculator. It uses our proprietary algorithm which determines the best credit card in our database based on your spending habits. You will be able to determine the value of each credit card in your first year of use!
Compare Southwest Rapid Rewards® Credit Cards
Are you unsure about the $149 annual fee of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card? The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card has a $99 annual fee; the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card has a $69 annual fee. You can compare and apply for these cards here!
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is a great card to have! Right now is a golden opportunity to apply for Southwest Rapid Rewards® Credit Cards. Sign-up bonuses have increased and it has resulted in making it easier than ever to accumulate miles & points which can be redeemed for Award Travel! You can apply for this card here!
Do you feel overwhelmed with all the options available when it comes to redeeming your miles & points? Would you like some assistance to get you started in the right direction? You will benefit from the services of a Credit Card Miles & Points Consultant. You will be assisted with regards to earning miles & points through credit card use and redeeming those miles & points for Award Travel. Or, feel free to use any of our Award Travel Tools online. Get started today!