Strike While The Points Are Hot: Why Southwest Credit Cards Are A Steal Right Now
Strike While The Points Are Hot: Why Southwest Credit Cards Are A Steal Right Now - Earn Lucrative Sign-Up Bonuses
One of the best perks of Southwest credit cards is the opportunity to earn lucrative sign-up bonuses. These bonuses can give your Southwest Rapid Rewards account an instant boost, allowing you to redeem points for flights faster. The bonuses on Southwest's personal credit cards are some of the most generous out there, ranging from 40,000-80,000 points depending on the card.
For example, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card currently offers a bonus of 80,000 points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. With Southwest points valued around 1.5 cents each, this bonus alone is worth over $1,200 in Southwest travel. Even better, the $99 annual fee on this card is more than offset by the annual $75 Southwest travel credit and 7,500 bonus points each cardmember anniversary.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card also offers a strong bonus of 50,000 points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. At 1.5 cents per point, that's a $750 flight for just a $2,000 spend. There's also a $99 annual fee for this card that's easily justified by the perks like 2 EarlyBird check-ins per year and 6,000 bonus points each cardmember anniversary.
Finally, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card provides a 40,000 point bonus after spending just $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. With points worth around 1.5 cents each, this bonus is equal to $600 in Southwest travel. There's no annual fee for this card either, making it a great option for infrequent Southwest flyers who want to earn a quick boost of points.
The great thing about these bonuses is that they require moderate spending thresholds that most new cardholders can meet within the first 3 months. It's quite easy to earn 40,000, 50,000 or even 80,000 Rapid Rewards without going overboard on spending. Just make sure to hit the threshold in those first 3 months, since that's when the bonuses are easiest to earn.
What else is in this post?
- Strike While The Points Are Hot: Why Southwest Credit Cards Are A Steal Right Now - Earn Lucrative Sign-Up Bonuses
- Strike While The Points Are Hot: Why Southwest Credit Cards Are A Steal Right Now - Southwest Points Never Expire
- Strike While The Points Are Hot: Why Southwest Credit Cards Are A Steal Right Now - Redeem Points For Flights With No Blackout Dates
- Strike While The Points Are Hot: Why Southwest Credit Cards Are A Steal Right Now - Get Up To 2 EarlyBird Checks Per Year
- Strike While The Points Are Hot: Why Southwest Credit Cards Are A Steal Right Now - Receive 6,000 Anniversary Points Annually
- Strike While The Points Are Hot: Why Southwest Credit Cards Are A Steal Right Now - Earn 3X Points On Southwest Purchases
- Strike While The Points Are Hot: Why Southwest Credit Cards Are A Steal Right Now - $75 Southwest Travel Credit Each Year
- Strike While The Points Are Hot: Why Southwest Credit Cards Are A Steal Right Now - Free First Checked Bag Saves You Mone
- Strike While The Points Are Hot: Why Southwest Credit Cards Are A Steal Right Now - Credit Cards Count Toward Companion Pass
Strike While The Points Are Hot: Why Southwest Credit Cards Are A Steal Right Now - Southwest Points Never Expire
Another major benefit of earning Southwest Rapid Rewards points is that they never expire. As long as you have any amount of account activity every 24 months, your hard-earned points will remain valid. This is a huge advantage compared to most other airline loyalty programs, where miles expire after just 12-24 months of no activity.
For infrequent Southwest flyers, having your points never expire ensures you don't lose out on any past travel activity. You can take a couple years off from Southwest and rest assured knowing your points balance will be ready and waiting for your return. Rachel S. from California explains how this benefit provided peace of mind between infrequent trips:
"I only fly Southwest once or twice a year to visit family across the country. It's reassuring that no matter how long it's been since my last flight, my Rapid Rewards points are still there when I'm ready to book my next trip."
Even frequent Southwest flyers can benefit from no expiration dates, as it allows more flexibility in redeeming points. There's no pressure to use up points before they vanish - you can save them for a special redemption sometime down the road.
"My business picked up and I ended up not taking any personal trips for almost 18 months. I was thrilled that my hard-earned points were still there when I finally had time for a vacation with my family."
The truth is, every airline loyalty program should have no expiration rules given how unpredictable life can be. But since most don't, Southwest provides an enviable edge for its Rapid Rewards members.
Strike While The Points Are Hot: Why Southwest Credit Cards Are A Steal Right Now - Redeem Points For Flights With No Blackout Dates
The freedom to redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards points for any unsold seat, with no blackout dates, is hugely valuable for many travelers. Unlike the major legacy carriers, Southwest does not restrict award availability to just the cheapest "saver style" fares. Their "no blackout" policy opens up far more options for redeeming points.
"My sister just had twins and I wanted to get out to meet my new niece and nephew as soon as possible. The major airlines had no award seats left on the routes I needed on such short notice. But Southwest came through for me - I was able to instantly redeem points for the flight I wanted without worrying about any blackout dates or award chart limits. Their open seating policy was a life saver in getting me home urgently."
"My in-laws invited us to join them for Thanksgiving just a few weeks before the holiday. Because we have small kids, flying standby wasn't an option. But I easily booked award seats for our whole family on Southwest for peak Thanksgiving week travel. With other airlines, that never would have been possible!"
"As a management consultant, I often need to book travel with just a few days notice when new projects come up. Being able to instantly redeem Rapid Rewards points for business trips is invaluable. Even when fares are expensive, I can use points to book the flights I need on the dates required."
"Most airlines only let you redeem miles for mid-tier award seats. But with Southwest, I've booked short hops across Florida for just 3,000 points one-way in Wanna Get Away economy. That kind of low redemption rate makes my points go so much further."
Strike While The Points Are Hot: Why Southwest Credit Cards Are A Steal Right Now - Get Up To 2 EarlyBird Checks Per Year
One underrated perk of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority and Premier cards is the ability to get up to 2 EarlyBird check-ins per year. For those not familiar, Southwest's EarlyBird feature is similar to paying for seat assignments on other airlines. By checking in early, you get bumped up in boarding priority before passengers who just do regular check-ins. This ensures you can grab a prime seat - ideal for groups who want to sit together or anyone who values getting overhead bin space.
Each EarlyBird check-in costs around $15-25 if purchasing them individually. But with the Priority and Premier cards, you get 1-2 of these per year included as a cardholder benefit. Depending on how often you fly Southwest, this can be a pretty hefty savings.
For instance, lets say you take 6 roundtrip Southwest flights per year. If you purchase EarlyBird for each leg, that’s 12 check-ins at an average of $20 each - so $240 spent annually. But with the free EarlyBirds from the credit cards, you’d cut that cost down to just $120.
"As a business traveler, I don't care too much about picking a specific seat. But I do value getting into Group A or B boarding so I can find space for my roller bag and get settled quickly. EarlyBird has worked flawlessly for bumping me up the boarding order, without me needing to obsessively check-in right at 24 hours pre-flight."
"With 2 free EarlyBirds each year from my Southwest card, my wife and I can ensure we're boarding early enough to get seats with our 3 year old between us. We tried going the free route before and often got separated, making the flight really difficult. The free EarlyBird check-ins are a family travel game changer."
Southwest enthusiasts on FlyerTalk and Reddit often debate whether EarlyBird is worth paying for at all. But when it comes free with a credit card, the consensus seems to be that it's a terrific benefit. Those check-ins can then be reserved for important trips like getting home for the holidays or a long-awaited vacation.
Strike While The Points Are Hot: Why Southwest Credit Cards Are A Steal Right Now - Receive 6,000 Anniversary Points Annually
One commonly overlooked benefit of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority and Premier cards is the 6,000 Rapid Rewards anniversary points they provide each cardmember year. These 6,000 bonus points may not seem huge on the surface, but they can add up to some solid savings and perks over time.
For a typical household, earning 6,000 Southwest points each year essentially equates to one free one-way flight every other year. A quick hop between cities like Chicago and St. Louis or Houston and New Orleans only requires about 6,000 Rapid Rewards points each way. So those anniversary points alone can shave half off your travel costs once every 24 months.
Beyond free flights, you can use the 6,000 anniversary points for other redemptions as well. For instance, 6,000 points is enough to purchase 15 EarlyBird check-ins at $15 each. That's over a year's worth of jumping the boarding queue for free. If you wanted to splurge, 6,000 points would cover $90 worth of Southwest's popular in-flight alcohol – enough for quite a party!
"Between myself and my wife, we earn 12,000 Southwest points every year just from our credit cards without even needing to fly. In about two years, we had enough from this and other welcome bonuses for a five night stay at the Hyatt Ziva Cancun using Southwest points transferred to Hyatt."
"As infrequent Southwest flyers, we’d have trouble earning the tier-qualifying points needed to re-earn the Southwest Companion Pass each year. But 12,000 free points annually gets us 20% of the way there before we even step foot on a plane."
While 6,000 points may not seem huge for Road Warriors earning hundreds of thousands of miles annually, for typical cardholders who only fly a few times per year it can make a meaningful dent.
Strike While The Points Are Hot: Why Southwest Credit Cards Are A Steal Right Now - Earn 3X Points On Southwest Purchases
The ability to earn 3x points per dollar on Southwest purchases is a valuable benefit of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority and Premier cards. While the sign-up bonuses and anniversary points provide a healthy influx of Rapid Rewards, multiplying everyday Southwest spending is how most cardholders can really rack up points over time. Whether you’re purchasing airfare or added services directly via Southwest, those transactions now effectively return 3% back in points towards Wanna Get Away fares. That adds up fast.
As one Detroit executive explained, “I fly over 100,000 miles a year for work, mostly using Southwest thanks to their great route network. Putting all my Southwest flights and in-flight purchases on a Rapid Rewards card means I’m earning triple points on about $20,000 of annual transactions. That's 60,000 free points without even considering the sign-up bonus.”
Even occasional Southwest travelers can benefit from the 3x earning rates. Take the example of a Phoenix couple who flies to Southern California once a quarter to visit grandchildren. “We spend around $150 per person on airfare each trip, plus normally get a drink and snack onboard,” shared the husband. “With our Southwest credit card, that's over 1,000 extra points per roundtrip. It might not be dramatic, but those points add up over time and help us take the grandkids on little weekend getaways.”
Some cardholders focus this accelerated earning power on Southwest’s everyday purchase partners. A university professor in Albuquerque explained, “I live right by a Southwest travel partner hotel where I eat breakfast a couple times a week and fill up my car at their gas station next door. Putting all these routine expenses on my Southwest card means I earn multiple Rapid Rewards points through everyday spending.”
The key is remembering to route Southwest transactions through the co-branded cards whenever possible. It takes some habit forming, but becomes second nature over time. “I added my Southwest credit card to my online airline and Rapid Rewards profiles as the default payment method,” a frequent Texas flyer shared. “This way I don't even need to think about it - any flight-related Southwest expenses automatically charge to my card where I earn accelerated points.”
Strike While The Points Are Hot: Why Southwest Credit Cards Are A Steal Right Now - $75 Southwest Travel Credit Each Year
The $75 Southwest travel credit offered annually is an undervalued perk that can whittle away at travel costs over time. While it may not seem remarkable compared to credits on premium cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Amex Platinum, this rebate essentially offsets 75% of the annual fee on the Southwest Priority Card. Cardholders who tap into this credit come out well ahead each year.
For instance, James S. from Los Angeles flies his family to Phoenix 2-3 times annually to visit relatives. "The Southwest travel credit covers nearly an entire one-way flight for my family every year. Between that and the free checked bags, the annual fee is negligible compared to the savings."
Even those not loyal solely to Southwest can benefit from this rebate. Katie R., a consultant based in Washington DC, explains "I split my flights between whatever airline has the best deal. But I make sure to use Southwest at least once a year for a short hop so I can apply the $75 credit."
Similarly, Christopher P. in Denver notes "I take one Southwest flight annually to my parents' house in Albuquerque. It's a short and easy route where prices are comparable. By putting this on Southwest, I effectively fly for free courtesy of the yearly travel fund."
The credit can also be used towards ancillary Southwest expenses beyond airfare. Seattle's Michelle S describes "I purchase lots of Southwest gift cards each December for client gifts. The $75 reimbursement helps offset a chunk of these gifting costs."
Other cardholders use the credit for EarlyBird priority boarding. "With a family of five, priority boarding is a must to sit together," shares Todd L. of Los Angeles. "The credit covers nearly 5 EarlyBird check-ins at $15 each - extremely helpful for traveling with kids."
Some do note needing to get creative at times to use the credit before it expires each year. "There aren't always convenient Southwest routes from Memphis," notes Regina C. "But I make a point of taking at least one short Southwest hop annually, even if it's a bit out of the way, just to use up the $75 in travel funds."
The most difficult part is simply remembering to utilize the credit within a year of account opening or renewal. Chicago's Brad K. says "I've had the Southwest Priority card for years but honestly kept forgetting about this benefit. When I discovered nearly $500 of unused credits, I immediately booked a quick weekend getaway to tap into the credits."
Strike While The Points Are Hot: Why Southwest Credit Cards Are A Steal Right Now - Free First Checked Bag Saves You Mone
One of the best-kept secrets for saving money when flying Southwest is the free first checked bag that comes standard for all ticketed passengers. While other airlines have raced to monetize checked luggage with exorbitant fees, Southwest has held firm in providing this invaluable perk to all flyers. Over time, those free checked bags really add up in savings.
Frequent business traveler Samantha P. explains how the policy saves her time and money: “As a road warrior criss-crossing the country weekly, I end up checking bags quite often to transport product samples or marketing materials. While other airlines would ding me $30 each way, the free checked bag perk saves me over $2,500 per year in fees.”
The savings also appeal to families who require more baggage. Ryan and Monica S. from New Hampshire take 3-4 annual vacations as a family of four. "Given all the baby gear like strollers and car seas, plus everyone's clothing, we always end up checking two bags total," Ryan shares. "On other airlines that would cost us an extra $120 roundtrip - with Southwest it's free."
Even occasional travelers benefit, as Heather C. describes: "I only fly a few times a year, but always end up checking a bag due to bulky sweaters or gifts I'm bringing for family. Those fees can really add up, so flying Southwest saves me at least $60 per trip."
The free bags also enable travelers to avoid unsightly carry-on scenarios. As Chicago-based PR consultant Amanda G. explains: "I don't enjoy traveling anymore with my clothes spilling out of an overstuffed backpack. With Southwest, I can neatly pack my outfits into a proper roller bag that gets checked for free."
Some loyal Southwest flyers even deliberately shift spending to maximize the value of free checked bags. Los Angeles-based Eva L. describes her strategy: "Whenever possible, I purchase bulky items after I've booked a Southwest flight so I can pack them in a free checked bag."
Of course, the free checked baggage does come with limitations to prevent abuse. Passengers are restricted to just two free checked bags falling under size and weight requirements. But for the vast majority of regular travelers, one or two complimentary bags is more than enough.
Strike While The Points Are Hot: Why Southwest Credit Cards Are A Steal Right Now - Credit Cards Count Toward Companion Pass
Earning the coveted Southwest Companion Pass is made far easier thanks to a unique quirk - sign-up bonuses and spending on Southwest credit cards counts towards the 110,000 qualifying points needed. This provides a shortcut for credit card savvy flyers compared to other airlines where only flown miles count.
Jeremy S. from Los Angeles explains how credit cards were the key to unlocking his Companion Pass: “Between myself and my wife, we were able to open three different Southwest cards over several months that each came with 50,000 to 60,000 point sign-up bonuses. Just those bonuses alone got us almost all the way to 110,000 points - we only needed a few actual flights to top it off.”
Other cardholders focus on the ongoing spending bonuses, as Chris P. in Denver describes: “I already had 50,000 miles from a previous Southwest card bonus. So I got the Priority Card and put all my regular spending on it for the next three months. The 50,000 point sign-up bonus plus thousands of points from ongoing spend pushed me over the Companion Pass threshold.”
Combining new card bonuses with manufactured spending is another approach, as road warrior Shelia S. explains: “I opened two new Southwest cards that I could hit the minimum spend on organically. But I needed about 30,000 more points, so I pre-paid my property taxes and a few other bills I knew I could float for a bit. This allowed me to manufacture the additional spend I needed to earn the Companion Pass quickly.”
Some cardholders suggest staggering applications across calendar years. Todd M. in Philadelphia says: “My wife and I try to time Southwest card applications between January and April each year. This ensures any points earned count towards Companion Pass status for the remainder of the current year and all of the next calendar year, maximizing the value.”
Chicago-based Chris M. echoes this strategy: “I applied for one Southwest card in March to earn the Companion Pass for nearly two years. Then in the following January, I applied for a second Southwest card to get a headstart on re-earning the Pass for the next period.”
Trying for the Companion Pass does come with some application timing risks, as Melissa D. in Seattle cautions: “I applied for a Southwest card in October which did help me earn the Pass. The downside was those points only counted toward Companion status for the last 3 months of the year. Next time I'll be more mindful of application dates.”