Southwest Rapid Rewards Card
Southwest Airlines runs frequent promotions for its Rapid Rewards Credit Card, but now may be an optimal time to get it, given that we are at the end of the calendar year (More on that later.). I don’t offer Chase cards, but that link will take you directly to Southwest’s website.
For those who are not familiar with Rapid Rewards, the Southwest Airlines loyalty program, it works a little bit differently from traditional plans. At the major carriers, the price of an award ticket in points depends on where you are flying, when you are flying and the class of service. And then, even if you have enough points, there might not be availability.
Southwest has gotten rid of a lot of those restrictions. Instead, the cost in points is based strictly on how much that ticket would cost you if you were to pay cash. Each point is worth about 1.5 cents. To get a quote, simply search for the ticket you want and select “Points” instead of “Dollars.”
The Southwest Companion Pass
The card offers some pretty good benefits just for having it (although the “bags fly free and no change fee” are somewhat disingenuous, since you get those without the card, as well.). Depending on which of the two cards in the link you apply for, you could get additional benefits that more than pay for the price of the card itself. Note that the card is subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule.*
But the card will also give you a head start to possibly the best perk in the airline industry: The Companion Pass (CP). A companion pass is just what it sounds like: for the duration of your status, which you earn by flying 100 segments or earning 110,000 Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year, you get to bring along your favorite companion, free of charge (Yes, you do have limited opportunities to change your companion if you get a new favorite person.). The 60,000 Rapid Rewards points you get from the sign-up bonus count, as do any that you earn from the credit card. You’ll earn 40,000 points for spending $1,000 in your first three months, as well as another 20,000 for spending in the first year.
Even if you’re not trying to earn the Pass, it is still an excellent sign-up bonus. Your 60,000 points for getting the card are worth approximately $900 in Southwest flights.
Which Card Should I Get
You have two options for cards, and you likely won’t be able to get both. The basic card costs $69 and gives you an anniversary bonus of 3,000 points. If we value points at 1.5 cents each, the points are worth about $45. Your net cost is $24.
The Priority card, though, is the better deal. Yes, it costs more at $149, but it gives you a $75 annual travel credit and 7,500 points each year on your anniversary. Together, those two benefits are worth $187.50 in travel credit. You’ll also receive a number of other benefits, including upgraded boarding passes.
Southwest offers bonus promotions throughout the year, but now is the optimal time to get it. Why is that?
The Companion Pass is based on a calendar year. By getting the card at the beginning of the year, you’ll be in a position to earn 60,000 points right away toward the 110,000 that you need for the CP. Thus, you will know exactly what you need throughout the year, meaning that you can shift spending onto or off of your Southwest card, depending on your needs. It also means that you’ll have the Pass for the maximum amount of time. If you earn it in December of 2018, you only have it for a month of the year. If you front-load your points and earn it in January, you’ll have it for all of 2018, as well as 2019.
The actual rewards for spending, which are a point per dollar for all purchases except Southwest (which are at two points) are not great, so I wouldn’t make this my primary card. But if you fly a lot of Southwest and have a companion that you like to bring, the card and its sign-up bonus are great to have.
*Beginner’s Hint: A few years ago, in order to reduce credit card bonus churners, Chase introduced what has become commonly known as the 5/24 rule. If you have opened five or more personal cards, from any bank, over the previous 24 months, Chase will not approve you for a personal card. There are exceptions, but not a lot of them.
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