Last week, Southwest Airlines announced quite possibly the best credit card sign-up bonus ever: 30,000 Rapid Rewards points… as well as the Southwest Companion Pass good through the rest of 2019.
What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
I’ve written at length about just how incredible the Southwest Companion Pass is for those looking to travel. I’ve called it the best airline perk in the business, outlined how we were able to earn it, and recently showed just how much value we were able to squeeze out of the Companion Pass in 2018. The bottom line for the Southwest Companion Pass: it’s essentially buy one, get one free airfare on Southwest Airlines for you and your identified “companion,” whether that’s a significant other, child, parent, or friend.
Honestly, I thought Southwest Airlines would keep making it more difficult to obtain the Companion Pass. That’s usually how credit card points and frequency flyer programs work – people learn how valuable the points can be, take advantage of the points, then companies devalue the points or rewrite the rules to make them less advantageous.
But to openly give away an airline perk with limitless potential? It’s almost too good to be true. The sign-up offer is only available through February 11, so take advantage while you can.
What Credit Cards are Eligible?
Southwest Airlines partners with Chase bank to offer three different consumer credit cards:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card ($69 annual fee)
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card ($99 annual fee)
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card ($149 annual fee)
Any of these cards have the same identical offer: spend $4,000 within the first three months and receive a 30,000 point sign-up bonus in addition to the Companion Pass through December 2019.
The Rapid Rewards Plus credit card may initially be the most appealing, since it’s the cheapest option with a $69 annual fee (which isn’t waived the first year). There’s a small anniversary bonus (3,000 Rapid Rewards points) if you keep the card for a second year, and the card passes along foreign transaction fees, so you’d definitely want to avoid using this card while traveling internationally.
For those who travel abroad or make international purchases, the Rapid Rewards Premier could be a better card. It has a $99 annual fee each year, but does NOT charge foreign transaction fees. That could easily save you the $30 price difference, and the card also offers a larger anniversary bonus of 6,000 Rapid Rewards points.
For everyone interested in the Companion Pass, I would highly recommend the new Rapid Rewards Priority card. It has the largest annual fee ($150), but includes an annual $75 statement credit for Southwest Airlines purchases, 4 upgraded boardings to A1-A15 each year, no foreign transaction fees, 20% back on flight drinks and in-flight wifi, and an anniversary bonus of 7,5000 Rapid Rewards points. Since you’d presumably be flying with Southwest Airlines much more often with a Companion Pass, you could easily find the most value in these perks. The upgraded boardings alone are valued around $20 each, so between the $75 statement credit and $80 value in upgraded boardings, the card’s perks are already worth more than the $150 annual fee.
Who Should Sign Up?
- Anyone interested in traveling domestically a lot in 2019
- Anyone who travels most frequently with the same person (since switching your designated “companion” has limitations)
- Anyone living near an airport served by Southwest Airlines (especially their “hubs:” Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Baltimore, Dallas, Phoenix, etc.)
- Anyone who isn’t impacted by the Chase 5/24 rule (unless you’ve been playing the points game for a few years like us, you’re probably fine)
This is a sign-up bonus that likely appeals to a much wider audience than other credit card offers. It’s straightforward and limitless; you could seriously fly every single weekend from when you earn the Companion Pass through December 31, 2019 and only pay for 1/2 of the airfare.
It’s also a great idea for families. If a husband and wife BOTH earned the Companion Pass, they could add their children as “companions.” So rather than purchasing airfare for four people, they would only need to purchase airfare for two people. Which would make a vacation to Disney World much more affordable.
You can redeem about 78 Rapid Rewards points per dollar of airfare on Southwest Airlines. Thus, the 30,000 Rapid Rewards points alone are worth $385. When you factor in the free companion, that’s roughly $770 in free flights. That’s a good start and is reason enough to sign up for one of the cards.
But as I mentioned, the Companion Pass is limitless. Which gives you even more incentive to travel as much as possible while you have it. One option to earn even more Rapid Rewards points is by also signing up for one of the Chase Sapphire credit cards. Southwest Airlines is a transfer partner with Chase bank, which means points earned through the Chase Sapphire cards can be easily combined into your Rapid Rewards account then redeemed for travel along with the Companion Pass. I wouldn’t usually suggest transferring those uber valuable Chase points to Southwest Airlines (when you can instead do something like this), but the Companion Pass can more than justify that strategy.
While Southwest Airlines primarily flies domestically, they have also dabbled into the the Caribbean and Latin America markets as well. Some of these designations includes Aruba, Belize, Mexico, Jamaica, Costa Rica, and Grand Cayman. Flights to some of these destinations may be limited to certain days of the week or times of the year, but they offer more options than just domestic trips. Even better, Southwest Airlines is only months away from flying to Hawaii. The government shutdown has apparently delayed the final approval, but you could soon use the Companion Pass to fly to Hawaii for half the price.
For any Southwest Airlines reward flights (either using points or the Companion Pass), you’ll still need to pay very modest taxes. For domestic flights, the taxes are only $5.60 for each one-way trip. For international flights, taxes can be a little more depending on the destination; taxes on these flights range from $15-$60 for each one-way itinerary.
Low Risk, High Reward
Since Taryn and I already have a Companion Pass that’s good through December 31, 2019, this limited time sign-up bonus doesn’t apply to us. But I can’t stress how amazing this offer is.
We’ve gone on a lot of crazy trips with credit card points, but earning the points and then finding award availability can be time-consuming and difficult. Not with this offer and not with the Companion Pass. It’s never been so easy to travel so much for free.
Many people are hesitant to sign up for a bunch of credit cards. But with only one credit card signup, you can easily obtain the Companion Pass, arguably the crown jewel of domestic travel perks. It’s a very low risk with a very high reward. If you have had any inkling to travel more in 2019, I would highly recommend signing up for one of these three credit cards!
If you or your soon-to-be “Companion” sign up for one of the Southwest cards, I’d love to know! Send a quick message or email so I can send you a virtual fist bump.