PHOTO: Southwest

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You may not be thinking much about travel at the moment, but eventually airlines will resume their full schedules. And if you’ve been waiting for an opportunity to apply for a Southwest Airlines personal credit card with an increased bonus, this is your chance. The airline currently has limited-time offers on all three of its consumer cards, which can not only increase your points balance, but could even help you earn the coveted Southwest Companion Pass.

Right now, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card are offering 65,000 bonus points to new card holders after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months after you open the account. But the links in this story for those offers are expiring by the end of the day today, Monday, September 14.

Although these offers are slightly lower than we saw at the beginning of the year, the spending requirements are significantly less. And Southwest’s points are consistently worth about 1.5 cents per point when you redeem them for the airline’s cheapest “Wanna Get Away” fares. That means with the bonus alone, you can get as much as $975 in Southwest travel.

Perks of the three Southwest personal credit cards

Aside from earning a massive number of points from the sign-up bonuses, these three cards also come with many other benefits for Southwest flyers — although some are better than others. But depending on the card, if you expect to fly Southwest regularly when travel resumes, you may find some of them to be extremely useful.

• Yearly anniversary points

With all three Southwest cards, you’ll receive bonus Rapid Rewards points on a yearly basis, starting with your first anniversary (meaning one year from the date you originally get the card). These points help significantly offset the cost of the card’s annual fee.

With the Southwest Plus card, you’ll receive 3,000 bonus points at your anniversary. The Southwest Premier card comes with 6,000 bonus points, and the Southwest Priority card will increase your balance the most with 7,500 bonus points. Again, Southwest points are worth approximately 1.5 cents per point, so these anniversary bonus points are worth $45, $90 and $113 value, respectively.

• Upgraded boarding positions

Southwest has a different seat assignment policy than most other airlines — there are actually no assigned seats. Instead, the carrier has open seating, where you pick your preferred seat upon boarding the plane. Your boarding position — which you get when you check in for your flight — determines when you board. All passengers receive a boarding position between A1 and C60, with A1 being first to board and C60 being last.

With the Southwest Priority card specifically, you get four upgraded boarding positions per year to use on Southwest flights. This means you can purchase an A1-15 boarding position at the gate (if available, giving you the opportunity to board the plane before most other passengers, and you’ll receive a statement credit for the amount charged.

Purchasing an upgraded boarding position normally costs between $30 and $50, so this benefit is worth $120 to $200 per year.

• Annual travel credit

Another benefit of just the Southwest Priority card is a $75 travel credit each account year (meaning you can utilize the first year’s credit immediately after receiving the card if you want). This travel credit can be used for essentially any Southwest purchases, including flights, taxes or even fees when using points, so long as you use your Southwest Priority card to pay for it.

• 20% back on inflight drinks and WiFi

The Southwest Priority credit card offers 20% back on your inflight purchases, including Wi-Fi.
The Southwest Priority credit card offers 20% back on your inflight purchases, including Wi-Fi.
PHOTO: iStock

Again, an exclusive benefit of the Southwest Priority card is 20% back on inflight drinks and Wi-Fi purchases. While this isn’t a huge savings, over time, it could save you a few bucks.

However, if you fly on Southwest quite often (or intend to once travel resumes more broadly) and typically pay for Wi-Fi on your flights, you might want to consider the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card instead, since you can get complimentary Wi-Fi on essentially every Southwest flight you take with that card — up to 365 statement credits per year.

These sign-up bonuses can help you earn the Southwest Companion Pass

Not only can you earn a ton of Southwest Rapid Rewards points with these offers, they’re also perfect for earning the Southwest Companion Pass. The Companion Pass allows a companion to fly with you for free (plus taxes) for the rest of the year it’s earned, plus the entire following year. So if you earn the pass now, you can use it an unlimited number of times until December 31, 2021.

Related: Learn how to fly your companion for free using Southwest credit cards.

To get the pass, you need to earn 125,000 qualifying Southwest points within a calendar year. However, due to the pandemic, for this year only, Southwest automatically added 25,000 Companion Pass-qualifying points to all Rapid Rewards accounts that were open prior to April 1, 2020.

That means in 2020, you only need 100,000 qualifying points to get the Companion Pass if you already had an account with Southwest as of April 1. Since the airline counts all Southwest credit card points toward the Companion Pass — including sign-up offers and regular spending on the card — hitting the offer on any one of these three cards will get you 65% of the way to 100,000 points.

There are many other ways to earn the remaining 35,000 Companion Pass points — such as using the Southwest shopping portal, crediting your hotel and car rentals to Southwest and ongoing usage of your Southwest credit card. But one of the easiest ways is to couple one of the personal Southwest credit cards with a Southwest business credit card. Although Southwest now limits you to having just one personal credit card at a time, there are no restrictions on having both a personal and business card.

Combining a personal Southwest credit card with a business one could earn you the Companion Pass much faster.
Combining a personal Southwest credit card with a business one could earn you the Companion Pass much faster.
PHOTO: iStock

Right now, you can earn an additional 60,000 bonus points with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months. Add those 60,000 points together with the 65,000 points from any of the personal card offers, and you’ll end up with 125,000 total points, which will get you the Companion Pass even if you weren’t a Southwest Rapid Reward account member on April 1 and didn’t get the 25,000 bonus points.

Or, with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business card, you can earn up to 100,000 bonus points — 70,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months, plus an additional 30,000 points after you spend $25,000 on purchases in the first six months of account opening. The card has a $199 annual fee, but comes with the same upgraded boardings as the Southwest Priority card, along with a few other perks.

While this is a great offer and theoretically allows you to earn the pass without also getting any of the personal Southwest credit cards, the minimum spend requirement is quite high. But if you’re only able to hit the first tier of spending, combining the 70,000 bonus points from that tier and the 65,000 points from one of the personal Southwest cards will earn you the Companion Pass.

Which Southwest personal card should you apply for?

With three different personal cards on the table, it’s important to know which card is best for your individual needs. If your main goal is to increase your Southwest Rapid Rewards points balance and earn points toward the Southwest Companion Pass, then the Southwest Plus card is best. This card carries the lowest annual fee at just $69 per year, but offers the same 65,000-point sign-up bonus.

The benefits of the Southwest Premier card are similar to the Southwest Plus card, but you’re paying a higher annual fee at $99. Although you’ll earn more bonus points on your card anniversaries, you don’t earn them until you complete your first year as a card member and pay your second annual fee.

But you fly Southwest a decent amount throughout the year — or plan to once travel resumes — and you want a card rich in benefits, then the Southwest Priority card is your best option. Although it has a significantly higher fee at $149, the benefits alone are easily worth it if you can use them.

The Southwest Priority card’s $75 travel credit brings the effective cost of the card down to just $74. Then on top of that, you’ll receive four upgraded boarding per year and a 20% statement credit on inflight drinks and Wi-Fi. If you can maximize those benefits, you can easily be ahead in your first year alone. And starting with your second year, you’ll always be ahead once you add in the 7,500 bonus points at each card anniversary, which are worth $90 in Southwest flights.

Is this the best time to get a Southwest credit card?

If you
If you're not planning to fly much in 2020, you might consider waiting a few months and earn the Companion Pass in 2021.
PHOTO: iStock

It’s no secret that one of the biggest perks of applying for a Southwest credit card is to get one step closer to earning the Southwest Companion Pass, which is valid for the rest of the year it’s earned, plus the entire following year.

But since you must earn all of your Companion Pass-qualifying points in the same calendar year, applying for a card now means you only have roughly three-and-a-half more months to earn the remaining points. If you don’t think you’ll be able to do that, you might want to consider holding off until the start of 2021 when you’ll have close to an entire year to earn the points.

Of course, if you wait, you’ll have to take advantage of whatever bonus offers are available at that point. Also, if travel is currently not on your horizon, you might consider waiting to earn the pass in January so you can have almost two full years of utilizing it.

However, if you’re not interested in the Southwest Companion Pass and just want to bank a bunch of Southwest points to use when travel is back to normal, these bonus offers are pretty solid. If that describes you, you may want to consider these limited-time offers now while they’re available.

Learn more about the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card.
Learn more about the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card.
Learn more about the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card.

Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as its best credit cards of 2020.