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If you’re starting to think about getting back into the air in 2021 and you’re a fan of Southwest, there are several sign-up bonus offers currently available on all of the airline’s personal and business credit cards that may be worth a look.

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 each offering new card holders 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months after opening the account, plus 3 points for every dollar you spend on dining — including takeout and eligible delivery services — for the first year.

And if you have a small business, right now you can earn 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, or as much as 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business card.

Since Southwest points are worth about 1.5 cents per point when you redeem them for the airline’s cheapest “Wanna Get Away” fares, 40,000 bonus points are worth about $600 in travel, while 60,000 points are worth $900 and 80,000 bonus points are worth a whopping $1,200 in Southwest travel.

Perks of the Southwest credit cards

Aside from earning the bonus points from the sign-up offers, all five Southwest credit 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 as travel resumes, you may find some of them to be extremely useful.

• Yearly anniversary points

With all five Southwest credit cards, you’ll receive bonus points on a yearly basis, starting at your first anniversary (meaning one year from the date you originally get the card) and every year thereafter. These points help significantly offset the cost of each card’s annual fee.

With the Southwest Plus card, you’ll receive 3,000 bonus points at your anniversary, while the Southwest Premier and Southwest Premier Business cards come with 6,000 bonus points. The Southwest Priority card offers 7,500 bonus points at each account anniversary, while the Southwest Performance Business card will increase your balance the most with 9,000 bonus points each year.

Again, Southwest points are worth approximately 1.5 cents per point when redeemed for “Wanna Get Away” fares, so these 3,000, 6,000, 7,500 and 9,000 anniversary bonus points are worth $45, $90, $113 and $135 in value, respectively.

• Annual travel credit

A 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.

Get a $75 annual travel credit with the Southwest Priority card.

• 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 only the Southwest Priority and Southwest Performance Business cards, 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.

• 20% back on inflight drinks and Wi-Fi

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

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 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 Performance Business 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.

Get up to 365 statement credits for inflight Wi-Fi with the Southwest Performance Business card.

• Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit

Similar to many other popular credit cards such as the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, the Southwest Performance Business card will also reimburse you for either your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee, up to $100 once every four years.

Just pay for your application using your Southwest Performance Business card, and if you’re approved, you’ll be on your way to receiving expedited access at TSA security checkpoints in the U.S. and quicker re-entry into the country with Global Entry after traveling abroad.

Related: Earn a highest-ever 140,000 bonus points with the IHG Premier credit card.

And even if you already have Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, you can use this benefit for a friend or family member who doesn’t have it. Just use your card to pay for their application fee — the names don’t have to match.

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, 2022.

Related: What’s the Southwest Companion Pass, and should you get one?

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 Southwest frequent flyer accounts that were open prior to January 1, 2021.

That means in 2021, you only need 100,000 qualifying points to get the Companion Pass if you already had an account with Southwest at the end of last year. 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 the three personal cards will get you 40% of the way to 100,000 points.

There are many other ways to earn the remaining 60,000 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 can earn you the Southwest Companion Pass.
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Combining a personal Southwest credit card with a business one can earn you the Southwest Companion Pass.

Since you can earn an additional 60,000 bonus points with the Southwest Premier Business card after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months, by adding those 60,000 points together with the 40,000 points from any of the personal card offers, you’ll end up with 100,000 total points, which will get you the Companion Pass if you were a Southwest frequent flyer member at the end of last year and got the 25,000 bonus points.

Click here to earn 60,000 bonus points with the Southwest Premier Business card.

Or, with the Southwest Performance Business card, since you can earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months, you can do the same thing by combining the bonus points from the business card and the 40,000 points from one of the personal Southwest cards to earn the Companion Pass, assuming you got the 25,000 extra points from Southwest.

But even if you weren’t a Southwest frequent flyer member at the end of last year and need to earn the entire 125,000 Companion Pass qualifying points this year, with the Southwest Performance Business bonus and one of the personal card bonuses, once you take into consideration the 6,000 points earned from hitting the minimum spend requirement (5,000 points on the business card and 1,000 points on the personal card), that will earn you 126,000 points — enough to immediately earn the pass.

Click here to earn 80,000 bonus points with the Southwest Performance Business card.

Which Southwest credit card should you apply for?

With five different Southwest credit 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 40,000-point sign-up bonus.

Click here to earn 40,000 bonus points with the Southwest Plus card.

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 holder and pay your second annual fee.

Click here to earn 40,000 bonus points with the Southwest Premier card.

But if 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. 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.

Click here to earn 40,000 bonus points with the Southwest Priority card.

And if you have a small business, you can get the Southwest Premier Business card and only pay a $99 annual fee, or get the Southwest Performance Business card with all its perks and a higher $199 annual fee. The more-expensive business card probably only makes sense if you’ll be able to take advantage of all its Southwest benefits, like the upgraded boarding positions and Wi-Fi statement credits.

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

If you're not planning to fly much in 2021, you might consider waiting to earn the Companion Pass in 2022.
Southwest
If you're not planning to fly much in 2021, you might consider waiting to earn the Companion Pass in 2022.

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. That means if you get one (or two) of these Southwest cards now, you’d have plenty of time to earn the sign-up bonuses by the end of June and can enjoy the Companion Pass for at least 18 months all the way through 2022.

However, if travel is truly not in your future in 2021, then you may want to hold off on applying for a Southwest credit card. While you’ll still earn up to 80,000 bonus points with these offers, the bigger draw is being able to use the bonuses to earn the Companion Pass, and if you’re not going to use it in 2021, you’d be better off earning it early next year instead and having it until the end of 2023.

So, if airline perks don’t work for your travel needs right now, apply for these card later this year or next year when you believe you’ll be flying again. But if you’re hoping to take to the skies on a regular basis in the second half of 2021 and throughout 2022 and want to bring a friend or family member along for the ride, consider applying for one or more of these Southwest credit card today.

For personal cards:
Learn more and apply for the Southwest Plus card.
Learn more and apply for the Southwest Premier card.
Learn more and apply for the Southwest Priority card.

For business cards:
Learn more and apply for the Southwest Premier Business card.
Learn more and apply for the Southwest Performance Business card.

Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as its best credit cards of 2021.

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