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As the year is winding down, there’s a good chance you are starting to think about your vacations in 2023. Fortunately, with the increased sign-up offers on all three Southwest personal credit cards, you can pick up a nice chunk of points to use towards your next trip.
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 75,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 on the card within the first three months after opening the account.
Or if you have a small business, 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 after opening the account, or 80,000 bonus points with the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months.
Southwest’s points are consistently worth about 1.4 cents each when you redeem them for the airline’s cheapest “Wanna Get Away” fares, which means 75,000 bonus points are worth roughly $1,050 toward Southwest travel, with 60,000 points worth $840 and 80,000 points garnering a whopping $1,120 in travel value. Plus, the points could potentially help earn you the coveted Southwest Companion Pass®, and if you do, it could be good all the way through the end of 2024.
Perks of the three Southwest personal credit cards
Aside from earning lots of points from the sign-up bonuses, Southwest credit cards also come with other benefits for Southwest flyers, and new perks were added late last year to all of the Southwest cards. So if you expect to fly the airline regularly in the coming year, you may find some of them to be extremely useful.
• Yearly anniversary points
With all of Southwest’s credit cards, you’ll get 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.
With Southwest points worth approximately 1.4 cents per point when redeemed for “Wanna Get Away” fares, these 3,000, 6,000, 7,500 and 9,000 anniversary bonus points are worth $42, $84, $105 and $126 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 any time you want after receiving the card). 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.
• Upgraded boarding positions
Southwest has a different seat assignment policy than most other airlines — there are 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 and Southwest Performance Business cards specifically, you get four upgraded boarding positions per year to use on Southwest flights. This means you can purchase an A1 through 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.
• EarlyBird Check-In credits
If you purchase the least expensive Southwest fare type, known as “Wanna Get Away” fares, you’ll need to check yourself in for your flight starting 24 hours in advance, and your check-in time will determine your boarding position. However, if you don’t want to have to worry about checking yourself in as close to 24 hours ahead as possible, Southwest allows you to purchase an add-on option called EarlyBird Check-In that automatically checks you in for your flight before the traditional 24-hour mark.
The Southwest Plus, Southwest Premier and Southwest Premier Business cards all come with two EarlyBird Check-In credits per year. EarlyBird Check-In typically costs between $15 and $25 one-way per passenger, so this benefit is worth $30 to $50 per year if you use it.
• 25% back on in-flight drinks and Wi-Fi
All five Southwest credit cards offer 25% back on in-flight drinks and Wi-Fi purchases. While this isn’t a huge savings, it could save you a few bucks over time.
However, if you’re a small-business owner who flies on Southwest often and typically pays for Wi-Fi on your flights, you might want to consider the Southwest Performance Business card, since you can get complimentary Wi-Fi on essentially every Southwest flight you take with that card — up to 365 statement credits per year.
• A-List status qualifying points
Another perk now available on the Southwest Premier, Southwest Priority, Southwest Premier Business and Southwest Performance Business cards is the ability to earn 1,500 tier-qualifying points toward A-List status for every $10,000 you spend on a card. Since there’s no cap, you can theoretically earn A-List and A-List Preferred status solely by spending money on your Southwest credit card.
However, it’d be a lot of spending to make it all the way to the top without flying at all. Just to earn A-List status would require spending well over $200,000 on your credit card. That’s almost certainly not worth it unless you’re making those kind of purchases anyway, but it’s still a useful perk if you combine it with tier-qualifying points earned by doing some flying on Southwest as well.
• Point transfer reimbursement
On both the Southwest Premier Business and Southwest Performance Business cards, you can transfer Southwest points to another person and be reimbursed for up to $500 in fees for doing so each year. This can easily help you consolidate points between family members or gift Southwest points to business associates.
Southwest point transfers typically cost $5 for every 500 points transferred, so getting up to $500 in reimbursements each year means you can effectively transfer up to 50,000 points per year for free.
• Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit
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 US and quicker reentry into the country with Global Entry after traveling abroad.
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.
How can these credit cards help you get a Southwest Companion Pass?
The Southwest Companion Pass allows a companion to fly with you for free (plus taxes) an unlimited number of times during the life of the pass. Currently, to get the pass, you need to earn 125,000 qualifying Southwest points within a calendar year. However, starting in 2023, Southwest is upping the requirement to 135,000 qualifying points. And if you have a Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card, you’ll receive an annual 10,000 boost (capped at a one-time boost regardless of the number of Southwest credit cards you have).
Fortunately though, earning the Companion Pass is easier than it looks. Since the airline counts all Southwest credit card points toward the Companion Pass — including sign-up offers and regular spending on Southwest credit cards — earning up to 80,000 bonus points on the Southwest Performance Business card or 75,000 bonus points on any one of the three personal cards will get you significantly closer to earning the pass.
When you earn a Southwest Companion Pass, you get to keep it for the rest of the year you earn it, plus the entire following calendar year. So if you earn the pass now, you’ll have it for more than a year, all the way until Dec. 31, 2023! However, now that we are nearly at the end of the year, the best strategy is to apply for the card now, and wait until Jan. 1 to meet the minimum spend requirement (since you have three months to do so). Earning the pass in early 2023 will then allow you to have it for all of 2023 and 2024.
Once you’ve earned the sign-up bonus, there are many other ways to earn the remaining Companion Pass points you need, 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 is to couple one of the personal Southwest credit cards with a Southwest business credit card. Although Southwest limits you to having just one personal credit card at a time, there are no restrictions on having both a personal and business card.
Since you can currently earn 80,000 bonus points with the Southwest Performance Business card, if you add those 80,000 points to the 75,000 bonus points earned from any one of the three personal cards, you’ll immediately cross the required threshold to earn the Companion Pass.
Although this requires paying an annual fee on two cards and the Performance Business card is the most expensive Southwest credit card at $199 a year, the card comes with upgraded boardings, in-flight Wi-Fi credits, opportunity to earn A-List status and a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit.
Or, you can combine one of the three personal cards with the 60,000 bonus points on the Southwest Premier Business card. Although an inferior offer, adding those 60,000 points together with the 75,000 points from the personal card offer, you’ll also end up with more than enough points to earn the pass requirements.
But if you are only eligible for the personal credit card, you’ll still end up with a total of 78,000 points towards the pass requirements (75,000 points from the offer, plus 3,000 points from meeting the minimum spend requirement). But as previously mentioned, unless you have an immediate need to earn the pass, wait until Jan. 1, 2023 to meet the minimum spend and earn the remaining qualifying points needed — which is 47,000 points — as you’ll then have the pass until Dec. 31, 2024.
Which Southwest credit card should you get?
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 sign-up bonus.
The benefits of the Southwest Premier card are similar to those of 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.
But you’ll earn 3 points per dollar on Southwest purchases with the Southwest Premier versus 2 points that you earn with the Southwest Plus. And the Southwest Premier also now allows you to earn more tier-qualifying points toward A-List status.
But if you fly Southwest a decent amount throughout the year 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 boardings per year and a 25% statement credit on in-flight 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 $105 in Southwest flights.
Finally, 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, Wi-Fi statement credits and point transfer fee credit.
Is this the best time to get a Southwest credit card?
If you believe you’ll be traveling on Southwest in 2023 and into 2024, then applying for the card now is one of the best times imaginable. This is because you’ll be applying with an increased offer and by ensuring your welcome offer points don’t post until 2023 — which means holding off on meeting the minimums spend requirement until Jan. 1, 2023 — you’ll be able to have a friend or family member fly with you for free (plus taxes/fees) for almost two years.
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