Maximize Your Travel: Everything You Need to Know About Southwest Airlines Credit Cards

Maximize Your Travel: Everything You Need to Know About Southwest Airlines Credit Cards

In addition to the obvious benefit of gaining credit, credit cards also open up a whole new world of travel. You’re going to spend the money anyways, whether it be on a debit or credit card, so why not earn points for it and in a sense, free money? The responsibility of managing a credit card is a completely different story, and I’m not here to outline how to pay your bills and stay out of debt. I’m simply here to help you maximize your travel, beat the system, and earn as many points as possible in the least amount of time the easiest way I know how: My Southwest credit card. 

If you’re not already a Southwest fan, it’s time to face the facts. Southwest is known for their cheap fares, free bags, on-time flights (!!), and exceptional customer service. I may be a little bias about Southwest because I live 10 minutes from Dallas Love Field Airport (where Southwest departs) and a brutal 40 minutes from DFW. However, I was raised flying Southwest and applied for the credit card as soon as I could, which was about a year after managing a general credit card.

Which Southwest Card Is Right For You 

First, let’s break down your card options. Southwest has a few cards to choose from: The Plus, Premier, & Priority. If this is your first or second credit card, I suggest the Plus or Premier. I applied for the Plus card first because it’s easier to be approved, and recently upgraded to the Premier.

First thing to note is all three cards offer the same points per dollar. For all your expenses on any of the cards, you’ll receive 1 point per dollar. This may not seem like the best offer for a credit card, but I promise if you commit to making this your main card, your points will add up quicker than you think. Also, all three cards offer 2 points per dollar spent on Southwest flights. Which means if you buy a $200 dollar flight, you’ll receive 400 points plus the “miles,” which are related to the type of ticket purchased and distance of the flight.

To easier compare the cards, I’ve outlined it all below.

Annual Fee

  • Plus card – $69
  • Premier card – $99
  • Priority card – $149

Anniversary Points

  • Plus card – 3,000 points
  • Premier card – 6,000 points
  • Priority card – 7,500 points

Foreign Transaction Fees

  • Plus card – 3%
  • Premier card – None
  • Priority card – None

Earn Tier-Qualifying Points*

  • Plus card – No
  • Premier card – Yes
  • Priority card – Yes and a bonus of 1,500 for every $10,000 spent

*Tier-qualifying points: These points go towards your A-list status. You need 35,000 qualifying points to reach A-List. A-list members enjoy priority check-in and boarding, earn 25% more points on flights, and have the option for free same-day standby. 

When to Apply for the Southwest Credit Card 

Southwest offers credit card promotions all through the year. Right now, the promotion for opening any of the cards is 40,000 points (about $625 in travel) after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months. If you commit to using the card for all of your expenses, this is extremely doable without even having to try.

Although this current promotion is generous, there’s one that you should wait for if you’re looking to earn the infamous and most-unique airline benefit – the Companion Pass (more on that next.) The most valuable promotion is the 50,000 bonus points (about $780) after spending $3,000 in your first 3 months of opening the card. They offer this promotion one to two times a year.

Click here to apply for the Southwest Plus credit card.

How to Earn Companion Pass in the Quickest Way Possible

Ahhhh Companion Pass. In my opinion, this is one of the coolest and most beneficial perks an airline offers. A Southwest “Companion” is someone who flies for free with you on all of your flights. It’s technically a 2 for 1 ticket and has almost no restrictions. It’s just as good as it sounds – I book a flight and add my companion straight to my reservation for no extra costs. My companion right now is my sister, meaning I buy a ticket and she flies for free with me. We then simply split the cost of the fare, which ultimately saves me money, too!

There are two ways to earn companion pass. You can either take 100 one-way flights in a calendar year, or earn 110,000 points (the qualifying points re-start January 1). The easiest way to earn 110,000 is by using the credit card. This seems like a lot of points – and it is – but there are ways to achieve it in less than 12 months. I opened my Southwest card in February 2018 and earned it by October. Here’s how: 

  1. Apply for the card during the 50,000 bonus points promotion. These points go towards your companion status and once you’ve spent the $3,000 in the first 3 months and earned the promotion, you’re halfway to the 110,000 goal.
  2. Open your card at the beginning of the year to allow yourself more time. It’s important to note eligible companion pass points re-start on January 1. This doesn’t mean you lose your points, you just have to re-start earning your pass. Because 110,000 points is a lot to earn in 12 months, use the promotional points to your advantage and open your card at the beginning of the year. Whether you open it during the 40,000 or 50,000 points promotions, you’ll still be halfway there and then have a few more months to keep spending.
  3. Use your card on everything and pay it off as soon as possible. Earning the companion pass was my 2018 New years Resolution so I used my card any chance I had. I offered to pick up the tab at group dinners (shoutout to venmo), paid for various airbnbs (even my parent’s trip I wasn’t even going on!), and bought as many Southwest flights as I could to earn the double points. I made decent payments on my card about every 14 days, and earned companion pass by October.

Other key facts about the Companion Pass

  • You have companion pass for the remainder of the year you qualify and the ENTIRE following year
  • You can change your companion 3 times a year
  • Your companion must be on the same flight as you – meaning you should choose someone who lives in your city

My Southwest card and companion pass are two main reasons on how and why I am able to “afford” travel. If you’re interested in opening the card, I recommend applying ASAP to allow yourself the rest of the year to earn the 110,000 points for companion. If earning companion pass isn’t a priority, I suggest holding out for the 50,000 bonus point promotion.

Click here to apply for the Plus card and start flying for free! 

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