CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value. We may receive a commission through the LendingTree affiliate network if you apply and are approved for a card, but our reporting is always independent and objective.
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 each offering up to 80,000 bonus points to new card holders, broken into two portions.
First, you’ll earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months after you open the account. Then, you’ll earn another 30,000 bonus points when you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first nine months after opening the account.
Also, new card holders will earn 5 points for every dollar spent on Southwest purchases between December 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, on up to $2,000 in purchases per month (and 2 points per dollar spent thereafter).
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 if you earn the entire 80,000 bonus points, you can get as much as $1,200 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.
Apply now for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier 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 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.
Apply now for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card.
• 20% back on inflight drinks and WiFi
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.
Apply now for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business card.
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. That means if you get the card now and complete your minimum spend requirements after January 1, you can use those points toward earning the Companion Pass in 2021, and it’ll be valid all the way until the end of 2022!
To get the pass, you need to earn 125,000 qualifying Southwest points within a calendar year. Since the airline counts all Southwest credit card points toward the Companion Pass — including sign-up offers and regular spending on the card — earning the entire 80,000 bonus points on any one of these three cards will get you 64% of the way to 125,000 points.
Related: Learn how to fly your companion for free using Southwest credit cards.
Then 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 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.
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 80,000 points from any of the personal card offers, and you’ll end up with 140,000 total points, enough to earn the Companion Pass without any additional points.
Apply now for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business card.
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.
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 80,000-point sign-up bonus.
Apply now for the Southwest Rapid Rewards 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 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?
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 makes now the perfect time to grab one of these Southwest credit card offers, since you can make sure you meet the minimum spending requirement after January 1 and have all the bonus points count toward a Companion Pass for both 2021 and 2022.
And even 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 excellent. If that describes you, you may want to consider these limited-time offers now while they’re available.
For personal cards:
Learn more about the Southwest Plus card.
Learn more about the Southwest Premier card.
Learn more about the Southwest Priority card.
For business cards:
Learn more about the Southwest Premier Business card.
Learn more about the Southwest Performance Business card.
Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as its best credit cards of 2020.