Southwest Rapid Rewards cards boost sign-up bonuses to 50,000 points

Southwest Rapid Rewards cards

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If the winter weather already has you looking ahead to spring break, summer travel and free flights, now is the great time to sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards cards – thanks to a 10,000-point sign-up bonus increase from Chase. The new offer gives Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus and Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier cardholders 50,000 bonus points when they spend $2,000 in the first three months of card membership.

Read on to see how, by combining the sign-up bonus, annual bonus and card referrals, you have the potential to earn more than 100,000 bonus points in the first year alone – getting you that much closer to the ultimate perk: the Southwest companion pass.

Recent changes to the Southwest cards

Chase frequently updates the sign-up bonuses for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus and Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier cards – teetering between 40,000 and 60,000 points.  But as the sign-up bonuses increase from 40,000 points to 50,000 or 60,000 points, the spend requirements also increase to $2,000.

Southwest Plus card recent changes

Change date Sign-up bonus
Jan. 12, 2018 50,000 points if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
Oct. 5, 2017 40,000 points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months
Aug. 28, 2017 60,000 points if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
June 30, 2017 40,000 points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months
June 1, 2017 60,000 points if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
June 30, 2017 40,000 points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months

Southwest Premier card recent changes

Change date Sign-up bonus
Jan. 12, 2018 50,000 points if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
Oct. 5, 2017 40,000 points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months
Aug. 28, 2017 60,000 points if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
June 30, 2017 40,000 points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months
June 1, 2017 60,000 points if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
April 6, 2017 40,000 points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months

While 50,000 bonus points is a generous offer (and obviously better than 40,000), keep in mind that, historically, Chase has also offered a 60,000-point sign-up bonus for the same spend requirement throughout the year. So if you apply for either card at the right time, you could potentially earn an additional 10,000 points from your sign-up bonus.

Which Southwest card is better in the first year?

Due to the similarities between the Southwest Plus card and the Southwest Premier card, it may be difficult to tell which card is better during the first year. As you can see from the following table, the cards share identical sign-up bonuses and rewards rates.

The biggest difference is the cards’ annual fees.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus versus Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier

  Southwest Plus card
Southwest Plus
Southwest Premier
Southwest Premier
Rewards rate
  • 2 points per dollar on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases
  • 1 point per dollar on general purchases
  • 2 points per dollar on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases
  • 1 point per dollar on general purchases
Sign-up bonus
50,000 points if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months 50,000 points if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
Annual fee $69 $99
Estimated earnings in first year ($15,900 spend) $552 $569

So why opt for the Southwest Premier card over the Plus card, given that the Premier charges an additional $30 per year? The main reason is the card’s annual bonus.

The Premier card offers a 6,000-point bonus each year on your card member anniversary, while the Plus card offers a 3,000-point annual bonus. We value each Rapid Rewards point at 1.57 cents – making the Premier card’s annual bonus worth approximately $94, practically covering the cost of the card’s annual fee. On the other hand, the Plus card’s annual bonus is valued at $47.

Value of Southwest cards' bonuses

  Southwest Plus card Southwest Premier card
Value of sign-up bonus
50,000 points x 1.57 cents = $785 50,000 points x 1.57 cents = $785
Value of annual bonus 3,000 points x 1.57 cents = $47 6,000 points x 1.57 cents = $94
Total value of first year bonuses $785 + $47 = $832 $785 + $94 = $879

Once you combine the number of points earned from annual spend – we estimate that the average cardholder spends $15,900 per year – with the sign-up bonus and annual bonus, minus the annual fee, the Premier card comes out on top during the first year – by $17 to be exact.

Total first year earnings ($15,900 spend + bonuses - annual fees)

Southwest Plus card Southwest Premier card
(($15,900 x 1.57) + (50,000 x 1.57) + (3,000 x 1.57)) - $69 = $1,013 (($15,900 x 1.57) + (50,000 x 1.57) + (6,000 x 1.57)) - $99 = $1,030

Keep in mind that, while the sign-up bonuses are only available during the first three months of card membership, you will continue to receive the annual bonus each year on your card’s anniversary – allowing the Premier card to practically pay for itself every year.

Earn the Southwest Companion Pass

The Plus and Premier sign-up bonuses can help get you closer to a companion pass – easily one of the best features the Southwest cards have to offer. The Southwest Companion Pass allows you to choose a designated person to fly free with you each time you purchase or redeem points for a flight. You will only be responsible for taxes and fees.

The companion pass is valid for the remainder of the year in which you earn the pass as well as the following full calendar year. To qualify for a companion pass, you must earn 110,000 points or make 100 one-way flights within one calendar year.

So, for example, let’s say you are approved for the Southwest Plus and Southwest Premier cards in January 2018. If you spend the required $2,000 on each card in the first three months – for a total of $4,000, you’ll already have a 100,000-point jump start. If you earn an additional 10,000 points before the end of the year, you will receive a companion pass that is valid for the remainder of 2018, through Dec. 31, 2019.

Note that most of your Rapid Rewards points count toward qualifying for the Companion Pass. This includes points earned through your Rapid Rewards credit card, points from flights booked through Southwest Airlines and base points earned from Rapid Rewards partners. However, purchased points, transferred points and points converted from hotel and car loyalty programs do not count.

Who is eligible for the sign-up bonus?

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus and Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier sign-up bonuses are only available to new cardholders who have not received a new card member bonus for Southwest cards in the past 24 months. Also, Chase only allows you to own one Southwest card at a time, so you are not eligible for the bonus if you are already a Southwest cardholder.

Of course, you have to qualify for the cards first, which means you have to have a credit score in the excellent range (at least 750).

Chase doesn’t appear to have a hard limit on how many cards you own, though they may deny your application if you have too large of a credit limit across your other Chase cards. Also, while there is no strict rule on how many Chase cards you can apply for within a certain timeframe, many applicants report a limit of one to two new cards per month.

Chase has come down hard recently on applicants who open many accounts at once. Though it’s not an official policy, Chase appears to be enforcing a “5/24” rule on new credit card applications. What this means is – if you have opened at least five credit card accounts in the past 24 months with any issuer (not just Chase) – your application will likely be denied. The rule seems to apply to any credit card account that shows up on your credit report, including co-branded store cards and authorized user accounts.

Keep this rule in mind if you plan to apply for more than one Southwest card in order to qualify for the companion pass. On the plus side, business credit cards that don’t report to your personal credit report do not affect your chances of being approved. Therefore, if you apply for one of the Southwest Rapid Rewards cards along with a Southwest Business card, you may have a better chance of being approved for both cards and receiving their sign-up bonuses.

Best way to use the Southwest Rapid Rewards cards’ sign-up bonus

While the Southwest cards offer a few different redemption options, airfare is by far the best option. Southwest has three fare tiers: Wanna Get Away, Anytime and Business Select, with Wanna Get Away fares providing the best value.

The value per point varies by flight, but averages around 1.6 cents per point for a Wanna Get Away fare. You can get even higher values if you are flexible, shop carefully for your ticket and buy your ticket far in advance while the best-priced fares are still available. Business Select fares have a very poor value – less than 1 cent per point on average. Note, the points cover the base fare and do not include taxes and fees.

Through the More Rewards site, you have even more redemption options, including gift cards, cruises, car rentals, hotels and merchandise. All of these have a poor value – hotels are by far the worst at a mere 0.2 cents per point. Your best option on the More Rewards site is gift cards, which are worth 1 cent per point when you buy them in $100 increments or larger. However, if you want to get the most out of your bonus points, you should stick to redeeming them for airfare.

Southwest Rapid Rewards redemption options

  Average point value Value of 50,000-point sign-up bonus
Wanna Get Away fare 1.6 cents $800
Anytime fare 1.1 cents $550
Business Select fare 0.9 cents $450
$100 gift card 1 cent $500
$50 gift card .083 cents $415
Car rental 0.7 cents $350
Merchandise 0.6 cents $300
Hotel 0.2 cents $100

An extra 50,000 bonus points per year

In addition to a sign-up bonus, the Southwest Rapid Rewards cards offer a referral bonus worth up to 50,000 points each year.

Chase’s “Refer-a-Friend” program gives Southwest cardholders 10,000 bonus points for each person they refer who is approved for the Southwest card – up to five people per year. To take part in the promotion, enter your last name, zip code and last four digits of your credit card on Chase’s refer-a-friend page. On the following page, enter the first name and email address of each person you wish to invite. You also have the option to post an invitation link to Facebook or Twitter or refer friends through the Chase app.

Should you apply for a Southwest card now?

If you’re already looking ahead to future spring break travel or even summer vacations, you’ll want to start earning Rapid Rewards points on everything you buy as soon as possible. Remember: The earlier in the year you earn the 110,000 points required for the companion pass, the more time you’ll have to take advantage of the perk – which makes signing up in January ideal.

However, if you can hold off until Chase launches its next 60,000-point offer, the extra 10,000 points may be worth the wait in the long run.

Also, keep in mind that Chase often offers larger sign-up bonuses for Southwest cards if you apply at the airport.

Bonus tip: If you decide to hold off on applying for a Southwest card until the bonus goes up to 60,000 points, you can still earn points in the meantime. By becoming a Rapid Rewards member, you can earn points when you fly with Southwest Airlines, stay at a partner hotel, dine at participating restaurants, shop through the Rapid Rewards shopping portal and more.

See related: Earn up to $500 a year when you refer a friend to these cards, Credit card special offers and limited-time promotions

The editorial content below is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. However, we do receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy


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Updated: 01-21-2018