How to Make the Most of Southwest’s New Business Credit Card

Jun 21, 2019
How to Make the Most of the New Southwest Business Card

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The sign-up bonus for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card has changed since the article was published. See NerdWallet's review of the card for up-to-date information. 

The Southwest credit card family got an exciting addition recently: the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card.

With its $199 annual fee, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card is now the airline’s highest-end business card and includes some fantastic perks, such as 3 points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines purchases, four upgraded boardings per year (when available) and in-flight Wi-Fi credits.

But the feature that caught the attention of many Southwest frequent flyers was the card’s sign-up bonus: Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. You’ll also get 9,000 bonus points after your cardmember anniversary. NerdWallet values Southwest points at 1.4 cents each.

So this sign-up bonus is no joke from a pure redemption value perspective.

Plus, points earned through Southwest credit cards count toward the 125,000 qualifying points needed to earn the coveted Companion Pass, which lets a companion fly on the same itinerary as you at no cost besides the taxes and fees. So this card’s sign-up bonus offers an especially compelling avenue for earning the pass quickly.

However, some thought should go into how to use the card to maximize these benefits, starting with when to sign up.

Timing is everything

The Companion Pass is earned after accruing 125,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards qualifying points in the year you first earn it, plus the following year. In terms of using this new card’s sign-up bonus to help you get toward those 125,000 points, this means two things:

  1. Try to trigger the sign-up bonus within a year that you'll be able to earn the Companion Pass. For example, you don’t want the card’s sign-up bonus to trigger in December 2020 if you haven’t already accrued the other points you'll need to earn it that year. Why? Because your elite-qualifying points will reset Jan. 1, eliminating your chances to earn the pass. In fact …

  2. You should probably time the sign-up bonus to trigger in January. Because the Companion Pass is active for the year in which it's earned as well as the following year, you’ll get more benefit from it when you earn it earlier in a calendar year. Since the sign-up bonus won’t hit your account until you reach the minimum spend, you’ll likely want to sign up for the card late in the year — November is a safe bet. (There's no guarantee the same bonus will be available then, however.) Of course, if you’re looking to get the Companion Pass ASAP and this bonus would get you over the top, now could be the right time to apply.

Make sure you can hit the minimum spend responsibility

We can’t stress this enough: With a sign-up bonus of this size, you have to plan your expenses responsibility. (That sign-up bonus, remember, is: Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.)

Depending on your business, this might not seem like much, but remember: Many expenses like rent and payroll can't be paid with a credit card. So make sure to double-check your credit card spending and anticipated expenses before you sign up.

Thankfully, the advice to sign up for the card late in the year lines up with many businesses’ heavy end-of-the-year spending — you might wish you were only putting $5,000 on the card.

Consider adding a personal Southwest card

Don’t rule out the idea of getting one of Southwest’s personal credit cards to supplement the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card. The points earned from these cards, including the sign-up bonuses, also count toward the Companion Pass so long as they’re attached to the same Rapid Rewards account.

You’ll need to hit the minimum spend for both cards, so if you run a sole proprietorship or other very small business, make sure you can simultaneously hit those requirements if you’re aiming to trigger the sign-up bonuses in January. Otherwise you can stagger the sign-ups, which will mean getting less value from the Companion Pass, but this strategy reduces the minimum spend pressure.

Don’t forget the other perks

We’ve mostly focused on the sign-up bonus and the Companion Pass, but this card offers loads of other benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked.

  • Use the upgrade certificates for family travel. “Upgraded boarding” on Southwest mostly means guaranteeing your whole party can sit together, which can relieve some stress when traveling with kids.

  • Don’t pay for Wi-Fi. The card offers 365 $8 Wi-Fi passes per year — essentially canceling out the inflight Wi-Fi fee, since that's the cost of a daily pass.

  • Book all Southwest expenses with this card. The 3x points per $1 earning is the best of any Southwest card, so try to target as much of your Southwest spending as possible to this card, if you have multiple cards.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business card offers a lot of great value for small business owners, especially those looking to earn Southwest’s Companion Pass. Just make sure to plan ahead, and don’t forget to take advantage of the card’s other perks.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:

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