How to Maximize Your Southwest Card Sign-Up Bonus

Ariana Arghandewal
By Ariana Arghandewal 
Edited by Mary M. Flory

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The sign-up bonus on all three co-branded personal Southwest credit cards just increased. If you’ve been looking to give your Rapid Rewards account a boost, this is a great time to apply for one of these cards. Once you do, you’ll want to maximize not only the sign-up bonus, but also the various features associated with each card.

The following three Southwest cards currently offer this bonus: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's nothing to sneeze at, since NerdWallet values Southwest points at 1.5 cents each.

Here are five ways to maximize these points.

1. Get the card that’s the best fit for you

With three card options, it’s important to pick the one that’s right for you. Even if the sign-up bonuses are the same across the board, the card features and annual fees are not. If you’re just looking for a big sign-up bonus with the lowest annual fee ($69), go for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card. The card also comes with a 3,000-point renewal bonus and 2 points per $1 spent at Southwest.

Want a few more bells and whistles like no foreign transaction fees, a 6,000-point renewal bonus and credit toward A-list status? Then the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card with a $99 annual fee might be a better fit.

In exchange for a $149 annual fee, you can also go for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, which offers the following additional benefits:

  • 7,500 point renewal bonus.

  • $75 annual Southwest credit.

  • Four upgraded boardings per year (when available).

  • 20% back on in-flight purchases, like drinks and Wi-Fi.

2. Meet the minimum spending requirement

An important step in getting maximum value out of your Southwest card is to complete the minimum spending requirement to earn that sign-up bonus. Put this off too long, and you’ll miss out on those points and all the travel opportunities that come with them.

A great way to get this done is by charging all of your daily spending and household bills to your card. That includes trips to the grocery store, utility bills, insurance premiums and everything in between. Though you have a few months, it’s best to start planning (and spending) now so you don’t have to worry about it later.

3. Take advantage of card perks

All three Southwest credit cards offer 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest flights as well as with hotel and rental car partners. If you have any upcoming travel plans that involve Southwest, you’ll want to use your card for those bookings.

If you have the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card or Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, you’ll want to explore the option to upgrade to A-list status. Both cards issue 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points (TPQ) per $10,000 spent up to $100,000 annually. So whether you have some big purchases coming up or are looking for ways to maximize your daily spending, charging expenses to these two Southwest cards could really pay off. You’ll not only earn points, but you could get closer to A-list status.

Those with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card will want to be sure to take advantage of the additional perks like four upgraded boardings per year and 20% back on in-flight drinks and Wi-Fi. You’re paying a higher annual fee for this card, so don’t let those perks go to waste!

4. Try to earn the Companion Pass

The Companion Pass from these Southwest credit cards is only valid until Feb. 28, 2022.

To earn a standard Companion Pass, it takes 125,000 points in a calendar year to get your hands on it. If you do, you can assign a travel companion to fly with you free of charge, even on award tickets, for the rest of the year and the entire next calendar year.

But how do you earn 125,000 points? Likely through a points bonus from a Southwest Business card.

If you're trying to earn the normal Companion Pass through flights and/or points from one of the Southwest business cards (as opposed to the promotional one through their personal cards), you’ll want to strategize about exactly when to earn the pass. If you complete the requirements before the end of 2021, the pass will be valid through December 2022.

So you either want to get a personal Southwest card now and complete the spending requirements ASAP for the promotional pass good until Feb. 28, 2022, or earn it the old fashion way by earning the 125,000 points (likely with a bonus from a Southwest business card) and you'll have the pass until Dec. 31, 2022.

Note: If you wait until early 2022 to earn your Companion Pass, it will be valid through the end of 2023. The catch? You’ll start from scratch, since it will be a new year. And remember that most Southwest offers are not available to customers who already have a Southwest card or have earned a bonus in the last 24 months. Plan your Companion Pass strategy accordingly.

5. Put your points to good use

Regardless of whether you’ve earned the Companion Pass or not, you’ll want to put the sign-up bonus from your Southwest credit card to good use. What can you do with that many Rapid Rewards points? A lot, if you follow these tips:

Book Wanna Get Away Fares

Wanna Get Away Fares are the cheapest fares offered by the airline. Since award prices are based on fare cost, you’ll get the most value out of your Southwest points by redeeming them for Wanna Get Away fares.

For example, a one-way flight between Oakland and Honolulu on Oct. 27 starts at just $164 or 10,916 points. Meanwhile, the Anytime and Business Select fares for the same flight cost about four times that amount:

Use the Low Fare Calendar and book in advance

There’s a myth that gets perpetuated sometimes that “last-minute deals” are a great way to save on travel. In reality, these deals are few and far between. After all, airlines and hotels prefer that bookings be completed far in advance so they can manage their inventory accordingly. While there are exceptions, you’ll most often find the best deals when you book in advance.

The same goes for Southwest fares, though the airline does offer a handy tool to help you book the lowest fare: The Low Fare Calendar. Just enter your departure, destination and travel months to see a calendar of low fares. You can even toggle between cash fares and point redemptions to figure out the best deals.

Redeem points for international flights

You probably know that Southwest flies internationally, primarily to Mexico and the Caribbean. But did you know you can use your Southwest points to fly virtually anywhere in the world, even on third-party airlines? Southwest’s Rewards portal lets you redeem points for flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises and more.

By selecting “Airfare” under the Travel tab, you can book flights on other carriers. This is great if you don’t live near a Southwest hub or are looking for ways to redeem points for flights further afield. Redemption rates are also pretty favorable, depending on when and where you’re traveling.

For example, we found a round-trip basic economy fare between San Francisco and Paris in October you could book for just 45,000 Southwest points.

With United, the same award costs 60,000 miles round-trip.

Not a bad way to put your Southwest sign-up bonus to use!

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 2024, including those best for:

Travel Cards from our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate


5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.


Intro offer


Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate


Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.


Intro offer


Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate


Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.


Intro offer


Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

See more Travel cards
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