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When you get the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, you’ve implicitly decided to at least use it enough to snag the current sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. You may also want to expand your strategy to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, which you can use to book another person nearly free flights for over a year.
» Learn More: Southwest Rapid Rewards Program: The Complete Guide
To reach these goals, here are the 5 things to do when you get the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card:
1. Pay the annual fee
Since the annual fee of $99 is charged on the first billing statement, you should be prepared to pay it within a couple weeks of your first statement closing date. Your bonus points will more than make up for the annual fee in travel savings, but you still have to pay the annual fee.
» Learn more: Chase 5/24 rule explained
2. Plan your strategy for completing the minimum spend
You won’t get a single point of your sign-up bonus if you fail to meet the minimum spending requirement. One of the first things you should do with any card is make sure you have a solid plan to spend the required amount to earn that bonus. Check on your account every week to ensure you’re making the progress you want.
For instance, if you plan on spending $400 in the first 30 days, check in on day 28 to see if you met your goal. Charges can take a few days to post, so be aware of charges that are still pending.
3. Research redemption options
There’s no point in using a rewards card if you aren’t going to spend your rewards. To think about how you’ll spend yours, go to the Southwest Airlines website and select “Points” instead of “Dollars” when looking up prices.
Pick a few destinations you’d like to visit, and start researching how many points it will take to get there. Doing this will help give you an idea of how much different flights cost, since Southwest’s award prices are based on the actual cash cost of their flights. Booking early and looking for great last-minute specials can help your points go further.
Keep in mind that NerdWallet values Southwest points at 1.4 cents each, so try to make redemptions worth this much (or higher).
4. Decide if you’ll try to earn the Companion Pass
The Southwest Companion Pass can result in at least a year of free flights for whomever you designate as your companion. (You can change the name of your companion up to three times.) You just have to pay taxes and fees on the flight.
But earning the pass isn’t easy: You’ll need 100 one-way flights, or 110,000 Southwest points from travel, credit card purchases or partner transactions (125,000 in 2020).
The sign-up bonus from the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card counts toward this Companion Pass requirement. Still, if you decide you want the Companion Pass, you should commit to earning it and adjust your credit card and airline spending as necessary. Trying to earn multiple bonuses simultaneously on different cards can hinder your ability to earn the Companion Pass.
» Learn More: Find the best airline credit card for you
5. Earn bonus points
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card offers 2 points per dollar for purchases through Southwest Airlines and its hotel and rental car partners. Thus, one of the first things you should do when getting this card is research ways to maximize bonus point earnings.
Southwest Airlines has a full list of partners on its website. Hotel and rental car partner options are plentiful, including a variety of name brands like World of Hyatt and Marriott. If you plan your spending right, you can earn enough points for a free flight after several trips.
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 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: Find the best travel credit card for you Snag these hotel loyalty perks, even if you’re disloyal Earn more points and miles with these 6 strategies