With the excitement generated by Southwest Airlines’ limited-time welcome offer that includes a promotional Companion Pass and 30,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points, many travelers may be dreaming of all the places they can bring a friend or family member in 2019.
But before you decide to charge $4,000 over three months on the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card or the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, there is a bigger question you should be asking yourself: Does this limited-time welcome offer represent a good value for my travel style?
As with everything in the travel world, it all depends on your personal preference.
If you are planning several trips or fly with Southwest Airlines on a regular basis, then you shouldn’t have trouble capitalizing on this offer. But if you shop based on price instead of airline, or you don’t live near a Southwest airport, your return is likely to be minimal.
What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
Arguably, the Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most sought-after benefits among all airlines. Ordinarily, flyers get the Companion Pass after flying 100 qualifying one-way flights or earning 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year. The points can be earned nearly anywhere, including from spending on a Southwest Airlines credit card, or participating in partner offers including the Southwest Airlines points mall and dining rewards.
After earning the Companion Pass, flyers can designate one person to fly with them through the year on what turns into a “buy one, get one” offer. Members must first book their flight online or over the phone before they can add their friend or family member using the Companion Pass option.
The good news about the Companion Pass is there are no blackout dates or seat restrictions: You can fly with your designated companion at any time throughout the year. But on the downside, you can only have one companion at a time and only change your designated passenger three times every calendar year.
An argument for the promotional Companion Pass
What makes this offer so compelling is the ease of getting the Companion Pass. Instead of flying 100 qualifying one-way trips or earning 110,000 qualifying points, members can get this great benefit when they spend $4,000 over three months — which is a much easier entry level than the traditional ways of earning points. But it’s only easier if you can pay off that $4,000 right away.
Those who do qualify for this welcome offer also get an additional 30,000 Rapid Rewards points. Based on our latest analysis, at a Rapid Rewards points value of 1.7 cents each, the 30,000-point offer combined with 4,000 Rapid Rewards points from spending could earn you over $550 in travel.
» Learn more: Southwest Rapid Rewards Program: The complete guide
Paired with the benefits of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, including the $75 annual travel credit and four upgraded boardings per year, the Companion Pass could go a long way for frequent flyers. If you enjoy flying aboard Southwest regularly, this deal would help you enjoy flying a lot more.
An argument against the promotional Companion Pass
But the Southwest Companion Pass deal isn’t necessarily right for everyone. Based on our research, the 34,000 points you would earn from this welcome bonus would only yield one round-trip flight, based on the average round-trip award price of 18,990 Rapid Rewards points.
While the Companion Pass would allow travelers to bring a friend on the award flight, it isn’t necessarily the highest overall value among welcome offers. Other credit cards could offer bang for the buck: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers $500 toward travel after earning 50,000 bonus miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. And the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers a welcome bonus of 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, which is worth up to $625 in travel when you use the points through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel center.
» Learn more: Three airline credit cards that offer companion tickets
If you are not a regular Southwest flyer, or you base your travel plans on price instead of loyalty, the Southwest Companion Pass is likely not the best offer for you. Unless you plan on doing most of your trips aboard the Dallas-based airline, you may not get the full value of your Companion Pass expiring on Dec. 31, 2019 or the credit card annual fee.
What other options are out there?
Based on your personal travel style, there are plenty of options that compare with the current promotional Companion Pass offer. Some of our favorites include:
|Credit card||Current welcome bonus||$4,000 in spending (excluding bonus categories) earns:||Potential value of points or miles (based on NerdWallet valuation):|
|Southwest Credit Cards||Companion Pass plus 30,000 points after $4,000 spent on purchases in the first three month of account opening.||34,000 Rapid Rewards Points + Companion Pass through Dec. 31, 2019||One round-trip flight (based on an average round-trip award price of 18,990)|
|Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card||Buy 1 ticket, get 1 for just the taxes and fees with Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ Offer. Get 30,000 bonus miles after you make $1,000 or more within the first 90 days of your account opening.||34,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles and the one-time buy one ticket, get one offer||One domestic round-trip flight (based on an average award price of 32,066 miles)|
|Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®||Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*||44,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles||One domestic round-trip flight (based on an average round-trip price of 29,340 miles)|
|Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express||Earn 30,000 Bonus Miles after spending $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Terms Apply.||34,000 Delta SkyMiles & $50 off a Delta flight paid for on the card||Up to two domestic round-trip flights (based on an average round-trip award price of 13,663 miles)|
|Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card||25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases||31,000 Travel Rewards points||$310 in statement credits|
|Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card||Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel||58,000 Venture Rewards miles||$580 towards travel through Capital One Venture Rewards|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®||54,000 Ultimate Rewards® points||$675 towards travel through the Ultimate Rewards® travel center|
|Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card||Earn 30K bonus points when you spend $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months – that’s a $300 cash redemption value||34,000 points||$340 in statement credits|
Bottom line: Should I get the promotional Southwest Companion Pass?
If you “luv” Southwest Airlines, then the Companion Pass welcome offer is a great deal for you. Until the end of 2019, you will be able to fly with a friend or family member you can change up to three times on any flight you book with Southwest — including award flights.
If you have a couple trips planned this year and can take advantage of the benefits of any Southwest Airlines credit card, then the deal is good but not great. The Companion Pass will save you money when you fly with a friend, but you might be able to do better with another offer.
And if you don’t live near a city Southwest flies to, or don’t plan on flying with the airline very often, then you probably won’t get a lot of benefit from the Southwest Companion Pass. The benefits are only worthwhile if you can get a value equivalent to the annual fee from them. If you aren’t regularly flying Southwest, then you won’t get the full value out of this deal.
How to maximize your rewardsYou want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2019, including those best for:
- Airline miles and a large bonus: The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- No annual fee: The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card
- Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
- Premium travel rewards: The Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Business travelers: The Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Program: The complete guide
Which Southwest Airlines credit card should I get?
Southwest could begin Hawaii service sooner than expected