On Jan. 10, 2019, Southwest Airlines started offering a welcome bonus that was designed for travelers who would like to bring someone with them for every trip for the rest of the year for next to nothing. The airline is offering its coveted Companion Pass as a sign-up bonus for any one of the three consumer cards it offers through Chase.
To sweeten the pot, the carrier is also offering 30,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards when cardholders spend $4,000 in the first three months of opening the account. But you need to act fast: The promotion expires Feb. 11, 2019.
When this promotion hit the market, our office was abuzz with talk of where Nerds would go with a pal or partner if they got the card.
Fifteen staffers weighed in on what destination they would fly to and why, and the responses included hotspots throughout the U.S. and international destinations.
Visiting friends and enjoying local cuisine
Nostalgia, friends and food inspired some destination choices. Assigning editor Kenley Young wants to go to New York for the food. “I haven’t been in more than a decade,” he says. While software engineer Reuben Abraham wants to visit the Big Apple to catch up with his college buddies.
Southwest flies into Newark, just 16 miles from midtown, but city traffic can make for an expensive cab ride or Uber. Your best bet if you’re traveling on a budget is to take one of the train services from New Jersey to Manhattan for around $12.
Travel rewards expert and game lover Joe Cortez would use the bonus points he earned to attend Gen Con, a tabletop game convention in Indianapolis. And because redemptions are based on the cost of the flight and the conference is not far from his home in Charlotte, he figures he’ll have enough points left from the sign-up bonus for another flight to get in a little more gaming in Las Vegas.
Exploring new cities
The Big Easy is where credit cards writer Melissa Lambarena would head for food, music and history. She can find all three in the French Quarter, just 20 minutes by taxi from Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
» Learn more: Cheap things to do in any city
Paul Soucy, an assigning editor, picked hip Austin to catch up with friends. There are many flights from Southwest departure cities that can get him and friends there for less than $300 each.
While many NerdWallet employees wanted to escape the snow, Ben Maunier in finance was ready to hit the slopes. His pick? Salt Lake City so he could ski in Park City. It’s nearly an hour from the airport, but there are plenty of shuttles that offer decent rates.
Other staffers said they would use Southwest to get to the Pacific Northwest. Eric Brown, a senior product manager, has his eye on long, sunny summer days in Seattle. Once he lands he can hop on the Link light rail right at Sea-Tac airport and use it to get downtown or see any of the city’s famed sights, including the Space Needle or Pike Place Fish Market.
» Learn more: Make your national park vacation an adventure in savings
Portland was also popular. One word: donuts! Tanika Soni, a product manager, was in it for the fried dough confection and the waterfalls an hour away from the city. Assigning editor Mary Flory seconded the donut and nature draw, and added beer and visiting with friends to the mix.
Escaping the winter weather
While there was plenty of love for domestic destinations served by the carrier, others live firmly in the grip of winter and wanted to head south to one of the airline’s international destinations.
Liz Weston, a columnist and veteran Companion Pass holder, says she would go to Havana again. Maria Can thinks it’s better in the Bahamas. The software engineer manager would fly right to Nassau. Why? “It’s paradise,” she says. Belize City is on Robin Frankel’s radar, and the credit card writer would probably head to the jungle once she arrived. A car rental or tour is a good option for exploring.
» Learn more: How to afford vacations to remote destinations
A vacation in Mexico was the ticket for a pair of employees, though they had different destinations in mind. Sun lover and software engineer Ana Martinez wants to go to Cancun for the beach, while Julia Baily, a product manager, has her sights set on Mexico City. “I hear the food is amazing,” she says.
While many were caught up in the moment, Ariana Recidoro, an account manager, has her eye on Hawaii once the carrier begins service. She’s never been and is longing for the warm climate. “It would be nice to pretend it’s summer again,” she says.
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 Visa® 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