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Why Now Is the Perfect Time to Apply for a Southwest Credit Card

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If you “LUV” flying Southwest Airlines, now is an ideal time to apply for a Southwest credit card. Southwest is offering an especially high welcome bonus for new cardholders. Plus, you can time your bonus to earn the Southwest Companion Pass for almost two full years. Learn more about why the timing matters and how to earn one of the best domestic airline benefits in the industry.

What Is the Southwest Companion Pass?

The Southwest Companion Pass is a unique benefit where your designated companion can basically fly for free (just pay the required taxes and fees) on any flight that you take. This includes flights purchased with cash or points. Unlike other airline companion ticket offers, the Companion Pass can be used an unlimited number of times.

There are two primary ways that Southwest Rapid Rewards members earn the Companion Pass. Frequent flyers can earn it by taking 100 one-way paid flights, or by accumulating 125,000 points through paid flights, credit card purchases and other qualifying activities in a calendar year.

Starting in January 2023, the number of points to earn a pass increases to 135,000. However, if you have a Southwest credit card by Jan. 31, 2023, you’ll receive an additional 10,000 qualifying points to reduce the number of points you need to earn from other activities.

Why Is Now a Good Time to Apply for a Southwest Credit Card?

When you earn the Southwest Companion Pass, you’ll enjoy its benefits for the remainder of the current calendar year plus all of the next calendar year. Because of this feature in qualification, there is a huge incentive to earn the Companion Pass earlier in the year instead of toward the end of the year.

Jennifer Yellin, a credit card expert at, says, “The pass expires Dec. 31 the year after it is earned. That means if you earn the pass on Dec. 20, 2022, the pass will expire on Dec. 31, 2023. However, earn the pass just one month later, on Jan. 20, 2023, and you’ll have it through Dec. 31, 2024 – allowing you to fly buy-one-get-one for more than 23 months.”

One of the major benefits of applying for a Southwest credit card is that welcome bonus points count toward earning the Companion Pass – as of the date that the points post. This bonus provides a huge boost toward the number of points you need. Because of the rule on when points are counted, you don’t want to earn the welcome bonus toward the end of the year.

The welcome offer for Southwest credit cards changes throughout the year. The current offer of 75,000 points for the personal cards is especially generous and almost double the typical welcome offer of 40,000 points.

If you want to have your Southwest Companion Pass for as much time as possible, here’s how to time your Southwest credit card applications.

  1. Apply for a Southwest credit card in December. Applying for your card at the end of the year provides adequate time for the bank to make a decision and for your card to arrive in the mail.
  2. Hold off on spending on the card until January. You have three months to earn your welcome bonus from the date your account is opened, so there’s plenty of time to meet the minimum spend requirements if you open your card in December.
  3. Meet the minimum spending requirement as quickly as possible. Since the bonus points earned from eligible purchases count toward the Companion Pass, make your purchases after Jan. 1. Remember that points post shortly after the statement closing date.

Five different Southwest credit cards meet a variety of consumer and business needs and budgets, and four of the five require $3,000 in spending to earn the bonus.

Card Annual Fee Bonus
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card $69 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in three months
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card $99 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in three months
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card $149 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in three months
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card $99 60,000 points after spending $3,000 in three months
Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card $199 80,000 points after spending $5,000 in three months

Lyn Mettler, the CEO of Families Fly Free, says she “prefers Southwest cards with more perks like the Southwest Priority card, which gives you four A1-15 boarding orders every year. You also get a $75 travel credit, which we like to use for Early Bird seating or to pay for taxes and fees charged on flights.”

How to Earn the Remaining Points for the Companion Pass

You’ve applied for and opened your new Southwest card, and you’ve spent enough in January to earn the 75,000-point welcome bonus. You’re still 50,000 points (with the personal cards) away from earning a Companion Pass. Here are a few of the best ways to earn the remaining points you need to get your Pass.

Apply for a Second Southwest Credit Card

While you can only hold one personal Southwest card at a time, you can also apply for a business card. When you combine the welcome bonuses from these two cards, you’ll easily earn your Southwest Companion Pass. Mettler says you might not realize you qualify for a business card. “You’re eligible to get a small business card from Southwest if you have any type of side income, which can be something as simple as owning property, selling crafts or walking dogs.”

Purchase Premium Southwest Fares

You’ll earn more points on your flights when you purchase premium tickets. Business Select tickets earn the most points at 12 points per dollar, while Anytime tickets earn 10 points per dollar. Wanna Get Away Plus and Wanna Get Away only earn eight and six points per dollar, respectively.

Book With Hotel and Rental Car Partners

Southwest partners with hotel and rental car businesses so that members earn additional points when booking reservations with them. There are six hotel partners to choose from, including World of Hyatt, MGM Rewards and Best Western. Additionally, you’ll earn points at a variety of brand, boutique and independent hotels when booking through Southwest Hotels or RocketMiles.

Travelers also have eight rental car options to earn Southwest points. These brands include Avis, Hertz and National.

Spend on Your Southwest Credit Card

You’ll earn Rapid Rewards points on every Southwest credit card purchase you make. Taking advantage of credit card bonus categories gets you that much closer to your Companion Pass goal.

Shop Through the Southwest Shopping Portal

When shopping online, take an extra step by going through the Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping portal. Not only will you earn rewards from your credit card, but you’ll also earn points from Southwest at participating websites.

Eat at Participating Rapid Rewards Dining Restaurants

A one-time registration of your credit cards with Rapid Rewards Dining will earn points every time you eat at a participating restaurant. These points are in addition to the rewards earned from your credit cards. You can register any credit card with Rapid Rewards Dining, even if they’re not from Southwest.

Buy Flowers, Fruit or Wine

Southwest partners with, Harry & David and Laithwaites Wine for members to earn points when making purchases from these companies. These sites offer gifts for loved ones, business colleagues or yourself.

Fill up Your Tank

Link your Southwest Rapid Rewards account with your Marathon gasoline MakeItCount rewards to earn points on every gallon of gas you purchase.

The bottom line

If you’ve wanted to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, now is the perfect time to apply for a Southwest credit card. The welcome bonuses are especially high, and you can time the bonus to maximize how long you’ll enjoy the Companion Pass benefits. You won’t be able to earn the Companion Pass solely from the welcome bonus, but the right strategic purchases can get you there quickly.

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