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With the different credit cards rewards systems out there, it’s funny how sometimes a program’s own co-branded card isn’t the best option for earning points in that program.
One extreme example is for Hyatt Stays. The Chase Hyatt Visa Card offers three Gold Passport points per dollar spent at Hyatt, while the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Card from American Express offers one Starpoint per dollar spent plus 5% cash back through the AmEx OPEN Savings program. As backwards as it seems, the best “return” I can get on paying for a US Hyatt stay is with a co-branded Starwood Card.
How do you maximize points for Southwest travel?
While not specific to spend on the airline, one interesting program for maximizing points is Southwest Rapid Rewards. Southwest Rapid Rewards is a revenue based frequent flyer program, so what’s the best credit card for racking up cheap travel on Southwest through everyday credit card spend?
Southwest’s co-branded credit card
Southwest does have a co-branded card, the ￼Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. Earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. You would earn 2 points per dollar spent on Southwest Airlines® purchases and participating Hotel and Car Rental partners, and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus offers AT LEAST a 50% better return
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite Mastercard® is a cash back card. You earn two miles per dollar spent, and each mile can be redeemed for one cent towards the cost of travel. So that means for every dollar you spend on the card you get two cents towards the cost of travel.
On top of that, you get a 10% refund for any redemption, which means you’re really earning a return of ~2.2% towards the cost of travel.
Meanwhile the most value one Rapid Rewards point would get you is ~1.4 cents per point. That means if your goal through credit card spend is free travel on Southwest, you’d be earning at least a 50% better return using the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite Mastercard® than the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card.
That doesn’t even factor in that you’d earn Rapid Rewards points for the travel you paid for using Arrival points, while you wouldn’t earn points for flights you take when you redeemed Rapid Rewards points.
Southwest Companion Pass — only reason to spend on their card
There’s only one reason that anyone should put a substantial amount of spend on Southwest’s co-branded credit card, and that’s the Companion Pass Southwest offers when you earn 110,000 points in a year (which doesn’t include transferred points). If you have Companion Pass you can have someone else fly with you and only pay the taxes — it’s the best value out there for domestic travel, in my opinion.
If you can achieve Companion Pass and would get value out of it (by having a companion and traveling a fair bit domestically), I definitely think it’s something worth striving for.
It amazes me how many people I see using the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, and I’m assuming a vast majority of them aren’t spending enough on the card to earn Companion Pass.
If you are earning Companion Pass it can be well worth it to put spend on that card vs. another, though otherwise you should be using the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite Mastercard® to earn free travel on Southwest, as you’ll be getting a better return by over 50%.