Southwest 50,000 Point Sign-Up Bonus Is Back

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Link: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Link: Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Card

Chase is offering a sign-up bonus where you can earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open on their co-branded Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Card, provided you haven’t received a sign-up bonus on this card in the past 24 months.  Each card has a $99 annual fee, which isn’t waived the first year.

The real potential for value here, however, comes from the potential for earning the Southwest Companion Pass, which can save you thousands of dollars.

What is the Southwest Companion Pass?

Basically, if you rack up 110,000 points in a year you’ll earn Companion Pass with Southwest, which allows someone else to travel with you for the entire year.

You still have to pay the taxes on their ticket, but the companion pass is valid on both award and revenue tickets.

That means if you’ve accumulated 110,000 Rapid Rewards points, you have about $1,650 worth of “Wanna Get Away” fares at your disposal. Factoring in the Companion Pass, you’re looking at around $3,300 worth of airfare, though exact amounts will vary.

You can change your designated companion three times in a year, so this is a no-brainer for travel within North America, in my opinion.

110,000 points is a lot!

Yes, it is. But there are a few ways to go about this.

Both the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Card are offering 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. If you apply and are approved for both cards, that’s at least 104,000 points right there.

To get the final 6,000(ish) points, you have a few options. From the program terms:

Companion Pass Qualifying Points are earned from revenue flights booked through Southwest Airlines, points issued on Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Cards, and points earned from Rapid Rewards Partners. Points purchased for personal use or as a gift, transferred points, points earned from program enrollment, tier bonuses, flight bonuses, and Rapid Rewards Partner bonuses (with the exception of the Rapid Rewards Credit Cards from Chase) do not count toward Companion Pass status.

So points that you earn from credit card spend, or from partner activity count towards the Companion Pass. This means you can earn points a few different ways:

You can also earn points by staying with a Rapid Rewards hotel partner. If you want to earn Southwest points instead of hotel points, you’d earn 600 points per stay at the following chains:

  • Best Western
  • Club Carlson
  • Choice Hotels
  • Hyatt
  • La Quinta
  • Marriott
  • Mlife
  • Starwood
  • Wyndham
  • RocketMiles

In general, I wouldn’t recommend earning Southwest points rather than hotel points. The exception would be if you’re already going to book a non-chain hotel through RocketMiles, as you can earn up to 5,000 points per night that way. In fact, it may even be worth booking a local hotel if the rate is decent and the points will push you over the threshold for the Companion Pass.

You can also earn those final few points by flying Southwest. You earn 6 points per $1 on “Wanna Get Away” fares, 10 points per $1 on “Anytime” fares, and $12 points per $1 on “Business Select” fares.

Earn-Southwest-Points

Transferring points

Points transferred directly from Chase Ultimate Rewards DO NOT count towards the Companion Pass.

However, points transferred in from hotel partners historically have. This isn’t a great value proposition, so wouldn’t be my first (or second, or possibly even third) choice. The transfer ratios for most programs are terrible. For example:

  • Club Carlson points convert at a 10:1 ratio, so 2,000 Gold Points would equal 200 Rapid Rewards points
  • 5,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points convert to 2,400 Rapid Rewards Points

There are many better uses of both Club Carlson and Hyatt Gold Passport points, so I wouldn’t recommend transferring points to Southwest from either of those programs.

That being said, if you have “orphaned” hotel points, or points in less valuable programs, transferring them to Southwest in order to earn the Companion Pass could make sense. The ratios are still horrible though:

  • 5,000 Best Western Rewards convert to 1,200 Rapid Rewards points
  • 6,000 La Quinta Returns convert to 1,200 Rapid Rewards points
  • 6,000 Choice Privileges convert to 1,800 Rapid Rewards points
  • 10,000 Marriott Rewards convert to 2,000 Rapid Rewards points
  • 6,000 Wyndham Rewards convert to 1,200 Rapid Rewards points

Again, this isn’t typically a good use of points, so I would only do this to top off an account for the Companion Pass.

Couples and families

Generally I advocate that both people take advantage of lucrative signup bonuses. It’s harder for one person to be earning all the miles, and I’m told that traveling together is good for relationships, so it helps when both have the same resources.

In this case however, only one partner should strive for the Companion Pass. You can only earn one pass at a time, and it’s effectively good for two years if you time it right. It makes much more sense to alternate, so one person could earn the pass in 2015, the other in 2017, etc., provided the program lasts that long.

The exception to this is for families with older children. If both parents have the Companion Pass, you could each take a child with you for no additional cost other than the taxes, which would be a tremendous bargain.

Where can I go?

Anywhere that Southwest flies! Southwest has an expansive route network within the United States, and has recently added routes to Mexico and the Caribbean, along with Costa Rica.

Southwest-route-map

For domestic travel this can be an incredible value! Over $3,300 worth of airfare should take care of domestic travel for most of us, not to mention the Companion Pass effectively doubles the value of any existing Rapid Rewards points you may have.

A word of caution

Southwest has been offering the Companion Pass for several years now, with essentially the same terms.

It’s worth noting that while the sign up bonuses and hotel transfers have counted towards the Companion Pass in the past, there’s no guarantee they’ll continue to do so. It’s not something I’m personally worried about, but just so you’re aware.

Bottom line

This is really one of the most compelling values in the airline industry, and frankly I’m amazed that they still offer it given just how generous it is.

Who has the Companion Pass? How much are you saving?

Link: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Link: Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Card


Non-Affiliate Product Disclaimer: The information for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business credit card has been collected independently by One Mile At A Time. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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Comments

  1. I have the companion pass for 2015 and wife has for 2016. It is great value. Lots of family trips. We have 3 teens so one has to fly w/o companion. We have thought about leaving her behind, but not great for family dynamics. We also thought about having a fourth child, but it would be a few years before said child would need a paid ticket, and who knows if CP will still be around, so I guess we will stick with the IUD for now.

  2. Have the pass currently and have had it for the past 3 (qualifying) years (which means 4 years of actual use eligibility). First time I used the Chase card to earn the card, but the past 2 renewals have been from points only without needing the card as a booster. I fly SW about 75-80 flights a year on business, so the points mostly accumulate that way. Also, when my wife and I take vacations, she flies as the companion and I fly revenue to keep earning the points. The cost of my revenue flight is just part of our trip budget. The companion pass probably saves us about $2500 in air fare annually.

    Ben – one point of correction to your post. While it’s true that the 50K sign-up bonus has returned for online applications, it’s also true that the 50K bonus really never went away entirely and has been available through other sign-up channels ie, the bonus has been continuously available at Chase airport kiosks in both BWI and Denver (or at least every time I pass through them which is about weekly in BWI and every other week in DEN).

  3. Quick question re: “once in 24 months” . . .
    If I sign up for the SW Personal Visa using my SSN and my Rapid Rewards #, I understand I’ll receive the 50K once I hit minimum spend. What if my wife applies for a separate card using her SSN but my RR# . . . does that mean her 50K bonus will get credited to my RR account? Or does her card have to go to her own RR account? I figure this would be one way to rapidly hit the Companion Pass. What are your thoughts?

  4. @Alon – the RR account must be in the name of the credit card holder. Thus, your wife cannot open a Chase account and have the sign-up bonus credited to your RR account.

  5. i am confused… the 4000 points earned through spending to meet minimum spend (of any kind) count towards the 110,000 points required? does the remaining 6000 points have to be earned via the methods mentioned in this post or can they be earned through regular spending?

  6. @ Alon — The miles still wouldn’t credit to your account under those circumstances. The name has to match that of the new account.

  7. Question: The rules of the companion pass state as “…points earned from program enrollment…do not count toward Companion Pass status.” So are you saying this is not true when you enroll in the credit card?

  8. I can send you a direct link to the 50,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card! Only available via referral. Email me lcomstock07(at)gmail(dot)com

  9. I can send you a direct link to the 50,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card! Only available via referral. Email me lcomstock07(at)gmail(dot)com

    Talk to you soon!

  10. What if I’m not interested in the Companion Pass? Is this card still worth it for the 50k points?

    Thanks!

  11. It seems like the referrals for the Southwest Plus card are back.
    I now have 10 referrals each for the Southwest Plus Card and Premier Card with 50000 bonus points after spending $2000.

    All that’s needed is first name and email and I can send you the referral through the chase website.

    Email me l.semmler(at)gmx(dot).net

  12. I have referrals for the Southwest Premier card available! Spend 2,000 in the first 3 months and receive 50,000 points. Please email your name and email address to me at tbarn1@msn.com. Thanks!

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