Why I’m Applying For The Southwest Visa Card

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Update: This offer for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card has expired. Learn more about the current offers here.

Link: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

On Thursday I wrote about the official return of the 50,000 point sign-up bonus on the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Visa Card. In the post I wrote the following:

While this is not an offer I will personally be taking advantage of (given that I prefer to earn and redeem miles for international premium cabins), I do think this is a great option for domestic travel, both for how generous the sign-up bonus is, and the 6,000 points you receive each anniversary which helps offset the annual fee.

I figured I’d first expand on this a bit, at least based on what my thought process was when I wrote the post. I’m often (wrongly) quick to dismiss cards that can’t get me towards premium cabin international travel, because ultimately that’s what I hope to get out of this “hobby.” Furthermore, it’s not that I don’t travel domestically, but rather that my domestic travel is heavily “committed” to both American and Alaska. I have top tier status to requalify for with both programs, so when traveling domestically I do everything I can to book on them. I’m happy to pay at least somewhat of a premium to fly either carrier, not just so I earn elite qualifying miles, but for the benefits I get when flying with them.

Most of my domestic travel is flexible, and if I can’t get there on Alaska or American I simply will go another time or will go somewhere else instead. But reader Andrew left a comment on the post that I thought was pretty insightful:

Lucky, while I understand and respect that you prefer to earn and redeem miles for international premium cabin travel (as do I!), I don’t find that to be a compelling reason for you to say you won’t be taking advantage of this offer.

Wouldn’t it have been great to have these points in your back pocket last year when you were trying to get to Chicago for the Frequent Traveler University and revenue tickets were through the roof? I know you ended up doing your “fly around the world to Chicago” trip (and we appreciate the subsequent reports from that!), but I can’t imagine an option like that is always going to be feasible, or always something that you’re going to want to do. In any case, you could’ve traveled to Chicago for free instead of paying the ~$1000 that you shelled out for that trip. I know that in our world, $1000 was a crazy good value for what you got out of that trip, but in absolute terms, you still spent $1000 to get to Chicago when you could’ve spent $10 (or whatever the taxes/fees are on a WN ticket booked with points). Putting relative value aside, sometimes free is free, right?

Or, wouldn’t it be great to have these points on hand for a random trip to visit your parents? It’s not like you have trouble requalifying for EXP/MVP Gold 75k, etc, so it seems like the opportunity cost here is pretty low (a couple thousand redeemable miles, perhaps).

Or better yet, sign up for the credit card, but use the points to book a ticket for your parents to fly to Seattle and visit you! You don’t have to fly WN, they get a free ticket, you guys get to see each other, and everybody wins!

Anyway, just my two cents!

Usually I’d like to think that I’ve at least put a little bit of thought into my “position” on things, but Andrew kind of left my speechless with that argument. I really can’t argue with that. At the end of the day 50,000 Rapid Rewards points gets you ~$833 worth of airfare if booked before March 31, 2014, while starting March 31, 2014, it’ll be enough for ~$714 worth of airfare. I’ve applied for most of the super-lucrative credit cards out there, so even factoring in the $99 annual fee and the upcoming devaluation, this bonus is worth $600+, which is tough to argue with. And since Rapid Rewards points don’t expire as long as you have any activity every 24 months, it’s not like there’s any rush to redeem them.

Lastly, all of this isn’t even factoring in the Companion Pass that Southwest offers when you rack up 110,000 points in a year, whereby a companion can fly with you for free. I doubt I’ll get to that point, though that’s an even more compelling value.

So yeah, Andrew definitely changed my position on this card. I’ll be applying later this week during my next round of credit card applications.

Link: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

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  1. I find WN RR points particularly valuable because there are no fees to change or cancel award bookings– you get a full refund of points AND a refund to your credit card for the $2.50-$10 in taxes you pay. So I’ll often use WN award redemption for trips where I think there is a high possibility I’ll have to make changes. This is particularly good for short-haul flights where (a) the fares are low enough that if you have to make a change on a legacy, you’ll end up losing the entire fare b/c it’s less than the change fee and (b) I’m not really going to miss the 500 elite qualifying miles I’d otherwise earn on my usual airline.

  2. I just want to say that Andrew’s comment was pretty amazing. I’m shocked that a reader would take the time to write such a detailed and compelling comment. I guess that you’re very loved! 🙂

  3. Re: “you could’ve traveled to Chicago for free”

    While good points are raised by Andrew, I would beg to differ with this misnomer which is too oft repeated. You aren’t really traveling for free when you use points or miles. You are using up an opportunity cost to get the points or miles, whether it be a one time bonus, credit inquiry, foregoing cash back, etc. While it might be worth the opportunity costs, nothing is free here.

  4. I read this blog for Ben’s analysis, which is usually really good. Andrew’s, on the other hand, is not. His argument’s aren’t consistent — he claims that you spent $1000 worth of points to go round the world (to Chicago) yet with your Southwest points, it will be FREE. You can’t have it both ways.

    In reality, if the fares to Chicago for the seminar are expensive, they are likely to be just as expensive on Southwest, and thus you’ll end up paying a ton of points. It’ll just be RR points instead of miles. In my experience, Southwest’s claim that they have low fares is mostly hype, and unfortunately, much of the population (including Andrew) believe it.

    This entire post could have been 3 lines:

    1. The Southwest card has a bonus worth $800+ of airfare.
    2. I don’t have it.
    3. I’m going to get it.

  5. It’s actually pretty easy to get the companion pass. Just sign up for the personal and biz versions of the card and spend a total of $10K on both of them combined (at least $2K on each). If you you do it soon, your companion pass will be valid for the rest of 2014 and all of 2015.

    My girlfriend and I both got two cards each, spent $20K and now we have 220K points and can take my two daughters with us for free whenever we travel via each of cour

    The crazy part is that we don’t even need to buy any tickets. The two of us can book our flights on points, and then still use the companion pass to get two more for free. Let me repeat that… The companion pass is good whether you pay cash for the tix or book on points. It makes a great deal even better.

  6. The Southwest points aren’t bad, at least you know exactly what they are worth, but I don’t think you are quite thinking about them correctly. To me their best value is when you can book something far in advance as the flight is cheaper and it costs you less points. This allows in theory for arbitrage on the standard saver Y flight on other carriers. For example, if you fly LAX-SEA, it would be 25K r/t on a fixed fee award on the legacies, or it could be 15K on WN, assuming a ticket price of $217 post devaluation (about). The points lose a lot of value, compared to other programs when you want to book travel close-in.

    In the Chicago Seminar case, the WN ticket would have been $1000 just like the competition. That would cost almost 70K points (post-devaluation). UA on a last seat, standard award would be 50K. Even if you had them, I don’t think you would have redeemed the WN points as you would have eventually ended back with what you ultimately did and realized for 20K more points on US you could go around the world in J!

    Still the card can be worthwhile as it is in the end of the day, free travel for signing up.

  7. do u have the biz already? why not get both and get the companion pass… for your soon to have 2014 signifiant other? hah

  8. AdamH’s comment #7 is correct only if WannaGetAway fares are still available (at 60 points/$, going up to 70 on March 31). If not, you must pay 100 points/$ for an Anytime fare – 100,000 points for a $1,000 fare. I’d definitely book a UA or AA award (looking for Saver seats to open up last minute on UA) in that situation.

    I “arbitrage” Southwest a little differently than DWT. If I’m not sure of my plans, I’ll book with points. Then, if my plans firm up, and fares have not increased, I’ll cancel the points booking and make a new revenue booking (saving the points for future flexible use).

    I qualified for Companion Pass through the end of 2015 today (mostly via a carefully planned credit card blitz). Got a pleasant surprise – no more “processing time”. I was able to sign my companion up immediately, and book a companion ticket for her a few hours later.

  9. @ carlos — Maybe I should find a significant other before getting the Companion Pass. Probably a better order in which to approach things. 😀

  10. @ aajake — Different Andrew! Man, my blog must be getting really popular if I have more than one blogger with the same first name! 😉

  11. Coins,

    Andrew is right. I have plenty of miles on UA (I’m Million Miler), AA, US, and BA. I like saving those miles to fly upfront on international itn’s.
    Every once in a while, when flight prices are sky high, I’m able to use my Southwest points. If I book far enough in advance, I can usually catch a low rate. As flight time gets closer, if the points go down, I can re-book and save money or points. SW let’s you do this without change fees.
    With the Companion pass, my wife and I flew LGA/FLL for a wedding for 8040 points all in for 2 people! Even if I used my BA Avios, it would have been 15,000 points per person for a total of 30,000 points. The SW Companion pass sure beats Avios in this case.

    Southwest fills a void that the legacy carriers don’t meet. I don’t mean to shill here, but this cc is a nice addition to your wallet or purse.

  12. I agree that Southwest is a points base you should cover. It will come in handy at some point. The most important thing is that to get good value out of WN points you’ve gotta book speculatively when rates are low and then cancel when you know you won’t use the flight.

  13. Hi, important question I have is will I be able to use the companion pass to fly to the Carribean when Airtan and SW are fully merged this year.

  14. Reader in question Andrew here, just clarifying a couple things I’ve seen in the responses (never thought my comment would stimulate such debate!)!

    @HkerT, you’re absolutely right, using WN points wouldn’t be “free.” I even alluded to the opportunity cost of the lost AA/AS (or whatever other carrier) miles if Lucky would’ve redeemed points.

    @hobo13, I was perhaps, upon reflection, a bit lazy with my use of the word “free.” I certainly understand that nothing is free, whether it’s because of the taxes/fees you pay when using points, or whether it’s the miles you don’t earn, etc. I also realize WN isn’t magically cheaper than other carriers (which is why I don’t usually fly them – why pay the same price for a product that I can’t get an upgrade on?).

    And I realize the fares to Chicago that weekend probably would’ve been expensive as well–my point in using that example was more illustrative of the fact that sometimes, it may just be nice to have a bunch of points that you can burn, without it necessarily even being a good value to do so, when prices are high.

    All in all, I was just trying to say, “hey, don’t ignore points from this sign-up bonus that are worth hundreds of dollars just because they can’t be used for international travel, because there may be strategic uses for those points down the road,” and I would stand by that, even if the Chicago example isn’t perfect.

    And @aajake, as Lucky said, not the same Andrew!

  15. That’s a very good question and one that I have been wondering myself. It makes the companion pass much more valuable imho. I did a quick search and turned up the following:

    Q: Will I be able to use my Rapid Rewards Companion Pass or A+ Rewards Companion Pass for Companion travel on shared itineraries?

    A: Yes. Companion Pass travel is permitted on shared itineraries.


    So hopefully yes!!!

  16. Now you just need to get fellow holdout Gary to sign up. Maybe you guys can take a WN flight together and debate the value of Hilton points again.

  17. Chase is getting pretty touchy with me. I’m recycling through all the Ink cards now that they are Visa’s.

    That plus I barely make Ex Plat on AA – if I go on an WN flight instead, I’ll have to do a mileage run – something I’ve never had to do.

  18. On further review, there is one Southwest “loophole” for booking awards when fares are high. Check to see if old program award seats are available; if so there are ways of “laundering” Southwest points through Airtran back into 8 or 16 old Southwest credits.

    I recommend that Lucky get the CP, then name Gary as his companion :-(.

  19. @ danny — All we know is that it’s for “a limited time.” That being said, the offer has been around with some frequency lately, so I doubt there’s a huge rush.

  20. Ha! I like Jonathan B’s suggestion. Can’t wait for a combined OMAAT/VFTW Southwest trip report. Perhaps between Wichita and Dallas Love or something along those lines. 🙂

  21. Never really thought much about this card either but I was intrigued by Andrew’s comment and, after reading Lucky’s post and comments, I will add this card to my list for next round of applications.

    @ Jonathan – thank you for reminding me about that way of getting an a Companion Pass.

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