Key takeaways

  • The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card provides an avenue for earning points on everyday purchases — points that can get you closer to earning a Southwest Companion Pass.
  • Use the Southwest Plus card for all your purchases and take advantage of lucrative promotions to maximize the rewards it offers.
  • Southwest Plus cardholders can easily offset the modest annual fee with the perks and earnings the card offers.

Some of the offers mentioned may have expired.

My wife and I recently embarked on our first vacation to Maui, Hawaii. One of the best parts was that our flight cost us nothing except airline taxes and fees, totaling $11.20 round-trip for each of us. That’s because we used our Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card points to pay for my wife’s flight. My flight, meanwhile, was free — courtesy of Southwest’s Companion Pass, the holy grail of the card’s rewards program.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card is perfect for us because Southwest is our airline of choice, and the Companion Pass saves us money. With the Rapid Rewards Plus card, you get 2X points for every dollar you spend on eligible Southwest flights as well as with Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners. If you’re like us and travel at least a few times a year, points can quickly add up. You can also earn 2X points on local transit and commuting (including rideshares) and 2X points on internet, cable, phone and select streaming services. All other purchases earn 1X points per dollar, which is standard for most credit card rewards programs.

The Southwest Companion Pass

The main attraction of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus is the boost toward the coveted Southwest Companion Pass. It’s the premier travel pass and the primary reason I love this card as much as I do. The Companion Pass allows you to designate a friend or loved one to fly with you for free — well, almost free. While your companion will not pay any airline charges, they are responsible for the mandatory taxes and fees, beginning at $5.60 for a one-way flight or $11.20 round-trip.

Unlike most airline companion programs, the Southwest Companion Pass is not only good for the year you earn it, but also for the entirety of the following calendar year. Smart travelers can maximize savings by planning ahead and earning the Companion Pass in January. That means you and your companion could enjoy the pass for nearly two years. Further, you can use the pass whether you are paying for your flight with points or with cash — a rare feature in the rewards space. That means you could use your Rapid Rewards points to purchase a flight for yourself and invite your companion to join you without using your points.

Best practices for earning points

To qualify for the Companion Pass, you’ll need to earn 135,000 qualifying points or fly 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year. Here are some tips to help you earn points fast.

Look out for a signup bonus opportunity

Southwest often changes the welcome bonuses for the Plus card and others in the card family. Keep an eye out for higher-than-typical offers. In the past, new cardholders have earned welcome bonuses as high as 100,000 points. With the current offer, cardholders can earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, which is solid.

Use your Southwest Rapids Reward Plus card as much as possible

Any time you would normally use a debit card to pay a bill or make a purchase, use your Rapid Reward Plus card instead. Use the card to pay for utilities, cellphone bills, streaming services, groceries, gas and any other purchase you can make with a credit card.

Take advantage of promotions

I can’t stress this enough: Email promotions are the hidden gem of this rewards card. Southwest is good about sending regular promotions with opportunities to earn bonus points. For example, in the past, Southwest has offered 10,000 points — up to 50,000 total points — for each friend you refer who gets a Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card.

Earn double points for select purchases

Remember, you enjoy 2X points by booking your hotel and rental car with any Southwest Rapid Rewards partner, including Hyatt and Marriott, among others. You’ll also earn 2X points for each dollar you spend on local transit and commuting, as well as on internet, cable, phone and select streaming services.

Shop using Southwest’s bonus partners

Use the Rapid Rewards shopping portal to shop at your choice of over 1,100 stores and earn bonus points on your purchases. Stores include Macy’s, Apple and Home Depot.

Alternative Southwest cards

The low $69 annual fee for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card is more than offset by the savings the card delivers. Nevertheless, Southwest offers higher-tier cards with more generous rewards earnings and a faster track to elite status.

I’m strongly considering signing up for the Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card, which offers an 80,000-point sign-up bonus after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months. It also offers 9,000 anniversary points each year after you renew your card and pay the $199 annual fee.

The bottom line

If you prefer Southwest Airlines over the competition, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card is the perfect tool to use to begin earning points and other perks with the airline. The annual fee is low, and the value offered is high — especially if you use the card to qualify for the much-sought-after Companion Pass. If you want to save money on your future travels, this is a good card to consider. Soon, you could be booking flights for two while paying nothing but modest airline taxes and fees.