Why I love the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

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My wife and I are about to embark on our first vacation to Maui, Hawaii. The best part is, our flight will cost us nothing except airline taxes and fees totaling $11.20 round-trip for each of us.

That’s because we’re using our Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card points to pay for my wife’s flight. My flight, meanwhile, is 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 points structure, you get two points for every dollar you spend on Southwest flights and Southwest hotel and car rental partners. If you’re like us and you travel at least a few times a year, the points can quickly add up.

You can also earn three points for every dollar you spend dining at participating restaurants and delivery services for the first year. All other purchases earn one point per dollar, which is pretty standard for most credit card rewards programs.

Southwest has a generous sign-up bonus of 40,000 points if you spend at least $1,000 on purchases within the first three months. You’ll also receive 3,000 bonus points every year on your account anniversary.

The Southwest Companion Pass

The main attraction of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card is 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 have to pay any airline charges, they will be responsible for the mandatory taxes and fees, beginning at $5.60 for a one-way flight or $11.20 round-trip.

What makes the Companion Pass so unique?

Unlike most cards, the Southwest Companion Pass is not only good for the year you earn it, but also for the entirety of the following 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 to earn points

You’ll need to earn 125,000 points, or fly 100 qualifying one-way flights, to receive the Companion Pass. Remember, the initial 40,000 welcome bonus nets you nearly one-third of that amount.

Here are a couple of tips to help you earn points fast:

Replace your debit card with your Southwest Rapids Reward Plus card

Anytime 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, cell phone bills, streaming services, homeowners association fees, 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, one recent promotion offered 10,000 points—up to 50,000 total points—for each friend you refer who gets a Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card.

Earn points in multiples

Remember, you get 3X points when you use your Southwest card and dine with participating establishments and 2X points for your Southwest flights. Enjoy double points by booking your hotel and rental car with any Rapid Rewards partner, including Hyatt, Marriott and Radisson.

Shop using Southwest’s bonus partners

Shop at your choice of over 850 stores at Rapid Rewards Shopping to take advantage of bonus promotions. Currently trending stores include Walmart, Home Depot, Costco, Best Buy and Nike.

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 bonus offers and a faster track to A-list 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) and 9,000 anniversary points each year. Both the Performance Business card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card extend four upgraded boardings each year, $75 annually in Southwest travel credit and a 20 percent rebate on inflight purchases, like drinks and WiFi.

The bottom line

If you prefer Southwest Airlines over the competition, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card is the perfect tool to begin earning perks with the airline. The annual fee is low, and the value of the benefits is high (especially when you factor in the much sought-after Companion Pass).

Consider the value of the Plus card if you want to save money on your future travels. Soon, you could be booking flights for two while paying nothing but modest airline taxes and fees.