Southwest is generating a lot of buzz with its latest credit card sign-up bonus: 30,000 Rapid Rewards points and a promotional Companion Pass that lets a guest fly practically free when the primary traveler signs up for a qualifying credit card and meets a minimum spend of $4,000 within the first three months of the account opening.
But is it right for your travel needs and goals?
Here are answers to frequently asked questions about the offer.
Q: What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
A: The Southwest Companion Pass covers the cost of airfare for someone who flies with the primary traveler. Fees apply, often starting as low as $5.60 each way.
Q: How do I get one?
A: Sign up for any of three Southwest credit card offers from Chase by Feb. 11, 2019, then make $4,000 in qualifying charges to the card in the first three months.
Cards now offering the pass are:
Q: Are there bonus points for signing up?
A: Yes. Along with the Companion Pass, new cardholders will get 30,000 Rapid Rewards points credited to their account after making $4,000 in qualifying purchases in the first three months.
Q: Is this Companion Pass the same as the one Southwest has been offering for years now?
A. No. This promotional pass is different in that there is a deadline to use it — the pass is only valid through Dec. 31, 2019.
Q: Will I get a new Companion Pass every year?
A: No. This is a one-time, limited-time offer.
Q: Can my companion be a different person every time?
A: No. You choose one person who can fly with the pass, but you can change that person up to three times in one year.
Q: Can my companion fly on a different day than I do or out of a different airport or make an extra stop?
A: No. You must fly together for the whole trip.
Q: I already have a Southwest-branded credit card. Will I qualify for this offer?
A: Not likely. Though you can’t be sure until you apply, NerdWallet is predicting that this offer — an aggressive promotion to win new Southwest credit cardholders — won’t be available to existing customers.
» Learn More: Is the Southwest Companion Pass sign-up bonus worth it?
Q: I’ve applied for more than five Chase credit cards in the past 24 months. Will I qualify for this new Southwest offer?
A: Chase famously has a 5/24 rule designed to discourage people from signing up for cards just for the bonuses then quickly abandoning them. If you’ve applied for five or more Chase cards in the past 24 months, chances are you’ll be declined.
Q: Does the Companion Pass work when the primary traveler books with points?
A: Yes. If you have enough points to book a flight for yourself, you and your companion can both fly practically for free.
Q: Can we use the pass to Hawaii?
A: No one knows yet. Southwest has announced plans to begin service to Hawaii from the West Coast, but officials haven’t said when. Because this Companion Pass is good only for travel through Dec. 31, 2019, it will depend on when Southwest starts flying there.
Q: Why can’t I see Southwest flights on Travelocity or Priceline?
A: Southwest flights don’t appear in most major multi-search engines. If you want to peruse itineraries, see the airline’s website.
Q: Do cash advances and balance transfers count toward the $4,000 minimum spend?
Q: What interest rates do these cards charge?
A: All three cards in this offer charge a variable APR of 17.99% to 24.99% on purchases and 26.99% on cash advances. Though pretty standard, these rates can quickly add up to more than you’re getting in free travel if you’re not careful.
» Learn More: As Southwest prepares service to Hawaii, the Companion Pass can get you there for less
Q: Is there any other way to get a Southwest Companion Pass?
A: This Companion Pass is promotional, but Southwest has long offered its standard Companion Pass that works a little differently. To earn Southwest’s traditional Companion Pass, you have to either fly a lot — 100 qualifying one-way trips per year — or earn a lot of Rapid Rewards points — 110,000 in a year.
The traditional Companion Pass has a longer shelf life. It’s good for the remainder of the calendar year in which you earned it plus the whole next year. The new promotional Companion Pass is good only from the time you earn it by charging $4,000 to the card until Dec. 31, 2019.
Q: Can I use the 30,000 points I earn with this new offer to apply toward a standard Companion Pass for next year?
A: Yes. If you hold onto them long enough to get your Rapid Rewards total up to 110,000 points.
Q: What other rewards do these credit cards offer?
A: Each card pays you at least 1 Rapid Rewards point per $1 spent on all purchases, 2 Rapid Rewards points for every $1 spent on qualifying Southwest purchases, plus other perks that vary by card.
Q: Do the cards charge foreign transaction fees?
A: Two don’t, one does. The lowest-cost card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, charges a 3% fee on foreign transactions.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2019, including those best for:
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Program: The complete guide
Which Southwest Airlines credit card should I get?
Southwest could begin Hawaii service sooner than expected