Travel Hacking: Chase Southwest
Currently #10 in Aaron’s Travel Credit Card Power Rankings
50,000 Rapid Rewards after spending $2,000 in 90 days
$99 annual fee (NOT waived for first year)
Minimum Credit Score
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- 2x on all Southwest purchases
- 1x on everything else
- No fees for cancellations or changes to itineraries
- No blackout dates – No seat restrictions (Rare)
- A head start on the ‘Companion Pass’
- 6,000 bonus points every annual anniversary
- No foreign transaction fees
A Quick Word
Chase is offering a ton of great credit cards for Travel Hackers. There are three versions of this particular card. The Premier, Plus and Business. According to Million Mile Secrets (as of writing this) all three are offering the 50k sign up bonus. If you want to apply for all three, we support that. This post will review the Premier – our personal choice of the three.
1. 50k Southwest Rapid Reward Miles
Travel Hacking with the Chase Southwest Premier is recommended mostly for the 50k signup bonus. Southwest is intent on providing positive experiences for their passengers, and has one of the best frequent flier programs of any airline. Their ‘Transfarency” campaign might as well be a “No BS” campaign. Their brand is built about being upfront – no gimmicks. And it’s starting to build them a very loyal following. 50k is a lot of miles to play with in this great of a system.
You can redeem points for any flight, any seat, any time. This is a rarity in the world of miles, and a huge contributing factor to the value of the Southwest Rapid Rewards program. If the seat it available, you can book it. Easy as that.
2. Cancellation/Changes to Itinerary
If redeemed with miles, you can cancel your flight up to 1 hour before take off – Free of charge!
I mean come on, why the f can’t other airlines follow suit? No cancellation fees, no re-deposit fees, no fee-fees, nothing. (For example – United doesn’t charge you to cancel. But if you want to redeposit your cancelled miles back into your account, that’ll be $75-$100 depending how soon the flight departs. Buggers.)
No matter how much we plan, prepare and position ourselves for our travels – s**t happens. Southwest understand this, and doing so gives Nomads peace of mind. Being adaptable while traveling is crucial – having an airline that embraces adaptability is noteworthy.
3. 6,000 Mile Anniversary Bonus
This is nice too. It’s not enough to offset the annual fee. But it’s still a part of the ‘good’ category.
4. 2x Southwest Purchases
5. No Foreign Transaction Fees
Again, pretty standard these days.
6. Head Start with Companion Pass
This is a huge topic that definitely deserves it’s own detailed blog post, but until then…
Southwest’s Companion Pass, when utilized properly, is the best offer from any airline in the world.
The Companion Pass is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You pay for your flight, your companion flies with you for free (only having to pay for taxes).
You get the pass for two calendar years. Within those two years, there is no limit to the amount of times you can use the pass. There are no locations that are out of bounds. There are no if’s and’s or but’s. You could hypothetically fly twice a day, every day for as long as you have the pass, and your companion will fly for free (only having to pay for taxes).
To obtain the pass, you need to travel on 100 domestic flights in a calendar year, or accumulate 110,000 miles within a calendar year. And yes, the signup bonus on the card counts toward the 110k. Most hackers will apply for the Premier and Business, get the 100k bonus between the two, and spend or fly the rest.
The Pass lasts for the rest of the calendar year, and the following calendar year. So hypothetically, if you got the pass in January of 2016, you would have the pass for all of 2016 AND all of 2017. I know. It’s amazing.
It’s a one of a kind offer, but it doesn’t benefit everyone. But, for example, if you are a couple that travels in the US and often, the Companion Pass should be one of your life goals. This is a huge reason why Travel Hacking with Chase Southwest is awesome.
The other perks are so good that it only made sense the rest of the card would suffer… and it does.
1. 1x Everything Else
I know. It’s brutal. It’s standard for branded airline credit cards. But it’s still brutal.
And because of this, it’s difficult to rationalize making this card an everyday spender. Especially considering that the Chase Sapphire Preferred has two to three times the earnings potential, and can be instantaneously transferred to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio. I recommend doing the same thing with the Amex Starwood Preferred if you like to fly AA.
2. $99 Annual Fee Not Waived
The first year not being waved, while not ideal, isn’t the end of the world. You’re basically paying a hundred bucks for 50,000 SW miles. 50k miles is worth anywhere from $400-$600, so it’s well worth it.
But after year one, it’s difficult to rationalize keeping ahold of this card. If you love Southwest miles, apply for another SW card, or go with the Sapphire (which shockingly has a lower annual fee… even if it is $4)
If you are looking for 50k SW miles, get the card, use the bonus, and cancel before the next annual fee kicks in.
If you are interested in the companion pass, apply for the Premier and Business versions, preferably on the same day. If not, 90 days apart would be the next best thing. Reason? You want to obtain the Companion Pass as early in the year as possible to maximize it’s value.
Southwest Airlines is a fantastic airline, and Travel Hacking with Chase Southwest comes highly recommended. The card itself gives you a generous 50k bonus, and access to some very cheap travel via the sterling Rapid Rewards Program. Outside of these perks, the card doesn’t offer much else. Get in now while the signup bonus is so high, it probably won’t last for long.