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Saving money on flights is never a bad idea, especially as the price of airline tickets are projected to rise. With rising inflation, airlines struggling to hire workers and jet fuel prices skyrocketing, many signs points to an inevitable rise in the cost of flights.

On Wednesday, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said on CNBC’s “Squawk On The Street” that rising operating costs will be passed through to the consumer. So other than the thought of avoiding flying, consumers are held with few options to dodge rising prices. But one way to always save on paying for airline tickets is using points and miles.

The recent launch of new 100,000-point welcome bonuses on Southwest credit cards gives consumers the opportunity to save big on upcoming travel. And as of now, this is the one of, if not the best, welcome offer on the credit card market. Those points are worth more than $1,400 towards Southwest flights. Plus earning the welcome bonus will get you quite close to obtaining a perk that allows you to bring a companion along with you for nearly free on an unlimited number of Southwest flights.

Here’s what you need to know about the offers, how to maximize flying with Southwest Airlines and how you can score valuable travel rewards this holiday season.

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Southwest Airlines credit card welcome offers

Southwest Airlines currently has three consumer credit cards, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card. Each of them have the same welcome bonus during this promotional period. If you apply and are approved by Dec. 7, 2021, you can earn up to 100,000 Rapid Rewards points:

You can earn 50,000 points after spending $2,000 on eligible purchases in the first three months your account is open, plus another 50,000 points after spending $12,000 total on eligible purchases in the first 12 months of card membership.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

  • Rewards

    Earn 2X points on Southwest® purchases, 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare; 2X points on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming; 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn up to 100,000 bonus points: 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus 50,000 more bonus points after spending $12,000 total on purchases in the first 12 months.

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

    15.99% to 22.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

  • Foreign transaction fees

  • Credit needed

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

  • Rewards

    Earn 3X points on Southwest® purchases, 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare; 2X points on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming; 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn up to 100,000 bonus points: 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus 50,000 more bonus points after spending $12,000 total on purchases in the first 12 months.

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

    15.99% to 22.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

  • Foreign transaction fees

  • Credit needed

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

  • Rewards

    Earn 3X points on Southwest® purchases, 2X points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare; 2X points on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming; 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn up to 100,000 bonus points: 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open, plus 50,000 more bonus points after spending $12,000 total on purchases in the first 12 months.

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

    15.99% to 22.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

  • Foreign transaction fees

  • Credit needed

The most notable of these three is the Southwest Plus credit card, as you can earn 100,000 points with a modest $69 annual fee. This is significant because many cards that come with large bonuses are often accompanied by a hefty annual fee.

Regardless of which card you select, by the time you meet the minimum spending thresholds, you will have earned at least 112,000 points. And with many people valuing Southwest Rapid Rewards points at 1.4 cents per point, this will give you over $1,500 in initial value.

These points can be stretched out for several round-trip flights around the country. For example, a round-trip flight from Los Angeles, CA (LAX) to Fort Lauderdale, FL (FLL) in January is just under 14,000 points. With 112,000 points you could book that itinerary eight times.

Aside from being able to book nearly free tickets with Southwest points, the airline is known for their solid customer service and stand-out checked bag policy. Unlike every other airline in the country which charges north of $30 to check a bag, all Southwest flyers are able to check two bags for free.

However, the benefit that makes Southwest even more budget friendly for consumers is the famed Companion Pass perk.

Southwest Airlines Companion Pass, and how to earn it

If you travel regularly with another person, imagine if you could always bring them along without having to ever pay for their ticket. That is exactly what the Southwest Companion Pass gets you, and with a Southwest credit card in your wallet, you can earn it even faster.

Specifically, the Companion Pass allows you to designate one other person who will be your companion. This person can fly with you for ‘free’ on any Southwest flight, less taxes and fees. When flying within the United States, this is usually $5.60 per one-way flight. The best part is, you can use this perk as many times as you want as long as your pass is active.

To get the Southwest Companion Pass, you must fly 100 one-way flights on Southwest, or earn 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year. Unless you travel regularly for work or leisure, 100 flights per year is out of reach. However, the 125,000 points threshold is much more obtainable as the points you earn on a Southwest credit card count towards earning the Companion Pass, including points earned from a welcome bonus.

So after meeting the minimum spending threshold and earning the 100,000-point welcome bonus, you’ll be well on your way to the hitting the points needed to earn the valuable perk.

And once you’ve obtained the Companion Pass, you will have it for the remainder of the year, plus the entire following year. For example, if you hit the 125,000 point-marker in January 2022, you will have the companion pass for the rest of the year and all of 2023.

Before you apply, be sure that you are under the dreaded Chase 5/24 rule. This benchmark is set by Chase Bank, and means that if you have been approved for five or more lines of credit in the last 24 months, you will automatically be declined for any Chase credit card product.

Bottom line

The Southwest Airlines credit card welcome offers are the highest ever offered and are worth over $1,400 towards travel. Between the three consumer cards, as well as both of the business credit cards (Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card and Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card) there are valuable rewards to be earned for your every day spending.

However, before applying for the card, it is important to plan ahead a bit. Because the consumer cards require a large amount of spending ($12,000) over an entire year, it would be wise to plan ahead for large purchases so you don’t find yourself scrambling to meet the spending thresholds. That being said, if you can spend an average of $1,000 a month you’ll be able to earn the 100,000-point welcome offer and you’ll be well on your way to earning the Companion Pass.

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Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.