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The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months. Below, TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen shows you several ways to put those rewards to work toward your next vacation.
In the past, we've written about increased sign-up bonuses on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card — and if you previously missed out you're in luck, as one is currently available! You can currently earn 50,000 Rapid Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months. This sign-up bonus is worth $750 based on TPG's most recent valuations, and even though the Rapid Rewards program is revenue-based, you can still get some great value out of the program. Today I want to go through several ways to make the most of these 50,000 points.
Given that your redemptions on Southwest are based on the price of your ticket if you paid cash, there aren't any true "sweet spots" when it comes to redeeming points (like there would be with high-priced, short-haul flights through British Airways' distance-based award chart). As a result, I'll simply provide some sample itineraries for the next several months, all of which were available at the time of writing. In choosing flights, I considered the following:
- Travel dates/times: Since I'm sure most of us can't (or don't want to) leave at 6am on a Tuesday and fly back at 9:30pm on a Thursday, I looked primarily at weekend and week-long trips. More off-peak dates and times may be inexpensive in both points and dollars, but that would be like comparing a sirloin to filet mignon.
- Number of travelers: Many people enjoy traveling solo, but I love hitting the road with my wife and young daughter. As a result, I'll try to provide a representative sample of different size groups.
- Destinations: Southwest operates almost 4,000 daily flights to over 90 cities, but certain destinations are more appealing than others to the general traveling population. I'll thus try to highlight more popular destinations but include a variety as well.
- Type of flight: I've taken hundreds of flights over the last several years, and it's only been recently that I've come to appreciate a nonstop flight over a connecting one. For this list, I will only include nonstop flights. However, I did notice many connecting options that would require even fewer points, though keep in mind that this may add 2-3 hour layovers to your itinerary.
So, what are some great ways to utilize the sign-up bonus from the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card? In no particular order...
1. Two round-trip tickets from Baltimore to San Jose, Costa Rica over Memorial Day
The first option is a relatively new destination for Southwest: San Jose, Costa Rica. The country has a wealth of activities to keep you busy, along with some incredible hotel options, like a vintage Boeing aircraft or the Andaz Papagayo. Here's the itinerary I found for a week-long trip over Memorial Day weekend:
- Outbound flight (5/29): Southwest Flight 602, BWI-SJO (9:05am - 11:55am)
- Return flight (6/5): Southwest Flight 607, SJO-BWI (12:35pm - 7:30pm)
- Total cost: 37,512 points + $149.50
- Total savings: $596.20
- Value: 1.59 cents per point
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Notice that you'd still have almost 12,500 points leftover for additional redemptions if you book this trip.
2. Three round-trip tickets from Denver to Las Vegas for the Fourth of July
Las Vegas is popular destination served extensively by Southwest, and if you want to brave the heat and check out the fireworks display on the Strip, consider a trip over the Fourth of July. Sin City actually has a wealth of properties at which you can earn or redeem points, including MGM Resorts (and its partnership with Hyatt), the Venetian and Palazzo or Caesars properties like The Nobu Hotel (thanks to its partnership with Starwood Preferred Guest). Denver is one city with several nonstop flights a day, and here are the details for a trip to Vegas to celebrate our nation's birth:
- Outbound flight (6/30): Southwest Flight 673, DEN-LAS (8:05pm - 9:00pm)
- Return flight (7/5): Southwest Flight 350, LAS-DEN (6:15pm - 9:05pm)
- Total cost: 47,772 points + $33.60
- Total savings: $764.28
- Value: 1.6 cents per point
3. Four round-trip tickets from Dallas to New Orleans over Columbus Day
One of my personal favorite destinations on Southwest's route map is New Orleans. The food alone is worth the trip, and when you add in the music, the history and the nightlife, it's a winning combination in my book! There are many gateways with nonstop flights to the Big Easy, though a quick hop from Dallas-Love Field is probably the quickest. Here's a sample trip I found over Columbus Day Weekend:
- Outbound flight (10/6): Southwest Flight 1475, DAL-MSY (8:20pm - 9:35pm)
- Return flight (10/10): Southwest Flight 603, MSY-DAL (7:20pm - 8:45pm)
- Total cost: 45,212 points + $44.80
- Total savings: $743.04
- Value: 1.64 cents per point
4. Three round-trip tickets from Atlanta to Chicago over Labor Day
Another terrific Southwest destination is Chicago, as the carrier has a big presence at Midway Airport. The Windy City can be a great getaway during the late summer or early fall, especially if you live in the sweltering south like me, and there are many ways to maximize your points and miles when visiting. Labor Day weekend is a terrific option this year, as the Cubs are playing at home against the San Francisco Giants and may be in a heated pennant race. Here's a sample itinerary I found from Atlanta:
- Outbound flight (9/2): Southwest Flight 557, ATL-MDW (6:35pm - 7:30pm)
- Return flight (9/5): Southwest Flight 1581, MDW-ATL (5:55pm - 8:50pm)
- Total cost: 48,576 points + $33.60
- Total savings: $776.28
- Value: 1.6 cents per point
5. Two round-trip tickets from Houston to Aruba
Another relatively new international destination for Southwest is the island of Aruba, with nonstop service from Houston-Hobby, Orlando and Baltimore-Washington. If you're looking to take a week-long trip this summer, I found the following Saturday to Saturday itinerary out of Houston:
- Outbound flight (6/25): Southwest Flight 2228, HOU-AUA (10:05am - 3:50pm)
- Return flight (7/2): Southwest Flight 2207, AUA-MOU (12:20pm - 4:05pm)
- Total cost: 46,656 points + $139.12
- Total savings: $728.20
- Value: 1.56 cents per point
This will also put you back in time to enjoy your Fourth of July weekend!
6. Six round-trip tickets from Atlanta to Orlando in August
It's no surprise that Orlando is a key leisure destination for Southwest, with nonstop service to almost half of the carrier's airports. The summer can be prime season for visiting the land of Mickey Mouse (despite the heat), and if you're just a short flight from Atlanta, you can bring the kids and a couple of friends or even the grandparents for a week-long trip. Here's a sample of what that might look like:
- Outbound flight (8/20): Southwest Flight 3484, ATL-MCO (2:05pm - 3:40pm)
- Return flight (8/27): Southwest Flight 1306, MCO-ATL (5:50pm - 7:20pm)
- Total cost: 44,916 points + $67.20
- Total savings: $772.56
- Value: 1.72 cents per point
Of course, the sign-up bonus isn't the only reason to open the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card. There are a number of other benefits on the card. Here's a full breakdown:
- Earn 2 points per dollar on Southwest Airlines purchases, plus those made with select hotel and rental car partners
- Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
- 6,000 bonus points on your cardmember anniversary
- No foreign transaction fees
In addition to these perks, it's also important to note that all points earned on the card (including the sign-up bonus) will count toward the Companion Pass. This is one of the most lucrative benefits in the frequent traveler world, essentially allowing you to bring along a companion on both paid and award flights. The pass is valid for the rest of the year in which you earn it and the entire following year, so if you time things right with the sign-up bonus, you could wind up with a pass valid for almost two full years.
For more information, on this perk, be sure to check out Jason Steele's post Southwest Companion Pass: 16 Things Every Flyer Should Know.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card is a great option for free travel. While the revenue-based nature of the Rapid Rewards program takes away any true redemption sweet spots and the ability to redeem points for luxurious international first class flights, you can nonetheless get some terrific value from the card. Hopefully this post has demonstrated how to stretch the sign-up bonus as you look to redeem your points for Southwest flights.
How would you redeem the 50,000-point sign-up bonus on the Southwest Premier Card?