Flying For Free on Points: Southwest Credit Card Sign Up Bonus

Although some aspirational trips are to Europe or Australia, most are going to be in the United States or somewhere like the Caribbean, Mexico, or Hawaii, which happen to all be areas in the Southwest flight map! Southwest offers two lucrative credit cards called the Southwest Plus and Southwest Premier that can get you to the vacation destinations you’ve been wanting to see for free.

Please read through the bottom of the article to see point redemption options to give an accurate idea of the sign-up bonus.

Let’s get started with how to get the credit cards, the sign-up bonus, and what it will get you in terms of free flights. To begin, let’s look at the Southwest flight map.

The map above shows the majority of Southwest airports, and the main ones of interest that are not included are in Hawaii. More on that in a second.

If you are like us and want to travel on a cheap budget, Southwest can get me to the nicest beaches in the Caribbean and Mexico, to the big cities in the Northeast US, or out west to see the National Parks around Salt Lake City, Phoenix, and Boise.

Elizabeth and I grew up regularly taking 8-9 hour drives to the beach. Because of the Southwest credit cards and the value on points, we are now flying for 3 or 4 night stays to the beaches that are only 6-8 hours driving distance away. That greatly increases the amount of times you get to the beach each year! We have also really enjoyed taking trips over Thanksgiving to New Orleans and New York, which are trips we never would have done in that time-frame had we been driving.


Just recently we found out which airports and islands Southwest would service in Hawaii. We know the flights will be running in 2019, but they could start at the end of 2018. That means get your points now to be ready for Christmas in Hawaii!

As you can see from the picture above, the islands of Kona, Oahu, Maui, and Kauai will have Southwest hubs at their airports, thus providing a range of different activities for your Hawaiian vacation preferences. We were glad to see that the flights weren’t just going to Honolulu, and we are already trying to get to Kauai! Coupled with the Hyatt and Hilton credit cards, you could get a free flight and stay for 5 nights.

Southwest Plus Credit Card

This card gets you the big sign-up bonus of 40,000 points after spending only $1,000 in the 3 months after you sign up for the card. That spend is extremely easy to reach for almost any adult, as a few trips to the grocery, internet bills, and cellphone bills typically will reach that amount over 3 months.

The annual fee is $69, and you will get 3,000 Southwest Rapid Reward Points every year after card renewal. This card does have a lower annual fee than the Premier card, but it does not waive foreign transaction fees. If you are planning on traveling outside of the US at any point in the near future, then I would suggest signing up for the Southwest Premier card. If you know you will only be flying inside the US, then get the Southwest Plus credit card. Almost always, foreign transaction fees can be 3-5%.

Southwest Premier Credit Card

You can no longer get both of the Southwest cards, so you need to take your time in choosing which one suits you better. Like the plus card, the premier offers 40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first three months. The big advantage of the premier card is that foreign transaction fees are waived, which means possible future trips to Mexico or Caribbean Islands makes this card a better choice.

The Southwest Premier card has an annual fee of $99, and you will get 6,000 Rapid Rewards points every year after card renewal. This is an increase in $30 for the annual fee, but it doubles the amount of points per year.

The hardest thing to learn in the points and miles hobby is how much the points currency is really worth. To make the point plain, I am going to list out trips from various cities and the amount of points it would cost for one roundtrip ticket. For the sake of comparison, these trips are all going to be departing on Saturday, October 6th and returning on Saturday, October 13th, which hopefully coincides with Fall Break in most school systems. 

Jacksonville, Florida to Phoenix, Arizona-29,000 points

Baltimore, MD to Charleston, SC-17,000 points

Nashville, TN to New York, NY-15,000 points

Denver, CO to Atlanta, GA-13,000 points

Charlotte, NC to Las Vegas, NV-21,000 points

Boston, MA to Ft. Lauderdale, FL-25,000 points

Nashville, TN to Cancun, MX-31,000 points

Dallas, TX to San Juan, PR-23,000 points

As you can see from the points breakdown above, the sign-up bonuses on these credit cards can get you on a trip for totally free! For example, after spending only $4,000 on the Southwest card, a family of 3 could take a fall break trip to NYC, and all three tickets would be paid for completely. Southwest also allows two checked bags per ticket for free, even when paying with points, so you never have to worry about not having enough room to pack!

When we say traveling to new places can really happen even on a budget when using credit card sign-up bonuses, hopefully you are beginning to see that this can really happen with your family!

Both the Southwest Premier and Southwest Plus credit cards have 40,000 point sign-up bonuses after spending $1,000 in the first three months. Choosing which card largely depends on if you want to travel out of the country or not in the future, as the Premier card eliminates foreign transaction fees.

Helpful Hints:

-If you already have had one of the Southwest credit cards for over 2 years, you can cancel your current one, then open a new one of the opposite type. For example, if I got the Plus card in November of 2014, I could cancel it now and open the Premier, or vice versa. That is a great way to get a bunch of points!

-Don’t forget that Southwest allows 2 free checked bags per passenger, as this can really pay off when heading to the beach or heading up north in the winter.