Maximize the Southwest Card’s 50,000-Point Bonus on Flights to the Caribbean

May 25, 2015

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Last winter was a brutal one for much of the US. So if you’ve been contemplating a tropical getaway in anticipation of next winter, the new 50,000-point sign-up bonuses after $2,000 spent within the first 3 months from Chase on its personal Southwest co-branded cards — including the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card — might be just the ticket.

As a reminder, here are the full details for the Premier card:

  • 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account.
  • 6,000 points after your Cardmember Anniversary.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines® purchases made directly with the airline and on Rapid Rewards Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

You can also earn 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points for every $10,000 you spend on the card, up to 15,000 points annually. While the Premier personal and business cards come with a $99 annual fee, the Plus card has a slightly lower annual fee of $69.

Southwest recently made some changes to the Rapid Rewards program by introducing dynamic award pricing. So instead of being able to redeem your Rapid Rewards points for a fixed value of 70 per $1 of airfare for Wanna Get Away fares, how many points you need for a ticket will vary based on the route, the time of year and the airfare.

While the changes weren’t as dramatic as some folks feared, they were enough to make me lower the value of Rapid Rewards slightly in my monthly valuations to about 1.3 cents apiece (though you can still get values of up to about 1.9 cents per point). Hopefully Southwest won’t continue to devalue its program, since it’s still a pretty good option for domestic flights and an increasing number of international routes as well.

In fact, those international routes might be the most interesting ones to put your Rapid Rewards points to use if you decide to take advantage of these bonuses. For instance, the airline will launch a new route from Houston William B. Hobby Airport (HOU) to Liberia, Costa Rica, starting November 1. And it will fly from HOU to four cities in Mexico as well as San Jose, Costa Rica and Belize City beginning October 15, and to Montego Bay, Jamaica, on November 1.

Let’s say you wanted to visit the Andaz Papagayo in Costa Rica over the holidays. The nearest airport is Liberia. If you wanted a quick visit from December 26-30, each ticket would be 41,288 Rapid Rewards points due to some high airfares at that time. However, if you were closing in on the Companion Pass and got over the threshold with one or more of these credit card bonuses and spending, you could get both tickets for the same amount of points (you just pay the taxes on both tickets), doubling your value.

If you wanted to go to Belize instead, on another newly launched route from Houston Hobby, that’s even more of a bargain on the same dates at just 20,220 points. So you could get two round-trip tickets with just one credit card sign-up bonus.

There are some pretty great deals to some of Southwest’s other tropical international destinations as well. You could fly roundtrip from Baltimore to the Bahamas for just 9,380 points per person in December.

So you could fly a family of five down there for a pre-Christmas vacation with one of these sign-up bonuses. Or Chicago Midway to Cancun via Houston, Baltimore or Atlanta for just 22,820 points and $81 per person.

Or Austin to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic for about 24,500 points and $110 per person.

Basically, there are tons of options to take advantage of Southwest’s new Caribbean and Central American routes to maximize the sign-up bonuses on Southwest’s credit cards, and that’s even over the busy holiday travel season.

The airline has only released its schedule through January 4, 2016 so far, so even more opportunities should open up over next winter as more of these new routes come online and the schedule is released farther out.

If you don’t have one of the Southwest cards, or already have one and need some other ideas for topping up your Rapid Rewards account, remember that the program is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards. So if you have the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus, you can transfer your points instantly to Southwest and redeem them that way.

In the meantime, check out these posts for more information on maximizing these offer:

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