Airport terminal

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If you’re just starting to collect Rapid Rewards points to fly free on Southwest (download my free ebook to learn how to master this skill!), then you’ll be hard pressed to believe that one day you will run out of points. That day has just about arrived for me — I’ve spent through 155,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points + plenty more that I have accumulated through every day spending and other bonuses to take my family of four to six destinations. I am having to think through “what next” so I thought I’d share it with you.

The 155,000+ points have lasted us a solid year and taken four people to six destinations, not bad! But even by putting my everyday spending on my Chase Sapphire Preferred card (which I recommend after you’ve met your Southwest Rapid Rewards cards minimum spend because it gives you double points on dining), I’m not accumulating points as fast as I would like for the next trips I need to book at the end of the year. So here’s my plan to continue flying free:

Step 1: Try to Get Approved for a Third Southwest Chase Rapid Rewards Card

I currently hold the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier and Business Premier cards, but have not applied for the Southwest Chase Rapid Rewards Plus card. I also have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which totals three Chase cards, so am unsure if I could be approved for another, as they are tightening up approvals.

I will likely first close the business card and then try to apply for Plus. Sometimes Chase will also approve you if you agree to transfer around your credit limits between cards. If I can get approved for a third card, and I have confirmed that it IS possible, then I’ll have another 50,000 points to get us through our holiday travel and early next year.

Step 2: Recruit my Husband

I earned the Southwest Companion Pass late in 2015, which allows my husband to fly free with us (whether we pay in points or cash) through the end of this year (2016). Because I cannot earn the 50,000-point credit card bonuses again for 24 months from the time I first earned them, I will have him go through the process of earning the bonuses and working toward a Southwest Companion Pass starting early next year.

The earlier he can earn the Southwest Companion Pass (which I will use this time), the longer it will last us through the end of 2018. Plus, he can collect 50,000 for each card sign-up — Premier, Plus, Business and Chase Sapphire Preferred — potentially restocking us with up to 200,000 points. That ought to do us for a while :). Though I have noticed that Southwest’s prices — both dollars and points — are higher than they were at the end of last year, so it’s costing more points and dollars for any given flight. So points are not stretching quite as far.

Step 3: Use Another Airline Until Points are Accumulated

If there is any time in January and February where we need to travel, though we usually stay put those months, and he hasn’t earned his credit card bonuses and we don’t have enough points. We could potentially switch to another airline. I also signed up for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite MasterCard® and have 50,000 miles sitting in that account to use as needed.

Step 4: Start Over Again in 24 Months

I can re-earn these bonuses 24 months after I first earned them, so after the Southwest Companion Pass my husband earned expires in 2018 or we run out of Rapid Rewards points, I can re-apply and re-earn those 150,000-200,000 points and the accompanying Southwest Companion Pass … so long as they don’t change the rules on us. After that, we would be back at Step 1!