How I Fly to Disney World For (Almost) Free on Southwest!

Posted in Disney World, Frugal Travel
on December 7, 2018

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I fly from North Carolina to Orlando two to three times each year to visit Walt Disney World, and I almost never pay for airfare on Southwest.

How do I pull this off? I fly for (almost) free using points earned from a Southwest credit card. In this post, I’ll show you how to earn and redeem points so you can visit your favorite destination more often.

How I Earn LOTS of Southwest Points 

Southwest’s frequent flier program is called Rapid Rewards.

The two main ways I’ve earned Rapid Reward points are by:

  • Opening a Southwest credit card
  • Referring friends to this card

These are both ways that you, too, can earn points and fly to Orlando (or anywhere) for practically free, and I’ll explain them in detail below. 

There are now FOUR different Southwest cards offered by Chase, and when you open one and meet the minimum spending requirement, you’ll earn a huge number of Rapid Rewards points.

The first card I opened was the Chase Premier Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa (this is my referral link), and it is still my favorite card!

The newest offer for this card is for 40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first three months, and an additional 20,000 points if you spend $12,000 on the card within the first year. Clearly, Chase is encouraging you to use this card for your everyday spending throughout the year to earn the full bonus!

The initial 40,000 point bonus is likely enough to fly your family to Orlando for free, and the added bonus is just icing on the cake!

Two Important Notes

  • You will NOT be approved for this card if you have opened more than five new credit cards (with any bank) in the last 24 months, regardless of your credit score. This is called Chase’s “5/24 rule” and it applies to almost all of their cards now. 
  • Keep in mind that I only recommend opening a new credit card if you have a history of using credit responsibly and paying your bills on time.

How Much Are 40,000 Southwest Points Worth?

The reason I am able to visit Walt Disney World several times each year and still have points to spare is that I use them wisely!

My secret is to use the “Flexible Dates” search option on Southwest’s site which you can find it on the homepage – it is circled in red in the image above.

Searching by the month will show you the best dates to travel to get the most out of your points. As you can see, I can fly to Orlando from Raleigh Durham for only 3,081 points on many days in June.

That means I can take up to TWELVE one-way flights with the 40,000-point sign-on bonus!

When you redeem your points for a flight, you will still have to pay a $5.60 security fee each way. So a roundtrip flight to Orlando to visit Disney World costs me $11.20 per person.

You can apply for the Southwest Premier Visa here. 

Does The Southwest Card Have An Annual Fee?

There is a $99 annual fee for this card that is not waived the first year. However, you will receive 6,000 points every year on your cardmember anniversary, which are worth more than $99 in airfare. So you won’t be paying an annual fee for nothing, which is why I keep this card in my wallet year after year. 

How Do I Earn Point By Referring Friends?

The other main way I earn Southwest points for our travel to Disney World is by referring my friends (and readers here on the blog) to the Southwest card. 

I genuinely love this card and the benefits it provides. I think you will, too, and you will want to share the card with your friends and family!

You can get a unique referral link for your Southwest card on the Chase site here, and start sharing your link. If someone signs up for the card through your link, you’ll get 10,000 points deposited into your account. This is a great way to earn points year after year just by sharing about a product that you love!

When Will I Get My Bonus Points?

Your points will be automatically deposited into your Rapid Rewards account a few days after the end of the billing cycle during which you met the spending requirement. Then you are ready to start booking flights!

How Will Opening This Card Affect My Credit Score?

One common concern folks have about opening new credit cards is how it will affect their credit score.

I regularly open new cards to earn signup bonuses and my score has done nothing but rise over the years to over 800. This is because when you open a new line of credit your overall credit limit increases (good for your credit score), which means if you ever carry any balance your debt-to-credit ratio goes down (also good for your credit score).

Opening a new card like this is particularly helpful if you plan to keep it for many years to come- which I recommend that you do to get your annual point bonus! This will eventually increase the average age of your credit lines, also increasing your credit score.

What Else To Consider About the Southwest Credit Card

Here are some other points to consider about flying with points on Southwest:

  • You can change or cancel your award flight at any point with no penalty (unlike other airlines which charge hefty change fees)
  • There are three other cards you can add to your wallet and you can earn the sign-on bonus on each card
  • The sign-on bonus from the cards counts towards earning a Companion Pass, which can stretch your miles even farther!

I hope this post showed you how I am able to fly to Disney World several times each year for practically free.

How to fly for almost free to Walt Disney World! I regularly take Disney vacations with Southwest points and fly for cheap. #budgettravel #disneyworld

I have helped several readers through the process of opening a Southwest credit card to earn points and I am happy to answer any questions you might have! You can leave a comment on this post or contact me here.

9 Comments

  • Andrea

    Are you eligible to book using partial points/ partial payment. It’s looking like we will need a little over 43,000 points to fly round trip (family of 3 from STL- which seems way higher, but now the normal according to their low fare calendar). I’m assuming I’ll have about 41,000 points after the bonus & normal points per dollar spent at first. Wondering if they’ll turn the remaining 2,000 points into a dollar amount- or if they will even let me book without the full amount of points needed. Any experience on this? TIA!!

    April 2, 2019 at 11:47 am Reply
    • Leah

      Ok, Andrea, I have a few ideas for you. First, you unfortunately cannot book with partial points on Southwest. But I think you can definitely get everyone there. Southwest runs fare sales often and some are better than others. The current fare sale isn’t very good so be sure to sign up for SW’s email alerts to get notified of new sales. This alone will likely get you into the 41,000 point territory. If not, it is easy to earn points through https://rapidrewardsshopping.southwest.com/ Recently I paid $19 for a one-month subscription to the Motley Fool for $19 and earned 5,400 points. So it is easy to get the extra points with offers here. Finally, if you find you are a bit short on points, just book the two roundtrips together and one leg of the third ticket, then pay cash for the return leg of the third ticket. The prices are the same on one-way and roundtrip so you won’t be losing any benefit. Hope that helps!

      April 3, 2019 at 6:36 am Reply
  • Jill

    Hi Leah,
    Just found your sites and loving the info! Unlike my normal trips to Disney, we are now having to REALLY budget to go. SOooooo, I have a question about the Southwest Card and the points. If I sign up for the card now, and use it to get the $1000 in the 3 months, which I can do in 1 day probably by paying bills with it, can I use the points right away? We are going in June so it would be awesome if I can use those points for free airfare right away!!!!!!!!!!
    We are DVC Members, so no $$$ for lodging, if we can swing this airfare for free, then all I have to pay for is food and the conference I am hoping to go to.

    Thanks for sharing all of your wonderful tips and tricks. LOVE them!

    March 22, 2019 at 3:34 pm Reply
    • Leah

      Thanks, Jill! So the way the bonus works is that you will earn the points in the month that you meet the minimum spending requirement. The points typically post to your Southwest account 5-7 days after the end of that billing cycle. It takes about a week to get the card and another 3-4 weeks after that for the points to appear in your account if you meet the spending requirement in month 1. Hope that helps – I love the card and have had it for many years.

      March 22, 2019 at 3:44 pm Reply
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  • Dianna

    I would love to do this. So sad that we don’t have Southwest near us.
    We use the Allegiant card which earns points, too.

    December 8, 2018 at 6:58 pm Reply
    • Leah

      I know Dianna, Southwest is the best. How is it flying on Allegiant? I’ve heard mixed reviews but want to give them a try next year. Thanks!

      December 9, 2018 at 6:40 am Reply
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