Who is This Credit Card Best For?
Flies regularly and likes finding ways to score even more travel—for free
Diligently searches for the best products and delights in a good bargain
Loves to explore places and experience new things
Frequently shops with a particular merchant and wants to be rewarded for their loyalty
If you fly Southwest Airlines frequently, have good credit, and want access to as many perks as you can get, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card may be your best bet. Note, however, that Southwest Airlines only flies to select destinations in the U.S. (including Hawaii) and to Mexico and the Caribbean, so it’s best for consumers who don’t travel too far from home.
Frequent flyer perks
Qualifying points toward A-List status
Easy-to-reach sign-up bonus
High annual fee
Weak ongoing rewards for purchases
- Frequent flyer perks: Among other things, you’ll receive a $75 annual travel credit each year, four upgraded boarding positions per year, valuable travel insurance benefits, and 7,500 points each year on your cardmember anniversary.
- Qualifying points toward A-List status: If your goal is earning elite status with Southwest, having the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card can help. This card lets you earn tier qualifying points that can help you reach status faster.
- Easy-to-reach sign-up bonus: The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card is currently offering 40,000 points after you sign up and spend $1,000 on your card within three months of account opening. That’s only $334 in monthly spending for three months in a row, which is a threshold most people can meet by using their card for regular purchases and bills.
- High annual fee: At $149 per year, this card’s annual fee is higher than any other co-branded Southwest consumer credit card. However, if you’re a Southwest regular, you’ll earn that back with the $75 annual travel credit and the 7,500 cardholder anniversary points bonus.
- Weak ongoing rewards for purchases: Earning 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest and its travel partners, but only 1 point per $1 spent on everything else puts this card at a disadvantage when compared to other travel credit cards. For example, several Chase credit cards let you earn more than 1 point per $1 spent on dining, yet they let you transfer points to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card Sign-up Bonus
Once you sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, you have the opportunity to earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 within three months. The Balance has analyzed the value of Rapids Rewards points and found that each is worth 1.49 cents when redeemed for airfare. That means the sign-up bonus could be worth $596 in flights on Southwest Airlines.
This isn’t the highest bonus we’ve seen on this card, nor is it the highest bonus among airline credit cards, but it’s easy to earn.
Earning Points & Rewards
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card gives cardholders 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest flights and hotel and rental car partners, along with 1 point per $1 spent on everything else. Hotel partners include Marriott and Hyatt, and rental car partners include Avis and Hertz.
The points you earn with this card are unlimited and they’ll never expire.
You can earn 1,500 tier qualifying points toward A-List status for every $10,000 in eligible purchases you make on your card, up to 15,000 qualifying points per year.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards program makes it easy to redeem points for flights since there are unlimited rewards seats with no blackout dates. Points are worth 1.49 cents each when redeemed for flights, according to The Balance’s analysis, although valuations may be even better when Southwest has a sale.
As a general rule of thumb, you want rewards that are worth at least 1 cent per point; 1.49 cents per point is among the better points values out there.
Because Southwest’s loyalty program is fare-based, you can frequently score inexpensive award flights when prices go down during sales or promotions.
It’s important to note that Southwest Airlines is mostly a domestic airline. Southwest flies within the continental United States as well as to Hawaii. It also offers international routes to Mexico and Caribbean destinations such as Turks and Caicos, Jamaica, Aruba, and Grand Cayman.
You can use your points to book international flights on other carriers—a new option from Southwest. If you choose to go this route, flight options aren’t very robust, and you may get less than 1 cent per point in value.
While there are no blackout dates with Southwest Rapid Rewards, the airline doesn’t always offer its least expensive fares—Wanna Get Away fares—on every flight.
In addition to redeeming points for flights, you can use your points for gift cards, merchandise, car rentals, and hotels. Points values for these options will vary, and for gift cards and merchandise will often be well short of 1 cent per point.
How to Get the Most Out of This Card
Sign up for this card and spend $1,000 within three months to earn 40,000 points—$604 worth of airfare is too good to pass up. The fastest way to earn free flights is to use your card for all your regular purchases to rack up points, but especially for purchases made through Southwest.com since you earn 2 points per $1 spent on airfare, hotels, and rental cars.
Alternatively, to earn even more points on other kinds of travel as well as at least some of your regular spending, consider pairing this card with the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve, which offer more points on all travel purchases as well as dining. Both cards let you transfer points 1:1 to Southwest and other partners.
When it comes time to redeem your points, focus on airfare, where your points are worth 1.49 cents each. No other Rapid Rewards redemption option comes close. Also, keep an eye out for the airline’s frequent sales. When prices go down, so do award fares, and you may be able to snag a great deal if you act fast.
Although it’s tempting to spend more just to earn more points, don’t charge anything you can’t pay off at the end of the month. If you carry a balance, the value of any rewards you earn will be dwarfed by interest charges.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card’s Excellent Perks
You will be issued a Visa Signature or Visa Platinum card, based on creditworthiness. There are slight differences in the card benefits offered with each. Whichever card you get, these are the perks the editors of The Balance consider “excellent.”
- Annual travel credit: As a cardholder, you’ll receive a $75 refund each year for flights on Southwest Airlines.
- Anniversary points: Receive 7,500 points on your cardmember anniversary every year.
- Airline companion pass: If you earn 125,000 Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year, you’ll get a companion pass, which allows you to choose one person to fly with you for free for the rest of the year and the following full year. (When your companion comes along, you'll still have to cover that ticket's taxes and fees, however.)
- Insurance coverage for lost or delayed luggage: Get reimbursed for up to $3,000 if your luggage is lost by the carrier, and receive up to $100 per day when your baggage is delayed by more than six hours.
- Travel accident insurance: Receive between $250,000 and $500,000 in travel accident coverage in the event of loss or life or accidental dismemberment when you pay for transportation on a common carrier with your credit card.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card’s Other Features
- Rental car collision insurance (secondary to your own policy)
- Extended warranties
- Insurance for stolen or damaged purchases
- Boarding upgrades on up to four flights per year
- Roadside assistance hotline
- Travel and emergency hotline
- Discounts on in-flight purchases
Signing up for a co-branded Southwest Credit Card makes you a Chase customer, thus any issues you have with your card will go through the megabank. Fortunately, Chase appears to have solid customer service chops. J.D. Power gave it the fourth spot (out of 11) in its 2019 Credit Card Satisfaction Study, which considered the opinions of 24,000 credit card customers around the U.S. Chase scored 807 out of 1,000 points. The industry average was 806.
Otherwise, expect the usual customer service offered by a big bank—a smartphone app, online account access, and multiple ways to contact a customer service agent. It also provides a free TransUnion VantageScore credit score if you sign up for the bank’s Credit Journey credit monitoring program.
Chase offers industry-standard security including fraud alerts. The Credit Journey program also offers credit monitoring to let you know of changes to your credit report, which can help you spot fraud.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card’s Fees
The card’s fees are aligned with industry standards. The annual fee may be a little high for this card’s points earning rate, but it doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees.