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Southwest Credit Cards: Everything You Need To Know

Southwest Credit Cards: Everything You Need To Know

Consumers spending more than $10,000 annually will find the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier to be one of the best airline credit cards.
Editor's Rating: 5.0/5.0

Editor's Rating

5.0/5.0

The Dallas-based airline who popularized the phrase "Bags Fly Free" also offers a great credit card deal for customers who find themselves frequently flying Southwest. In our article we'll breakdown the difference between the Southwest credit cards and help determine which offering is best for your personal situation.

What Makes The Southwest Credit Card Stand Out

Maybe the biggest perk with the Southwest card is its welcome bonus. You currently get 40,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points (after you hit the spending threshold of $1,000 in the first 3 months) which can get you at least 1 roundtrip flight. There are very few airline cards with a signup deal this good.

Southwest Airlines also offers a unlimited Companion Pass if you can earn enough points with their credit cards. It's insanely valuable. Once you earn 110k points in a year, your significant other will fly free with you for up to two years.

Southwest offers both personal and business cards, and like most airline specific offerings, Southwest's cards offer you great deals towards flights on their airline. The tradeoff is less flexibility on where your points can be spent. So the question is, do you find yourself flying Southwest the majority of the time? If you do, then this card is a no brainer. However, Southwest has fewer destination cities than most other airlines so if you're looking for more options you'll want to look at the general purpose travel card we list below.

In-Depth Analysis

We've broken down the features of the Southwest cards for you to compare your four options side-by-side:

Southwest Airlines Credit Cards

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit CardSouthwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit CardSouthwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit CardSouthwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

Signup Promo

40,000 points*40,000 points*40,000 points**60,000 points***

Annual Fee

$69$99$149$99

Anniversary Points

3,0006,0007,5006,000

APR

17.74% - 24.74% Variable17.74% - 24.74% Variable17.74% - 24.74% Variable17.74% - 24.74% Variable

Foreign Trans Fee

3%0%0%0%

Tier Qualifying Points

NoYesYesYes

Credit Needed

ExcellentExcellentExcellentExcellent

Earnings Rate

Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest, 1 point on everything else2 points/$1 spent on Southwest, 1 point/$1 spent on all other purchasesEarn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest, 1 point on everything elseEarn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest, 1 point on everything else

Network

ChaseChaseChaseChase

*Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months from account opening.

**Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months from account opening.

***60,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

What Are Points Worth on Southwest Airlines

With Southwest you have the option of redeeming your points for just about anything: flights, car rentals, products, gift cards, and more. Of course, like almost all rewards cards, using points towards purchases of products, gift cards, and other miscellanous prizes is typically the worst way to get real value for your hard earned points. These items usually earn you well less than 1x point value. The BEST way to get max value from your Southwest Points is to use them towards Southwest or AirTran (who Southwest bought) flights. In the table below you'll see a list of what these points are worth at different times of the year. Remember, point values are dynamic and change constantly but we'll give you a few scenarios so you're aware of the fluctuation. The following examples are all using Southwest's "Wanna Get Away" ticketing option:

Route

Booking ScenarioCost ($)Points NeededValue of Each Point

MDW to DEN

Holiday (non-weekend)$56532,0401.76x

DEN to IND

Last Minute$54031,0001.70x

LAX to FLL

3-day Holiday Weekend$40017,0002.40x

You can see by using this chart that the 40,000 signup bonus points you can earn after opening your account and spending $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months, you can be quite rewarding. If you're able to find flights like our LAX to FLL route, those 40,000 points could get you a free roundtrip flight with 6,000 points left over towards your next jetsetting vacation. We estimate the 40,000 points can have a value of up to $680. That works out to be 68% back in rewards on your first $1,000 of spending on the card.

Determining the Best Southwest Card For You

When determining what Southwest card may be best for your particular situation you may want ask yourself these two questions:

Do you spend more than $10,000 annually?

Cardholders who think they'll be spending more than $10,000 each year on their Southwest card would benefit from using the Southwest Premier card. Why? With the Premier card you will earn 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points toward A-List and A-List Preferred status for every $10,000 you spend each year. You need 35,000 or 70,000 points to qualify towards A-List and A-List Preferred, respectively, but once you do you'll earn priority boarding, access to the 'Fly By' lane, and standby priority. You'll also start earning a 25% or 100% earnings bonus on all your flights. So for those customers who attain A-List Preferred status you will accumulate 4x points (instead of 2x) on all Southwest and AirTran flight bookings.

If you don't plan on spending more than 10k per year on your Southwest card you may be better off signing up for the Southwest Plus card. This will save you $30 a year on your annual fee while still offering you the same signing bonus and the same points per dollar earnings power that you'd get with the Premier card.

Do you run your own business?

It may make the most sense for you to get one of the two business card offerings from Southwest. Both the Premier Business and Plus Business options have the same rewards structure and perks as their non-business counterpart. The only slight difference is that with a business card you're eligible for free credit cards for your employees that will help you earn additional points. There's also a separate reporting tool so you can keep your business expenses separate from your own personal expenses.

If you don't run your own business stick with the standard Premium or Plus card option.

Additionally, we've built a tool where you can tell us how much you spend each month and in what categories, and we'll help you select which card is best for your personal spending profile.

Other Great Options for Frequent-Flyers

While the Southwest Premier Credit Card is appealing for its signup bonus, its rewards on monthly spending isn't as flexible as other cards. Of course, if you find yourself only flying Southwest than there's not much to worry about, but if you fly on different airlines depending on your destination the Southwest card is much less useful. With that in mind, here are a couple travel credit cards we recommend looking at that provide more flexibility and better rewards:

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is a much more flexible credit card than what Southwest offers. It allows you to earn miles on a larger percentage of your total spending (2x on everything) whereas Southwest pays out 2x on Southwest spending an only 1x on everything else. The Venture also gives you unrestricted redemption options while the Southwest cards limits you to their airline. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card also boasts a 50,000 point signup bonus, worth about $500 in travel statement credits. The card has a $95 annual fee that is waived the first year. While this is higher than the fee on the Southwest cards, you have to weigh that against the greater point flexibility.

Comparison Tool

Enter your spending detail into our comparison tool below to learn which card is best for you.

Assumptions Based On Monthly Spend of: $1,430 Edit
General:
U.S. Gas Stations:
U.S. Supermarkets:
Airlines:
Hotel:
U.S. Restaurants:
Office:
Utilities:
Computing:
Card Annual Fee 2-yr Net Rewards Rate

The Net Rewards Rate is equal to the Rewards Value over two years divided by the total spending. The total spending is equal to the values entered into the tool and multiplied by 24 months. See the rewards Value note to see details on how it is calculated.

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. All estimates are based on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

Bonus Value

The bonus field shows our estimate for the value of the card’s welcome bonus. If the bonus is point or mile based, we multiply the total bonus points/miles by our estimate for their value to arrive at a dollar equivalent. We display $0 if there is no bonus or if the user doesn’t qualify for the bonus based on the current spending entered into the tool. All estimates are based on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

2-yr Rewards Value

The Rewards value is calculated by adding together the rewards earned from charging purchases to the card over two years and any welcome bonuses (if applicable). They are then multiplied by our estimated point/mile value, with any annual fees (if applicable) subtracted. All values are based on our own estimates for the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using a card and on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card
$99 4.10%
$1,020
Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
$1,405
Graph Card More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.017 = $583
Bonuses
60,000 x $0.017 = $1,020
Less Annual Fees -$198
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 1,405

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $99
APR 17.74% - 24.74% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 6,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn points on employee spending
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • No blackout dates when you redeem points, no seat restrictions, bags fly free®, and no change fees
  • No foreign transaction fees
Southwest Plus Business Credit Card
Image of Southwest Plus Business Credit Card $69 3.77%
$850
Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 in first 3 months of opening your account
$1,295
Graph Card More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.017 = $583
Bonuses
50,000 x $0.017 = $850
Less Annual Fees -$138
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 1,295

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $69
APR 15.99%

Card Details

  • Flight change fees waived
  • Free bags - up to two per flight
  • Unlimited Reward Seats
  • No blackout dates on flights or expiration of points accumulated
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
$69 3.43%
$731
Earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in first 3 months of opening your account
$1,176
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.017 = $583
Bonuses
40,000 x $0.017 = $680
3,000 x $0.017 = $51
Less Annual Fees -$138
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 1,176

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $69
APR 17.74% - 24.74% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 3,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Earn unlimited points that don't expire as long as your card account is open
  • No blackout dates or seat restrictions
  • Bags fly free® and no change fees
  • Redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, gift cards, access to events and more
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
$99 3.40%
$782
Get 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account
$1,167
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 34,320 x $0.017 = $583
Bonuses
40,000 x $0.017 = $680
6,000 x $0.017 = $102
Less Annual Fees -$198
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 1,167

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $99
APR 17.74% - 24.74% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 6,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Earn unlimited points that don't expire as long as your card account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No blackout dates or seat restrictions, Bags fly free® and no change fees
  • Redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, gift cards, access to events and more
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that 3.18%
$500
Receive 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 within the first 3 months
$1,091
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 68,640 x $0.01 = $686
Bonuses
50,000 x $0.01 = $500
Less Annual Fees -$95
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 1,091

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0 intro for first year; $95 after that
APR 14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)

Card Details

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that

Note: The information in this box was provided by Capital One® and is not part of our independent analysis.

Comments and Questions

Opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the issuer. We may be compensated through the issuer's Affiliate Program. For a full list of our advertisers see our disclosure page

* See the online credit card application for details about terms and conditions. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. When you click on the "Apply Now" button, you can review the credit card terms and conditions on the issuer's website.

Info about the following cards: American Express® Gold Card, Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, Hilton Honors Surpass® Credit Card, American Express® Blue Sky, American Express® Green Card, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, The Plenti® Credit Card from Amex, Blue from American Express®, Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz, Bluebird, Centurion® Card from American Express, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, and Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card has been collected independently by ValuePenguin. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Advertiser Disclosure: Some of the offers that appear on this website are from companies which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The site does not review or include all companies or all available products. For more information please see our Advertiser Disclosure.