Southwest Credit Cards: Everything You Need To Know

Southwest Credit Cards: Everything You Need To Know

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

Editor's Rating

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If you fly frequently on Southwest Airlines, you'll get plenty of value out of this card, though there are better travel cards for the same cost.

Good For

  • Large sign-up bonus for new cardholders; Anniversary bonus helps cover most of the annual fee each year; Helps you earn points toward the Southwest Companion Pass; Earning and redeeming points is simple ; No foreign transaction fees

Bad For

  • Points earnings are low compared to similar travel cards; You can only use points on Southwest Airlines
  • On Chase's Secure Website
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Editor's Rating

?
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If you fly frequently on Southwest Airlines, you'll get plenty of value out of this card, though there are better travel cards for the same cost.

Good For

  • Large sign-up bonus for new cardholders; Anniversary bonus helps cover most of the annual fee each year; Helps you earn points toward the Southwest Companion Pass; Earning and redeeming points is simple ; No foreign transaction fees

Bad For

  • Points earnings are low compared to similar travel cards; You can only use points on Southwest Airlines
  • On Chase's Secure Website
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Southwest Airlines is one of the largest carriers in the U.S., operating more than 4,000 flights per day to domestic locations and destinations throughout Central America and the Caribbean. Travelers who frequently use Southwest — or who want to earn Rapid Rewards points — have access to multiple credit card offers from the airline. Below, we've highlighted the most attractive offers for earning points and getting perks.

Best Southwest credit cards

Recommended Cards

Best ForCredit NeededAnnual Fee
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit CardMost peopleExcellent$99
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit CardFrequent flyersExcellent$149
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card
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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit CardBusiness ownersExcellent$99
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
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Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardFrequent flyersExcellent$95
Apply Now
  • On Chase's Secure Website
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Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
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Wells Fargo Propel American Express® cardNo annual feeExcellent/Good$0
Apply Now
  • On Wells Fargo's Secure Website
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Recommended Cards
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Apply Now
  • On Chase's Secure Website
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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
Apply Now
  • On Chase's Secure Website
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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card
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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card
Apply Now
  • On Chase's Secure Website
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_
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
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|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card |
Apply Now
  • On Chase's Secure Website
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_
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
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|Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card |
Apply Now
  • On Wells Fargo's Secure Website
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Continue reading below for a detailed look at the benefits and features of each card. You can also head to our credit card comparison tool at the bottom of the page to see which Southwest card works best for your budget and travel habits.

Best Southwest credit card for most people: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is our favorite Southwest card for casual travelers looking to get rewarded for their airline spending. For a reasonable $99 annual fee, you'll be able to earn Southwest Rapid Rewards points on your everyday purchases, plus zero foreign transaction fees and an annual point bonus on your cardmember anniversary.

Annual rapid rewards point bonus

With the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, you'll receive a 6,000 Rapid Rewards points bonus every year on your cardmember anniversary. We value Southwest miles at 1.5 cents apiece, so the annual point bonus is effectively worth $90. If you use the point bonus to book flights every year, this can help partially offset the cost of the annual fee.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card vs. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is a decent Southwest card, but the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card has better value for most people. While the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card has a lower annual fee ($69), it also has a lower annual Rapid Rewards bonus of 3,000 points per year. It also charges a foreign transaction fee of 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars, whereas the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card has $0 foreign transaction fees.

Best Southwest credit card for earning miles: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is the best card for Southwest frequent flyers who are looking to earn miles. For an annual fee of $149, you'll earn 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. This is the same earning rate as the other Southwest consumer cards, but you'll also benefit from an annual Rapid Rewards bonus of 7,500 points on top of an annual travel credit.

7,500 annual Rapid Rewards bonus plus $75 annual travel credit

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card comes with a 7,500 annual point bonus and a $75 annual travel credit. Combined, these two perks are worth nearly $190 on Southwest tickets each year, given our valuation of Rapid Rewards points at 1.5 cents. If you fly Southwest enough to utilize both the travel credit and the point bonus, the annual fee on the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card will pay for itself each year.

Annual tier-qualifying point bonus

If you're looking to earn or keep Southwest A-List status, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card can help you do so with up to 15,000 tier-qualifying points per year. You'll earn 1,500 tier-qualifying points for each $10,000 in purchases up to $100,000 in purchases annually. The tier-qualifying points can be used toward earning Rapid Rewards A-List or A-List Preferred status.

Best Southwest credit card for small business owners: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card is a rewarding card for small-business owners who primarily fly with Southwest. The card is similar to the consumer version, offering 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., 6,000 anniversary points per year and $0.

Account anniversary bonuses

With the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card, you'll benefit from an account anniversary bonus of 6,000 Rapid Rewards points per year, a value of $90 according to our valuation of Southwest points (1.5 cents each). If you can earn a few thousand more Rapid Rewards points per year from your spending, you'll come out ahead on the $99 annual fee.

Free cards for employees

If you're a small-business owner with flight expenses, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card can help you save on travel costs by earning Rapid Rewards points on every purchase made by you or an employee. These points can be redeemed toward air travel and other rewards. Plus, you'll also benefit from the following sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Best non-Southwest credit card for earning miles: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • On Chase's Secure Website
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The cards mentioned above are great for travelers who exclusively or primarily fly with Southwest. However, if you're interested in getting free flights and don't have allegiance to a particular airline, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is the best choice for you. For a $95 annual fee, you'll earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide.

Coronavirus updates. Until April 30, 2021, cardholders can use the “Pay Yourself Back” feature to get 1.25 cents per point redeemed for statement credits on grocery stores, home improvement, restaurant purchases or donations to eligible charities.

Part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program

The major benefit of opening a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card rather than an airline-specific co-branded card is that you'll earn points that are extremely flexible. Whereas Rapid Rewards points can't be used on airlines other than Southwest, Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be transferred to 13 different travel loyalty programs, including Southwest's Rapid Rewards program.

Rewarding welcome bonus and earning rate

Another draw of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is its excellent welcome bonus and ongoing rewards rate. When you sign up for the card, you'll get the following sign-up bonus: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Likewise, travel and dining purchases receive a 2.5% rewards rate (2 points x 25% value) when you redeem your points for travel on the Chase portal.

Best no-annual-fee card for earning points on Southwest Flights: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card

The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card is a great option for travelers looking for a no-annual-fee rewards card ($0). The card lets you Earn 3X points on eating out, ordering in and popular streaming services, 3X points on gas stations, rideshares and transit, and 3X points on travel including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals. Earn 1X points on other purchases. For most people, the ability to earn points on all of these categories will make this card more rewarding than the Southwest co-branded cards.

Rewards on travel and transit purchases

The main benefit of the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card is that it earns 3 points per dollar on a broad category of travel and transit purchases. While the Southwest cards earn 2 Rapid Rewards points per dollar exclusively on Southwest flights, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card earns 3X points on flights, hotels, car rentals and more.

Excellent welcome bonus on a no-annual-fee card

For a no-annual-fee card, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card has a rewarding welcome bonus: 20,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months.

Compare Southwest and rewards credit cards

You can use our card comparison tool to evaluate how each card works for your budget and spending habits. Browse the options below and click on the gear icon to adjust the spending inputs for each category.

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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 miscellaneous 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

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 Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. Why? With the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit 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 Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit 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. The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card has the same rewards structure and perks as its non-business counterpart. The only slight difference is that with the business card you're eligible for free authorized user cards for your employees that will help you earn additional points. The Southwest business card also comes with 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 consumer 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.

Joe Resendiz

Joe Resendiz is a former investment banking analyst for Goldman Sachs, where he covered public sector and infrastructure financing. During his time on Wall Street, Joe worked closely with the debt capital markets team, which allowed him to gain unique insights into the credit market. Joe is currently a research analyst who covers credit cards and the payments industry. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, where he majored in finance.

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.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). ValuePenguin does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).

  • On Chase's Secure Website
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