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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

Find the Best Credit Card for You

What kind of card do you want?

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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. You can also earn 20,000 points after spending $12,000 in the first year of account opening.

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 + 20,000 points*40,000 points + 20,000 points*40,000 points + 20,000 points*60,000 points**

Annual Fee

$69$99$149$99

Anniversary Points

3,0006,0007,5006,000

APR

17.99% - 24.99% Variable17.99% - 24.99% Variable17.99% - 24.99% Variable17.99% - 24.99% 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, plus 20,000 points after spending $12,000 in the first year. You can earn either or both.

**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 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. Plus, you have the opportunity to earn 20,000 more points after spending $12,000 within your first year of having 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.

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Assumptions based on $1,430 monthly spend
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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: Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, 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 Amex EveryDay® 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, Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card, and Amazon Business American Express 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.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card 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).