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Southwest Credit Cards: Everything You Need To Know

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"Consumers spending less than $10,000 annually on their card will find the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Plus to be one of the best airline credit cards for domestic travel."

Contents

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 it's welcome bonus.  You currently get 60,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points (after you hit the spending threshold of $2,000 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

  Plus Card Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Card Plus Business Premier Business
  Image of Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card
Signup Promo 60,000 points 60,000 points 40,000 points 40,000 points
Annual Fee $69  $99  $69  $99 
Anniversary Points 3,000 6,000 3,000 6,000
APR 16.99-23.99% Variable 16.99-23.99% Variable 16.99-23.99% Variable 16.99-23.99% Variable
Foreign Trans Fee 3% 0% 3% 0%
Tier Qualifying Points No Yes No Yes
Credit Needed Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent
Earnings Rate Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest, 1 point on everything else 2 points/$1 spent on Southwest, 1 point/$1 spent on all other purchases Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest, 1 point on everything else Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest, 1 point on everything else
Network Chase Chase Chase Chase

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 Scenario Cost ($) Points Needed Value of Each Point
MDW to DEN Holiday (non-weekend)   $565 32,040  1.76x 
DEN to IND Last Minute   $540 31,000  1.70x 
LAX to FLL 3-day Holiday Weekend   $400 17,000  2.40x 

You can see by using this chart that the 60,000 signup bonus points you can earn after opening your account and spending $2,000 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 60,000 points could get you a free roundtrip flight with 26,000 points left over towards your next jetsetting vacation. We estimate the 60,000 points can have a value of up to $1,020. That works out to be 51% back in rewards on your first $2,000 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 a nice 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 credit cards are appealing for their 60,000 point signup bonus, their rewards on monthly spending aren'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:

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite from Barclaycard is a much more flexible credit card than what Southwest offers. It allows you to earn points 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 Arrival Plus also gives you unrestricted redemption options while the Southwest cards limits you to their airline. The Arrival Plus also boasts a 20,000 point signup bonus (for the no-fee version) or a 40,000 point signup bonus (for the fee version). The fee version, which costs $89 per year almost gives you as many points as Southwest at a similar annual fee, but again, gives you much more leeway on where you can spend the points. These bonus points can be used on any airline or hotel and will even earn you a 5% bonus when spend on travel.

Comments and Questions

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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.