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.
Maybe the biggest perk with the Southwest card is it's 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.
We've broken down the features of the Southwest cards for you to compare your four options side-by-side:
|Plus Card||Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Card||Plus Business||Premier Business|
|Signup Promo||40,000 points||40,000 points||40,000 points||40,000 points|
|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|
|Earnings Rate||Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest and AirTran, 1 point on everything else||2 points/$1 spent on Southwest Airlines® purchases and participating Hotel and Car Rental partners, 1 point/$1 spent on all other purchases||Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest and AirTran, 1 point on everything else||Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest and AirTran, 1 point on everything else|
With Southwest you have the option of redeeming your points for just about anything: flights, car rentals, products, gift cards, and more. Of course, like almost all rewards cards, using points towards purchases of products, gift cards, and other miscellanous prizes is typically the worst way to get real value for your hard earned points. These items usually earn you well less than 1x point value. The BEST way to get max value from your Southwest Points is to use them towards Southwest or AirTran (who Southwest bought) flights. In the table below you'll see a list of what these points are worth at different times of the year. Remember, point values are dynamic and change constantly but we'll give you a few scenarios so you're aware of the fluctuation. The following examples are all using Southwest's "Wanna Get Away" ticketing option:
|Route||Booking Scenario||Cost ($)||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 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 $653. That works out to be 65% back in rewards on your first $1,000 of spending on the card.
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.
While the Southwest credit cards are appealing for their 40,000 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 50,000 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.
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