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Southwest Airlines is a popular domestic carrier that flies to over 100 destinations in the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean. As the original, no-fee airline — that also allows you to check two free bags on every flight — it's no surprise that Southwest is favored by many.
If you're a Southwest loyalist, chances are you've considered one of their credit card offerings. There are three tiers of the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards, ranging from the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card. Although the annual fees are $69, $99 and $149, respectively, these cards currently offer the same sign-up bonus. With each card, you can Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 3X points on dining purchases for the first year.
In this guide, we will take a deep dive into each card's features and the best ways to redeem the welcome bonus.
Card comparison — the best of the benefits
Since all three cards offer the same welcome bonus, it's important to assess each card's benefits to determine the right fit for you. As the Southwest credit cards are issued by Chase, each card will come with valuable travel and consumer protection benefits.
|Sign-up bonus||Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 3X points on dining purchases for the first year.||Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 3X points on dining purchases for the first year.||Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 3X points on dining purchases for the first year.|
|Points awarded on cardmember anniversary||3,000 points||6,000 points||7,500 points|
|Earning rate||Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.||Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.||Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.|
Here's what the cards have in common:
Besides the welcome bonus, all three cards have the same 2X earning rate on Southwest and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental purchases.
You'll also receive bonus points on every anniversary of your account opening, but this number varies based on the type of card you have. Every year, you'll receive 3,000 points with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, 6,000 points with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and 7,500 points with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card.
Chase offers a number of travel and consumer protections that will come with each card. You'll be covered with extended purchase warranties to trip and auto rental insurance, saving yourself from any problems you may experience down the road.
Here are the key differences:
For those primarily interested in the large sign-up bonus, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is for you. The $69 annual fee card doesn't offer much else for a traveler's card — only the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card waive foreign transaction fees.
If you're interested in landing A-List status, the latter two cards will also help you expedite this process. With either card, you can earn 1,500 tier qualifying points per $10,000 spent (for a maximum of 15,000 points per year). Keep in mind that A-List status members must earn 35,000 tier qualifying points or 25 flight segments per calendar year. These are the benefits of A-List status:
- Priority boarding, check-in and security lane access
- Earn 25% more Rapid Rewards points on flights
- Access to same-day standby tickets
- Dedicated customer service phone line
Furthermore, what distinguishes the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card from the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is a number of added benefits that make the $149 annual fee worth it:
- $75 Southwest credit, recurring annually
- Four upgraded boardings, recurring annually
- 20% in-flight food and Wi-Fi
For frequent Southwest flyers, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is the best value out of the three card offerings, as this flight credit alone cuts the annual fee down by half. And compared to other airlines' top credit cards that come in at a much higher annual fee (upward of $450+), the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is much more reasonable at $149 per year.
What can you do with 40,000 Rapid Rewards points?
You may be wondering how to redeem 40,000 points. We value Southwest Rapid Rewards points around 1.5 cents each, making this sign-up bonus worth $600
Southwest does not have a standard award redemption chart, so the number of points required will vary depending on the route. There are no blackout dates or restrictions when booking with points, so availability will not be an issue.
For under 40,000 points altogether, here is a sample of round-trip flights you can take with your welcome bonus.
Round trip from Oakland (OAK) to Honolulu (HNL): 20,124 points + $11.20 in taxes & fees
Round trip from New York (LGA) to Cancun (CUN): 12,168 points + $86.74 in taxes & fees
**Round trip from San Diego (SAN) to San Francisco (SFO): 7,488 points + $11.20 in taxes & fees **
As you can see, there are a ton of great redemptions to be found, with endless possibilities.
Using the bonus to earn the Southwest Companion Pass
The Southwest Companion Pass is a unique opportunity to choose one person to fly alongside you for the mere cost of taxes and fees. It's no wonder that the Companion Pass is so popular, as it provides tons of value for couples, families or travel partners.
You'll need to fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year to earn the Companion Pass. The sign-up bonus will cover a quarter of the 125,000 points required, allowing you to fast-track your way to the Companion Pass.
Once you meet this requirement, your Companion Pass will be active for the year that you applied and the entire following year. If you're strategic and earn the Companion Pass early enough in a calendar year, this means you could have this benefit for almost two full years.
Sign-up bonus restrictions
If you've received a welcome bonus from another personal Southwest card in the last 24 months, you won't be eligible to receive the current offer. However, this rule does not apply to Southwest business credit cards.
Finally, these cards are subject to Chase's 5/24 rule, meaning you won't qualify if you've opened five or more credit cards in the last 24 months. This rule is crucial to be mindful of, as you'll want to make sure your next credit card is worth taking up one of these slots.
Is this a good time to apply?
Many people apply for airline cards to unlock key benefits, such as a free checked bag on every flight. Since Southwest already offers two free checked bags with every ticket (and in general, some of the most customer-friendly benefits in the industry), you won't necessarily need a card for these reasons.
Instead, there are plenty of other compelling reasons to apply for a Southwest card. If your goal is to earn your way to free flights, the strong sign-up bonus will help you get there. Likewise, earning A-List status is easier with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier or Priority cards. However, if your goal is to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, you may want to be more intentional about when you apply. That way, you can extend the value of the benefit for as long as possible.
At the moment, the offer on these cards is on the low side. Southwest tends to elevate the bonuses on these cards a few times each year. You should check back when the bonus is at an elevated amount.
In any case, all three Southwest credit cards are fantastic options to consider. The right choice for you will depend on what your personal travel goals are.