Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card Review: Easy To Earn Miles For A Low Annual Fee

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer.

Editor's Rating

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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.

Good For

  • Southwest purchases; Easy-to-earn sign-up bonus; Travel protections; Low annual fee

Bad For

  • International purchases; Consistent spending outside of Southwest-related purchases
  • On Chase's Secure Website
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Editor's Rating

?
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers.","showIcon":false,"tooltipLabel":"?"}

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.

Good For

  • Southwest purchases; Easy-to-earn sign-up bonus; Travel protections; Low annual fee

Bad For

  • International purchases; Consistent spending outside of Southwest-related purchases
  • On Chase's Secure Website
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Citi is an advertising partner.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is perfect for someone interested in flying more, and who wants to save money with frequent flyer miles. By spending on the card, you will earn Southwest Rapid Rewards for your purchases, which can help you fund your next trip for less. And, since Southwest Airlines is now flying to Hawaii and adding more international routes, Southwest Rapid Rewards points can be rather valuable compared to other airline miles.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is a good choice for occasional flyers because of its simplicity and low annual fee. Keep in mind this card isn’t the best for international travelers as there is a foreign transaction fee. However, this card can go from “good” to “great” if you use it to earn the renowned Southwest Companion Pass.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

  • On Chase's Secure Website

$69

15.99% - 22.99% Variable

Excellent

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 3,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
  • 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.
  • All points earned count towards Companion Pass.
  • No blackout dates or seat restrictions.
  • Redeem your points for flights, hotel stays, gift cards, access to events, and more.

Review: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is perfect for current or future travelers

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is the perfect card for those who want to use miles to travel more. The card comes with a great sign-up bonus, valuable rewards for your spending and a modest annual fee.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card benefits and features

The largest benefit of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is the sign-up bonus. However, the card is worth holding onto after the first year because of its anniversary bonus and travel insurance.

Sign-up bonus

Once you are approved for the card, you will have the chance to Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Many travel reward experts value Southwest Rapid Rewards at 1.5 cents per point, making this bonus worth an estimated $600. And 40,000 points can get you plenty of short or long distance flights.

The 40,000 miles can almost cover a round-trip flight from Los Angeles to New York City for two people. Also, you could purchase several round-trip tickets from Los Angeles to Phoenix and back.

Sign-up bonus
Sign-up bonus

Tip: Take a close look at the value of a card's points before you apply. Historically, travel brands will offer a great sign-up bonus, only to raise the amount of points needed for a flight or hotel. Before you grab your next travel credit card, be sure to research how far the points will take you for your upcoming travel plans.

You should make sure you can meet the minimum spending requirement. The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card has a fairly reasonable spending requirement of $1,000 in the first three months. If you have a large expense coming up such as a car repair or insurance renewal, you can easily meet this threshold. However, be sure to pay off your statement in full. If you begin to accrue interest on your balance, the value of your points will diminish.

Also, before you apply, make sure you meet the following requirements to be eligible for the bonus:

  • You do not have another Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card and,
  • You have not received a new cardmember bonus for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card within the last 24 months.

Earning the Southwest Companion Pass

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card's sign-up bonus (and any points you earn by spending on the card) will put you well on your way to earning the Southwest Companion Pass. If you earn 125,000 Rapid Rewards points in a year, Southwest lets you “buy one get one free” for a designated companion on any Southwest flight for a year or longer. Your companion will only need to pay for the taxes associated with their ticket. If you have a travel buddy you enjoy traveling with consistently, the companion pass can save you hundreds in flight costs.

Anniversary bonus

In addition to a generous sign-up bonus upfront, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card rewards you for keeping it for the long term. Each cardmember anniversary, you will be awarded 3,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points.

Though that may not sound like much, you can find award flights with Southwest for fewer than 3,000 points. For example, this one-way flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas only requires 2,177 points:

Anniversary bonus

Earning points

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card rewards cardholders for flying frequently with Southwest. While some airline miles credit cards have complicated earning structures that require you to keep track of multiple bonus categories, this card is fairly straightforward. You will earn:

  • 2 points for every $1 on Southwest Airlines purchases
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases

The earning rate is a bit low compared to other airline credit cards. If you value Southwest Rapid Rewards at 1.5 cents per point, that means you will earn 3% back in value on Southwest purchases and 1.5% back on the remainder of your purchases. That's a respectable return on airfare, though not a great rate for general purchases.

Other airline credit cards give bonus miles for everyday purchases, such as at gas stations or restaurants. However, keeping track of all these categories can be cumbersome for some consumers.

The best way to evaluate the categories is to take a look at your purchases. If you make Southwest purchases consistently, this card can be valuable. If most of your purchases aren’t Southwest-related, a different card may earn you better value.

Redeeming points

Southwest makes it easy to redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards points. Because Southwest does not assign seats, there aren’t different seats classes such as economy, premium economy and business or first class. Instead, when you go to book a flight with Rapid Rewards, you will find three different fares: Business Select, Anytime and Wanna Get Away.

Rather than seating you in a "class," the more expensive fares give you flexibility to cancel and rebook as you need. Here are the differences between the three fares:

Business SelectAnytimeWanna Get Away
  • Refundable if you cancel your flight
  • Same-day change
  • Same-day standby
  • Priority boarding A1-A15
  • Fly By (priority security lane)
  • Complimentary premium drink
  • Refundable if you cancel your flight
  • Same-day change
  • Same-day standby
  • Not refundable if you cancel your flight
  • No same-day change
  • No same-day standby

All classes still receive two free checked bags and no change fee, plus flights are reusable up to 12 months if you cancel.

With such flexible terms, the Southwest Rapid Rewards program has become a favorite with families and other types of travelers with unpredictable schedules.

Travel insurance

While traveling, things can go awry quickly. To help solve those issues, many travel credit cards have travel insurance policies that help alleviate situations like delayed flights and rental car incidents. The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card has a few coverages to help protect you during your travels:

  • Lost luggage reimbursement - If your bags are damaged or lost by a flight carrier, you’re covered up to $3,000 per passenger.
  • Baggage delay insurance - Reimbursement for essential purchases like toiletries and clothing for bags delayed more than six hours. Up to $100 a day for three days.
  • Credit card car rental insurance - When you pay for the rental car with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, you’ll be covered with theft and collision damage insurance, which can spare you from having to purchase rental car insurance. This policy is secondary to your own personal insurance, which is very common with travel credit cards. If you want a credit card with primary car rental insurance, check out the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

How does the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card compare to other credit cards?

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is a great entry-level rewards credit card. With a low annual fee and simple rewards, there aren’t any complicated benefits that come with the card. And similar to Southwest, other major airlines offer similar credit cards.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card vs. Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

Citi® /  AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
This product is not available through ValuePenguin.

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® is a very similar airline miles credit card with a low annual fee. However, while Southwest Airlines is a budget airline, American Airlines is a full-service carrier.

In contrast to the Southwest card's limited spending categories, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® has more opportunity for earning bonus miles:

  • 2 miles for every $1 you spend on American Airlines purchases
  • 2 miles for every $1 you spend at gas stations
  • 2 miles for every $1 you spend at restaurants

In addition, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® offers a $125 flight credit when you spend $20,000 or more in purchases in one calendar year and renew your card. The Southwest card doesn’t offer any incentives like this.

On the downside, the card has a much higher spending requirement for its sign-up bonus: Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Also, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® has a $0 Intro Annual Fee for the first year then $99.

While these cards are low-annual-fee cards, they serve very different consumers. If you spend a significant amount of money and fly American, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® could be an excellent choice.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card vs. Delta SkyMiles® Gold Card

The Delta SkyMiles® Gold Card is another travel credit card designed for infrequent travelers that want a low annual fee. However, its benefits and rewards differ greatly.

With The Delta SkyMiles® Gold Card you will 35,000 bonus miles after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months

This bonus is much more lucrative than the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, but it does have a higher spending requirement and longer waiting period for the entire bonus to be earned.

When you use the Delta SkyMiles® Gold Card, you earn 2 points per dollar at restaurants worldwide, U.S. supermarkets and Delta Airlines purchases. All other purchases will earn 1 point per dollar. These spending categories are broader, giving the cardholder the ability to earn more points with their purchases.

In addition, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold Card is a better option for international travel since it doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee.

Lastly, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold Card comes with incentives for flying exclusively with Delta:

  • $100 Delta flight credit when you spend $10,000 or more in a calendar year
  • 20% savings as a statement credit when you use your card on in-flight purchases such as food and beverages

Also, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold Card comes with a higher $99 annual fee (waived for the first year).

If you fly Delta as your preferred airline and make purchases within the card's bonus categories, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold Card should be strongly considered.

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

  • On Chase's Secure Website

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is the next step up from the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, and it's designed for a different type of traveler.

There are a few similarities: The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card has the same signup bonus as the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card and it offers the same spending categories:

  • 2 points for every $1 you spend on Southwest Airlines purchases
  • 1 point for every $1 you spend on all other purchases

However, the cards differ in their features and annual fees:

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit CardSouthwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
Anniversary points each year3,0007,500
Annual Southwest travel creditNone$75
Foreign transactions fees3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars$0
Upgrade boarding per year (when available)None4
Annual fee$69$149

While the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card has a much higher annual fee, it is worth applying if you make purchases outside the United States and would use the $75 travel credit. Along with the additional anniversary points and the four upgraded boarding passes, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card makes up for its higher fee.

In summary, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is built for someone who flies with Southwest regularly, while the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is designed for someone who flies a few times per year or less.

The information related to the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® has been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Comparison tool

If you’re still unsure which card is best for you, our interactive tool can assist you in your decision. By inputting numbers that reflect your spending habits, our comparison tool will help you make the best decision possible.

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Brett Holzhauer

Brett Holzhauer is ValuePenguin’s travel rewards expert, focusing on credit card rewards maximization, consumer travel trends, and personal finance news. He has earned and burned over 5 million points and miles throughout his travels, saving him roughly $75,000 in travel expenses.

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.

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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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