Southwest Airlines is one of the largest carriers for the mainland U.S., as well as an option for getting to nearby vacation hotspots, such Mexico, Costa Rica, and recently, Hawaii. Southwest is popular for its consumer-friendly policies, including no baggage fees and a very generous policy on canceling and changing tickets for no fee up to the very last minute. The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is yet another straightforward, consumer-friendly offering from the airline.
The card lets you rack up Southwest Rapid Rewards points at a fair pace, easily justifying its annual fee each year. While it's a good option for Southwest flyers, it's not the best. We'll give you a run down of the features to explain why.
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card benefits and features
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is a simple rewards card whose primary benefit lies in earning Rapid Rewards points, especially for new cardholders.
One of the main reasons to sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is the large chunk of points you get for being a new cardholder. You Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Since we value Southwest Rapid Rewards points at around 1.5 cents per point, this amounts to around $975 in airfare with Southwest.
Those bonus points can cover a round-trip fare to many destinations. Southwest recently started flying to Hawaii, and you could use the Southwest Premier card's sign-up bonus to purchase a Wanna Get Away round-trip ticket between Los Angeles and Honolulu in September.
Earning the Companion Pass
An additional benefit of the sign-up bonus on the Southwest Premier card is that it puts you a large part of the way toward earning Southwest's famous Companion Pass. The Companion Pass allows you to bring a designated companion with you on any Southwest flight for just the cost of taxes and fees for up to two years. You need 125,000 Rapid Rewards points to qualify for the pass, and the points that you earn with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, sign-up bonus included, do count toward the pass.
Though 125,000 points sounds like a formidable amount, many loyal Southwest flyers successfully earn the Companion Pass each year. With 40,000 points and a little strategy, you could be well on your way to a year of flying with a companion for half the price.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card awards a little extra incentive to loyal cardholders — You earn 6,000 bonus points each year you renew your card membership, worth about $90 in Southwest airfare. Those points can wipe out most of the card's annual fee.
On the downside, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card has a pretty modest earning rate. You get 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. While frequent Southwest flyers may earn enough points on their purchases to justify the card's annual fee, frankly, you can find travel cards that offer bonus points on a broader range of categories.
For instance, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® award bonus points on all types of travel purchases as well as on dining purchases. Note that you can transfer points from either of these cards to Southwest Rapid Rewards program, plus you can redeem them for flights on other airlines.
On the plus side, Rapid Rewards points are straightforward and simple to redeem. In most cases, you're best off redeeming your points for Wanna Get Away tickets at a value of around 1.5 to 1.6 cents per point. While Wanna Get Away fares are nonrefundable and don't qualify for same-day changes or standby, you basically get the same seat as you would with an Anytime fare for a much lower price. Plus, Southwest is very flexible on cancellations for Wanna Get Away tickets, allowing you to cancel ahead of time for no fee and redeposit your points for future use.
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Other card benefits
In addition to earning Rapid Rewards points, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card comes with a good travel benefits that make it a solid choice as a travel rewards card:
- No foreign transaction fees – The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is a great option for international travel, since it doesn't charge a fee for foreign transactions.
- Bags fly free – Though it's a benefit of Southwest airlines rather than the card, it's worth noting that you never have to pay baggage fees when you fly Southwest.
- No change fees – Also a general benefit of flying on Southwest: You can change any reservation for no charge, including award tickets.
- Car rental insurance – The card covers theft or damage of eligible cars rented with your card. Coverage is secondary, meaning it only applies to expenses not covered by another policy.
- Lost luggage reimbursement – The card covers lost or damaged luggage for you or an immediate family member, up to $3,000 per passenger.
- Baggage delay insurance – Reimburses you for baggage delays over six hours, up to $100 per day for three days.
- Extended warranty protection – Extends the manufacturer's warranty on eligible warranties of three years of less by an additional year.
- Purchase protection – Your purchases are covered for 120 days against theft or damage, up to $500 per claim, up to $50,00 per year.
ValuePenguin's verdict: A solid, though not extraordinary option for domestic travelers
Overall, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card offers plenty of benefits for a loyal Southwest flyer seeking to earn more Rapid Rewards points. The value of the 6,000-point anniversary bonus on its own covers most of the card's $99 annual fee. If you spend a few thousand dollars on Southwest airfare each year, the card's double-point bonus on Southwest purchases should help you earn an award ticket every year or two. Also, if you're aiming to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, the card's sign-up bonus will put you well on the way to meeting the point threshold.
However, point maximizers should be aware that there are more valuable options for Southwest flyers, including the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card. Furthermore, if you're more an international traveler, or you prefer to not be beholden to a single airline, you should look into a general travel rewards card that gives you more flexibility on the airlines you fly on.
How does the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card compare to other cards?
Southwest flyers should take full stock of their travel credit card options, as there are better cards than the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. Here are some your best bets:
Most of the same benefits for a lower annual fee
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is very similar to the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. It offers the same sign-up bonus and the same earning rate as the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card: 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.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card has three main differences: a lower annual fee ($69), a smaller anniversary bonus (3,000 points compared to 6,000 points for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card), and it charges foreign transaction fees.
Since the difference in the cards' anniversary bonuses is about equal to the cards' annual fees, the value of the cards is basically the same. Consequently, you may be better off going with the lower fee Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card if you only intend to use it for domestic travel. However, if you want a card that you can use for international purchases, you should consider the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, since it doesn't charge foreign transaction fees.
The most rewarding of Rapid Rewards consumer cards
Though the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card charges a higher $149 annual fee, it's more rewarding than the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. This is mainly due to the $75 annual credit toward Southwest purchases. If you purchase at least $75 in airfare with Southwest each year, the travel credit will recoup half the card's annual fee (bringing it down to $74). The card also offers a larger anniversary bonus of 7,500 points – 1,500 more points than the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card's anniversary bonus (or about $24 more in value). These two benefits more than make up for the annual fee — exceeding it by $39 in value — making the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card the best value of the three Southwest cards.
In addition, cardholders qualify for upgraded boarding for four flights on Southwest airlines each year (when available). The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card could put you at the front of the line on your next Southwest flight.
Better points earnings and more flexible redemption options
For a $95 annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a much better option for Southwest flyers and a great travel card in general. The card rewards 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide. The 2X earning rate covers Southwest purchases, as well as any other type of travel purchase from any travel vendor. Plus, you earn 2X points on restaurant purchases. And, since Southwest is a Chase travel partner, you can transfer all the points that you earn into your Rapid Rewards account to redeem for Southwest flights. You can also transfer points to 12 other airline and hotel programs, or you can redeem them for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal for a 25% redemption bonus (boosting your point value to 1.25 cents per point).
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card also comes with great travel protections, including travel cancellation/interruption insurance and primary rental car insurance in the U.S. and abroad. For a similar price as the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers much more.