Southwest Credit Card: Are the Benefits Worth It?

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Popular airline Southwest offers three credit card options to earn rewards while making purchases. We’ll take a look at the benefits and drawbacks, and determine whether alternative credit cards offer better rewards for qualified applicants.

Fly often with Southwest Airlines? If so, you may be looking for a way to save money on travel and earn rewards using Southwest’s retailer credit cards. Co-branded with Chase, there are 3 cards available that offer great rewards for consumers. However, how do they stack up to other credit card alternatives available for qualified applicants? In this article, we’ll take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of each co-branded card, and determine whether other credit cards offer better opportunities.

Overview | Southwest Credit Cards

To apply for Southwest’s credit cards co-branded by Chase, start with the online portal. Once there, you’ll be given the option to select from 3 consumer-oriented credit cards (as well as a selection of business-oriented credit cards, which won’t be covered in this article). These 3 credit cards from Southwest include:

  • Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Visa Credit Card
  • Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Visa Credit Card
  • Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Visa Credit Card

Because each card has its own set of rewards and features, we’ll first cover what’s common among all the Southwest co-branded credit cards:

  • Essentially, each card helps you earn Rapid Rewards points on all of your purchases. This means that you will earn 1x points per $1 spent on everything you spend where Visa is accepted.
  • If you make a purchase through Southwest Airlines, you will earn 2x points per $1 spent. This includes purchasing a flight, in-flight items, Southwest gift cards, or even a vacation package.
  • Purchases made with some participating hotels and car rental partners also earn 2X points per $1 spent.
  • Using a Southwest credit card enables cardholders to prevent Rapid Rewards points from expiring 24 months of earning them by using the card once every 24 months, which ensures that Rapid Rewards points will not expire at all.
  • And if you’re looking for a way to transfer a balance within 90 days of being approved for any one of the Southwest credit cards, you can earn 1X points per $1 on balance transfers (up to $15,000, for a maximum of 15,000 Rapid Rewards points).

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

Southwest offers its basic version of a co-branded card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card. This Southwest Visa credit card comes with the lowest annual fee ($69/year), which is a small price to pay for similar airline-based credit cards that earn points and miles.

For every year that the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card is in your wallet (and in good standing), cardholders receive 3,000 Rapid Rewards points per year on the anniversary of opening your account. These free points help offset the annual fee, acting as a partial rebate as thanks for keeping your account active.

Depending on when you decided to sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, you can earn a sign-up bonus that varies anywhere from 40,000 points to 60,000 Rapid Rewards points (which is currently being offered at). Of course, this lucrative bonus comes with a catch, as you will need to meet the minimum spending requirement within the allotted time frame.

However, there’s a slight drawback that may make you consider choosing one of the other Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards: Foreign transaction fees. If you plan to use this card to fund your travels abroad, be forewarned that you’ll incur a 3% fee tacked on to every purchase.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

As the next step up for Rapid Rewards credit cards from Southwest, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card comes with a slightly higher annual fee ($99/year). However, the current sign-up bonus of 3,000 points helps offset this annual fee to earn rewards worry-free. Just like the Plus card, the Premier credit card also comes with the same current 60,000 Rapid Rewards points each year you keep the card active.

However, the main attraction is that there are no foreign transaction fees. Consequently, many frequent fliers that travel to other countries of the world can shop worry-free.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card

As the highest tier Rapid Rewards card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card come with both the greatest starting benefits of the previous cards and the highest annual fee (at $149/year). So, what are the additional benefits?

  • 7,500 Rapid Rewards points upon account anniversary (in addition to the 60k points offered each year)
  • 20% rebate on in-flight purchases
  • $75 annual credit for Southwest purchases (excluding in-flight purchases and upgraded boarding)
  • Four A1 – A15 upgraded boardings per year (which are dispensed as a statement credit for the card charge)
  • 1,500 Tier Points per $10,000 annual purchases (up to $100,000 annual purchases)

And like the Premier card above, there are no foreign transaction fees. Also, cardholders can earn the hefty 60,000 Rapid Rewards points for being an active cardholder on the anniversary of signing up–that is,if you make the minimum required spending within the allotted time frame.

Earning the Southwest Companion Pass

No matter which card you decide on, there is a perk that makes the co-branded Southwest credit cards a popular choice: the Southwest Companion Pass. The Companion Pass enables you to take anyone who plans to travel regularly with a companion to any of Southwest’s destinations at deep discounts. All that your companion is charged is taxes and fees, which makes it simple to travel 2-for-1 cheaply. Also, there’s no waiting period: Once you’ve obtained the Southwest Companion Pass, the benefit starts immediately and is retained through the end of the following calendar year.

To qualify for the Companion Pass, you must first earn 110,000 Rapid Rewards points within a calendar year. While this may seem inaccessible for all but the most frequent fliers and card users, it is actually very achievable. First, the sign-up bonuses count towards the 110,000 required points, which only requires the additional 50,000 points. Second, every time you use your co-branded Southwest credit cards (all qualify), will earn points that count towards the 110,000 you need for the Southwest Companion Pass.

Another perk of the Companion Pass is that it includes the ability to change your designated companion 3x per calendar year. This means that by careful planning, you can offer 4 different people cheap airfare–great for bringing family and friends along for the flight.

Earning A-List and A-List Preferred Status

Another substantial perk for using your co-branded Southwest Rapid Rewards cards is that you can earn “A-List” and “A-List Preferred” status with Southwest. To begin, cardholders are able to earn 1,500 tier points per $10,000 spent on the card (up to a maximum of 15,000 tier points). By spending that much, you’ll be halfway to nearly half to A-List status 35,000 tier points.

The A-List status comes with the following benefits:

  • 25% bonus on points earned on your cash bookings with Southwest,
  • priority check-in
  • reserved check-in
  • free same-day standby flights
  • a dedicated A-list customer service line
  • and much more

To earn A-list Preferred status, you’ll need to earn the required 70,000 tier points. However, once you’ve earned the required for A-List Preferred status by shopping with your Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards, you will receive:

  • 100% bonus on earned points from your paid Southwest tickets
  • a dedicated A-list Preferred phone line
  • free inflight wireless internet
  • and much more

Redeeming Your Southwest Rapid Rewards Points

The best way to use Rapid Rewards points is by combining them with the Southwest Companion Pass. This means that you’ll essentially get 2 tickets for the price of one. If you decide to spend your Rapid Rewards points, you can pay for airfare for select flights almost anywhere Southwest flies around the world.


Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit CardChase Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit CardChase Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card
Cash Back Benefits1x points per $1 for purchases where Visa is accepted.

2x points per $1 spent for purchases with Southwest.

Earn 2X points per $1 spent for purchases made with qualified rental car and hotel partners

Earn a 60k sign-up bonus for each cardholder anniversary
1x points per $1 for purchases where Visa is accepted.

2x points per $1 spent for purchases with Southwest.

Earn 2X points per $1 spent for purchases made with qualified rental car and hotel partners

Earn a 60k sign-up bonus for each cardholder anniversary
1x points per $1 for purchases where Visa is accepted.

2x points per $1 spent for purchases with Southwest.

Earn 2X points per $1 spent for purchases made with qualified rental car and hotel partners

Earn a 60k sign-up bonus for each cardholder anniversary

20% rebate on in-flight purchases

$75 annual credit for Southwest purchases
Annual Fee$69$99$149
APR18.24 – 25.24% (variable)18.24 – 25.24% (variable)18.24 – 25.24% (variable)
Average FICO Score to Qualify680 and above680 and above680 and above

The Drawbacks of Southwest Credit Cards

Now that we’ve covered the benefits of Southwest’s line of popular co-branded credit cards, it’s important to not gloss over the drawbacks associated with each:

  • First, the relatively high APR of each credit card can be enough to dissuade all but the most responsible cardholders to put these credit cards in their wallet. Unless you make efforts to make more than the minimum payments and pay off your balance as soon as possible, you may soon earn substantial interest and associated fees.
  • The high annual fee can dissuade potential cardholders, especially for those that don’t fly often.
  • While earning the Companion Pass may be your goal, you may find that the money you spend to earn it might equate to flights at lower fares. Therefore, choose qualifying flights that can save you money.

How Southwest’s Credit Card Compare to Alternative Programs

Before applying for Southwest’s credit cards you should explore all-purpose cards that will offer more spending flexibility and favorable rewards programs. Three we recommend are:

Capital One Venture:

Capital One Venture was chosen as the best card for travel in 2018 by CNBC and with tons of benefits it offers it makes for a good pick for frequent travelers. A new card member on signup would be eligible for a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles after you have spent $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

Having a co-branded credit card can limit your rewards to one brand. Whereas with a Venture card the potential to earn rewards is extended. You can earn 10x miles per dollar if you are booking through hotels.com/venture. This offer is available until January 31, 2020. On all other purchases, you would earn 2x miles per dollar, you can earn miles without having to worry about cap or expiry of rewards.

While most cards give you the option to book new travels with your miles, Venture has a feature called Purchase Eraser for the redemption of miles for previous travels. By going online to Capitalone.com or calling the rewards center you can redeem your miles for the cost of a previous travel purchase made through another travel portal/agent. As far as you have paid for the transaction using a Capital One rewards credit card, you will have 90 days to apply for the redemption from the date of purchase. Some of the categories where you can use Purchase Eraser for travel are airlines, hotels, car rentals, taxi cabs and much more.

You do not have to pay foreign transaction fees for what you shop abroad. You can also get credit back for the application fee up to the amount of $100 for Global Entry or TSA Precheck. This card has 10 plus airline partners with whom you can transfer your miles and redeem the benefits. For the first year, the annual fee is zero as part of the introductory offer but from the second year, you pay a $95 annual fee.

The card does carry many travel protection benefits such as travel accident insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver, 24/7, 365 days travel assistance. Your purchases are protected under extended warranty and also zero liability protection covers you from unauthorized transactions.

Chase Sapphire Preferred:

Chase Sapphire Preferred: Chase Sapphire Preferred is a well-crafted card that one can have in their pocket if you spend a lot of time traveling. The large welcome bonus gives a bright start towards travel journeys, you can get 60,000 points after you spend $4000 towards purchases within the first three months of opening your account. If the welcome bonus is redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards portal the value sums up to $750.

The card gives you 2x points on all your travel and dining experience,including cafes.To know more on Chase categories for points click here. The points earned on this card can be transferred to travel partners for 1 to 1 value or you can combine it with another Chase card and redeem it for 25 % more through Ultimate Rewards. This card has an annual fee of $95.

Your benefits are not limited to points but you also get trip/cancellation interruption insurance, baggage delay insurance, trip delay reimbursement, travel & emergency assistance and auto collision damage waiver.

Alongside your travel your shopping is too protected as you get 120 days of purchase protection and one year extended warranty(conditions apply). Chase Sapphire Preferred can add a lot of value to your travel experience.

American Express Platinum:

The Platinum card has an annual fee of $550 which seems high but if you like to travel frequently and like luxury perks then this card is worth considering. You can get 5x points when you book flight tickets directly with an airline or through amextravel.com and 5x points on prepaid hotel reservations through amextravel.com.

By selecting one qualifying airline you can receive up to $200 Airline Fee credit.

If you pay using your platinum card you would be eligible to receive a statement credit for the application fee for Global Entry or TSA Precheck

Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to platinum card holders. You get a $15 in Uber Cash for U.S. rides each month and an additional bonus of $20 in the month of December.

To make your travel easy you have access to various lounges (The Centurion lounge, Priority Pass, Delta Sky Club and The International American Express Lounge) across 130 countries.

You can benefit from Fine Hotels & Resort Program which allows you to book at finest properties and avail complimentary benefits like daily breakfast for two, late checkout, noon check-in on availability etc)

You do not incur foreign transaction fees when you shop abroad. The American Express concierge service can help you build custom vacations as per your requirements. As travel benefits you get baggage insurance, travel accident insurance, and car rental & damage insurance. As a part of shopping protection you can claim purchase protection and extended warranty benefit.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, Southwest Airlines’ line of  co-branded credit cards offers some great benefits if you’re a frequent flier of Southwest. However, the steep drawbacks–particularly an above-average APR and large amount of points needed to earn the Companion Pass–makes choosing this credit card a hefty responsibility. Before committing to the Plus, Premier, or Priority card, make sure to explore stronger alternatives available enable a wider range of benefits, higher points-earning potential, and more.

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