Southwest Airlines is one of the most popular airlines in the United States, thanks to its extensive domestic route network, lack of change and cancelation fees (though other airlines have largely matched in the meantime), two free checked bags, and generally great customer service.
It’s no wonder that the carrier’s co-branded credit cards are popular as well. For anyone who has been considering one of these cards, this is a reminder that several weeks ago huge elevated bonuses were introduced on the cards, and they’re only available for a few more weeks. On top of that, the cards have received all new benefits, without the annual fees increasing.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Cards Offer 100K Points
Through December 7, 2021, all three Southwest Rapid Rewards personal credit cards are offering the same welcome bonus of up to 100,000 Rapid Rewards points. This is structured as follows:
- Earn 50,000 points after spending $2,000 within the first three months
- Earn an additional 50,000 points after spending a total of $12,000 within the first 12 months
This bonus applies to the following three cards:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card (review)
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card (review)
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Card (review)
Eligibility For Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa Cards
If you’re considering applying for a Southwest Visa, all three versions of the card are subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule. This means that you typically won’t be approved if you’ve opened five or more new card accounts in the past 24 months (there are some exclusions, like many business credit cards).
Furthermore, any personal Southwest Visa is not available if you are:
- A current cardmember of any personal Southwest Visa Card
- A previous cardmember of any personal Southwest Visa Card who received a new cardmember bonus within the last 24 months
On top of that, Chase’s general application restrictions apply.
Differences Between Southwest Credit Cards
The welcome bonus on all three of these personal cards is the same, though the annual fees range from $69 to $149. The temptation might be to go for the card with the lowest annual fee, though as I’ll explain below, the premium cards can represent a much better value.
What are the differences between these three Southwest credit cards?
What All Three Southwest Visa Cards Have In Common
All three Southwest personal credit cards have one main thing in common, which is 25% savings on inflight drink & Wi-Fi purchases. All the other benefits of the cards differ, so let’s look at those differences.
Southwest Credit Card Annual Fees
The three personal Southwest Visa all have different annual fees, as follows:
- The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card has a $69 annual fee
- The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card has a $99 annual fee
- The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card has a $149 annual fee
Southwest Airlines Credit Card Anniversary Bonus Points
As an incentive to hold onto the Southwest Visa, you earn a certain number of anniversary bonus points every year (this happens every 12 billing cycles after you open your card):
- The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card has a 3,000 point anniversary bonus
- The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card has a 6,000 point anniversary bonus
- The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card has a 7,500 point anniversary bonus
I’ll talk more about the value of Southwest Airlines points below, but as a general rule of thumb, you can expect that points can be redeemed for ~1.2 cents towards the cost of a ticket. To crunch the numbers further:
- On the $69 annual fee Plus Card you’re earning $36 worth of points ($33 less than the annual fee)
- On the $99 annual fee Premier Card you’re earning $72 worth of points ($27 less than the annual fee)
- On the $149 annual fee Priority Card you’re earning $90 worth of points ($59 less than the annual fee)
Southwest Airlines Credit Card Return On Spending
All three personal Southwest Airlines credit cards offer different returns on spending:
- The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card offers 2x points on Southwest purchases, local transit and commuting, internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming, and 1x points on all other purchases
- The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card offers 3x points on Southwest purchases, 2x points on local transit and commuting, internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming, and 1x points on all other purchases; furthermore, earn 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points for every $10,000 spent on the card
- The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card offers 3x points on Southwest purchases, 2x points on local transit and commuting, internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming, and 1x points on all other purchases; furthermore, earn 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points for every $10,000 spent on the card
Southwest Credit Card Foreign Transaction Fees
While the Southwest Plus Card has 3% foreign transaction fees, both the Southwest Premier and Southwest Priority have no foreign transaction fees, making them good options for international travel.
Southwest Priority Visa Card Benefits
While the benefits on the Southwest Plus Card and Southwest Premier Card are similar aside from the anniversary bonuses and foreign transaction fees, I wanted to talk about the Southwest Priority Card, which is what I recommend people apply for.
That’s the most premium version of the card and has a $149 annual fee. Is the incremental annual fee worth it over the Plus and Premier versions, which have annual fees that are $50 and $80 lower, respectively?
This card offers three further perks that almost seem too good to be true, and in my opinion, more than justify the incremental annual fee.
Southwest Priority Card $75 Annual Travel Credit
The Southwest Priority Visa Card offers a $75 travel credit every anniversary year, starting your first year (so this isn’t based on the calendar year, but rather is based on every 12 billing cycles).
This can be applied towards any Southwest flight purchase, so the only thing excluded is inflight drink and Wi-Fi purchases, as well as upgraded boardings.
The statement credit should post to your account the same day that the eligible purchase posts to your account.
If you spend at least $75 per year on Southwest then this credit should be worth face value. As far as I’m concerned, that lowers the real “out of pocket” on this card from $149 per year to $74 per year.
Four Upgraded Boardings On Southwest Airlines
Just for having the Southwest Priority Card, you get four upgraded boardings per anniversary year, when available.
You’ll be reimbursed for the purchase of up to four upgraded boardings in positions A1-15. This can be purchased at the departure gate or ticket counter on the day of travel. You can use this on four different occasions, or if you prefer you can use them on a single flight (if you’re traveling with three others).
It can take up to eight weeks for these to be reimbursed, though typically you’ll find it posts faster than that.
The price of upgraded boardings varies by flight, so it’s hard to put a dollar value on this benefit. Regardless, this compares favorably to the two EarlyBird check-ins offered every anniversary year on the other cards.
The Southwest Priority Card More Than Pays For Itself
If you fly Southwest with any frequency (even once per year), the Priority Card is a no-brainer. Every anniversary year you’re getting a $75 Southwest Airlines travel credit, plus 7,500 points (which I value at $90).
That’s $165 of value right there on a card with a $149 annual fee. That’s not even accounting for the upgraded boardings.
How Much Are Rapid Rewards Points Worth?
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards is a revenue-based program, meaning that the number of points required for an award redemption is directly tied to how much a ticket would cost in cash.
As a general rule of thumb, you need 83 Southwest Rapid Rewards points per dollar of airfare, meaning each Southwest Rapid Rewards point gets you about 1.2 cents towards an airfare purchase (which is how I arrive at my valuation of Rapid Rewards points).
There are some further things to keep in mind when redeeming points on Southwest Airlines.
Change Your Southwest Airlines Tickets For Free
Many airlines have change and cancelation fees on award tickets as a money-grab, while Southwest Airlines charges no change fees. If you want to change your ticket last minute (or apply it to a future ticket), you can apply that value forward. That’s awesome.
What I often do is book a Southwest Airlines award ticket as a backup option if I’m hoping for another flight to open up, because I can always cancel it if need be.
Two Free Checked Bags With Every Southwest Airlines Ticket
Southwest is known for offering free checked bags, as you get two free checked bags on all itineraries. Yes, this even includes Rapid Rewards redemptions!
Southwest Airlines Offers Free Snacks & Soft Drinks
Unlike other airlines, Southwest Airlines doesn’t charge for snacks (the airline doesn’t even sell any snacks, as everything is free), and soft drinks are free. The only thing onboard you can pay for is Wi-Fi and alcohol, and the co-branded credit cards even offer savings on those purchases.
Southwest Airlines Doesn’t Charge For Seat Assignments
While a lot of airlines will charge for seat assignments, Southwest has a completely different system. The airline has open seating, so the seat you get depends on how early you check-in.
Just check-in online as close to 24 hours as possible and you should have a pretty good boarding “position.” Best of all, you can use your upgraded boardings or EarlyBird check-in to secure the best boarding position.
Rapid Rewards Points Don’t Expire As Long As Your Account Is Open
It’s that simple — as long as your account is open your points don’t expire.
Southwest’s Premier & Performance Business Cards
If you’re looking for a business credit card, you’re in luck, because the offers on business cards are excellent as well:
- The $99 annual fee Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card (review) has a welcome bonus of 60,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $3,000 within three months; the card offers perks like 6,000 anniversary points every year
- The $199 annual fee Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card (review) has a welcome bonus of 80,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $5,000 within three months; the card offers incredible perks like 9,000 anniversary bonus points, four upgraded boardings per year, a daily Wi-Fi credit on Southwest, a Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check credit, and much more
Southwest’s personal credit cards have incredible welcome bonuses of up to 100,000 Rapid Rewards points. This is the biggest bonus we’ve ever seen on these cards, and it all comes at a time when the cards have been refreshed with new benefits.
All three cards have things going for them, for anyone who flies Southwest with any frequency. Personally, I think the $149 annual fee Southwest Priority Card is the best of the options, given the extra perks it offers, which more than justify the annual fee.
If you’ve been considering these options but haven’t yet applied, they’re only valid through early December, so the clock is ticking.
Do you plan on picking up a Chase Southwest credit card with a bonus of 100K points?