Southwest Airlines Plus Card Review (2020)

Filed Under: Chase, Credit Card Reviews
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Update: This article contains mentions of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Card whose terms have expired and are in the process of being updated. All other offers reflect accurate offer terms. Learn more about the current offers here.

2x points
on Southwest
1x points
on everyday purchases
baggage delay
Annual Fee: $69

Southwest Airlines and Chase have a great portfolio of credit cards at a variety of “price points” (and by that I mean annual fees).

In this post, I wanted to take a closer look at the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, which is Southwest Airlines’ lowest annual fee credit card.

Southwest Airlines Plus Card Basics For May 2020

The Southwest Plus Card has a $69 annual fee, which is the lowest annual fee offered by any Southwest Airlines credit card. What’s interesting is that generally speaking all Southwest personal cards have the same welcome bonuses, so let’s take a close look at this card, and also how to decide which of Southwest’s cards makes the most sense for you. In this case, I actually think there’s a clear winner across the board.

Many people love flying with Southwest Airlines for their two free checked bags, lack of change and cancelation fees, and great service. Furthermore, having a Southwest Airlines credit card can earn you Companion Pass, which is one of the best deals in domestic travel.

So with that in mind, let’s get right into the details of this card.

Southwest Plus Card 40,000 Point Sign-Up Bonus

The Southwest Plus Card has a welcome bonus of 40,000 Rapid Rewards points after spending $1,000 within the first three months.

The card isn’t available to anyone who currently has a Southwest Rapid Rewards personal card, or anyone who has received a welcome bonus on a Southwest Rapid Rewards personal card in the past 24 months.

However, you are eligible if you have a Southwest business credit card, like the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card.

Beyond the restrictions related to which Southwest cards you have, Chase cards are subjected to the 5/24 rule, meaning you typically won’t be approved if you’ve opened five or more new card accounts in the past 24 months.

Southwest Plus Card $69 Annual Fee

The Southwest Plus Card has a $69 annual fee, and you can add authorized users to the card at no extra cost. $69 is the lowest annual fee of any Southwest card. Looking at the high end, Southwest’s personal cards have annual fees of up to $149, and Southwest’s business cards have annual fees of up to $199.

Southwest Plus Card Offers Up To 2x Points

The Southwest Plus Card offers the following return on spending:

  • 2x Rapid Rewards points on Southwest Airlines purchases
  • 1x Rapid Rewards points on all other purchases

That’s not the most exciting rewards structure, given how many credit cards out there nowadays have big bonuses on popular categories.

Temporary 3x Points On Groceries

Between May 1 and June 30, 2020, cardholders can earn 3x points on grocery purchases, on up to $1,500 of spending per month. This includes grocery purchases made in-store or delivered through eligible grocery store delivery services (like Instacart). The major exclusions are that warehouse clubs and discount stores are not eligible.

This is the equivalent of a 3.9% return on grocery/supermarket purchases.

Earn Companion Pass With Southwest Credit Cards

The rewards structure on this card isn’t industry-leading, though the reason you may want to put spending on this card is for another reason.

One of the very best values in travel is the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass, and you can earn that exclusively through credit card spending (or credit card bonuses) on a Southwest credit card.

With Southwest Companion Pass you can have someone travel with you for the entire year (whether you are paying cash or redeeming points), and just pay taxes and fees for them. This is such an incredible deal, and basically doubles the value you can get from flying Southwest.

Companion Pass requires earning 125,000 Rapid Rewards points per calendar year, though only certain types of points accrual qualify, including Southwest credit card spending, as well as Southwest credit card sign-up bonuses.

3% Foreign Transaction Fees

The Southwest Plus Card is the only Southwest Airlines credit card to have foreign transaction fees. The card has 3% foreign transaction fees, so I wouldn’t recommend using this card for purchases abroad, as the fees will more than negate the rewards you earn.

Southwest Airlines Plus Card Benefits

The Southwest Plus Card offers some benefits that could make the card worth keeping long term. However, given that this is also Southwest’s lowest annual fee card, it doesn’t have the most benefits. In fact, there’s just one main ongoing perk offered by this card.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card 3,000 Bonus Points

On your cardmember anniversary every year you’ll receive 3,000 bonus points. Southwest Rapid Rewards is a revenue-based frequent flyer program, and when redeeming for Wanna Get Away fares (Southwest’s best value fares), each dollar of airfare costs 76-78 Rapid Rewards points.

In other words, 3,000 bonus points gets you just under $40 annually in Southwest airfare. That is more than half of the annual fee.

Southwest Plus Card Purchase & Travel Coverage

The Southwest Plus Card offers a variety of travel & purchase protection benefits, including:

  • Auto rental collision damage waiver coverage; it’s secondary within the US, and primary internationally
  • Baggage delay insurance, which can reimburse you up to $100 per day for three days when your bag is delayed by at least six hours
  • Lost luggage reimbursement, which reimburses you up to $3,000 if your bag is damaged or lost
  • Travel accident insurance, with the maximum coverage ranging from $250,000-500,000, depending on the situation
  • Extended warranty protection, which extends your US manufacturer warranty by a year on eligible warranties of three years or less
  • Purchase protection, which covers you for up to 120 days for damage or theft, up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account

You’ll want to check the cardmember agreement for the full terms & conditions associated with these benefits.

Chase Offers

One of the great features of Chase cards is access to Chase Offers, which provides savings on purchases with all kinds of retailers. The program wasn’t launched that long ago, but has already saved me a significant amount of money.

Is The Southwest Plus Card Worth It?

The Southwest Plus Card is a solid entry-level airline credit card. If you want a credit card from Southwest and want as low of an annual fee as possible, then this card could make sense for you.

You’ll receive a 3,000 point bonus on your cardmember anniversary every year, and that gets you airfare worth over half of your annual fee. However, beyond that there’s not much benefit to this card, other than if you intend to put spending on the card.

Tip: Apply For The Southwest Priority Card Instead

If you’re going to pick up a personal Rapid Rewards credit card, I can’t recommend the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Card enough. The card has a $149 annual fee, which at first is a turn-off to some people. Why would you pay a $149 annual fee if you can pay a $69 annual fee?

Well, the benefits more than justify it, in my opinion. The Southwest Priority Card offers:

  • A 7,500 point anniversary bonus annually, getting you nearly $100 worth of airfare (that’s 4,500 more points than what’s offered by the Plus Card)
  • A $75 Southwest Airlines travel credit annually, which counts towards virtually any Southwest Airlines purchase (the Plus Card doesn’t offer this)
  • Four upgraded boardings per year, when available; you’ll be reimbursed for the purchase of boarding positions A1-15 on the day of departure (the Plus Card doesn’t offer this)
  • 20% savings on onboard drink and wifi purchases (the Plus Card doesn’t offer this)

In other words, for the $149 annual fee you’re getting points that will get you about $100 worth of airfare on Southwest, plus a $75 Southwest credit annually. For anyone who flies Southwest with any frequency, they’re basically paying you to have the card, since that’s about $175 worth of value right there.

That doesn’t even factor in the upgraded boardings and savings for onboard purchases. The card really is a no brainer.

Looking For A Rapid Rewards Business Credit Card?

If you want a Southwest Rapid Rewards business credit card in place of or in addition to a personal card, I highly recommend considering the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card. The Southwest Performance Card offers the following benefits, which make it the best Southwest credit card, in my opinion:

  • An up to 100,000 point welcome bonus upon completing minimum spending (Earn 70,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $25,000 on purchases in the first 6 months.)
  • A 9,000 point anniversary bonus
  • Four upgraded boardings per year
  • A Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check credit
  • An $8 daily wifi credit on Southwest, which means you could get free wifi on Southwest every single day if you wanted to

Tip: Earn Ultimate Rewards Points Instead

Chase Ultimate Rewards is a transfer partner with Southwest Rapid Rewards, and points transfer at a 1:1 ratio. This means that you could earn points at a faster rate through Ultimate Rewards than through Rapid Rewards, and your points will be more flexible (since you can also transfer them to other airlines and hotel programs).

So, should you earn Rapid Rewards points directly with a Southwest Airlines credit card, or with a Chase Ultimate Rewards credit card?

  • If you’re trying to earn Companion Pass then you have to spend on a Southwest card, since Ultimate Rewards points don’t count towards the 125,000 point requirement
  • If you don’t care about Companion Pass and just want to earn as many Rapid Rewards points as possible, earn points with Ultimate Rewards, and then transfer them over

For context, some of the best cards for earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points include the following:

  • The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (review) offers 2x points on dining and travel; the card has a $95 annual fee
  • The Chase Sapphire Reserve® (review) offers 3x points on dining and travel, plus a $300 annual travel credit; the card has a $550 annual fee
  • The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (review) offers 3x points on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases annually on travel, shipping purchases, internet, cable, and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines; the card has a $95 annual fee

On top of that, the following four no annual fee cards earn points that can be converted into Ultimate Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio in conjunction with one of the above cards:

  • The Chase Freedom® Card (review) offers 5x points in rotating quarterly categories, on up to $1,500 of spend per quarter; the card has no annual fee
  • The Chase Freedom Unlimited® (review) offers 1.5x points on everyday spend; the card has no annual fee
  • The Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card (review) offers 5x points on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases each anniversary year on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services, plus 2x points on the first $25,000 spend in combined purchases each anniversary year on gas stations and restaurants; the card has no annual fee
  • The Ink Business Unlimited℠ Credit Card (review) offers 1.5x points on everyday spend; the card has no annual fee

Southwest Plus Card Summary

All Southwest personal cards have increased welcome bonuses at the moment, so now is the time to apply for these cards. The Southwest Plus Card is a good entry-level credit card for someone who wants to earn Rapid Rewards points without paying a high annual fee. However:

  • I’d argue that the $149 annual fee Southwest Priority Card is worth it for just about everyone, given the huge incremental benefits
  • If you’re not going for Companion Pass, you’re much better off earning points with Chase Ultimate Rewards and then transferring them to Southwest Rapid Rewards, given that it gives you higher points earning rates and more flexibility

For everything you need to know about the best credit cards for earning Southwest Rapid Rewards points, see this post.

If you want to learn more about the Southwest Plus Card or apply, follow this link.

Apply Now

Regarding Comments: The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
  1. With the Southwest Priority card you state that the $75.00 travel credit “counts towards virtually any Southwest Airlines purchase”.

    In the T&C’s it states the statement credits are issued for “Southwest Airlines® purchases (excluding Upgraded Boardings and inflight purchases), up to an anniversary year maximum accumulation of $75”.

    Can you confirm whether SW also defines EarlyBird Checkin as upgraded boardings.

    If so this would then match the exclusions on the SW gift cards, leaving the credit only good for airfare and/or taxes, useful but not a useful as it could be

  2. “Tip: Apply For The Southwest Priority Card Instead”.
    I completely agree. The only SW card that is really free even without adding the benefit of the the boarding passes. I’ve been told that an e-gift card (that never expire) will count toward the 75.00 credit. If this is true then it’s a no brainer even for those who only travel on SW every couple of years. Your getting about 185 worth of credit for only 149.00 plus the 4 free boarding passes.

  3. Just want to remind fellow readers not to get too carried away.

    You are not getting more benefit back, at least not in the first year.
    Your 7500 RR comes after 1 year. So for the first 12 months of paying $149 you get only the $75 credit. It is after holding the card for 1 year you will get your benefits more than the fees.

    There is also an easier path to companion pass. In flight offer for the card is 50k RR for spending $2k. Combine that with the business card and you can get the companion pass for much less spending.

    Now I know that 25k for extra $3k spend is up for debate, I’m just pointing out another option not discussed by bloggers.

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