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 September 2021
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 because of two free checked bags, lack of change and cancelation fees, and great service. Furthermore, having a Southwest Airlines credit card can earn you a 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 Bonus: 40,000 Bonus Points
The Southwest Plus Card is offering 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 3X points on dining, including takeout and eligible delivery services, for the first year.
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.
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 Card Coronavirus Spending Bonuses
A lot of consumer behavior has changed in light of coronavirus. As a result, we’ve seen card issuers add some limited-time perks to cards to make sure cardmembers keep them.
While the Southwest Cards don’t have any formal additional coronavirus benefits, note that Chase has some targeted spending bonuses on cards, which can offer bonus points for purchases in some categories.
Many people seem to have bonuses on their Southwest Cards, so make sure you check if you’re eligible.
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 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.
Ordinarily, 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.
However, in 2021, Southwest is giving all Rapid Rewards members 25,000 points towards Companion Pass, meaning you only need to earn 100,000 points in 2021 to qualify for a pass good through 12/31/2022.
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.
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.
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 (review) 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 Wi-Fi 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 80,000-point welcome bonus after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
- A 9,000 point anniversary bonus
- Four upgraded boardings per year
- A Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check credit
- An $8 daily Wi-Fi credit on Southwest, which means you could get free Wi-Fi 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 requirements to earn the Companion Pass
- 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 3x points on dining and 2x points on 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 FlexSM (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
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 interested in the 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.