Southwest Airlines has some fantastic co-branded credit cards with Chase. Of their three personal cards, my favorite one is the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Card. In this post I wanted to take a closer look at the card, in particular since it has an improved welcome bonus at the moment, making this a great time to pick up the card.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card Basics For January 2021
Even though the Southwest Priority Card has the highest annual fee of any personal Chase Southwest Card, I think it’s worthwhile for a vast majority of consumers. Why? Because the card offers some incredible perks for anyone who flies Southwest with any frequency.
Many people love flying Southwest for the ability to earn the Southwest Companion Pass, the lack of change fees, and the two free checked bags. For others, Southwest is just a practical airline to fly on occasion, given its massive route network. Regardless, there’s lots of value in having points and benefits on Southwest.
Southwest Priority Card Bonus Up To 80,000 Points
The Southwest Priority Card currently has an increased, tiered welcome bonus of up to 80,000 Rapid Rewards points. The bonus breaks down as follows:
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening
- Earn an additional 30,000 bonus points after spending $10,000 on purchases in the first nine months from account opening
That’s a huge bonus, that can get you well over $1,000 worth of travel on Southwest Airlines (and potentially even way more).
Welcome Bonus Restrictions
Chase and Southwest have some pretty strict rules when it comes to who is eligible for the card. The card is not 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 Priority Card $149 Annual Fee
The Southwest Priority Card has a $149 annual fee. As a point of comparison, the other personal cards have annual fees of $69 and $99, so the annual fee on this card is a bit higher. However, as I’ll explain below, the benefits justify the premium annual fee.
Earning Points With The Southwest Priority Card
On the surface, the Southwest Priority Card doesn’t have the most exciting rewards structure. The card offers
- 5x Rapid Rewards points on Southwest purchases (December 1, 2020, through March 31, 2021, on up to $2,000 of spending per month); after that, you’ll earn 2x Rapid Rewards points on Southwest Airlines purchases
- 1x Rapid Rewards points on all other purchases
There are no other bonus categories beyond that.
Spend Your Way To Southwest Companion Pass
As you can you, the rewards structure of this card doesn’t seem that great as such. However, there is one good reason you might want to put spending on this card.
One of the very best values in travel is the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass, and you can earn that exclusively through credit card spending on a Southwest co-branded card.
With Southwest Companion Pass you can have someone travel with you for the entire year (whether on a cash ticket or award ticket), 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 ordinarily requires earning 125,000 Rapid Rewards points per calendar year, though only certain types of points accrual qualify, including Southwest credit card spending.
Southwest Card Coronavirus Spending Bonus
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.
No Foreign Transaction Fees
The Southwest Priority Card has no foreign transaction fees, so this could be a useful card for your spending abroad. This is a Visa as well, and Visas are accepted pretty widely around the globe.
The Incredible Southwest Priority Card Perks
The reason to get the Southwest Priority Card is because of the perks, including anniversary bonus points, upgraded boardings, a $75 annual Southwest travel credit, 20% savings on eligible inflight purchases, and more.
Let’s take a look at what you need to know about each of these perks.
Southwest Priority Card 7,500 Anniversary Bonus Points
On your cardmember anniversary each year you’ll receive 7,500 bonus points. For context, 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, you’ll annually receive just under $100 in Southwest airfare for those 7,500 points, recouping roughly two-thirds of the card’s annual fee on an ongoing basis.
Southwest Priority Card $75 Annual Credit
The Southwest Priority Card offers a $75 credit every anniversary year. While the 7,500 point anniversary bonus only kicks in after 12 months, this credit kicks in immediately.
The way this works, the first $75 in Southwest flight purchases each cardmember year will be reimbursed. The statement credit should post as soon as the eligible charge posts to your account.
Assuming you spend at least $75 per year on Southwest Airlines tickets (or even taxes and fees, if redeeming points), then this should more or less be worth face value.
Using this benefit and the 7,500-point annual bonus, we’re talking about nearly $175 worth of value, which is more than the annual fee.
Southwest Priority Card Upgraded Boardings
Just for having the Priority Card, you get four upgraded boardings per anniversary year (starting with your first year), when available.
The way this works, you’ll be reimbursed for the purchase on the day of departure of up to four upgraded boardings in positions A1-15.
The upgraded boarding fees will be reimbursed within eight weeks, though in reality generally post much faster than that.
Since the price of upgraded boardings varies by flight, it’s hard to put a dollar value to this benefit.
Southwest Priority Card Drink & Wi-Fi Savings
If you pay with your Southwest Priority Card you can save 20% on inflight Wi-Fi and drink purchases. You’ll receive statement credits for the 20% within two billing cycle of your purchase (though usually much faster than that).
Southwest Priority Card Travel & Purchase Protection
The Southwest Priority 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
Of course, you’ll want to check the cardmember agreement for the full terms & conditions associated with these benefits.
Yes, The Southwest Priority Card Is Worth It
If you’re eligible for the Southwest Priority Card and fly Southwest with any frequency, then this card is absolutely worth it. I’d argue this card is a better value all around than the two other Southwest personal cards.
For the card’s $149 annual fee you’re getting a 7,500 point anniversary bonus annually, a $75 Southwest credit, and much more. Let’s look at a few other things to consider regarding this card, and Southwest cards in general.
Complement: Southwest Performance Business Card
If you’re looking to complement your Southwest Priority Card with a Southwest business card, consider the incredible Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card. This card has outstanding perks, including:
- Earn up to 100,000 Rapid Rewards points — earn 70,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 within three months, and earn an additional 30,000 bonus points after spending a total of $25,000 within six 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
This card is the single best Southwest card, as far as I’m concerned.
Comparing This To Other Southwest Personal Cards
In addition to the Priority Card, Chase and Southwest also have the $69 annual fee Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card (review) & $99 annual fee Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card (review).
Why do I think the $149 annual fee Priority Card is almost universally better?
- Neither the Plus nor Premier offers a $75 annual Southwest credit, which should more or less be worth face value; so to do a direct comparison, that’s almost like lowering the “out of pocket” on the Priority Card from $149 to $74
- The Priority Card offers 7,500-anniversary bonus points, while the Plus offers 3,000 bonus points and the Premier offers 6,000 bonus points
Those two perks alone should show why the Priority Card is worth the annual fee by comparison, and that doesn’t even account for upgraded boardings and more.
For everything, you need to know about the best credit cards for earning Southwest Rapid Rewards points, see this post.
Should You Use A Southwest Card Or Chase Ultimate Rewards Card?
Chase Ultimate Rewards is a transfer partner with Southwest Rapid Rewards, and points transfer at a 1:1 ratio. As a general rule of thumb, you’re going to earn points at a faster rate through Ultimate Rewards than through Rapid Rewards, not to mention that your points have a lot more flexibility.
Should you earn Rapid Rewards points directly with a Southwest card, or with a Chase Ultimate Rewards 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 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 Priority Card Summary
When providing credit card advice, my answer to whether or not it makes sense to get a certain card is usually “it depends.” In the case of the Southwest Priority Card, I think it’s actually pretty clear-cut. Assuming you fly Southwest with any frequency (and if you don’t, you shouldn’t get this card):
- The Priority Card is superior to the Plus and Premier Cards
- The Priority Card is worth having long-term for the benefits that more than justify the annual fee
If you don’t yet have this card, this is a fantastic time to apply, given the current increased bonus.