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Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card: There’s a Lot to LUV

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Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card: There’s a Lot to LUV

Do you value an air carrier that provides free checked bags, friendly service and all the honey roasted peanuts your heart desires? If so, Southwest Airlines – and the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card – is just the ticket.

With this credit card, you’ll earn big rewards, an annual anniversary bonus, and pay no foreign transaction fees. The Nerds think there’s a lot to LUV about the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, and we’re ready to share it all.

Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card
Apply Now

on Chase's
secure website

At a glance
Annual fees $99
Foreign transaction fee None
Rewards program Southwest Rapid Rewards points
Signup bonus Earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
Verdict: If you’re a dedicated Southwest Airlines customer, we say go for it
Good for:
  • Someone who frequently flies Southwest Airlines
  • Someone who frequently travels internationally
  • Someone who doesn’t have the patience for most frequent flyer programs (we’ll explain later)
Bad for:
  • Someone who doesn’t frequently fly Southwest
  • Someone who wants the ability to redeem rewards on any airline
  • Someone who wants luxury travel perks and upgrades

In this article:

The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card: The basics
Where the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card shines
Use your Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card to get to Companion Pass status fast
Where the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card falls short
The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card versus the competition
Is the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card right for you?

The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card: The basics

The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card earns 2 points per dollar spent with Southwest Airlines, 2 points per dollar spent on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases, and Rapid Rewards partners and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Check out this chart for the complete card details, including its signup bonus and annual fee:

Example image of Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

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Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Pros

  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • Has annual fee

Sign-up Bonus

Earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Annual Fee

$99

Intro APR Promotions

None

APR

  • APR: 15.99% (Variable)
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.99%, Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 19.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • Points Don't Expire, No Blackout Dates
  • 6,000 points after your Cardmember Anniversary
  • 2 pts/$1 spent on Southwest Airlines® purchases
  • 2 pts/$1 spent on Rapid Rewards Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases
  • 1 pt/$1 spent on all other purchases

As you can see, the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is no slouch – let’s dig into the features that make it stand out.

Where the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card shines

When you do the math, you’ll sometimes find that co-branded airline credit cards offer a raw deal. But the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card doesn’t fit this mold. It offers:

An anniversary bonus – As a “thank you” for being a card member, the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card will give you 6,000 bonus points every year on your account anniversary with no annual spending requirement. That partially offsets the annual fee, and is a reliable way to pad your Rapid Rewards account every year.

Chip technology and no foreign transaction fees – Saving money on baggage fees is one of the major perks of flying Southwest. But if you use the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, you’ll save on foreign transaction fees, too. Plus, the card comes chip-enabled, so it’s a good choice if you frequently travel overseas.

Easy award travel booking – Choosing a credit card that earns frequent flyer points or miles always seems like a good idea, until it’s actually time to fly. Many programs don’t release many award seats, and popular travel dates are often blacked out.

This isn’t the case with Southwest; if there’s a seat available on the flight you want, you’ll be able to use your points to book it. Qualitatively, this makes the rewards you’re earning with the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card just a little more valuable.

Use your Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card to get to Companion Pass status fast

Southwest Airlines offers a unique elite status known as Companion Pass, and using your Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card will help you get there. If you qualify for Companion Pass, you’ll be able to get one ticket for a friend or family member to fly with you for free on any Southwest flight you book. What’s more, Companion Pass status is good for the calendar year you achieve it and the following calendar year, too.

There are 2 ways get to Companion Pass status: Complete 100 qualifying one-way flights on Southwest in a calendar year or earn 110,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year. Rewards earned with the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card are considered “qualifying” points, so every time you swipe, you’re getting closer to two-for-one tickets.

Where the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card falls short

No credit card is without fault, so it’s important to consider the following drawbacks before pulling the trigger on your application for the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card:

Annual fee isn’t waived for the first year – It’s common for co-branded airline credit cards to waive their annual fees for the first year, but this isn’t the case with the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. You’ll pay the $99 right off the bat, which is something to think about if you’re very cost-conscious.

No luxury perks – Southwest is a no-frills airline, which means that getting its cobranded card doesn’t come with any luxury perks. If you’re interested in airport lounge access, concierge service and the like, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

No ability to stack points with alliance members – Southwest isn’t a member of any of the three major airline alliances. This means here’s no way to seamlessly stack the Rapid Rewards points you’re earning with the points or miles you’re scoring in other frequent flyer programs. For hard-core travel hackers, this might be a deal-breaker.

The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card versus the competition

To decide if the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is right for you, it’s helpful to compare it to some of its competitors. Take a look at how it stacks up:

The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card versus the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
Apply Now

on Chase's
secure website

Do you like using frequent flyer miles, but don’t want to commit to just one program? The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card might be for you. With it, you’ll earn 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining in restaurants and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Generally, points earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card are worth $.01 each, but if you choose to book a trip directly through Chase’s online platform, the value of each point rises by 25%.

When it comes time to use your points, you’ll also be able to transfer them to participating frequent traveler programs at a 1:1 ratio. Southwest is an Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, as are other major carriers like British Airways and United. This provides a little more flexibility in how you can use your rewards as compared with the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card.

Like the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card charges no foreign transaction fees and comes chip-enabled. This makes it another good card for traveling overseas.

Another advantage to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is that it charges a lower ongoing annual fee than the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. You’ll pay an Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95. But keep in mind that if you transfer points earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card into your Rapid Rewards account, they won’t count towards getting you to Companion Pass status.

The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card versus the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

You may be interested in the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card because you’re a budget traveler, but it’s not the only game in town. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® is also a good choice; with it, you’ll earn 2 miles for every dollar you spend. Miles are worth $.01 each, but since you’ll get 10% of them back when you redeem them for travel, the card’s rewards rate is effectively 2.2%.

Speaking of redeeming, it couldn’t be easier with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®. You’ll simply book your trip as you normally would with the card, then go online and redeem your rewards for a statement credit. This means you can search out the best deal on your trip and still use your miles to pay for it.

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® also comes chip-enabled  with PIN capability and charges no foreign transactions fees, so using it while traveling internationally will be cheap and convenient.

Finally, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® charges a lower annual fee than the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, so that’s something to keep in mind. You’ll pay $89 - Waived first year. Unless you’re very loyal to Southwest, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® bests the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card on nearly every metric.

The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card versus the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®

Citibank AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard Credit Card
Apply Now

on Citibank's
secure website

With the merger between American Airlines and US Airways underway, American Airlines may soon have a much larger domestic presence. So it might be worthwhile to take a look at its co-branded card.

With the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®, you’ll earn 2 AAdvantage miles for every dollar spent on American Airlines and 1 mile per dollar spent elsewhere. You’ll also score some other useful perks, including:

  • Free checked bags for you and up to four of your loved ones (if tickets are booked on the same reservation).
  • Group 1 boarding on all American Airlines flights.
  • 25% discount on in-flight purchases made on American Airlines.

Also, American Airlines is a oneworld alliance partner, which means you’ll be able to use the miles you’re racking up to book travel on lots of other major carriers.

The annual fee charged by the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® is pretty close to that of the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. You’ll pay $95, waived for first 12 months*. However, it does charge a 3% foreign transaction fee, so it’s not a good choice to use overseas.

The major factor when deciding between the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is how frequently you fly each airline. Unless the merger will make American Airlines flights much more available to you, sticking with the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card isn’t a bad idea.

Is the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card right for you?

Travelers who are dedicated to flying Southwest Airlines will get good value out of the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. It offers solid rewards, a generous anniversary bonus, and could help fast track you to Companion Pass status. If you LUV what you’re hearing, consider applying today.

Lindsay Konsko is a staff writer covering credit cards and consumer credit for NerdWallet. Follow her on Twitter @lkonsko and on Google+.


Image via iStock.

  • Dan

    Quick question. I have a Premier Card and received 50k points. I have an offer for the Plus card with 50k point bonus. I was hoping to apply for this card and get enough points to get my companion pass. I was just told on the phone that I am not eligble for the bonus points because I already have a consumer card with them. I have read that you can risk it and they might give you the bonus points if you spend the required $2000 in three months. Does anyone know about this? Also, I was told I could get the bonus if I signed up for the business card, but I don’t have a small business. Would I still be able to apply for the business card? What info would I need?
    Thanks for you help.

  • Arnold

    I have a few referrals left for 50,000 point bonus, instead of current one of 25,000pts bonus offer.. You have to sign up until September 30, 2014 so please hurry up and email me and I can give you more detail on this deal. my email: arnoldas01@yahoo.com

  • Everett

    So, I signed up for the card to get the 50k bonus. I’ll have the spend complete by January. I also have 50k points on my Chase Sapphire card. Problem is, I don’t have any Hyatt points or cards, not sure how that works to get those to contribute towards the companion pass? I have already done 3 roundtrip flights through work.

  • Laura Brown

    I’m having a hard time deciding between this or the Chase Sapphire Preferred card. I know you get 1.25% travel rewards when you actually book travel through Chase with the Sapphire card. But I’m having trouble interpreting which card’s points go further. You say with the SW card, it’s 2.96% bonus/1.43% base on a wanna get away fare. Are those numbers referring to point redemption when you book travel? And what is the bonus? SW is my favorite airline, and I would use the Sapphire card for SW only anyways. So which would be more beneficial? Thanks!

    • Tubsy

      Someone please give this beautiful lady an answer!

  • Tubsy

    “One drawback to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is that it charges a higher ongoing annual fee than the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card.”
    What? Can we double-check this?

    • Bronson

      Chase Sapphire Preferred charges $95 as the annual fee. I just got hit with it last week. :)

      • Tubsy

        Right, isn’t the SW card $99?

  • Tubsy

    as the documentation most certainly stated…. if you don’t have a rewards membership, they’ll sign you up when you get the card. Kinda scary to think you just handed all your personal information over without even bothering to read the non-fine print :P

  • drew

    I have links to BOTH the SW Premier and the SW Plus cards with the 50,000 mile bonus for spending $2k in 3 months.

    Email me direct for links.

    drew.bignall@yahoo.com

  • DBA

    I just received referrals for the Southwest Plus credit card. The annual fee is $69. You spend $2000 in three months you will receive 50000 (50k) bonus points
    Email me if you want of my referrals
    flyingby123@yahoo.com