Benefits of Southwest Airlines Credit Cards

There are three consumer cards to choose from, and while many of their basic features are similar, you'll get more perks the more you pay.
Oct 19, 2021
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To fly Southwest Airlines is to know and love its quirks, from the organized chaos of the boarding process to the unique ways flight attendants show their personalities (usually during safety announcements). The airline, in partnership with Chase, offers three consumer cards, aimed at steadfast Southwest flyers hoping to accelerate their Rapid Rewards points earnings:

Their names and some of their basic features are similar, but in general you'll get more rewards and perks as you step up in price. Here are the benefits of Southwest Airlines credit cards.

Points on spending

1. Ongoing rewards

In addition to the bonus, all three cards earn points for spending.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card:

  • 2 points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases.

  • 2 points per dollar spent on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases.

  • 2 points per dollar spent on local transit and commuting, including rideshare.

  • 2 points per dollar spent on internet, cable, phone services and select streaming.

  • 1 point per dollar everywhere else.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card earn the same, except for:

  • 3 points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases.

2. Earn a sign-up bonus for less

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
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The welcome offer for all three Southwest cards is the same: Earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

You can also redeem Rapid Rewards points for hotels, rental cars, travel experiences, gift cards and merchandise (point values may vary).

Nerdy tip: NerdWallet values Southwest points at 1.4 cents each. This is a baseline value, drawn from real-world data on hundreds of economy routes, not a maximized value. In other words, you should aim for award redemptions that offer 1.4 cents or more in value from your Southwest points.

Pathway to status

3. Move closer to A-List status and a coveted Companion Pass

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
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Southwest’s Companion Pass allows you to designate a travel buddy who can fly with you for nearly free (just the cost of taxes and fees) whenever you buy yourself a ticket with cash or Rapid Rewards points. You need to earn 125,000 qualifying points or fly 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year to get a Companion Pass, which is good for the rest of that year plus one additional calendar year. The sign-up bonus for all three Southwest cards will help you get closer to this much-beloved benefit.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card also earn up to 15,000 tier qualifying points per year, which will help you gain A-list status — you need to earn 35,000 tier qualifying points or have 25 qualifying one-way flights per calendar year to qualify. A-List status gets you:

  • Priority boarding, check-in, and security lane access.

  • 25% more Rapid Rewards earned whenever you fly.

  • Free same-day standby.

  • A dedicated A-List member phone line.

Nerdy tip: Unlike many other co-branded airline credit cards, Southwest Airlines cards do not offer a free checked bag benefit. But Southwest Airlines doesn't charge you for your first two checked bags anyway.

Ongoing perks

4. Annual bonus points

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
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Each of the Southwest cards earns additional anniversary bonuses each year you keep them in your wallet:

  • 3,000 anniversary points per year with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card.

  • 6,000 anniversary points per year with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card.

  • 7,500 anniversary points per year with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card.

Travel perks

5. No foreign transaction fees for two of these cards

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card don’t charge a foreign transaction fee, saving you money on every overseas purchase. As Visa cards, the Southwest credit cards are accepted worldwide.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card charges a 3% foreign transaction fee.

6. Upgraded boardings, early check-ins

With the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, get reimbursed if you buy up to four upgraded boardings each anniversary year, when available. That will get you a coveted spot in positions A1-A15 during boarding, and you can buy the upgrade at the ticket counter or gate the day you travel. Upgraded boardings cost $30-$50, depending on your itinerary, making this benefit worth $120-$200 if you take full advantage.

With the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, you get two EarlyBird Check-Ins each year. That doesn't guarantee an A boarding position, but it improves your seat selection options to help you get your favorite seat, Southwest says. EarlyBird Check-In usually cost $15 to $25 one-way per passenger.

Longer list of extras for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

7. In-flight discounts

You’ll receive 20% back in the form of a statement credit for in-flight purchases of drinks and Wi-Fi access. You’ll also get 20% back if your authorized users make in-flight purchases.

8. Annual credit

Get up to $75 in statement credits each anniversary year for Southwest purchases, excluding upgraded boardings and in-flight purchases.

More about these cards

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