Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred: Loyalty Has Great Benefits

Claire TsosieSeptember 23, 2016
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred: Loyalty Has Great Benefits

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For fans of Southwest Airlines, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card are both enticing. The first offers generous loyalty benefits, including anniversary bonuses and a faster way to earn a companion pass. The latter gives you more flexibility in redeeming rewards and lets you transfer points to Southwest's frequent flier program on a 1:1 basis. Their similar rewards structures can also make it hard to pick a winner.

A closer look at these cards, however, reveals that for regular Southwest travelers, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is miles better than the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

How the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card wins

Let's start by comparing these cards' features side by side.

Here’s why the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card comes out ahead:

It offers more long-term value. Both cards offer a sign-up bonus, as do many other travel cards. But the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card also gives you a 6,000-point anniversary bonus every year just for holding the card. This bonus, worth $60 according to NerdWallet valuations, cancels out the better part of the card's $99 annual fee. It's also enough to nab you one of those super-cheap one-way tickets Southwest offers during its flash sales.

Even with the annual bonus, you’ll still have to spend at least $1,950 to break even on the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card's annual fee. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you'll have to spend nearly twice as much as you would with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card to come out ahead.

The sign-up bonus is easier to earn. Both cards offer top-notch sign-up bonuses. But the bonus on the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card doesn't require you to spend as much in the first three months. During that period, you'd have to spend twice as much to earn a bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

You'll earn that companion pass faster. To qualify for Southwest's sought-after companion pass — an ID card that lets another person fly with you for free for as long as almost two years — you need to earn 125,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards points. The bonus points on the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card count toward that total. Points transferred from the bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card do not, according to the fine print on Southwest's website.

If earning a companion pass and saving thousands of dollars on travel costs is your endgame, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is your better bet. The current sign-up bonus will give you a good start.

Why you still might want to go with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

If your trips aren't "all Southwest, all the time," the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card might be a more useful card. Here's why.

It offers more redemption options. While Rapid Rewards points can be redeemed for some international flights with partner airlines through Southwest's portal, they can't be transferred to other loyalty programs. Chase Ultimate Rewards points, on the other hand, have plenty of redemption options. You can transfer points to several airline and hotel partners on a 1:1 basis. Those partners include Southwest, but also United, British Airways, Air France/KLM, Marriott and Hyatt, among others. Alternatively, you could book travel directly through Chase's travel portal at a value of 1.25 cents per point. And if you're not in the traveling mood, you could opt for cash back and get 1 cent per point.

The bonus categories are broader. The ongoing rewards for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card are modest. If you don't spend much in any bonus categories — that is, travel, dining, Southwest Airlines and certain hotel chains and car rentals — the distinction is moot. But if you plan to spend about $3,000 a year more on dining and travel compared with what you plan to spend on hotels, car rentals and Southwest flights, go with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Southwest fliers: Go for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

If you fly with a different airline every time you travel, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card would be a smarter choice.

But the no-frills Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card offers better value for Southwest enthusiasts than the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Its anniversary bonuses will help you earn points faster, and its sign-up bonus can help you lock down a companion pass in short order. Coupled with the benefits the airline offers to all customers — such as no fees for checked baggage or flight changes — it's a clear winner.

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