7 Things to Know Before Getting a Southwest Credit Card

Sign on for the Companion Pass, stay for the perks and other points-earning opportunities.
Mar 21, 2022

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Southwest credit cards go from so-so to solid in terms of perks. The bigger your commitment to Southwest Airlines, the more credit card perks you'll find useful — and the higher the annual membership fee will rise. You'll also find more ways to offset these fees the more you travel. Here are some things to know before getting a Southwest credit card.

What to know before getting a Southwest credit card

1. What credit cards are available

Three co-branded Southwest credit cards are available as personal credit cards to consumers, and the benefits and annual fees vary by card.

For example, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card has the lowest annual fee of $69, but it charges foreign transaction fees and offers the fewest perks to Southwest flyers. The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card charges the highest fee of $149 and offers more valuable benefits.

Here are some of the benefits that each personal Southwest card provides:

  • Welcome bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

  • Earn 2x points on Southwest purchases, Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners, local transit and commuting (including rideshares) and on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming.

  • 25% back on in-flight purchases.

  • 3,000 anniversary points.

  • Annual fee: $69.

  • Welcome bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

  • Two EarlyBird check-ins per year.

  • 25% back on in-flight purchases.

  • 6,000 anniversary points.

  • 1,500 tier qualifying points per $10,000 spent.

  • Annual fee: $99.

  • Welcome bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

  • Four upgraded boarding positions per year.

  • 25% back on in-flight purchases.

  • 7,500 anniversary points.

  • 1,500 tier qualifying points per $10,000 spent.

  • $75 Southwest annual travel credit.

  • No foreign transaction fees.

  • Annual fee: $149.

So, one of the things to know before getting a Southwest credit card is how often you'll fly the airline and if you'll use enough perks to offset a card's annual fee.

2. The Southwest card limits

Many factors go into whether or not you can hold two personal Southwest credit cards at once, including the number of cards you've opened through Chase in the last 24 months and whether you've already held a specific credit card in the past. While it is possible to have more than one Southwest card, you may sacrifice earning a welcome bonus, which is a huge draw for most cardholders.

Given that limits vary from person to person, your best bet is to apply for a Southwest credit card and see if it is available for you.

The good news for business owners is that it's much easier to qualify for both a Southwest-branded consumer card and a small-business card at the same time.

3. The Rapid Rewards earning structure

If you're interested in the Southwest Rapid Rewards program, you may wonder how many points you will earn on a Southwest credit card? For the most part, each of the three cards has similar earning opportunities based on spending.

For example, all three cards earn 2x Rapid Rewards points in the following categories:

  • Hotel and car rental partners.

  • Local transit and ride-hailing services.

  • Internet, cable, mobile phone and select streaming services.

All three cards also earn 1 point per dollar for other purchases.

The difference lies in Southwest purchases — while the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card earns 2x points on Southwest purchases, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card cards earn 3x points.

4. The value of Southwest points

Before you start trying to earn points on a new Southwest credit card, you might want to know how much Rapid Rewards points are actually worth.

The Rapid Rewards program doesn't have a standard award chart. A reward flight is based on airfare and is influenced by destination, time of travel, and demand. This means a redemption rate in points is tied directly to the flight's cash cost in dollars. The more expensive a flight is, the more points you need to book it.

According to NerdWallet’s valuation, each Rapid Rewards point is worth 1.4 cents. That means 10,000 Rapid Rewards points would be worth $140.

Based on our most recent analysis, here's how the value of Southwest points stack up against its main competitors.

5. The way to earn a Southwest Companion Pass

A Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most coveted benefits in the world of passenger perks. The reason is simple. As a Companion Pass holder, you can book flights with cash or points anywhere Southwest flies and add a designated companion for free (you still have to cover ticket taxes). Furthermore, you can use the Companion Pass for flights in the year you earn the pass plus the entire following calendar year.

Because it's such a desirable perk, Southwest requires you to either fly 100 qualifying flight segments or earn 125,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year to earn it. Luckily, the points you earn from signing up for a co-branded credit card count toward the qualification requirement.

Knowing that the sign-up bonus and the points you earn on everyday spending count toward the requirement needed to attain a Companion Pass, you can be strategic about applying for a card and earning points. Doing this will give you more time to qualify for the Companion Pass and get the most use.

6. The valuable extra benefits

Before picking a credit card, it's essential to ask questions about its travel and purchase protection benefits. For instance, does a Southwest Airlines credit card cover rental car insurance?

The answer to this question is yes. But while all three cards offer an auto collision damage waiver, covering collision damage and theft, the coverage is secondary to your primary auto insurance provider.

Southwest credit cards also come with purchase protection, extended warranty protection, baggage delay insurance and lost luggage reimbursement.

7. The wait

Before you hit submit on your application, you might be wondering how long it takes for Southwest credit card approval. Unfortunately, you won't know until you click the button.

Some approvals are instant, and some require more time. For example, if you received an email thanking you for your interest in a credit card, it means that you're not yet approved. You can either wait about seven to 10 days for approval or check the status of your application by calling Chase at 1-800-935-9935. Sometimes the bank needs to verify information on your application.

If you're considering applying for a Southwest credit card

Frequent Southwest Airlines flyers will find value in getting a Southwest credit card. The perks are helpful, and the spending categories offer many opportunities to earn more rewards. The Rapid Rewards program also offers a competitive value, especially if you're going for a Companion Pass. It's hard to beat companion flights booked entirely with rewards.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:

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