Why This Southwest Card Is a Solid Choice for Budget Travelers

Reyna Gobel
By Reyna Gobel 
Published
Edited by Mary M. Flory

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The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is a good option for travelers who fly Southwest Airlines regularly and are looking to fly for nearly free, whether on long-haul or short flights. Plus, with frequent traveling and spending on the card, you can earn enough miles for a Companion Pass.

Here are just a few reasons why this card is a solid option for the frequent budget traveler:

The sign-up bonus gets you a head-start on earning a Companion Pass

This card’s sign-up bonus is as follows: Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

It typically takes earning 135,000 points in one calendar year to get a Southwest Companion Pass, which allows a companion of your choosing to fly for just taxes and fees for a year or more depending on when you qualify.

The points included with the bonus count toward earning another Companion Pass, as do points earned from spending on the card.

Depending on how often you'd travel with a companion, this perk can offer enormous value, so if this card's bonus would help get you over the top, it can be well worth your while to apply.

The annual fee is largely offset by anniversary points

The pain of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card’s $99 annual fee is tempered a bit by the fact that you get 6,000 points on your cardmember anniversary. Assuming you'll use those points, the card can wind up mostly paying for itself.

You can also rack up points by using the card on paid Southwest tickets. Earnings rates vary from earning 6 to 12 points per dollar for the most expensive fares. Other purchases on the card also earn points, but at a less attractive value.

You'll earn more Rapid Rewards points on certain spending categories

On top the sign-up bonus and anniversary bonus, you'll also earn points in recently added (or increased) bonus spending categories.

  • 3x points on Southwest® purchases.

  • 2x points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare.

  • 2x points on internet, cable, phone services and select streaming services.

These categories are great for racking up more points on everyday spending, even when you're not flying anywhere.


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 2024, including those best for:

Travel Cards from our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

75,000

Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's over $900 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Points
Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1.5%-5%

Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Cashback

Intro offer

Up to $300

Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
4.7
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

2x-5x

Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Miles
See more Travel cards
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