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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.
Aug. 20, 2019
Airline Credit Cards, Credit Cards, Travel Credit Cards
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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 even many of their basic features are similar, but in general you’ll get more perks as you step up in price. Here are the benefits of Southwest Airlines credit cards.

» MORE: Which Southwest Airlines credit card should I get? 

Points on spending

1. Ongoing rewards

In addition to the bonus, all three cards earn 2 points per dollar on Southwest purchases, and on purchases with Southwest’s hotel and rental car partners. You’ll earn 1 point per dollar everywhere else.

2. Earn a sign-up bonus for less

The welcome offer for all three Southwest cards is the same: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. You often have to spend two to five times that initial amount to earn a sign-up bonus on a travel rewards card. NerdWallet values Southwest points at an average of 1.6 cents each when redeemed for Southwest flights domestically. You can also redeem Rapid Rewards points for hotels, rental cars, travel experiences, gift cards and merchandise (point values may vary).

Pathway to status

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

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 110,000 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. (In 2020, the points requirement will rise to 125,000.) 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.

» MORE: Airline credit cards that offer companion tickets outright

Ongoing perks

4. Annual bonus points

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.

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

6. 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.

7. Annual credit

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

8. Upgraded boardings

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.

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