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Southwest Premier vs. Arrival Plus vs. Venture: Arrival Plus Wins

Airline Credit Cards, Credit Cards, Travel Credit Cards
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Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier vs. General Travel Credit Cards: Check Out Venture First

For devoted fans of Southwest Airlines, here’s a hard truth: The airline’s top-shelf co-branded credit card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, might not be the best card for you.

In fact, even frequent Southwest flyers may be able to earn more rewards with the no-nonsense Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® or the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card than with Southwest’s own card. These two general travel cards outpace the co-branded card with their high rewards and flexible redemption options. Of the two, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® pulls ahead as the best long-term choice, thanks to its relatively low annual fee and slightly higher effective rewards rate.

The other cards do have their advantages, though. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers a richer sign-up bonus. And if you have your heart set on Southwest’s coveted companion pass, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is the only one in this bunch that earns rewards that will help you qualify for that status.

Here’s how the cards stack up.

 Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
Annual fee$99 $0 for the first year, then $95 $0 for the first year, then $89
Sign-up bonusEarn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel Enjoy 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase
Rewards2 points per dollar spent on Southwest Airlines purchases and participating hotel and car rental partners; 1 point per dollar spent on everything else2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases
Extra bonuses6,000-point anniversary bonus each year, worth $60, according to NerdWallet valuationsNone5% redemption bonus. For example, if you redeem $1,000 worth of travel statement credit, you'll get $50 worth of miles toward your next redemption. This gives the card an effective 2.1% earn rate.
Foreign transaction feesNoneNoneNone

Why the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® comes out ahead

Two things give the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® a competitive advantage for most travelers.

It offers big rewards for a relatively low annual fee. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® both give you 2 miles per $1 spent. But the redemption bonuses on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® boost its effective rewards rate to 2.1%. Plus, its annual fee is slightly lower.

The rewards and lower annual fee on the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® also put the card far ahead of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, especially for folks planning to hold the card long term. While the anniversary bonus on the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card essentially knocks $60 off its annual fee, that’s not quite enough to make up for its lower ongoing rewards rate.

Use the calculator below to find out which card offers the most value for you.

You can redeem miles for almost any type of travel. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® lets you redeem miles for travel statement credit, as does the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. Basically, that means you can use your miles to “erase” purchases for more than just airline tickets. The statement credits can be applied to things like a Mediterranean cruise, a cross-country train ride or a weekend at a beachside timeshare. Each mile is worth 1 cent when redeemed.

You can’t pull that stunt with Southwest. If you’re not in the market for flights, hotel stays or car rentals, you’d better be super stoked about Southwest’s selection of overpriced gift cards, because you might be buying a lot of them.

» MORE: How credit card issuers define “travel”

It’s ideal for traveling abroad. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® has one big advantage for international travelers — it’s a chip-and-PIN credit card. Some kiosks and parking meters abroad call for credit cards that can be authorized with a 4-digit PIN, rather than a signature. Among these three cards, only the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® offers that capability.

When the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card could be better choices

For most people, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® takes a decisive lead for long-term value in this matchup, even for Southwest fans. But there are some situations in which the other cards are better.

Check out the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card if …

You plan to hold the card for only a short time. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card has a more robust sign-up bonus than the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®. Because it offers a larger sign-up bonus than the competition and waives its first-year annual fee, it’s a clear winner for those who are looking to hold the card for only a year or two.

Get the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card if …

You’re determined to get that companion pass. Southwest’s companion pass allows someone to fly with you for free for the rest of the year in which you earn the pass, plus the next calendar year. You need 110,000 points or 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year to get the pass. The sign-up bonus on the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card provides a good start toward the points goal. For a couple that travels regularly, a companion pass essentially gets you 50% off airfare for more than a year, and makes you very popular with at least one person.

» MORE: How to earn a Southwest companion pass

The most practical travel card of the bunch

Matching up a co-branded airline credit card with general travel cards often feels a little like comparing apples and Apple Jacks. Often, there’s not a real winner in a faceoff like this — the cards just appeal to different people. If you like the airline, you go with the airline card. Otherwise, you choose one of the general travel cards.

But this time, we’re not declaring a three-way tie.

We’re calling it: The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® offers the best long-term value. That makes it the most practical travel card of the bunch, even for many ardent Southwest fans. For travelers looking for versatility and value, it’s an excellent pick.