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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card: There’s a Lot to Love

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Southwest Airlines Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card Editor's Rating: 2.9 / 5

Do you value an air carrier that provides free checked bags, friendly service and all the honey roasted peanuts your heart desires? If so, Southwest Airlines – and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card – is just the ticket.

With this credit card, you’ll earn big rewards, an annual anniversary bonus, and pay no foreign transaction fees. The Nerds think there’s a lot to love about the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, and we’re ready to share it all.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Pros

  • $0 foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • $99 ongoing Annual Fee
  • Best for savvy travelers

Bonus Offer

Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open

Annual Fee

$99

Intro APR Promotions

N/A

APR

  • APR: 16.24% - 23.24% Variable APR
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
  • Chip-enabled cards with 24/7 fraud monitoring
  • Points Don t Expire as long as your card account is open, No Blackout Dates, Bags Fly Free®
  • 6,000 points after your cardmember anniversary every year
  • 2 points/$1 spent on Southwest® purchases and participating Hotel and Car Rental partners
  • 1 point/$1 spent on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees

At a glance
Annual fees $99
Foreign transaction fee None
Rewards program Southwest Rapid Rewards points
Signup bonus Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open
Verdict: If you’re a dedicated Southwest Airlines customer, we say go for it
Good for:
  • Someone who frequently flies Southwest Airlines
  • Someone who frequently travels internationally
  • Someone who doesn’t have the patience for most frequent flyer programs (we’ll explain later)
Bad for:
  • Someone who doesn’t frequently fly Southwest
  • Someone who wants the ability to redeem rewards on any airline
  • Someone who wants luxury travel perks and upgrades

In this article:

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card: The basics
Where the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card shines
Use your Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card to get to Companion Pass status fast
Where the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card falls short
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card versus the competition
Is the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card right for you?

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card: The basics

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card earns 2 points per dollar spent with Southwest Airlines, 2 points per dollar spent on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases, and Rapid Rewards partners and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Let’s dig into the features that make it stand out.

Where the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card shines

When you do the math, you’ll sometimes find that co-branded airline credit cards offer a raw deal. But the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card doesn’t fit this mold. It offers:

An anniversary bonus – As a “thank you” for being a card member, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card will give you 6,000 bonus points every year on your account anniversary with no annual spending requirement. That partially offsets the annual fee, and is a reliable way to pad your Rapid Rewards account every year.

No foreign transaction fees – Saving money on baggage fees is one of the major perks of flying Southwest. But if you use the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, you’ll save on foreign transaction fees, too.

Easy award travel booking – Choosing a credit card that earns frequent flyer points or miles always seems like a good idea, until it’s actually time to fly. Many programs don’t release many award seats, and popular travel dates are often blacked out.

This isn’t the case with Southwest; if there’s a seat available on the flight you want, you’ll be able to use your points to book it. Qualitatively, this makes the rewards you’re earning with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card just a little more valuable.

Use your Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card to get to Companion Pass status fast

Southwest Airlines offers a unique elite status known as Companion Pass, and using your Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card will help you get there. If you qualify for Companion Pass, you’ll be able to get one ticket for a friend or family member to fly with you for free on any Southwest flight you book. What’s more, Companion Pass status is good for the calendar year you achieve it and the following calendar year, too.

There are 2 ways get to Companion Pass status: Complete 100 qualifying one-way flights on Southwest in a calendar year or earn 110,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year. Rewards earned with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card are considered “qualifying” points, so every time you swipe, you’re getting closer to two-for-one tickets.

Where the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card falls short

No credit card is without fault, so it’s important to consider the following drawbacks before pulling the trigger on your application for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card:

Annual fee isn’t waived for the first year – It’s common for co-branded airline credit cards to waive their annual fees for the first year, but this isn’t the case with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. You’ll pay the $99 right off the bat, which is something to think about if you’re very cost-conscious.

No luxury perks – Southwest is a no-frills airline, which means that getting its cobranded card doesn’t come with any luxury perks. If you’re interested in airport lounge access, concierge service and the like, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

No ability to stack points with alliance members – Southwest isn’t a member of any of the three major airline alliances. This means here’s no way to seamlessly stack the Rapid Rewards points you’re earning with the points or miles you’re scoring in other frequent flyer programs. For hard-core travel hackers, this might be a deal-breaker.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card versus the competition

To decide if the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is right for you, it’s helpful to compare it to some of its competitors. Take a look at how it stacks up:

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card versus the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Apply Now on Chase's secure website

Pros

  • A large bonus
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Cool factor - metal card
  • Earn more points on travel and dining at restaurants
  • Premium travel protection benefits

Cons

  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, after that $95 per year

Bonus Offer

Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$0 for the first year, then $95

Intro APR Promotions

N/A

APR

  • APR: 16.24% - 23.24% Variable APR
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.24%, Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

Do you like using frequent flyer miles, but don’t want to commit to just one program? The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card might be for you. With it, you’ll earn 2 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel and dining in restaurants and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Generally, points earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card are worth $.01 each, but if you choose to book a trip directly through Chase’s online platform, the value of each point rises by 25%.

When it comes time to use your points, you’ll also be able to transfer them to participating frequent traveler programs at a 1:1 ratio. Southwest is an Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, as are other major carriers like British Airways and United. This provides a little more flexibility in how you can use your rewards as compared with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card.

Like the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card charges no foreign transaction fees and comes chip-enabled. This makes it another good card for traveling overseas.

Another advantage to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is that it charges a lower ongoing annual fee than the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. You’ll pay an $0 for the first year, then $95. But keep in mind that if you transfer points earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card into your Rapid Rewards account, they won’t count towards getting you to Companion Pass status.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card versus the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

Apply Now on Barclaycard's secure website

Pros

  • High rewards rate
  • 0% on Balance Transfers for 12 months (on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening)
  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • Has annual fee

Bonus Offer

Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $500 travel statement credit

Annual Fee

$0 for the first year, then $89

Intro APR Promotions

0% on Balance Transfers for 12 months (on balance transfers made within 45 days of account opening)

APR

  • APR: 16.24%, 20.24% or 23.24%* Variable APR
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.49%, Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $500 travel statement credit
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • Redeem for travel or cash back statement credits, gift cards and merchandise. Redemption values vary
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • Miles don't expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • No foreign transaction fees on anything you buy while in another country
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on Balance Transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 16.24%, 20.24% or 23.24%, based on your creditworthiness. Please note, there is a fee for balance transfers

You may be interested in the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card because you’re a budget traveler, but it’s not the only game in town. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® is also a good choice; with it, you’ll earn 2 miles for every dollar you spend. Miles are worth $.01 each when redeemed for travel statement credit — but you’ll get 5% of them back on every time you redeem.

Speaking of redeeming, it couldn’t be easier with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®. You’ll simply book your trip as you normally would with the card, then go online and redeem your rewards for a statement credit. This means you can search out the best deal on your trip and still use your miles to pay for it.

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® also charges no foreign transactions fees, so using it while traveling internationally will be inexpensive.

Finally, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® charges a lower annual fee than the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, so that’s something to keep in mind. You’ll pay $0 for the first year, then $89. Unless you’re very loyal to Southwest, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® bests the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card on nearly every metric.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card versus the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ MasterCard®

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ MasterCard®

Apply Now on Citibank's secure website

Pros

  • Signup benefits
  • Free checked baggage
  • Early boarding group

Cons

  • Has annual fee
  • Needs excellent credit

Bonus Offer

Earn 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*

Annual Fee

$95, waived for first 12 months*

Intro APR Promotions

N/A

APR

  • Min APR: 14.24%, Variable
  • Max APR: 22.24%, Variable
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.99%, Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.49%, Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation*
  • Enjoy Group 1 boarding on American Airlines flights*
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases1
  • Receive 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights*
  • Double AAdvantage® miles on eligible American Airlines purchases*
  • Earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage® miles back – up to 10,000 AAdvantage® miles each calendar year*

American Airlines may have the largest presence among domestic airlines, so it might be worthwhile to take a look at its co-branded card.

With the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ MasterCard®, you’ll earn 2 AAdvantage miles for every dollar spent on American Airlines and 1 mile per dollar spent elsewhere. You’ll also score some other useful perks, including:

  • Free checked bags for you and up to four of your loved ones (if tickets are booked on the same reservation).
  • Group 1 boarding on all American Airlines flights.
  • 25% discount on in-flight purchases made on American Airlines.

Also, American Airlines is a oneworld alliance partner, which means you’ll be able to use the miles you’re racking up to book travel on lots of other major carriers.

The annual fee charged by the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ MasterCard® is pretty close to that of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. You’ll pay $95, waived for first 12 months*. It also doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee, making it a good choice to use overseas.

The major factor when deciding between the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ MasterCard® and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is how frequently you fly each airline. Unless the merger will make American Airlines flights much more available to you, sticking with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card isn’t a bad idea.

Is the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card right for you?

Travelers who are dedicated to flying Southwest Airlines will get good value out of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. It offers solid rewards, a generous anniversary bonus, and could help fast track you to Companion Pass status. If you like what you’re hearing, consider applying today.

Lindsay Konsko is a staff writer covering credit cards and consumer credit for NerdWallet. Follow her on Twitter @lkonsko and on Google+.


Image via iStock.