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Southwest Priority Card Review: Lucrative Perks for Loyalists

Devotees of the airline will find plenty of value to defray the pricey annual fee — they just won't find tons of luxury benefits.
Aug. 14, 2018
Airline Credit Cards, Credit Cards, Travel, Travel Credit Cards
Southwest Priority Card Review: Lucrative Perks for Loyalists
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The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is the most generous of the airline’s co-branded cards with Chase. That’s thanks to its anniversary bonus, annual travel credit and other perks, including a robust limited-time sign-up offer that can get you more than halfway toward earning a coveted Southwest Companion Pass (more on that later).

In exchange, you’ll also pay the highest annual fee of any co-branded Southwest card — and even that won’t grant you some of the high-end travel perks you’ll find with certain premium travel credit cards.

Still, if Southwest is your preferred airline, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card offers valuable benefits that easily can offset the cost of carrying it.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Apply Now on Chase's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 720
    850
    Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • No foreign transaction fee

    Cons

    • Has annual fee
    • Needs excellent credit

    Annual Fees

    $149

    APR

    • APR: 17.74% - 24.74% Variable APR
    • Cash Advance APR: 26.74%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    Up to 65,000 points. Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 points after you spend $15,000 total on purchases within the first year.

    Intro APR

    • N/A
  • Additional Information
    • Up to 65,000 points. Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 points after you spend $15,000 total on purchases within the first year.
    • 7,500 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
    • $75 Southwest® travel credit each year.
    • Four Upgraded Boardings per year when available.
    • 20% back on in-flight drinks, WiFi, messaging, and movies.
    • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases.
    • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
    • No foreign transaction fees.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card: Key features

Annual fee: $149.

Sign-up bonus: Up to 65,000 points. Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 points after you spend $15,000 total on purchases within the first year.

Ongoing rewards: 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases; 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Rewards never expire as long as your account is open and active. Points are worth 1 cent apiece on average, according to NerdWallet valuations, and they can be redeemed for flights, gift cards and merchandise. You generally get more value when you redeem for flights, but values vary.

APR: The ongoing APR is 17.74% - 24.74% Variable APR.

Foreign transaction fee: None.

Anniversary bonus: 7,500 anniversary points each account anniversary year.

Annual travel credit: $75 (can be used toward Southwest® purchases such as flights, pet carrier fees and other day-of-travel purchases).

Upgraded boardings: Up to four upgraded boardings per year (based on availability).

Savings: 20% back on in-flight purchases (including drinks, Wi-Fi, messaging and movies).

Tier qualifying points: 1,500 for each $10,000 in purchases up to $100,000 in purchases annually, which equal 15,000 tier qualifying points.

Southwest mostly flies domestic routes, but it does offer service to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. For other international destinations, you can redeem points to book flights with partner airlines through the Southwest More Rewards platform.

» MORE: Southwest Rapid Rewards program: The complete guide

Travel protections: Auto rental collision damage waiver, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, roadside dispatch, travel accident insurance.

Retail protections: Extended warranty protection, purchase protection.

Nerd tip

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card doesn’t offer free checked bags as some co-branded airline credit cards do, but your first two checked bags already are free with Southwest. (The checked-bag fee for other major airlines generally is $25 or more per bag each way.)

Highlights of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

  • A jet-setting introductory offer: For a limited time, you can earn a handsome sign-up bonus: Up to 65,000 points. Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, earn an additional 25,000 points after you spend $15,000 total on purchases within the first year. That’s more than half of what you’d need to earn a Southwest Companion Pass. That pass allows flyers to select a guest to fly for free with them (minus taxes and fees) every time the member buys or redeems points for a flight, and it’s good from the time it’s earned through the next full calendar year. You can qualify for one by earning 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year.
  • Annual travel credit: Often, credit cards that offer annual travel credits cover only incidentals. The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card ups the ante with a $75 annual credit that you can apply toward Southwest airfare, among other things.
  • In-flight and day-of-flight benefits: If you frequently purchase Wi-Fi, drinks or other qualifying in-flight services, you’ll earn 20% back in the form of statement credit when you use the card to pay for these purchases. You also will receive statement credit when you purchase up to four upgraded boardings per year based on availability. That represents a $30 to $50 value.
  • Many ways to earn points: You’ll earn the card’s ongoing rewards on spending, but you’ll also earn 7,500 points each account anniversary year. That’s worth $75 on average, according to NerdWallet valuations. You’ll also be eligible to earn tier qualifying points that can inch you closer to A-List status, which can offer additional benefits such as priority boarding and bonus points, among others.

Drawbacks to consider

  • The first annual fee isn’t waived: Co-branded airline credit cards often waive the annual fee during the first year, but that’s not the case with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card.
  • No lavish perks: If you want airport lounge access or credit for a Global Entry or TSA Precheck application, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card won’t be able to help you. Premium credit cards with higher annual fees may offer these benefits.
  • Inflexible rewards: As with most co-branded airline credit cards, the points you earn with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card can’t be transferred to other airlines or travel partners. If you frequently fly with multiple airlines besides Southwest, you may want to consider a general travel rewards card that will offer you more redemption flexibility.

» MORE: Chase credit cards mobile app review

Possible alternatives

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

If you’re a Southwest loyalist but aren’t interested in paying such a large annual fee, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card could be an option. Its perks are less generous, including its sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. But it earns the same ongoing rewards as the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, and you may find its annual fee of $69 more palatable. Be aware that the card does charge a foreign transaction fee. And while it can help you earn Rapid Rewards points, it doesn’t earn tier qualifying points.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Perhaps you like Southwest, but you want a card that offers more flexible rewards. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card allows you to transfer your rewards points to multiple travel partners, including hotels and airlines — one of which happens to be Southwest. You’ll earn 2 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points per dollar spent on travel and dining, and 1 point per dollar everywhere else. The card has an annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $95, but it also offers a hefty sign-up bonus: 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®.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Unless you’re strictly loyal to Southwest, the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card can be a better fit for your wallet if you cherish bargains on airfare and hotels. With this card, you can redeem miles for statement credit against any travel purchase. The card also offers up to $100 in application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck programs. It comes with an introductory offer: 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. The card earns 2 miles per $1 spent on all purchases. You also can earn 10 miles per $1 spent when booking eligible stays through Hotels.com/venture. It has an annual fee: $0 for the first year, then $95.

If you’re interested in seeing how this credit card compares with the competition, visit NerdWallet’s list of top credit cards.

Should you get the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card?

If you travel frequently with Southwest, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card could earn you a pile of valuable rewards and save you some significant money. And its perks, while not as fancy as those found on other travel cards, still can easily make up for its annual fee.

But if you’re not devoted to the airline or you have multiple options when it comes to flying, other co-branded airline credit cards can offer richer ongoing rewards structures, better perks and cheaper annual fees.

And if you’re seeking more rewards flexibility, you’re better off with a general travel credit card that offers more freedom in how and where you redeem your points.

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