Editorial Review

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Review: Solid Rewards for Less

You'll earn the same rewards and sign-up bonus as on Southwest's pricier cards, and get the same head start on Companion Pass, but you'll also miss out on a couple of important benefits.

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  • Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

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Our Take

4.3

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: It's a good option for Southwest loyalists who don't care about airline status or side benefits. But it doesn't travel as well as its sibling cards with higher annual fees.

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

on Chase's website

Annual Fee

$69

Regular APR

15.99% - 22.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Quick Facts

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Anniversary bonus

  • No blackout dates or seat restrictions

Cons

  • Has annual fee

  • Has foreign transaction fee

Alternate Pick: More flexible rewards

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Elevated earning in popular categories

Earn 2 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points per $1 spent on travel and at restaurants, and 1 point per $1 spent everywhere else. Your points are worth 25% more when you redeem them for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal, and you can also transfer points to partner airlines, including Southwest. Annual fee: $95.

Read our review

Compare to Other Cards

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Annual Fee

$69

Annual Fee

$149

Annual Fee

$0 intro for the first year, then $95

Regular APR

15.99% - 22.99% Variable APR

Regular APR

15.99% - 22.99% Variable APR

Regular APR

17.24% - 24.49% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score

Full Review

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card isn't the flashiest of the three co-branded Chase cards in the Rapid Rewards family, but that doesn't mean it's the black sheep of the clan either.

After all, the three Southwest cards offer the same APR and ongoing rewards rates, not to mention the same sign-up bonus, which gives you a nice boost toward earning the coveted Southwest Companion Pass. And since the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card has the lowest annual fee of all the Southwest cards, why wouldn't it win out every time?

Well, for starters, it doesn't travel as well as its two big siblings, nor is it as generous with side benefits. And if you're a loyal Southwest customer seeking extra perks when you travel, it could be that the much pricier Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card will still be a better deal for you thanks to the added value you'll get.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card: Basics

Card type: Airline.

Annual fee: $69.

Sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Rewards:

  • 2 points per dollar spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases.

  • 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases

NerdWallet values Southwest points at 1.4 cents each. This is a baseline value, drawn from real-world data on hundreds of economy routes, not a maximized value. In other words, you should aim for award redemptions that offer 1.4 cents or more in value from your Southwest points.

Interest rate: The ongoing APR is 15.99% - 22.99% Variable APR.

Foreign transaction fee: 3%

Other benefits: 

  • Anniversary bonus of 3,000 points every new cardmember year

CALCULATE YOUR REWARDS

To see if the rewards you'd earn on this card would make up for the annual fee, try our calculator:

Benefits of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Low annual fee

The $69 annual fee is relatively low for an airline card with a healthy sign-up bonus and ongoing bonus rewards on airline purchases. For comparison's sake, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card charges a $99 annual fee, and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card clocks in at $149 per year.

Generous sign-up bonus

Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. That's a big chunk of points to spend toward free flights, and gets you on your way to the 125,000 points you need to earn the Companion Pass.

Extra anniversary points

For each year you keep your card account open, you'll receive an anniversary bonus of 3,000 points. (You can also earn extra points by booking car rentals and hotels through the Rapid Rewards program, or using the Rapid Rewards Shopping portal.)

Nerd tip: Southwest Airlines credit cards don't offer free checked bags as many 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 to $30 per bag each way.)

Drawbacks and alternatives

Fewer perks than other Southwest cards

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card earns 3,000 anniversary points, half as many as the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. Based on point valuation, the difference in the anniversary bonus is more than enough to offset the difference in annual fees between those two cards, making the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card the worse deal.

And the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card offers even more benefits to help defray its hefty $149 annual fee. Every year, Priority cardholders get a 7,500-point anniversary bonus, a $75 Southwest travel credit, four upgraded boardings when available (those are worth $30 to $50 per flight), and 20% back on in-flight purchases. Depending on how often you treat yourself to Wi-Fi and a snack, that equals at least $270 in value.

Also, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is the only card of the three that doesn't earn tier qualifying points. Those points count toward elite status, known as "A-List" or "A-List Preferred" in Southwest's programs. Benefits of such status include priority boarding and bonus points for flights you pay for.

Here's a look at how the three Southwest consumer cards compare:

Weak bonus categories

Most purchases will earn you 1 point per dollar, and you'll earn 2 points per dollar on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases. But other rewards cards allow you to earn 2 points per dollar on more spending categories without having to shop through a partner program:

  • The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns 2 points per dollar spent on all travel purchases (you'll earn a total of 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022) and on dining worldwide, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. Its points can transfer directly into the Southwest Rapid Rewards program. It has an annual fee of $95.

  • With the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, you'll earn 2 miles per dollar on all spending, for an annual fee of $0 intro for the first year, then $95.

Foreign transaction fee

The 3% foreign transaction fee makes the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card a poor choice to use during an international trip. Neither of the pricier Southwest cards charges a foreign transaction fee.

See how this card stacks up against competitors by visiting NerdWallet's roundup of airline credit cards. Also check out our best credit cards page for other offers.

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

Frequent Southwest flyers will find a lot to love about the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card because it offers so many of the same benefits as its higher-end siblings.

Just keep in mind that you won't get the side benefits found on the more expensive Southwest co-branded cards. And if you're seeking a card for use overseas, or one that offers more rewards flexibility, consider other options.

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