Editorial Review

Southwest Priority Card Review: Pay More, Get More

Southwest's most expensive credit card offers the same rewards and sign-up bonus as its lower-fee options, but the perks can easily make up for the difference in cost.

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Our Take

3.9

NerdWallet rating

The Bottom Line: If you're a devoted Southwest flyer, this card offers plenty to recommend it. But if you spread your business around to multiple airlines, consider a general travel card instead.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

on Chase's secure website

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Annual Fee
$149
Regular APR
17.99% - 24.99% Variable APR
Intro APR
N/A

Quick Facts

Annual Fee
$149
Regular APR
17.99% - 24.99% Variable APR
Intro APR
N/A

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • No foreign transaction fee
Cons
  • Has annual fee
  • Needs excellent credit

recommended credit score

Alternate Pick: Greater flexibility

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Transfer points to Southwest, or use elsewhere

Get 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining and 1 point per dollar everywhere else. Points can be transferred to several airline and hotel loyalty programs, including Southwest. You can also use them to book travel through Chase at 1.25 cents per point. There's a big sign-up bonus, too. Annual fee: $0 for the first year, then $95.

Read our review

Full Review

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is the most generous of the airline’s credit cards. That’s thanks to its anniversary bonus, annual travel credit and other perks, including a sign-up offer that can bring you closer to earning a coveted Southwest Companion Pass (more on that later).

In exchange, you’ll also pay the highest annual fee of any Southwest card — and even that won’t grant you some of the high-end travel perks you’d 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 can easily offset the cost of carrying it.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card: Key features

  • Annual fee: The ongoing APR is 17.99% - 24.99% Variable APR.
  • Sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus earn 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 within your first year.
  • 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 17.99% - 24.99% Variable APR.
  • Foreign transaction fees: 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, equal to  15,000 tier qualifying points.
  • 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.

Southwest flies mostly 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

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 to $30 per bag each way.)

Highlights of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

  • A jet-setting introductory offer: The sign-up bonus provides the same value that you’ll get from other Southwest Airline credit cards: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus earn 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 within your first year. That can put you on track to earn a Southwest Companion Pass, which 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 incidental fees. 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 year’s 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 fee, 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, but it offers the same sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus earn 20,000 points after you spend $12,000 within your first year. It also 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.

There’s also a third Southwest card — the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card — that splits the difference.

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

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 hotels and airline partners — 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 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 may 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 serious money. And its perks, while not as fancy as those found on other travel cards, can still 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.