Southwest Priority Card Review: Pay More, Get More

Southwest's most expensive consumer credit card offers the same rewards and sign-up bonus as its lower-fee siblings. But it comes with an array of perks that can easily make up for the difference in cost.
Melissa LambarenaSep 26, 2021

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Our Take

4.8

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: If you're a hardcore Southwest flyer, this is the best choice among the airline's three consumer cards, even with its higher fee. But if you spread your business around to multiple airlines, consider a general travel card instead.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

on Chase's website

Annual fee

$149

Regular APR

15.99% - 22.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Quick Facts

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Anniversary perk
  • No reward caps

Cons

  • High annual fee
  • Rewards have limited flexibility

Alternate Pick: More flexible rewards

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Elevated earning in popular categories

Earn bonus rewards in categories like travel and at restaurants. Those 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

NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Annual fee

$149

Annual fee

$99

Annual fee

$69

Regular APR

15.99% - 22.99% Variable APR

Regular APR

15.99% - 22.99% Variable APR

Regular APR

15.99% - 22.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

N/A

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score

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Full Review

The  is the most expensive of Southwest Airlines' consumer credit cards, but its significantly higher annual fee doesn't get you better rewards, a better sign-up bonus or a bigger head start on the airline's coveted . Instead, it unlocks a suite of valuable benefits that, assuming you use them, make this the best card of the bunch for hardcore Southwest travelers.

Unlike with other airlines' top-of-the-line cards, you won't get airport lounge access, priority boarding on every flight or other high-end travel perks. Still, if Southwest is your preferred airline, the  offers valuable benefits that can easily make up for the cost of carrying it.

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Card type: .

Annual fee: .

Sign-up bonus:

Rewards:

Southwest points at 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 or more in value from your Southwest points.

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Elite status booster: Earn 1,500 tier qualifying points for each $10,000 in purchases, up to 15,000 tier qualifying points per year.

Interest rate: .

Foreign transaction fees: None.

Perks and benefits: 7,500-point annual anniversary bonus; $75 annual Southwest travel credit; credit for up to four upgraded boardings per year (based on availability); 20% back on in-flight purchases.

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

Shopping protections: Extended warranty protection, purchase protection.

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

Note that this is the same sign-up bonus as offered by other, cheaper Southwest consumer cards. But the  justifies its higher fee in ways besides the sign-up bonus.

You get an automatic 7,500-point bonus every year you remain a cardholder. You don't have to meet any spending requirement to receive it. Based on NerdWallet's point valuations, the anniversary bonus alone can go a long way toward covering this card's annual fee.

A handful of additional perks set the  apart from the lower-fee cards in the Southwest portfolio.

The makes a fine companion for international travel, since it doesn't impose a surcharge on purchases overseas. 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. Regardless of how you get abroad, this card is a fine choice to use once you're there.

The  gives you a boost toward earning Southwest's popular loyalty benefits:

With both Companion Pass and A-List/A-List Preferred status, once you earn them, they're good for the rest of the calendar year and the whole next year.

Co-branded airline credit cards often waive the annual fee during the first year, but that’s not the case with the .

The is the most feature-laden of the Southwest Airlines credit cards, but Southwest is still Southwest — no frills. If you want airport lounge access or credit for a  application fee, you'll have to look elsewhere.

The rewards rates on the are no better than on the lower-fee Southwest cards. With the exception of select travel spending, you're not going to earn more than 1 point per dollar. Further, as with most co-branded airline credit cards, the points you earn with the 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 that will offer you more redemption flexibility.

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If you're a Southwest loyalist but aren't interested in paying such a large annual fee, the  could be an option. Its perks are less generous, but it offers the same sign-up bonus and ongoing rewards as the , and you may find its annual fee of  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  — that splits the difference.

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

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Perhaps you like Southwest, but you want a card that offers more flexible rewards. The  allows you to transfer your rewards points to multiple hotels and airline partners — one of which happens to be Southwest. You'll earn at least 2 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points per dollar spent on travel (you'll earn a total of 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022), as well as 3 points back on dining, among other bonus categories. The card has an annual fee of , but it offers a hefty sign-up bonus: 

Unless you’re strictly loyal to Southwest, the  may be a better fit for your wallet if you cherish bargains on airfare and hotels. The card earns 2 miles per $1 spent on all purchases, and 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 a nice bonus offer, too.

If you're interested in seeing how these credit cards compare with the competition, visit NerdWallet's list of .

If you travel frequently with Southwest, the  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 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  that offers more freedom in how and where you redeem your points.