Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card review

Published: June 21, 2019

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Published: June 21, 2019

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Ratings Policy
Rewards Rating:
3.7 rating
3.7 rating
3.7 / 5
Rewards Value: 3.9
Annual Percentage Rate: 2.0
Rewards Flexibility: 3.8
Features: 2.0
Customer Experience 3.7

In a Nutshell:

If you frequently fly Southwest, it’s worth upgrading to this high value airline card, despite its $99 annual fee: It offers one of the best sign-up bonuses on the market and its rewards points are worth substantially more than the average credit card rewards point.

Learn more about this card

Rewards Rate

  • 2:1 Southwest purchases, hotel and car rental partners
  • 1:1 other purchases

Sign-up Bonus

  • 40,000 bonus points if you spend $1,000 in first 3 months

Annual Bonus
6,000 points each cardmember anniversary

Annual Fee
$99

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$485

APR
18.24-25.24% (variable)

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • Points don’t expire
  • No blackout dates
  • Unlimited rewards seats
  • Use miles for airfare, gift cards, merchandise, car rentals, cruises, hotel stays, access to exclusive events
  • No change fee
  • No booking fees
  • One-way rewards tickets permitted

Cons

  • No stopovers permitted on rewards tickets
  • Limited options for international travel
  • You can only book rewards flights on Southwest, since Southwest doesn’t have airline partners

Customer Experience

Other Notable Features: No foreign transaction fee, first 2 checked bags free, lost luggage reimbursement, travel and emergency services, baggage delay insurance, purchase protection, other Visa Signature benefits

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card Review: More Details

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card makes it easy to rack up rewards in the popular and versatile Southwest Rapid Rewards airline loyalty program. There is a $99 annual fee, but this fee is more than made up for by the initial bonus points you earn when you sign up and meet a minimum spending requirement.

Keep reading to find out everything about the Southwest Premier Card, the best ways to redeem your rewards and how to apply.

Sign-up bonus

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card is currently offering a competitive sign-up bonus – 40,000 points if you spend $1,000 in the first three months. While this is not the highest bonus you’ll find among airline cards, the spend threshold is easy to reach, and it’s a valuable offer, worth around $640 in airfare by our estimates.

Keep in mind that that the Rapid Rewards Premier card frequently offers larger bonuses. If you want to score a large bonus with the card, you might want to hold tight until the offer increases.

Annual bonus

Also note that the Southwest Premier card offers an annual bonus that can make keeping the card and paying an annual fee well worth it. This bonus is worth 6,000 points each year (worth around $96 in airfare, by our valuations), and you receive it on your card member anniversary.

Earning points

The Southwest Premier card offers an earning structure that is easy to understand. You’ll earn 2 points per dollar on Southwest Airlines purchases plus purchases made with their hotel and rental car partners. You also earn 1 point per dollar on everything else you buy.

Keep in mind, however, that you can earn even more points with the airline if you sign up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards dining program or shop through the Southwest Rapid Rewards shopping portal.

What are Rapid Rewards points worth?

While point values can vary, Southwest Rapid Rewards points are typically worth 1.6 cents each when you use them to book airfare.

While that’s less than you can get with some other programs, Southwest’s fare-based rewards program makes it easy to save miles. If the price goes down in cash on a flight you want to book, the award price will also drop. This isn’t always the case with other airline loyalty programs.

When we multiply the point value by the average earning rate (the rate at which the average cardholder can earn Rapid Rewards points with the card across all the card’s spending categories), we figure that the Rapid Rewards Premier card can earn around 1.74 cents per dollar spent on average.

Southwest Premier card comparison

Flight network

One potential downside of earning Southwest Rapid Rewards points is the fact that their international range is very limited. Southwest does fly to Caribbean destinations like Aruba, Grand Cayman, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica and Nassau in the Bahamas as well as several destinations in Mexico, but they don’t fly to other areas of the world.

The airline’s network is robust, however, and they operate more than 4,000 flights per day during peak travel season. Southwest currently flies to over 90 destinations within the U.S. as well as to Hawaii and its international destinations.

You can also book international flights with other airlines through Southwest.com with your points, although you’ll only get 1 cent in value if you do.

Redeeming points

Redeeming Southwest Rapid Rewards points is easy thanks to Southwest’s website and mobile app. You can log into your account to book airfare, hotels, rental cars and more online.

The chart below highlights how much value you can expect to get for various redemption options:

Point value (in cents)
Wanna Get Away fare 1.6
Anytime fare 1.1
Business Select fare 0.9
Gift cards 0.7
Car rentals 0.7
International flights 0.8
Merchandise 0.6
Hotel 0.2
Experiences 0.8

In case you’re wondering, Southwest offers three different types of airfare you can buy – Wanna Get Away fares, Anytime fares and Business Select fares.

  • Wanna Get Away fares are nonrefundable, although you can apply the ticket cost toward future travel. These fares are also less flexible in general, but then again, they’re also the cheapest.
  • Anytime fares are similar to Wanna Get Away fares, although they come at a higher cost, and they are fully refundable.
  • Business Select fares cost significantly more points than other options, yet they come with the most perks. You’ll get early boarding on Southwest, a priority security lane and free drinks if you choose this option.

Of course, you can also redeem points for gift cards, hotels, rental cars and experiences. These options typically offer less than one cent per point in value though, so they’re not the best deal.

One benefit that sets Southwest apart is that, when it comes to their flights, they have the most generous cancellation and rebooking policy around. For their refundable fares, you can request travel credit to use for another flight up until your booked flight has departed. If you paid with points, you can receive your points back for use toward another award flight.

This makes it easy to cancel and rebook another flight if your dates change or you decide to cancel your trip altogether. And remember, most airlines do not let you change your flights without paying a hefty change fee.

Southwest flights to Hawaii

Southwest enthusiasts were over the moon when the airline finally announced its intention to begin flying to Hawaii this year. Since earning and redeeming points is the same for Hawaii as it is for other Southwest destinations, this is a huge boon for those who use the program.

It’s important to note that Southwest’s flight schedule is still limited, however, and that flight options aren’t that great from the east coast. Flights may not be any cheaper than other airlines, too, so make sure to check pricing with other airlines in both cash and airline miles.

Earning the Companion Pass

Southwest Airlines offers a very popular companion pass that can help your designated “companion” fly free whether you book your flight with cash or miles. You can earn this benefit by flying 100 qualifying one-way flights with the airline within a calendar year, but you can also earn it by racking up at least 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points within a single calendar year (and, yes, the sign-up bonus does count toward the pass).

The Companion Pass is popular because, like we said, you can add your companion for free whether you pay for your own flight with money or points. Just remember that your companion does have to pay government-mandated taxes and fees on their fare, and that you can only change your companion up to three times per year.

Other benefits

The Southwest Premier card offers a slew of important benefits that can add more value and help you save money. Once you sign up, you’ll receive the following perks as a cardholder:

  • No foreign transaction fees: Use your credit card abroad without paying a foreign transaction fee for your overseas purchases.
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver: This coverage will reimburse you if you experience rental car damage or theft when you use your credit card to pay for the entire rental cost. Keep in mind that this coverage is secondary, meaning it only kicks in after your own auto insurance.
  • Baggage delay insurance: Get reimbursed up to $100 per day for three days if a baggage delay leads to out-of-pocket spending for toiletries or clothing.
  • Lost luggage insurance: Receive up to $3,000 per passenger if you or an immediate family member is stuck dealing with luggage damaged or lost by the carrier.
  • Roadside dispatch: You can call into a designated 1-800 number if you need a tow or a tire change or any type of roadside assistance. The dispatch number is free, but cardholders are required to pay for the services of third-party providers.
  • Travel accident insurance: Get up to $500,000 when you pay for airfare, bus fare, train fare or a cruise with your credit card.
  • Travel and emergency assistance services: This benefit can help you connect with medical or emergency professionals no matter where you are in the world.
  • Extended warranty protection: This coverage helps you extend the manufacturer’s warranty on eligible items for an additional year, but it’s only good for warranties that last three years or less.
  • Purchase protection: Use this coverage to protect against damage or theft. Coverage is good for up to $500 per claim and up to $50,000 per account.

Also remember that Southwest Airlines lets you check two bags for free – even if you pay for your flight with rewards. This isn’t a cardholder perk per se, but it does make flying with the airline a more attractive option.

Southwest Premier card vs. Southwest Priority card

You may want to consider applying for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card instead if you want an airline card with more perks.

This card gives you the same sign-up bonus as well as the same 2 points per dollar on Southwest purchases. However, you also get an annual $75 travel credit on Southwest, four upgraded boarding positions each year, 20 percent back on in-flight purchases, 7,500 points on your cardmember anniversary each year and no foreign transaction fees. Though it comes with a higher $149 annual fee, the value of these extra benefits outweighs the fee, for those who fly Southwest frequently enough to take advantage of them.

Approval odds

Most consumers with “good credit,” or FICO scores of 670 to 739, are in a good position to qualify for this card. However, those with FICO scores of 740 or higher have the best chance of qualifying for the Southwest Premier card and other premium rewards credit cards.

If your credit isn’t that great, you may want to spend some time improving it before you apply. The best steps you can take to boost your credit score include paying all your bills early or on time, refraining from opening or closing too many accounts and paying down debt to reduce your credit utilization.

Customer service

Since the Southwest Premier card is a Chase credit card, you’ll have access to 24/7 customer service on the phone as well as via online secure messaging. Chase also has a mobile app that makes it easy to contact customer service, make a payment or pay bills online.

Chase also receives excellent rankings from J.D. Power.

How does the Southwest Premier card compare to other cards?

Though the Southwest Premier card is a good deal for frequent Southwest flyers, there are other cards you should consider in case you want to expand your redemption options beyond Southwest flights.

Chase Sapphire Reserve
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
United Explorer card
United℠ Explorer Card
Gold Delta SkyMiles card
Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
Rewards rate

  • 3 points per dollar on travel and dining
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
Rewards rate

  • 2 miles per dollar on United purchases, hotels, and restaurants
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
Rewards rate

  • 2 points per dollar on Delta purchases
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • Terms apply
Welcome bonus

50,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months

Welcome bonus

40,000 miles if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months

Welcome bonus

  • 60,000 bonus miles if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months
  • $50 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your card in first 3 months
  • Terms apply
Annual fee

$450

Annual fee

$95; waived the first year

Annual fee

$95, $0 first year (See rates and fees)

Other things to know

  • 1:1 transfers to airline and hotel partners
  • 50% travel redemption bonus
  • $300 annual travel credit – applies to most travel purchases
  • No foreign transaction fee
Other things to know

  • Free checked bag
  • $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA Precheck
  • Priority boarding privileges
  • 25% in-flight discount
  • 2 one-time passes to the United Club
  • No foreign transaction fee
Other things to know

  • Free checked bag for you and up to eight companions on the same reservation
  • Discounted Delta Sky Club access
  • Priority boarding
  • No foreign transaction fee

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a smart travel credit card to pick up – even if you also get a co-branded Southwest credit card. This card gives you 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 within three months of account opening. You also earn 3 points per dollar on travel and dining and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

There’s a $450 annual fee, but you qualify for lucrative benefits like a $300 annual travel credit, a Global Entry/TSA Precheck credit, Priority Pass Select membership and more. The best part is, you can transfer your points 1:1 to popular airline and hotel partners, including Southwest Rapid Rewards.

United Explorer Card

The United Explorer Card gives you 2 miles per dollar on United Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. You also get 40,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 on your card within three months of account opening. Other perks to look forward to include up to a $100 Global Entry or TSA Precheck credit and a free checked bag for you and a companion when you fly with the airline. There’s a $95 annual fee, but it’s waived the first year.

Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card

The Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card is another airline credit card to consider if you fly with Delta or its partners frequently. This card gives you 2 miles per dollar on purchases with the airline and 1 mile per dollar on all other purchases, but you’ll also get 60,000 bonus miles when you spend $2,000 on your card within three months of account opening. Cardholder perks include a free checked bag, discounted Delta Sky Club entry, priority boarding and more.

Why should you get the Southwest Premier card

  • Anyone who wants to earn an initial rush of Southwest Rapid Rewards points for meeting a minimum spending requirement.
  • Consumers who fly Southwest often and want to work toward elite status.
  • Frequent flyers who want to earn points they can use for flights within the U.S., to Hawaii and to the Caribbean.
  • Anyone who wants an airline credit card that comes with certain insurance benefits and consumer protections.

How to use the Southwest Premier card

  • Use it for purchases made with Southwest Airlines and its rental car and hotel partners.
  • Pair it with the Chase Sapphire Reserve so you can use that card to get 3 points per dollar on travel and dining purchases.
  • Use your card often to earn 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year so you can qualify for the Companion Pass.
  • Redeem your points for Wanna Get Away fares to get the most bang for your buck.
  • Refer a friend to any Southwest card to get 10,000 bonus points (up to 50,000 points per year).

Is the Southwest Premier card worth it?

The Southwest Premier card is definitely a good choice among airline credit cards, but it may not be the best card if you don’t fly Southwest often, or even if want to earn rewards specific to the Southwest Rapid Rewards program. Like we mentioned, the Chase Sapphire Reserve lets you earn 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining and you can transfer those points 1:1 to Southwest Airlines. Plus, it comes with a ton of perks you can’t get with a Southwest credit card.

Then again, we still think the Southwest Premier card is worth signing up for, particularly if you can earn card’s sign-up bonus, which is generally enough for a round-trip flight or two.

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