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Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card review

Published: January 22, 2019

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Published: January 22, 2019

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Ratings Policy
Rewards Rating:
4 rating
4 rating
4 / 5
Rewards Value: 4.8
Annual Percentage Rate: 1.9
Rewards Flexibility: 3.8
Features: 2.0

In a Nutshell:

The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus card is a great card for both Southwest Airlines fanatics and the more casual rewards card user, due to its generous sign-up bonus and many options for domestic travel.

Learn more about this card

Rewards Rate

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

Sign-up Bonus

  • 30,000 bonus points and a Southwest Companion Pass (pass expires 12/31/19) if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months
  • Offer expires 2/11/19

Annual Bonus
3,000 points each account anniversary

Annual Fee
$69

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$838

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

Other Notable Features: Two free checked bags for cardholder, Companion Pass after 110,000 points (choose one person to fly for just taxes and fees with you every time you purchase or redeem points for a flight), car rental insurance, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, roadside dispatch, travel accident insurance, travel and emergency assistance services, extended warranty protection, purchase protection

At first glance, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card’s $69 annual fee and meager rewards scheme doesn’t really elevate this airline loyalty card above others in its crowded category. But a top-tier sign-up bonus and the opportunity to snag Southwest’s treasured Companion Pass mean the card warrants a second look, especially when you consider Southwest Airline’s reputation as having affable employees and customer-friendly policies like no-cost rebooking, open seating and free checked baggage.

Generous limited-time sign-up bonus

Until Feb. 11, 2019, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card is offering a valuable limited-time sign-up bonus – 30,000 points and a Southwest Companion Pass is you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months. With the Companion Pass, you can designate a friend to bring with you on any Southwest flight you book (even an award flight) for just the cost of taxes and fees.

The sign-up points have great value too, as you can stretch them further by opting for domestic flights along some of Southwest’s highly trafficked routes, some of which can be booked for as little as 3,500 points.

To get the biggest bang for your buck, search the airline’s low fare calendar when your travel dates are flexible, choose “Wanna Get Away” tickets when purchasing flights and take advantage of Southwest’s frequent fare sales.

Unremarkable rewards rate

The base reward rate for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card is one point per dollar spent on general purchases. You collect two points per dollar on Southwest flights or with the airline’s hotel and car rental partners. While on the low side, the earnings structure is on par with most other airline rewards cards.

Eligible hotel chains include Best Western, Marriott and La Quinta Inns and Suites. Be sure to read the fine print, as you’ll need to be a member of the hotel’s specific rewards program and select your earning preference as Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards. To earn points via car rentals at companies like Hertz and Avis, simply request Rapid Rewards points at the time of your reservation.

Free Companion Pass

After the sign-up bonus Companion Pass expires on Dec. 31, 2019, casual travelers may find it difficult to cross the threshold to earn it again. However, this exclusive perk is extremely valuable for anyone who meets the requirements. You’ll need to fly 100 one-way flights or accrue 110,000 points in a calendar year to qualify for a Companion Pass, which lets you choose one lucky friend or family member to fly with you for free every time you purchase or redeem points for a flight.

The best part? The Companion Pass is valid for the remainder of the year in which it’s earned, plus the entire following year — so even if it takes you until December to earn 110,000 points, the pass itself is valid for well beyond the year’s last remaining month.

Flexible redemption options

As a Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus cardholder, you can redeem points for domestic and international flights, hotel stays, car rentals, gift cards, merchandise, cruises and more. Booking travel with points is as easy as logging into your Rapid Rewards account on Southwest.com, viewing fares in points vs. dollars and selecting your desired flight. For everything else, navigate to the website’s “More Rewards” section for guidance in completing your purchase.

Higher-than-average APR

A high variable interest rate is one of the biggest drawbacks to the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card. Though the average APR for airline credit cards is 17.05 percent, even cardholders with the highest credit scores will be subject to a minimum APR of  18.24 percent — and for less-than-perfect credit, the APR goes to 25.24 percent. Regardless of where you fall on the credit-score spectrum, you’d be wise to pay your balance in full every month to avoid facing excessive interest charges.

Limited choices for international flights

Southwest Airlines is better known for its quirky flight attendants and open-seating policy than for being a worldwide carrier. Since it first started offering international flights in 2014 — then limited to Aruba, Jamaica and the Bahamas — Southwest has expanded its international destinations to Belize, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and several Mexican cities, including Cancún, Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta. If you’re looking to go beyond Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card isn’t your best option.

So-so travel perks

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card comes with Visa Signature benefits, but the included perks are fairly run-of-the-mill compared to other airline credit cards. While things like car rental insurance, lost luggage reimbursement and roadside dispatch certainly come in handy for frequent travelers, there’s nothing above the industry standard here.

Why get the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card?

  • You’re already a frequent Southwest flyer.
  • You’re planning a honeymoon or other big trip and want to take advantage of the card’s sign-up bonus.
  • You rarely travel internationally and won’t be affected by Southwest’s limited options for foreign flights.

How to use the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card:

  • Spend at least $4,000 within the first three months to earn the sign-up bonus.
  • Opt for Southwest’s “Wanna Get Away” fares or book travel during the airline’s frequent specials to maximize your points value.
  • Pay your balance in full every month to avoid paying above-average interest.

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