|Rewards Rating:||4.6 / 5|
|Annual Percentage Rate:||3.0|
|Issuer Customer Experience||4.0|
In a Nutshell:
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card is a great card for both Southwest Airlines fanatics and the more casual rewards card user, due to its generous annual bonus and many options for domestic travel.
Earn 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Chase Customer Service Ratings
Other Notable Features: Two free checked bags for cardholder, earn Companion Pass after 125,000 points allows you to 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 Credit Card’s $69 annual fee and meager rewards rate don’t do much to elevate this airline rewards card above others in its crowded category. That’s saying nothing of the plethora of comparably-priced general travel credit cards out there – cards that typically offer not only higher rewards rates in a wider variety of rewards categories, but also more flexible points. Indeed, some Chase credit cards even allow you to transfer your rewards to the Rapid Rewards loyalty program at a 1:1 ratio, making it hard to see why you’d need a dedicated Southwest co-branded card.
But don’t count the Rapid Rewards Plus card out just yet. Thanks to its solid annual bonus and carrier-specific perks, as well as Southwest Airlines’ reputation for customer-friendly policies like no-cost rebooking, open seating and free checked baggage, the card warrants a second look. While it won’t earn you many rewards on purchases outside of Southwest airfare bookings, the Rapid Rewards Plus could still be worth an application, especially if you’re a diehard Southwest loyalist and frequent flyer and think you could spend enough to earn the coveted Southwest Companion Pass.
See related: Is the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card worth it?
Why you might want the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card’s biggest selling points are undoubtedly its solid annual bonus and perks for Southwest flyers, including the chance to fast-track your way to the Southwest Companion Pass. The Southwest Rapid Rewards points also offer decent value compared to competitors like United.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card’s key advantages and why you might want to put in an application.
See related: How to pick an airline credit card
Gets you closer to the coveted Companion Pass
Many experienced Southwest travelers look to the Southwest Companion Pass as a sort of holy grail of rewards travel. The Southwest Companion Pass lets you choose one friend or family member to fly with you for free for up to two years (with the exception of taxes and fees) every time you purchase or redeem points for a flight. You don’t have to crunch a bunch of numbers to see the sort of incredible savings potential that comes with such an offer.
And while this perk doesn’t come cheap – requiring you to earn a whopping 125,000 points (135,000 points in 2023) or take 100 qualifying flights in a single year – the Rapid Rewards Plus card could go a long way toward helping you get there. That’s because the card makes it much easier to rack up Rapid Rewards points than if you’d simply earned them by purchasing tickets as a Rapid Rewards loyalty program member. Along with the Rapid Rewards points you’ll earn from the card’s sign-up bonus (75,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months), you’ll also earn points at a boosted rate via card spend.
Thought the Companion Pass perk will be out of reach for many, big spenders who plan ahead to put most or all of their purchases on the Rapid Rewards Plus card for their first year may be able to make the threshold. That said, if you want to give it a shot, it may be worth waiting for a higher sign-up bonus and getting together a list of big purchases you’ve been planning to make.
See related: How I used my Southwest Companion Pass
Easy-to-offset annual fee
Compared to many competing travel and airline cards, the Rapid Rewards Plus card’s annual fee is already relatively modest, weighing in at just $69 (versus the $95 to $250 or more you’ll find on plenty of the top cards), but the card becomes even more affordable when you factor in its annual bonus. Regardless of how much you’ve spent with the card, you’ll 3,000 bonus points each year on your account anniversary.
We estimate the value of Rapid Rewards points at 1.6 cents apiece, so we estimate this perk alone is worth about $48 in Southwest travel bookings.
While that doesn’t quite outweigh the card’s $69 annual fee, it comes pretty close and should give you some extra peace of mind considering you won’t have to strategize or meet any spending thresholds to reap this benefit. Simply hang on to the Rapid Rewards Plus and keep your account in good standing and the card’s annual bonus can cover over half its cost.
Unlike many pricier rewards cards, which require you to take advantage of a laundry list of perks to justify their high price tag, the Rapid Rewards Plus requires almost no effort. As long as you take one flight a year or put a few hundred dollars of purchases on the card every month, you shouldn’t have trouble offsetting the fee.
Decent set of benefits for Southwest loyalists
While you won’t find a ton of luxury perks with the Rapid Rewards Plus card – which is to be expected given its low cost – the card does come with a handful of useful benefits for frequent travelers, including a couple of recently-added benefits that should make your Southwest flying experience just a bit more pleasant. Among the card’s notable perks, our favorites include:
- 2 EarlyBird check-ins each year – You’ll get a pair of credits you can use for early check-ins twice per year. This lets you automatically automatic check-in before the typical 24-hour check-in period and allows you to get an earlier boarding position and better chance to select your preferred seat and store your bags. EarlyBird check-in typically costs between $15 and $20.
- 25% back on inflight purchases – You’ll get a nice discount on any inflight purchases, including drinks, meals and internet access.
- Car rental insurance – When you book and pay for your car rental with your Southwest Plus card, you can receive secondary coverage in the case of damage or theft (up to the actual cash value of most rental vehicles).
- Baggage delay insurance – This benefit provides reimbursement for the emergency purchase of essential items when your baggage is delayed by more than six hours, up to $100 per day for a maximum of three days.
- Lost luggage reimbursement – If your bag is lost or damaged, you can be covered up to $3,000 per passenger.
- Roadside dispatch – If your car breaks down, you can place a service call for $59.95 that covers things like towing, tire changing, jump starting, lockout service and fuel delivery. The cost is billed directly to your Southwest card.
- Travel accident insurance – This benefit provides coverage in the event you experience accidental death or dismemberment, or a combined loss of speech, sight or hearing on a covered trip.
- Travel and emergency assistance services – If you have an emergency away from home, you can receive free referrals to local services (such as medical, legal or transportation assistance) by placing a call to the benefits administrator.
- Extended warranty protection – Southwest Plus cardholders can extend the original manufacturer’s warranty by one year on eligible purchases made with the card, up to $10,000 per claim.
- Purchase protection – This benefit covers eligible items purchased with your card in the event of theft or damage.
Unfortunately, while these perks are fairly run-of-the-mill compared to other airline credit cards, they can come in handy if you fly frequently. For example, the United Explorer Card provides up to a $100 credit every four years to help cover the costs of Global Entry or TSA PreCheck status, as well as discounts on in-flight purchases such as drinks and Wi-Fi access.
Why you might want a different card
While the Southwest Rapid Reward Plus card is a decent option for Southwest loyalists who want to keep their costs in check, it’s unlikely to be the most lucrative card for either Southwest purchases or earning travel rewards in general. If you’re looking to maximize your Rapid Rewards points and Southwest perks, a higher-tier Southwest card may be worth the (slightly) higher cost. Meanwhile, if you want a bit more flexibility with how you earn and redeem your rewards, a general travel rewards card will likely be a better fit.
Other Southwest cards offer better value
While the Rapid Rewards Plus is the most affordable Southwest credit card, its also the least lucrative option. If you The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, for example, costs more than double the Rapid Rewards Plus ($149), but in exchange comes with a higher rewards rate on Southwest purchases (3 points per dollar on Southwest purchases versus 2 points per dollar with the Plus card) as well as better perks, including four upgraded boardings per year (when available).
Indeed, the Priority card’s $75 annual travel credit to use toward Southwest purchases and 7,500 bonus points each account anniversary (worth around $120 in Southwest travel by our estimates) are enough to cover the card’s higher cost on their own, making it hard to see much reason to opt for the lower-priced Plus card if you travel frequently.
The situation is similar with the mid-tier alternative, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. You’ll pay $99 per year, versus $69 for the Plus, but you’ll get 6,000 points on your account anniversary instead of 3,000. Based on our calculations, the Premier’s anniversary bonus is worth an additional $48, which more than covers the $30 difference in annual fees.
Depending on how often you travel internationally – and keeping in mind Southwest’s limited international routes – the Premier card could also save you money when you use your card overseas, since it charges no foreign transaction fees. (The Plus, meanwhile, imposes a 3% foreign transaction fee.)
Middling point value, low rewards rate and limited flexibility
Given an estimated value of 1.6 cents apiece, Southwest Rapid Rewards points land squarely in the middle compared to other airline rewards programs we’ve valued. For example, American Airlines AAdvantage points are worth 1.9 cents each, while United MileagePlus points are valued at 1.52 cents apiece. The number of points required for a Southwest flight varies based on the price of airfare and other factors, so Rapid Rewards points often have lower average values than points earned with loyalty programs like AAdvantage and British Airways’ Executive Club, both of which use fixed charts to price award flights.
The base reward rate for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card is also low at just 2 points per dollar on Southwest purchases, including flights, partner hotels and other travel expenses through the airline. You’ll also earn 2 points per dollar on all local transit, commuting (including rideshare options), internet, cable, phone services and select streaming purchases.
However, unless you spend a ton of money with Southwest or in those niche categories, you’ll likely earn much more overall with a card that earns bonus rewards in more popular everyday spending categories like groceries, dining and gas.
If you opt for a general travel rewards card, you’ll also have more flexibility to redeem your rewards with other airlines based on your needs, instead of having your rewards stuck with Southwest. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers 5 points per dollar on travel booked through Chase (excluding hotel purchases that qualify for the card’s $50 Anniversary Hotel Credit), 3 points per dollar at restaurants, select streaming services and online grocery purchases, as well as 2 points per dollar on all non-Chase travel purchases, essentially matching the Plus card’s rate on Southwest purchases. Best of all, you could then redeem your Ultimate Rewards points for travel with a variety of airlines, transfer to loyalty programs (including Southwest Rapid Rewards) or opt for cash back, gift cards and more at a minimum of 1 cent per point in value.
Though Southwest Plus cardholders have a variety of redemption options at their disposal, including airfare, gift cards, car rentals, merchandise, hotel stays and more, the value of your Rapid Rewards points will vary based on how you redeem them. If you want to redeem for anything other than Southwest flights, you’ll likely have to sacrifice point value.
Southwest Plus redemption options
|Wanna Get Away fare||1.6|
|Business Select fare||0.9|
How does the Southwest Plus card compare to other cards?
The Southwest Plus card is a good option for frequent flyers on Southwest, but if Southwest isn’t your airline of choice, or you want some more flexibility on how you redeem your points or where you fly, you should check out these other options:
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
United℠ Explorer Card
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
|Rewards rate||Rewards rate||Rewards rate|
60,000 points if you spend $4,000 in the first three months
|Welcome bonus||Welcome bonus|
$95 (waived the first year)
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99
|Other things to know||Other things to know||Other things to know|
Rapid Rewards Plus card vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred
Even if Southwest Airlines is your airline of choice, the Chase Sapphire Preferred could still be a rewards card worth considering. Although it charges a higher annual fee, the Sapphire Preferred offers a few benefits that might outweigh the added costs.
For example, Sapphire Preferred cardholders can score 5 points per dollar on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3 points per dollar on dining, and 2 points per dollar on other travel purchases, whereas the Southwest Plus only offers 2 points per dollar for Southwest flights or purchases made with the airline’s hotel and car rental partners, as well as local transit, commuting, internet, cable, phone services and select streaming purchases. The Chase Sapphire Preferred also gives you the option of transferring points to several travel partners at a 1:1 ratio. Depending on the partner, the value of your points could end up exceeding the value of Rapid Rewards points earned with the Southwest Plus card.
Finally, one major advantage of the Chase Sapphire Preferred is the ability to pair it with other Ultimate Rewards cards to further boost your earnings.
Rapid Rewards Plus card vs. United Explorer Card
The United Explorer card is another potential alternative to the Southwest Plus card. It lacks the annual cardmember bonus of the Southwest Plus, but it does come with two one-time passes to the United Club every year (valued at more than $100). This more than makes up for the 3,000 anniversary points you’d get with the Southwest Plus, which we value at $48.
In addition, the United Explorer card offers priority boarding and a credit up to $100 every four years to cover the cost of Global Entry or TSA PreCheck status, which the Southwest Plus card lacks. Unlike Southwest, however, United Airlines has a few more restrictions when it comes to booking award travel.
Rapid Rewards Plus card vs. Delta SkyMiles Gold Amex
Like the Southwest Plus, the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express offers a generous welcome offer. Delta SkyMiles Gold members also enjoy a free first checked bag on Delta flights, free ShopRunner membership and a larger flight network than what the Southwest Plus card provides. That said, the similar rewards value when redeeming rewards for flights mean the cards are pretty equally matched – which one is best for you really depends on which airline you prefer.
How to use the Southwest Plus card
- Spend at least $3,000 within the first three months to earn the current sign-up bonus (75,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months).
- Use your card to pay for local transit, commuting (including rideshares), internet, cable, phone services and select streaming.
- Opt for Southwest’s “Wanna Get Away” fares or book travel during the airline’s frequent specials to maximize your points’ value.
- When shopping online, start with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping portal to take advantage of bonus rewards and special offers.
- Choose restaurants and bars included in the Rapid Rewards Dining program when dining out.
- Book hotel stays through SouthwestHotels.com or Rocketmiles.com.
Is the Southwest Plus card right for you?
If you frequently fly with Southwest Airlines, the Southwest Plus card is a decent way to earn Rapids Rewards points at a faster clip. That said, you can enjoy better perks and value with other Southwest cards, general travel cards or even other airline rewards cards if you’re not particularly devoted to Southwest.
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