Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card review

Published: October 17, 2019

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Published: October 17, 2019

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Ratings Policy
Rewards Rating:
3.8 rating
3.8 rating
3.8 / 5
Rewards Value: 4.1
Annual Percentage Rate: 2.0
Rewards Flexibility: 3.8
Features: 3.0
Customer Experience 3.6

In a Nutshell:

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card doesn’t have as much heft as most elite airline cards, but it does offer enough value to justify paying the higher fee.

Learn more about this card

Rewards Rate

  • 2 points per dollar on Southwest Rapid Rewards, hotel and car rental partner purchases
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases

Sign-up Bonus

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

Annual Bonus

  • 7,500 points on your card anniversary
  • $75 annual travel credit

Annual Fee
$149

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$534

APR
17.74-24.74% (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

Flight Options

  • Airline partners: none
  • Daily flights: 3,600
  • Destinations: 90
  • Countries served: 10

Customer Experience

Other Notable Features: $75 annual Southwest travel credit, 4 Upgraded Boardings per year (when available), 20% discount on in-flight purchases, no foreign transaction fees, 1,500 tier qualifying points (TQPs) for each $10,000 spent (up to $100,000/15,000 TQPs per year), 2 free checked bags, Companion Pass after you earn 110,000 points (125,000 points starting 1/1/2020) allows you to choose one person to fly free with you every time you purchase or redeem points for a flight

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card Review: Benefits and Features

If you frequently fly with Southwest and are looking for a new way to stockpile Rapid Rewards points, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card is a great way to get there. It comes with a high $149 annual fee, but it offers a few more perks than other Southwest cards.

Solid sign-up bonus

The Southwest Priority card offers 40,000 points for signing up for the card and spending $1,000 in the first three months. This matches the sign-up offers on many competing airline cards, but at least the spending threshold is very low to receive the bonus. And it’s a fairly valuable offer – worth around $640 in Southwest airfare.

Annual bonus

In addition to a great sign-up bonus, the Southwest Priority card comes with a 7,500-point bonus every year on your account anniversary. This might not seem like much, but it can be worth about $120 in airfare when redeemed for the Wanna Get Away fare.

The card also includes an annual travel credit of up to $75, which is automatically applied to your statement when you use your card to make a Southwest purchase (excludes in-flight purchases). When you combine the anniversary bonus with the $75 savings on airfare every year, it is easy to offset the card’s $149 annual fee.

Earning points

One big downside to the Southwest Priority card is a limited rewards rate. Cardholders earn 2 points per dollar on Southwest, Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases and 1 point per dollar on other purchases. This makes it difficult to earn points on everyday purchases, so you’ll need to travel fairly often to rack up rewards quickly.

See Related: 16 ways to earn Southwest points quickly

What are Southwest Rapid Rewards points worth?

Fortunately, Southwest Rapid Rewards are some of the more valuable airline currencies available, so your points can take you a long way. When compared to other rewards programs, the point value of Rapid Rewards outpaces most.

Because the points you earn on the Southwest Priority card are so valuable, you get a decent rewards value out of every dollar you spend – despite a lower earning rate. Unfortunately, the Southwest Priority card still falls behind other airline rewards cards that earn points on more kinds of purchases. Here’s how much we estimate you earn per dollar with some of our most popular airfare rewards cards, factoring in the earning rate and average point value.

As you can see, generic travel cards with good airline redemption options – such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve or American Express Gold card – tend to get a higher value out of your purchases than co-branded airline cards.

 

Redeeming points

One big plus to the Southwest Priority card is a wide variety of redemption options, making it easy to get great value out of your points. Your points won’t expire, and there are no blackout dates or limits on reward seats. Plus, you can use your rewards to book any one of Southwest’s three fare categories – Wanna Get Away, Anytime and Business Select. By our estimates, Wanna Get Away fares get the best value out of your points, but all rewards flights still get a pretty good point value.

Southwest Rapid Rewards fare options

Fare Average point value (cents)
Wanna Get Away 1.6
Anytime 1.1
Business Select 0.9

If you prefer to use your points for something other than a reward flight, the Southwest Priority card does come with a few other options.

Southwest Rapid Rewards redemption options

Redemption option Point value (cents)
Gift cards 0.7
Car rentals 0.7
Merchandise 0.6
Hotel 0.2
Experiences 0.8

Unfortunately, there is no good cash redemption option. Plus, since you get the best point value on Wanna Get Away flights, we recommend using most of your rewards this way.

See Related: The best ways to redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards points

Flight network

In the U.S., Southwest offer decent flight coverage, with more than 3,600 flights to more than 90 destinations. The airline also recently debuted flights to Hawaii, making it easier to travel to the islands on a budget.

For international travel, however, Southwest flights are very limited. If you prefer to travel abroad, the Rapid Rewards program probably isn’t the best for you.

Flights to Hawaii

When Southwest recently announced that they would be debuting flights to Hawaii, it certainly turned heads. Since flights to the state are often expensive – and Southwest has a reputation for decent prices – you can potentially save money by flying with the airline. Unfortunately, the availability of flights to and from Hawaii is very limited right now, with few flight times and departure airports.

However, these flights can still be a great way to get good value out of your Rapid Rewards points, and you’ll have an easier time earning enough points to cover the cost with the Southwest Priority card.

Earning the Southwest Companion Pass

One of the biggest perks of Southwest Rapid Rewards is the Southwest Companion Pass, a perk that lets qualifying members designate a friend or family member to fly with them for free (except the taxes and fees) on every Southwest flight they buy (with points or cash).

Earning the pass is no small feat, however: Currently, you need to earn 110,000 Rapid Rewards points in a single year to qualify for the pass, but starting January 1, 2020, you’ll need to earn 125,000 points in a single year. Fortunately, the points you earn with the Southwest Priority card can help you achieve this goal. The sign-up bonus alone gets you nearly halfway to your first Companion Pass.

See related: How to get the Southwest Companion Pass

A-list status

One downside to the Southwest Priority card is that it doesn’t come with automatic elite status in the Rapid Rewards program – despite charging a high annual fee. To achieve A-List status or A-List Preferred status, you’ll still have to take enough qualifying flights or earn enough points. Unlike with the Companion Pass, points earned with the Southwest Priority card’s sign-up bonus won’t count toward A-List status.

If unlocking elite perks is your goal, we recommend taking advantage of other shortcuts like booking short flights or purchasing Business Preferred fares.

See Related: Southwest A-List status: Benefits and tips for earning it faster

Other Southwest Priority card benefits

The Southwest Priority card also comes with a few other perks that make it a valuable choice for frequent travelers.

  • $75 annual travel credit– You get a $75 credit each year to use toward airfare, baggage fees and other miscellaneous fees. This is much more valuable than the typical travel credit that only counts toward incidentals. In fact, we’ve added it into the annual rewards value, because it basically functions as an additional bonus toward free airfare.
  • 4 Upgraded Boardings per year – Depending on availability, you get four free upgrades into the A1-A15 boarding group each year. Though not as valuable as unlimited preferred status that comes with some airline cards, it’s a nice perk to have if you love to be in front of the line on Southwest.
  • 20-percent discount on in-flight purchases – You get a 20-percent discount on in-flight purchases with the card, including drinks, Wi-Fi, messaging and movies.
  • 2 free checked bags – You get two free checked bags on every Southwest flight. Actually, this isn’t a card perk – every passenger on Southwest is entitled to free checked bags – but, since most airline cards tout free checked bags as a feature, we would note that this perk is automatically granted to all Southwest passengers, including your flying companions, whether or not they’re on the same reservation as you.
  • No foreign transaction fees – The card doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee for purchases made outside the U.S., including online purchases (most cards charge between a 2 to 3 percent fee for foreign transactions).
  • Car rental insurance – As long as you book and pay for your car rental with your card, you can receive secondary coverage in the case of damage or theft.
  • Baggage delay insurance – If your bag is delayed by more than six hours, you can be reimbursed for essential purchases like toiletries for up to three days (max $100 per day).
  • Lost luggage reimbursement – If your checked or carry-on luggage is lost, you can be reimbursed up to $3,000 per passenger to replace your items.
  • Travel accident insurance – When you charge your fare to your Southwest Priority card, you can be covered in case of accidental death or dismemberment when travelling by common carrier.

To take full advantage of these benefits, put all major travel purchases on your Southwest Priority card.

Southwest Priority card vs. Southwest Premier card

If you are eager to start racking up Rapid Rewards points, but hesitant about paying a $149 annual fee, Southwest also offers a less expensive co-branded card – the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card. The Premier card offers the same rewards rate and sign-up bonus as the Priority card, as well as a slightly lower annual fee of $99, but it comes with fewer additional perks.

Since the Premier card has the same rewards earning scheme as the Priority for a lower annual fee, it can be tempting to jump at the lower cost. However, we estimate frequent Southwest flyers can get more value out of the additional perks that come with the Priority card. Here’s a quick look at each card’s annual bonus and extra benefits.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority vs. Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier
7,500 annual bonus points (worth around $120 in airfare) 6,000 annual bonus points (worth around $96 in airfare)
$75 travel credit $99 fee
4 Upgraded boardings
20% in-flight discount
$149 fee

When you add the higher annual bonus to the yearly travel credit, it is easy to offset the Priority card’s slightly higher fee.

Customer experience

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card is issued by Chase, which has a good customer service reputation. In J.D. Power’s 2019 customer satisfaction survey, the bank scored 807, tied for third out of 11 major issuers. Chase offers 24/7 customer service, but unfortunately does not have an online chat feature – which can make it a bit more difficult to find quick answers to simple questions.

On the plus side, the Chase mobile app rates well among users, rating 4.6 out of 5 in the Google Play Store and 4.8 out of 5 in the Apple App Store.

Approval odds

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card is designed for users with good to excellent credit (above 670), so you’ll want to ensure you meet those qualifications before you apply. Additionally, Chase is strict about how many credit cards you can have open at a time, holding applicants to the 5/24 rule. That means if you’ve opened five or more credit cards with any issuer in the past 24 months, it is likely you won’t be approved.

How does the Southwest Priority card compare to other rewards cards?

While the Southwest Priority card comes with some valuable benefits for frequent Southwest flyers, it might not be the best option for every cardholder. If you don’t mind choosing another airline based on the ability to rack up points or miles faster – or even opting for a generic travel card rather than sticking with one loyalty program – you might be able to get more value out of your credit card. Here are a few alternatives to the Southwest Priority:

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

  • 3 points per dollar on travel and restaurant purchases (excluding purchases covered by $300 travel credit)
  • 1 point per dollar on general purchases
Rewards rate

  • 2 miles per dollar on hotels, restaurants and directly purchase United tickets
  • 1 mile per dollar on other purchases
Rewards rate

  • 2 miles per dollar on Delta purchases
  • 1 mile per dollar on other purchases
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

  • Earn 60,000 Bonus Miles after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within your first 3 months (offer expires 10/30/2019)
  • $50 statement credit after you make a Delta  purchase in your first 3 months
Annual fee

$450

Annual fee

$95 (waived first year)

Annual fee

$95 (waived first year)

Other things to know

  • $300 annual travel credit
  • Up to $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck
  • 50% higher point value when redeemed through Ultimate Rewards
Other things to know

  • Up to $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck
  • 2 one-time passes to the United Club
  • 25% in-flight discount
Other things to know

  • Discounted Delta Sky Club access
  • Free checked bag for you and up to 8 companions
  • Priority boarding
  • 20% in-flight discount
  • Terms apply

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with a high $450 annual fee – but it offers some of the best travel perks among rewards cards. Most notably, the card includes a $300 credit every year for any travel purchase, applied automatically to your card statement as you make qualifying purchases. Since you earn points on all travel and dining purchases, it is also easy to rack up significant rewards.

If you redeem your points for travel purchases through the Ultimate Rewards portal, you also get a higher point value – 1.5 cents per point. The Ultimate Rewards portal lets you book a wide variety of travel purchases, including flights with several airlines. Plus, Chase recently added the ability to book Southwest flights through the portal — an uncommon feature for the airline.

United Explorer Card

If you are a fan of United Airlines, the United Explorer card offers a bevy of perks. Unlike the Southwest Priority card, the United Explorer offers bonus miles on restaurant purchases, making it much easier to rack up plenty of rewards. While United MileagePlus miles have a slightly lower average value than Rapid Rewards points, United Airlines has a much larger flight network and plenty of international options – making it a potentially better loyalty program for frequent international travelers.

In addition, the United Explorer card charges a lower annual fee, while still including valuable perks. For example, the card includes a credit for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application every four years and two one-time United Club passes per year.

Gold Delta SkyMiles card

Another good alternative to the Southwest Priority card is the Gold Delta SkyMiles American Express card. The Gold Delta card offers a similar rewards rate to the Southwest Priority, but it comes with a slightly lower annual fee. Delta SkyMiles are also worth slightly more than Rapid Rewards points by our estimates – and can be used on a much larger flight network.

On the downside, the Gold Delta SkyMiles card doesn’t come with any sort of annual bonus, so you’ll have to spend heavily on Delta purchases to earn enough miles for a free flight.

Who should get the Southwest Priority card?

  • Frequent Southwest flyers looking to earn points toward reward flights faster.
  • Cardholders seeking the Southwest Companion Pass who will take advantage of a large-sign up bonus.
  • Travelers who prefer domestic to international travel.

How to use the Southwest Priority card:

Is the Southwest Priority card worth it?

For frequent Southwest travelers, the Southwest Priority card offers plenty of valuable perks that can offset its high annual fee. If you are working toward the coveted Southwest Companion Pass, signing up for this card is a big step to help you get there.

However, if you frequently travel abroad, you might be better off opting for a card with a different airline or a generic travel card.

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