|Rewards Rating:||4.1 / 5|
|Annual Percentage Rate:||4.0|
|Issuer Customer Experience||4.0|
In a Nutshell:
It lacks the heft of most elite airline cards, but for loyal Southwest flyers, this card offers enough value to justify its higher fee.
Earn 50,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Chase Customer Service Ratings
Other Notable Features: $75 annual Southwest travel credit, 4 Upgraded Boardings per year (when available), 25% 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.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card is the highest-tier co-branded Southwest consumer travel rewards card. And while many of its features are also found on the entry-level and mid-tier options–including a chance to earn bonus rewards for travel, a sign-up bonus and in-flight discounts – the Southwest Priority card goes further.
The card offers a number of perks that can easily offset its $149 annual fee, including four upgraded boardings per year (when available) and a $75 annual travel credit. You also get a higher anniversary bonus than the other Southwest cards offer: 7,500 points each year after your anniversary, plus 1,500 tier qualifying points (TQPs) for every $10,000 you spend on purchases each year. These two perks will surely stand out for loyal Southwest flyers who want to reach Southwest A-list status or earn the coveted Companion Pass.
But depending on how you like to travel, the Southwest Priority card may not be your best option. It lacks several features you can find with other airline credit cards, like automatic priority boarding on every flight for you and your companions (a must-have for frequent flyers who want guaranteed overhead space), discounted or complimentary lounge access, or a credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. And if you’re not loyal to one airline or like to earn bonus points or miles for everyday spending like groceries, gas and dining, you could get better value out of a general-purpose travel rewards card.
Why you might want the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card
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 annual fee, but it offers a few more perks than other Southwest cards.
Solid sign-up bonus
The latest Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card sign-up bonus gives you a chance to earn 50,000 points after you spend $1,000 in your first three months. We estimate this bonus is worth about $750 based on a Bankrate’s latest airline mile valuations, which give Southwest Rapid Rewards points a value of around 1.5 cents per point. This bonus is a 25,000-point drop from the card’s previous bonus of 75,000 points after a $3,000 spend in the same time frame (though the new spending requirement is also much lower, making it a bit easier to reach).
Anniversary credits and bonus points
In addition to a decent 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 Southwest 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.
Decent rewards rate on Southwest purchases
The Southwest Priority card earns 3X points on Southwest purchases. This is a nice rate considering some airline cards only offer 2X or 3X miles on direct bookings made with the airline. For example, the Delta SkyMiles Reserve packs in plenty of luxury benefits to help offset its $550 annual fee, but it only earns 3X miles on Delta purchases. If racking up the miles is more important to you than airline-specific perks, you’ll want to check out general-purpose travel cards like the Chase Sapphire cards or one of the Capital One Venture cards
The Priority card also earns 2X points in a few other categories like Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners, local transit and commuting purchases, as well as internet, cable, phone and select streaming services. All other purchases earn 1X points.
See related: 16 ways to earn Southwest points quickly
A chance to earn the Southwest Companion Pass
The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the biggest perks of Southwest Rapid Rewards cards. It lets qualifying members pick a friend or family member to fly with them for free (excluding taxes and fees) on every Southwest flight they buy (with points or cash) for up to two years. You can score this coveted perk on an ongoing basis when you earn 125,000 points or take 100 qualifying flights in a year. All points earned via card spend and your sign-up bonus should count toward that total, so get started earning early if you want to snag this valuable perk.
See related: How to get the Southwest Companion Pass
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 Southwest airfare, baggage fees and other miscellaneous fees. This is much more valuable than many of the credits you’ll find on competing airline cards, which often only counts toward incidentals like seat selection fees, not airfare itself. In fact, we factor this credit into the card’s annual rewards value for scoring purposes, because it basically functions as an ongoing bonus toward free airfare.
- 4 upgraded boardings per year – Depending on availability, you can get four free upgrades into the A1-A15 boarding group each year. Though not as valuable as the unlimited preferred status that comes with some airline cards, it’s a nice perk to have if you love being at the front of the Southwest boarding line.
- 25% discount on in-flight purchases – You get a 25% discount on in-flight purchases with the card, including drinks and Wi-Fi.
- 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% fee for foreign transactions). Although Southwest offers limited international routes, this could make the card a great addition to your wallet if you occasionally travel abroad but stick to Southwest for domestic flights.
- 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.
Tip: Most airline cards tout free checked bags as a feature, but every passenger on Southwest – whether or not they’re a Southwest cardholder – gets two free checked bags.
Value may beat that of lower-cost Southwest cards
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 Southwest travel credit||$99 annual fee|
|4 upgraded boardings (when available)|
|25% in-flight discount|
|$149 annual 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.
Why you might want a different card
The Southwest Priority card is a solid choice for flyers loyal to this budget-friendly airline. But depending on your spending and travel habits, it may not provide the best value. If you’re looking for a travel card that can help you maximize your rewards or one that flies to major destinations all over the world, the Priority card may not be the right choice for you.
Limited redemption options
Southwest’s loyalty program isn’t the worst out there. Your points won’t expire, and there are no blackout dates or limits on reward seats. But depending on how you like to fly, Rapid Rewards points may not give you the best value. Looking at Southwest’s three fare categories – Wanna Get Away, Anytime and Business Select – only Wanna Get Away redemptions provide much more than 1 cent per point in value.
|Fare||Average point value (cents)|
|Wanna Get Away||1.6|
And it doesn’t get any better if you try to redeem your points for options beyond flying with the airline:
|Redemption option||Point value (cents)|
If you’re looking for more options, you’ll get better value with a general-purpose card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred. It has a smaller annual fee ($95), but packs in a lot of features, including a more robust rewards program that rewards spending in travel, dining, and everyday categories. When you’re ready, you can redeem those points in a number of ways, including cash back, gift certificates and eligible past travel purchases made with the card. Many of your redemption options are worth at least 1 cent per point, and redeeming for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program increases your point value by 25% to 1.25 cents per point.
Limited routes and no transfer partners
Southwest Airlines has undergone a route expansion and now flies to more than 100 destinations. But the airline still doesn’t fly to major destinations like Europe, Asia or Africa, and its list of routes pales in comparison to major airlines like United Airlines or American Airlines, both of which fly to over 300 destinations worldwide.
And since Southwest doesn’t have airline transfer partners and isn’t part of an airline alliance, points earned with the Southwest Priority are locked into the Rapid Rewards program. If Southwest doesn’t fly to your favorite destination, you’re better off with another airline credit card or general-purpose travel rewards card that lets you transfer points between loyalty programs.
For example, as members of the Oneworld Alliance, the frequent flyer programs for American Airlines and Alaska Airlines make it easier for travelers to earn and redeem their miles across 13 member airlines. And the right general-purpose travel card will also provide greater flexibility to your points or miles. American Express has almost 20 airline transfer partners that will let you use your Membership Rewards points, and Capital One’s airline transfer partners have grown to more than 15 airline loyalty programs.
A-list status isn’t automatic
One downside to most airline cards – including the Southwest Priority card – is that it doesn’t come with automatic elite status. To achieve Southwest A-List status or A-List Preferred status in the Rapid Rewards program, you’ll still have to take 25 qualifying one-way flights or earn 35,000 tier qualifying points (TQPs) in a calendar year. Plus, unlike with the Companion Pass, points earned with the Southwest Priority card’s sign-up bonus won’t count toward A-List status.
While the Southwest Priority card gives you a headstart by offering 1,500 TQPs every time you spend $10,000, that still leaves frequent flyers a long way off from reaching elite status. If unlocking elite perks is your goal, we recommend taking advantage of other shortcuts like booking short flights or purchasing Business Preferred fares.
The perks may not justify the annual fee
Southwest Airlines is known for its low fares and flexibility when it comes to booking flights, and many of the perks that come with the Priority card are a good fit for people who don’t care about flying first class and budget travelers comfortable with a limited-frills airline experience.
But depending on the perks that matter to you, this airline card may not be the best value. For example, frequent travelers who fly more than four times in a year may not get enough value out of this card’s four upgraded boarding per year (when available). If unlimited priority boarding and being able to secure overhead space on your flights is a priority, you’d get better peace of mind with a card like the United℠ Explorer Card or the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card. Both cards have lower annual fees while offering unlimited priority boarding when flying with their respective airlines.
Before choosing an airline credit card, it’s a good idea to compare all the features the airline offers and think about which ones matter most to you. That way, you’re getting the best value possible and not settling for a card that only has one or two nice features.
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:
|Rewards rate||Rewards rate||Rewards rate|
60,000 points if you spend $4,000 in first 3 months
|Welcome bonus||Welcome bonus|
$95 (waived first year)
$0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99
|Other things to know||Other things to know||Other things to know|
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a general-purpose travel card, so it doesn’t offer airline-specific perks like priority boarding or a chance to earn a companion pass or elite status.
But what it does have is some of the best general travel benefits available on a rewards card, which can help cover its high $550 annual fee. 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. There are also plenty of chances to earn high rewards thanks to travel and dining categories that earn points at a higher rate than you’ll typically find on co-branded airline cards.
Plus, frequent flyers who redeem points for travel purchases through the Ultimate Rewards portal 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, you can transfer points to Southwest or book book Southwest flights with Ultimate Rewards at a fixed value of 1.5 cents per point.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card vs. 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 priority boarding, a credit for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application every four years and two one-time United Club passes per year.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card vs. Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express card
Another good alternative to the Southwest Priority card is the Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express card. The Delta Gold card offers a similar rewards rate to the Southwest Priority, but it features more category variety and comes with a slightly lower annual fee ($99 per year after the $0 intro annual fee for the first year). Delta SkyMiles are also worth slightly more than Rapid Rewards points by our estimates – and can be used on a much larger flight network.
Who should get the Southwest Priority card?
- Frequent Southwest flyers looking to earn points toward reward flights faster.
- Cardholders who want a chance to earn a Companion Pass®.
- Travelers who prefer domestic to international travel.
How to use the Southwest Priority card:
- Spend at least $1,000 within the first three months to earn the sign-up bonus of 50,000 points.
- Make all your Southwest purchases with the card to earn bonus points.
- Take advantage of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping portal, Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining program and Southwest partners to earn a few extra Rapid Rewards points.
- Share your Southwest referral link with your friends and family to earn 10,000 bonus points when they apply for any Southwest credit card (up to 50,000 points per year).
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. You’ll enjoy a decent sign-up bonus, annual credits and bonus points, and a chance at earning the coveted Companion Pass. While it may not offer the best value compared to some competing airline or general travel rewards cards, as long as you enjoy flying Southwest Airlines and can take advantage of enough perks to offset the annual fee, you should come out ahead with the Southwest Priority card.
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