Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card Review: An Airline Credit Card for Southwest Fanatics

Elizabeth is a writer specializing in credit cards, student loans, debt repayment, and small business. Her work has also appeared on MSN Money, Yahoo! Finance, and Business Insider.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Our Bottom Line

The sign-up bonus and premium earnings on Southwest travel make this a compelling offer, even with the modest annual fee.

What we Like:
  • 60,000 points sign-up bonus
  • Earn up to 2x points per $1
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 6,000 points each anniversary
Key Scores:
4.0 5 Perks
4.5 5 Fees
3.5 5 APR
Perks 4.0/5
Fees 4.5/5
APR 3.5/5
  • Annual Fee: $99
  • Regular APR: 17.74% - 24.74% Variable
  • Intro APR: Purchases: N/A Balance Transfers: N/A
Highlights
  • Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
  • 6,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases.
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn points on employee spending
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
  • No blackout dates when you redeem points, no seat restrictions, bags fly free®, and no change fees
  • No foreign transaction fees
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Rates & Fees

The information related to Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier credit card has been collected by The Ascent and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

Folks who fly Southwest regularly will likely squeeze a lot of value out of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card’s sign-up bonus, annual bonus, and qualifying points. General travel perks are minimal, however, and there is a $99 annual fee, so this card isn’t a great deal for everyone. This review will help you figure out if the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is worth it for you.

What I like about the card

60,000 bonus point sign-up bonus -- The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card gets you 40,000 Rapid Rewards points if you spend $2,000 in the first three months of card ownership. It’s a generous sign-up bonus with a relatively low minimum spending requirement.

6,000 anniversary bonus points -- You’ll also get an additional 6,000 Rapid Rewards points on each card anniversary when you renew.

2 points per $1 spent on Southwest -- In addition to earning two points for every dollar you spend on Southwest, you’ll also earn two points on purchases with select hotel and rental car partners.

Get closer to a companion pass -- The companion pass is the reason for Southwest’s loyal followers. If you can fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year, you’ll get the companion pass for the rest of the year and the full following calendar year. This allows you to take a pre-selected companion with you for free on every Southwest flight you purchase with dollars or miles. The 60,000 point sign-up bonus you get with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card qualifies toward the companion pass, so it’ll get you almost halfway there.

Achieve A-List status easier -- A-List status with Southwest gets you perks like priority boarding and check-in as well as point bonuses and standby options. You need 35,000 tier qualifying points to get there, and you can earn up to 15,000 with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card.

Why you can trust me

I’ve been collecting rewards to go on free vacations using travel credit cards for five years now. In total, I’ve accumulated over a million hotel points and airlines miles, which I use to go on international trips several times each year. In addition to constantly researching and comparing credit card offers for my own use, I’m also a personal finance writer with a focus on credit cards.

What could be improved

Annual fee -- The annual fee on the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is $99, and it’s not waived the first year.

No luxury travel perks -- While other travel credit cards offer benefits like airport lounge access and reimbursements for TSA Pre✓ or Global Entry, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card doesn’t offer many premium benefits. That being said, it has a lower annual fee than many of these premium travel credit cards.

Points aren’t transferable -- Some cards offer transferable points, giving you the flexibility to book with a number of different travel partners. However, Southwest Rapid Rewards points can only be used on Southwest and their partner airlines.

Suggested credit score

If you have a credit score above 700, your approval chances are very high. As long as your score is good -- 670 or above -- you’ll probably be approved for this card. Lower scores will have a harder time being approved, but there are reports of people with scores in the low 600s receiving approvals.

Chase's 5/24 rule and this card

Chase bases approvals on how many credit cards you’ve opened up in the recent past. If you have opened five or more credit cards in the past 24 months, they won’t approve you for most of their cards, including the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. It’s important to know that most business credit cards -- other than those issued by Capital One, Discover, and TD Bank -- won’t count toward your 5/24 limit because they don’t show up on your personal credit report.

What are Southwest Rapid Rewards points worth?

Southwest Rapid Rewards points vary in value depending on how they’re redeemed. It’s possible to get anywhere from $0.009 to over $0.02 per point. On average, I estimate that Southwest Rapid Rewards points are worth $0.015 each based on a range of different award redemption options.

Maximize earning Southwest Rapid Rewards

If you go for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Card, the most obvious way to get a points boost is by achieving the sign-up bonus. However, there are several other things you should be doing to accumulate points as quickly as possible.

Book with Rapid Rewards hotel and rental car partners

With the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Card, you get 2 points per $1 spent at any of the Rapid Rewards hotel and rental car partners. These partners include Hyatt, Marriott, and Starwood Preferred Guest hotels, as well as Alamo, National, and Hertz rental car agencies.

Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest

Chase’s Ultimate Rewards points are a big favorite among frequent travelers for two main reasons: they’re easy to accumulate, and they can be transferred at a 1:1 rate to a long list of hotels and airlines, including Southwest. If you own the the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, it makes more sense to use that card instead of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Card for many purchases.

Earn more travel rewards

Chase offers one of the most flexible and lucrative rewards programs in the game. Learn how to transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest to make your money work harder for you.

Use the Rapid Rewards shopping portal

Through your Rapid Rewards account, you can access a shopping portal that offers bonus points with certain retailers. Some deals can get you as many as 6 points per $1 spent.

Reach A-List status

As mentioned above, this card can help you get closer to reaching A-List or A-List Preferred status. With the former, you’ll receive an extra 25% points on every qualifying flight, and with the latter, you’ll get double points on every flight.

Maximize redeeming Southwest Rapid Rewards

Getting the points is only half the battle. In order to maximize their value, you need to learn how to redeem the fewest points for the highest value awards.

Redeem for Wanna Get Away fares

Southwest offers a three-tier award redemption system: Wanna Get Away fare, Anytime fare, and Business Select fare. While Anytime fares are fully refundable and Business Select fares offer perks like priority boarding and free drinks, the Wanna Get Away fares consistently offer the best redemption value.

Use your points for flights only

You can also redeem Rapid Rewards points for gift cards, rental cars, hotels, and even “experiences” such as tours, concerts, and other events. These redemption options almost always offer a significantly lower value than redeeming your points for airfare.

Rebook award flights when the price drops

Southwest’s award redemption system is cost-based, meaning the point value of any given flight depends on its dollar price at the time. On top of that, Southwest has a no change fee policy. Set a price alert on any flight you book, and if the price drops, you can easily log into your account, rebook the same flight at a cheaper price, and the point difference will be deposited into your account.

Book a “Special Offer” flight

Southwest almost always has decent sales going on, which can be found on their Special Offers page. Some recent offers include:

  • Atlanta, GA to Austin, TX from 5,007 points each way
  • Baltimore, MD to Aruba, Aruba from 12,870 points each way
  • Chicago, IL to Ft. Lauderdale, FL from 3,918 points each way
  • Ft. Lauderdale, FL to Havana, Cuba from 2,496 points each way
  • Long Beach, CA to Las Vegas, NV from 1,871 points each way

Pro tip

Here's how to calculate the breakeven point to know how much rewards you need to earn to cover a credit cards annual fee. Just divide the annual fee by the earnings yield and the result is the spending required to breakeven. For example, a card with a 3% rewards yield and a $99 annual fee will have a breakeven point of $3,300 (99/0.03). If you spend more than the breakeven point each year then the annual fee is justifiable for your budget.

Is the annual fee worth it?

The annual fee on the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Card is $99. With Rapid Rewards points worth $0.015 each, the sign-up bonus of 40,000 points is worth roughly $600.

This is a great value, but the real question is whether or not this card is worth the annual fee without the sign-up bonus. The annual bonus of 6,000 points is worth $90, so that alone is almost enough to recover the fee. In order to make back another $9 and break even, you’d have to earn at least 600 points each year. This could be done with $300 in annual spending on Southwest or $600 in annual spending elsewhere.

Other Chase travel cards to consider

This card is an obvious fit for cardholders taking frequent Southwest flights, but there are other valuable travel cards to consider in the Chase family. Here's a side-by-side comparison of a few lucrative offers that are popular with cardholders preferring airline booking flexibility.

As of Oct. 22, 2019
Chase Sapphire Reserve® Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Rating image, 4.5 out of 5 stars.
4.5 stars
ToolTip Icon for Star Rating. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor.
Rating image, 4.5 out of 5 stars.
4.5 stars
ToolTip Icon for Star Rating. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor.
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Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent Clickable tooltip icon for credit rating info.

Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent Clickable tooltip icon for credit rating info.

Bonus: 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Worth $750 redeemed for travel through Chase's portal. Bonus: 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Worth $750 redeemed for travel through Chase's portal.
Rewards Program: 3 points per $1 on travel and dining, 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. 50% more points on travel booked through Chase's portal. Rewards Program: 2x points on travel and dining, 1x points on all other purchases. 25% more points for travel booked through Chase's portal.
Intro APR: Purchases: N/A, N/A Balance Transfers: N/A, N/A Intro APR: Purchases: N/A, N/A Balance Transfers: N/A, N/A
Regular APR: 18.74% - 25.74% Variable Regular APR: 17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Annual Fee: $450 Annual Fee: $95

Highlights:

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
  • Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®

Highlights:

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel

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Apply Now
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On Chase's Secure Website.

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Apply Now
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On Chase's Secure Website.

How to apply

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Card application only takes a few minutes to complete. You’ll need to provide:

  • Personal information such as your name and address
  • Security information such as your social security number and mother’s maiden name
  • Financial information such as your income and monthly rent or mortgage payments

You will either receive a decision immediately, or you’ll be told to wait for a decision by mail or email. The delayed decision can take up to 30 days, but it’s usually processed within seven to 10 business days.

This card is right for you if...

While breaking even with this card is easy to achieve with just one or two flights per year, the goal of rewards credit cards is to do more than just break even. For every $1,000 you spend on Southwest, you’ll get 2,000 Rapid Rewards points, which are worth $30. If you only spend $1,000 on Southwest each year, your returns will be minimal and you may be better off with a more versatile travel rewards credit card. However, if you spend $5,000 on Southwest each year, that’s a $150 return on Southwest spending alone.

The big perks on the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Card are the sign-up bonus, annual points bonus, and ability to get closer to A-List status and a companion pass. If you’re someone who’s thinking about flying Southwest more often, this card is a great way to try out their award system. If you are already loyal to Southwest and want to work toward higher status levels and extra perks, this card is a no-brainer.

If you think you can earn at least 60,000 qualifying points in a year, you should absolutely get this card. The 60,000 points from the sign-up bonus will put you over the edge to earn a companion pass, one of the most valuable perks offered by any airline.

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