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If you are a frequent Southwest Airlines traveler, it might be time to make some space in your wallet for a Southwest credit card. Southwest credit cards reward you for every purchase you make, and you can use those rewards for Southwest flights, hotel bookings, car rentals and more.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is the entry level credit card in the Southwest Rapid Rewards® credit card family. At $69 it carries the lowest annual fee of the bunch, but still offers many of the same great benefits that come with other Rapid Rewards® credit cards (compared below).
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus cardholders earn two points for every $1 spent on Southwest purchases as well as Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases. Beyond that, you'll earn one point for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
Additionally, you can look forward to a one-time welcome bonus of 40,000 points once spending $1,000 within the first three months of opening an account. This is a great perk as it's fairly easy to meet this spending threshold and cash in on the offer. Another great benefit is that you'll be rewarded annually with 3,000 anniversary points, which is a nice incentive to maintain card membership.
Rapid Rewards® points don't expire and can be used on a variety of travel-related purchases such as Southwest flights, hotel stays at eligible chains like Best Western, Marriott Bonvoy, and World of Hyatt, and car rentals. They can also be redeemed for gift cards, merchandise, and access to exclusive events. Plus, enjoy no blackout dates or seat restrictions when booking a flight. As long as a seat is available, it's yours to book.
The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most valuable travel rewards perks available today. Once earned, it allows you the option to select one companion to fly with you on any Southwest flight, for just the cost of taxes and fees. Essentially, it gets you two-for-one plane tickets. No wonder it's one of the most sought-after travel rewards there is.
To be eligible for the Companion Pass you need to fly 100 one-way Southwest flights or earn at least 125,000 Rapid Rewards® points in a calendar year. Once you do, you'll maintain Companion Pass status for the remainder of the year plus the entire following year. You can learn more in our "Guide to the Southwest Companion Pass."
As most everyday travelers likely aren't flying 100 Southwest flights a year, for many people, the most realistic way to obtain a Companion Pass is by earning 125,000 Rapid Rewards® points. Thanks to the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card's 40,000 welcome bonus points once spending $1,000, you could be almost a third of the way there just within three months of opening an account.
Southwest Airlines is already great in that it offers two free checked bags to every passenger, but with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card the travel benefits go even further. When using your Plus card to pay for trip expenses you'll have access to auto rental collision coverage, roadside dispatch coverage, lost luggage insurance, baggage delay insurance, and travel accident insurance.
We all hope to never have to worry about these types of things when traveling, but it's good to know you're covered in case something goes wrong. Unfortunately, baggage delays happen all the time, leaving travelers inconvenienced, and without potential essentials. The baggage delay insurance reimburses you in the event that you have to purchase vital items because your baggage is delayed for more than six hours. You could qualify for up to $100 per day for up to three days, and if your bag is lost or damaged, you could enjoy coverage of up to $3,000.
Another commonly utilized benefit is the auto rental collision coverage, which covers your vehicle for theft and collision damage for most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad (in the U.S., coverage is secondary to your personal insurance). This perk has the potential to knock hundreds off your car rental total.
Also, if you experience an emergency while traveling, you can call up a benefits administrator and receive free referrals for legal, medical, and transportation service providers. It's always a reassuring feeling to know that you are taken care of when you are away from home.
In addition to these travel benefits, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus offers purchase protection, which covers any item purchased with the card in the event of damage or theft. You can also take advantage of extended warranty protection and extend the original manufacturer's warranty by one year on eligible purchases you've made with the card. The limit is $10,000 per claim, and a maximum of $50,000 per account.
|Rewards||Bonus Rewards||Regular APR|
|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 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.||15.99% - 22.99% Variable|
One potential downside of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is that it charges a 3% foreign transaction fee. At first glance, this fee may seem like no big deal; however, it can add up significantly over time, especially if you are someone who travels abroad often.
For example, let's say you were in Berlin for a few weeks and put $4,000 worth of purchases on your Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus card. You'd be on the hook for an extra $120 in fees. Therefore, if you're an avid international traveler but still want to carry a Southwest credit card, you may want to consider the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card or the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card as they do not charge a fee on foreign transactions.
Another potential downside isn't specific to the card itself, but is more generally a drawback of Southwest Airlines. Compared to other major airlines, Southwest is a bit limited in where they fly and to which airports they serve; especially for international flights (though this market continues to expand). Take United Airlines for example, which operates more than 21,000 flights per day in more than 190 countries. Southwest on the other hand offers about 4,000 daily flights to around 100 destinations.
Though the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card charges a higher annual fee than the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Card ($99 vs. $69), it offers 6,000 anniversary points, which is double the points you'd get with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Card.
In addition, the Premier card does not charge foreign transaction fees and gives cardholders the chance to earn up to 15,000 tier qualifying points per year. These points can be used toward Southwest A-List status and redeemed for priority boarding and bonus reward points for flights. Otherwise, the ongoing rewards rate and the new cardholder welcome bonus offers are the same, as are the travel benefits and extended warranty perks.
So, if you don't mind paying an extra $30 per year to get more anniversary points and the freedom to spend money abroad without any extra charges, you are likely better off with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Card. The Premier card may also make more sense for someone who is confident they'll spend a lot on the card and be eligible for A-List status.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is the most expensive Southwest Rapid Rewards® consumer card, charging an annual fee of $149, but this extra cost includes a number of valuable travel perks that could make the annual fee worth it for many frequent Southwest travels.
This card offers the standard two points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases and 40,000 bonus points for new cardholders who spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months, as well as all the standard travel and warranty benefits, plus some. With this card you can also look forward to a $75 annual Southwest travel credit, 7,500 anniversary points, four upgraded boardings per year, no foreign transaction fees, and 20% back on in-flight purchases like Wi-Fi and beverages. Additionally, get up to 15,000 tier qualifying points per year with your card, helping get you to A-list status faster which will earn you priority boarding, priority check-in and security lane access, 25% more Rapid Rewards® points earned on each flight, and free same-day standby.
For an annual fee of $95, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers new cardholders 60,000 bonus points once spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, worth $750 towards travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Just a reminder, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus' sign-up bonus is 40,000 bonus points for $1,000 of spending within the first three months of opening the account.
A major benefit of the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is that it earns cardholders 2X points on all travel purchases, as well as on dining purchases at restaurants worldwide, offering you a lot of flexibility in how you travel (and earn rewards on that travel). Like the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus card, you'll earn one point on all other purchases, but because Sapphire Preferred® points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel, those "other" purchases could be worth as much as 1.25 points. In addition, the Preferred® Card doesn't charge a fee on foreign transactions, and has over 10 travel partners, one of which happens to be Southwest, offering you even more flexibility in how you redeem your rewards.
Those who wish to earn more points for everyday spending, travel abroad often, and want more redemption options are likely better off with the Preferred® card. Please note though that you if you're working towards Southwest Companion Pass status, transferred points do not count towards the 125,000 point threshold.
Just like all credit cards, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card offers its own set of benefits. It's a great option for anyone who likes to travel frequently on Southwest Airlines and wants to earn free flights while paying a low annual fee. It also makes good sense if you are working towards Companion Pass status.
People who travel abroad frequently, wish to earn bonus rewards on every day spending, or who prefer other airlines to Southwest might want to consider an alternative option.