Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card Review
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
CardRatings Editor's Analysis: Pros & Cons
- Spend $1,000 in the first three months to earn 40,000 points. Additionally, you'll receive 7,500 bonus points each year after your account anniversary.
- Save money with a $75 annual Southwest® travel credit.
- Enjoy four upgrade boardings each year, when available.
- The annual fee is higher than similar tier airline rewards cards. You need to be sure you'll put all the perks, features and benefits to good use in order to offset the fee.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card benefits
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card boarding upgrades
- Southwest Priority Card and the Companion Pass
- Potential downsides of the Southwest Priority Credit Card
- How the Southwest Priority Card compares to other cards
- Is the Southwest Priority Card worth it?
When you "wanna get away" and your preferred airline happens to be Southwest, you know that earning that coveted Companion Pass is a top priority. Luckily, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card can help you toward that goal while offering a number of money-saving perks and features perks and features along the way.
Admittedly, this isn't the card for everyone as it does charge a $149 annual fee and the rewards are fairly specific in terms of redemption options. Still, for the right person, the Southwest Priority Card delivers.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card offers a signup bonus of 40,000 points when you spend $1,000 in the first three months. Those bonus points will give you a decent head start toward A-List Status, which will unlock additional perks, such as priority check-ins and a same-day stand-by option, in case you want to take an earlier flight. Most importantly, though, all those points count toward the points needed to earn a Companion Pass – in fact, the bonus alone gets you nearly there when you consider the spend required to earn the full bonus. We'll discuss in more detail below.
To mark your card member anniversary, you receive 7,500 bonus points plus a $75 travel voucher; that travel voucher in particular goes a long way toward offsetting the annual fee.
Furthermore, there are the ongoing rewards to consider: You earn three points for each $1 spent on Southwest purchases; two points per $1 on local transit and commuting (including rideshares) and on internet, cable, phone services and select streaming; and one point per $1 on other eligible purchases.
Rapid Rewards points are redeemable for flights, hotel stays, gift cards, car rentals and merchandise.
Another nice benefit is the 25% discount the card affords you on all in-flight purchases (drinks, WiFi, messaging, etc.). There are also no foreign transaction fees to worry about, which can save a tidy sum during international travel or when making purchases in foreign currency from the comfort of your own sofa.
- Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after $2,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
- Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent at gas stations and restaurants
- Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
- Earn a $125 American Airlines Flight Discount after you spend $20,000 or more in purchases during your cardmembership year and renew your card
- No Foreign Transaction Fees
- First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation
- Enjoy preferred boarding on American Airlines flights
- The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.99% - 24.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card offers cardholders reimbursement for up to four upgraded boardings (positions A1-A15) per anniversary year. You can purchase your upgraded boardings at the gate or the ticket counter on the day of your departure only (make sure to use your Priority card for the purchase!), and they are subject to availability. Since Southwest seats aren't assigned, the eariler you board, the more likely you are to snag a desierable seat. The cost of the upgraded boardings is dependent on your itinerary, but this card perk doesn't have a price limit. In other words, you might consider saving your upgraded boardings for itineraries on which they're more expensive. After making your purchase on your card, look for statement credit to cover the upgrade.
This is a nifty perk, especially on a crowded flight; however, it's not quite as appealing as the unlimited priority boarding offered by some similar cards. That said, most other airlines have assigned seats so when you get on the plane doesn't necessarily have much impact on how good a seat you get.
One of the most sought-after money-saving perks for Southwest enthusiasts is is the airline's Companion Pass, which allows pass holders to designate a specific family member or friend to fly with them for free every time they purchase a ticket for themselves using cash or rewards points for the remainder of the calendar year in which the pass was earned as well as for the entire following calendar year. The only cost for the companion ticket is taxes and fees.
It's a tremendous money-saving opportunity for frequent Southwest fliers, but to earn a Companion Pass, you have to accumulate 125,000 Rapid Rewards points in a single calendar year or travel on 100 qualifying one-way flights in a year. The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card can offer a huge jumpstart on earning that pass since all your bonus points, points earned through regular spending and the anniversary points you're awarded count toward that 125,000-point goal. Earn your signup bonus of 40,000 points to get on your way, then keep using your card – as well as flying Southwest, obviously – to continue racking up points.
One note of caution, remember that earning the pass is based on the points you accumulate in a calendar year. That means if you earn your signup bonus in December, your tally will start all over come Jan. 1. Plan your application and spending accordingly.
You can learn more about the Companion Pass in our Guide to the Southwest Companion Pass.
The $149 annual fee can be off-putting. If you are not a Southwest frequent flyer, this card is not likely to be worth the expense. Conversely, if you are a mega-Southwest flyer, you're likely to earn the Companion Pass and plenty of Rapid Rewards points with your regular travel and might not need the card-added perks.
Additionally, there isn't an introductory interest rate for purchases or balance transfers and the annual fee is not waived for the first year, so be prepared for the potential costs of carrying the card. Of course, paying off your balance in full every billing cycle means that you don't need an introductory period anyway.
Southwest has no partnerships with other airlines and, while it is regularly expanding its market, the airports it serves are limited to primarily domestic locations. This obviously limits your choices when it comes to travel and redeeming points.
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card vs. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
These sibling cards are similar in many ways, including their signup bonuses. They also offer identical ongoing rewards earning: three points per $1 on Southwest purchases as well as two points per $1 on local transit and commuting (including rideshares) and on internet, cable, phone services and select streaming and one point per $1 on other eligible purchases. The differences come in with the extras and the fees.
The most obvious difference is the annual fee of $99 for the Southwest Premier card compared to $149 for the Priority Card.
So why pay more?
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card members receive a smaller anniversary point bonus of 6,000 points and there's no annivesary voucher offer with this card. Furthermore, the Premier card doesn't offer statement credit for some upgraded boardings annually nor does it provide discounts for your in-flight purchases. It does offer you two EarlyBird Check-Ins® each year, though.
In fact, the anniversary voucher with the Priority Card effectively lowers the net annual fee to $74 – less than that of the Premier card. That means that as long as you can put that voucher to use each year, you're probably getting better value out of the Priority card once you figure in the additional perks and features.
Southwest Priority Credit Card vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
While these two cards have obvious differences, they are, in many ways, complimentary. You may decide it's beneficial to have both in your wallet to maximize both your options and your rewards.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has a slightly lower annual fee ($95). Neither card charges foreign transaction fees and both offer rewards geared toward your helping you meet your travel goals.
Sapphire Preferred® cardholders earn 5X total points on all travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal; 3X points on dining, including eligible delivery services and takeout; 3X points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs); 3X points on select streaming services; 2X points on travel purchases; and 1X point on all other purchases. The key with Ultimate Rewards® points is that they can be redeemed within the Chase portal for travel at 25% more value per point or – and this is often where cardholders will get the most value – they can be transferred to one of a number of hotel and airline loyalty programs, including to the Southwest Rapid Rewards program. That's why we say these cards could in fact be complementary. Note that points transferred into your Rapid Rewards account do not count toward your Companion Pass.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® offers a signup bonus of 60,000 points, worth $750 when redeemed for travel through the Chase portal, when you spend at least $4,000 over the first three months from card opening.
What you won't get with the Sapphire card is the Southwest-specific perks or loyalty bonuses. If those are important to you, you might consider making both of these cards a part of your credit card toolbox.
Southwest Priority Card vs. American Express® Gold Card
What the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is to air travel, the American Express® Gold Card is to food – with a healthy dose of travel rewards options thrown in.
A $250 annual fee for the Gold Card dwarfs the annual fee for Southwest Priority Card, but that fee offers greater rewards earning flexibility as well as greater redemption opportunity for those rewards among other perks and features.
Without even discussing the rewards, American Express® Gold cardmembers can largely offset the annual fee thanks to up to $120 in Uber Cash each year (add your Gold Card to your Uber account and automatically receive $10 monthly for Uber rides or Uber Eats orders, up to $120 per year) as well as up to $120 each year in dining credit in the form of up to $10 in statement credit monthly when you use your card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth's Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. (Enrolllment required for select benefits)
When it comes to rewards themselves, the American Express® Gold Card offers a welcome bonus of 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spent $4,000 on purchases in the first six months.
On an ongoing basis, Gold Card members earn four points for each $1 spent at restaurants (including takeout and delivery) and at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 spent each calendar year, then one point per $1). Earn one point for each $1 spent on all other purchases.
American Express Membership Rewards® points are highly sought-after rewards currency and can be redeemed in a number of different ways, including travel, hotels, gift cards, statement credits and even charitable contributions.
You can also transfer your Membership Rewards® points to a number of American Express airline and hotel partners, but Southwest is not one of those partners.
The anniversary bonus and $75 voucher, not to mention a signup bonus that help you well on your way to a Companion Pass, make the Southwest Priority Card a worthwhile choice for Southwest fans despite its $149 annual fee. Furthermore, the Southwest Rapid Rewards program offers better value than a lot of airline loyalty programs out there, meaning every dollar you spend offers respectable value.
Offset the annual fee with the statement credit for up to four upgraded bookings each year and the voucher after each account anniversary and you have card with a solid value proposition.
See Rates and Fees; terms apply for the American Express® Gold Card