Comparing all Southwest Rapid Rewards® Cards — Which One is Worth It?

FT Contributor  | 

Southwest Airlines has a variety of perks. The carrier is one of the few that still allows free checked baggage on domestic flights, and they offer special fare deals, such as discounted “Wanna Get Away” fares.

Southwest also has a loyalty program called Rapid Rewards. In addition to earning points for flying, you can get rewards from one of five credit cards that Southwest offers. Which of the five is best for accruing points and getting free or discounted flights? It depends on how often you travel and your spending habits.

Here is a look at the five Southwest Rapid Rewards cards and insights into which one is best for your needs.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card is the most basic personal credit card from Southwest.

Sign-up Bonus

The Plus card offers 40,000 bonus points to new cardmembers who make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first three months that they have the card. The annual fee for this card is $69, which is the lowest annual fee for any Rapid Rewards card.

Benefits

Cardholders also get 3,000 bonus points on their sign-up anniversary each year. In addition to redeeming points for domestic flights, you can also cash in your rewards for international flights, hotel stays, car rentals, and gift cards. You earn two points for every dollar spent on Southwest flights and products, as well as two points for spending at partner hotels and car rental agencies. The rewards ratio for other spending is one point per dollar.

Annual Fees, Transaction Fees, Interest Rates

The annual fee for the Plus card is $69. If you carry a balance from month to month, the interest rate will be between 17.49% to 24.49%. The foreign transaction fee for this card is up to 3% of each purchase.

Credit Score and Pre-Approval

Like most rewards credit cards, you need a “good” score to get the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card. “Good” usually translates to a score of 690 or higher.

Is It Worth It?

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card is the most accessible Southwest credit card because it has the lowest annual fee and a points program that offers some benefits to casual fliers. If you travel internationally, you may be hurt by the 3% foreign transaction fee, which the premium Rapid Rewards cards waive.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

The Premier card is Southwest’s mid-range personal rewards card.

Sign-up Bonus

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card has a $99 annual fee. New cardholders can earn 40,000 bonus points by spending at least $1000 on purchases within the first three months that they own the card.

Benefits

Premier card owners get two points per dollar spent on Southwest flights. You can also earn two points per dollar from partner hotels and car rental agencies. All other purchases earn one point per dollar. Each year, you get a 6,000-point bonus on the anniversary of your signup. Unlike the Plus card, the points you earn from the Premier card count towards your frequent flier status.

Annual Fees, Transaction Fees, Interest Rates

Though it does have a $99 annual fee, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier does not have foreign transaction fees. Interest rates vary between 17.74% and 24.74% depending on the prime rate and your credit history.

Credit Score and Pre-Approval

To apply for this card, you need a credit score that is between “good” and “excellent.” That means your score should be in the 690 range or higher.

Is It Worth It?

Two points per dollar is the same rewards ratio as the cheaper Rapid Rewards Plus card. However, unlike the Plus, you do not have to pay foreign transaction fees and the points you earn go towards an upgrade to Southwest’s A-List status.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card is the premium consumer rewards card from Southwest Airlines.

Sign-up Bonus

After signing up and paying the $149 annual fee, new cardholders are eligible for a 40,000 point introductory bonus. To get this bonus, you need to spend $1,000 in the first three months of card ownership.

Benefits

Like other Southwest Rapid Rewards cards, Priority cardholders earn two points per dollar on all Southwest and partner hotel or car rental purchases and one point for all other purchases. Additionally, you get 7,500 bonus points and a $75 travel credit for each year of membership. Furthermore, you do not have to pay foreign transaction fees, and you get four free upgrades per year (if available).

Annual Fees, Transaction Fees, Interest Rates

The annual fee for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card is $149. You do not have to pay foreign transaction fees, and interest rates are between 17.74% and 24.74% depending on the prime rate and your credit history

Credit Score and Pre-Approval

Like other airline rewards cards, this one requires that you have a credit score of approximately 690 or above.

Is it Worth It?

The Rapid Rewards Priority card is best for frequent travelers who usually rely on Southwest. However, it has a higher annual fee, so cardholders need to take advantage of extra perks, such as free upgrades and travel vouchers, to make ownership of this card worthwhile.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business card is an entry-level rewards card for businesses.

Sign-up Bonus

With a $99 annual fee, you can earn 60,000 bonus points if you spend $3,000 in the first three months of card ownership.

Benefits

Business rewards members get 6,000 points annually on the anniversary of their signup. Like the consumer-oriented Rapid Rewards Premier card, the business card offers two points per dollar spent on Southwest fares or products and partner hotels and rental agencies. Additionally, your points count towards frequent flier status upgrades. You earn one point per dollar on all other transactions.

Annual Fees, Transaction Fees, Interest Rates

You do not pay foreign transaction fees with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business card, so it is ideal for international travel. The annual fee is $99, and the interest rates are between 17.49% and 24.49%.

Credit Score and Pre-Approval

You need a credit score of between 690 and 850 to qualify for this credit card.

Is It Worth It?

If you use Southwest Airlines on a semi-frequent basis and you plan to use your credit card for business spending, you can earn enough points to justify the annual fee.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business card is Southwest’s premium business rewards card.

Sign-up Bonus

The Rapid Rewards Performance Business offers the best overall introductory bonus. After you pay the $199 annual fee, you can earn up to 70,000 bonus points if you spend $5,000 of more in the first three months.

Benefits

The benefits of the Rapid Rewards Performance Business card include earning three points per dollar spent on Southwest Airlines and its partners. Also, you get four free upgrades each year. Southwest offers an annual 9,000-point bonus for continuing members. Cardholders gain credits to use on Global Entry or TSA PreCheck programs.

Annual Fees, Transaction Fees, Interest Rates

The annual fee for this card is $199, but you do not have to pay foreign transaction fees. The interest rate for purchases is between 17.49% and 24.49%, depending on the prime rate and your credit history.

Credit Score and Pre-Approval

You need a “good” credit score of 690 or higher to qualify for this card.

Is It Worth It?

If you are a frequent traveler, this card could be worthwhile. Because of the high annual fee, you need to use this card regularly to earn enough points to make the $199 per year worthwhile.

The best Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit card depends on your spending habits and the frequency with which you travel.


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This post was updated December 10, 2019. It was originally published December 10, 2019.