updated Jul 14, 2016
With over 90 destinations and your first and second checked bag for free thanks to its Bags fly free® policy, Southwest is the airline of choice for many budget-conscious Americans. But does their credit card deliver the same savings that we've come to expect from Southwest?
In this review, we will run you through the main pros and cons of the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, one of our best rated credit cards for airline rewards. We will also check how this card compares to other airline credit cards out there.
Earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
The bonus offer. You earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. This is a great bonus for first-time cardmembers as 50,000 points can be redeemed for up to 2 round trips on Southwest, depending on your destination and the cost of flights at the time you redeem your points for travel.
You get 6,000 bonus points as an anniversary bonus each year. After your account anniversary date each year you will receive 6,000 bonus points. If you consider the value of these bonus points, this perk goes a long way towards making up for the card's annual fee.
You earn 2 points for every $1 spent on Southwest Airlines® purchases and participating Hotel and Car Rental partners. If you travel a lot and stick to Southwest and partners, you can earn points fast.
Earn 1 point per $1 for other purchases. Every dollar you spend on purchases using this card lets you earn 1 point. So using this card to pay for your monthly expenses can help you score award flights.
No change fees. What if something crops up unexpectedly and you need to change your flight? No worries - you will not be charged any fee if you want to get your flight changed. Do note that you'll still have to pay for any differences in airfares should that apply.
First and second bag checked in are free with Bags Fly Free®. This benefit will save you a lot of money when flying, especially now that many airlines charge you for checking in your luggage. Note though, that this isn't a perk which you get with this credit card. Southwest extends this great benefit to flyers in general, with or without this card.
No blackout dates and unlimited reward seats when you use your points for air tickets on more than 50 global airlines, for any class, anywhere. If a seat is available, you can get it.
You earn 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points. Every $10,000 of purchases you charge to this card earns 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs), and you can earn up to a maximum of 15,000 TQPs every year. That can help you reach A-List status, A-List Preferred, or even Companion Pass status, if you spend a lot.
Earning the huge amount of TQPs (110,000 in a calendar year to get Companion Pass Status) is a lot more realistic when you can earn TQPs through credit card spending, rather than relying on the TQPs you earn through flying only. All tiers come with great benefits, but if you can get your hands on a Companion Pass, you can designate 1 person to fly with you anytime you choose for 1 entire year. That can add up to huge savings if you do a lot of travel with a friend, spouse, etc.
Your points don't expire. Don't worry about your points expiring before you have a chance to fly. They won't expire as long as your card account is open. That gives you the freedom to plan for a vacation next month or next year!
Redeem your points for more than just flights. The Rapid Rewards program now lets you redeem your points for international flights to over 800 destinations on 50+ global carriers. You can also redeem points for hotel stays at more than 70,000 hotels worldwide, as well as auto rentals, cruises (and other experiences) or store gift cards (Amazon.com, Lowes, Best Buy®, iTunes and more).
You get 1 point per $1 of balance transfers you make to this card within the first 90 days of card membership. The maximum points you can earn on this offer is 15,000 points, which equates to $15,000 in balance transfers. Note that the 16.24% - 23.24% variable APR applies, so transferring balances to this card will only save you money if you are currently paying a higher interest on a card balance. Also, for each transfer, you pay $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer (whichever is greater) as a balance transfer fee.
$0 foreign transaction fees. When you use this card for purchases in a foreign currency, you will benefit from a $0 foreign transaction fee, which is a fee that most other credit cards will charge. So this gives you additional savings on your holiday spending!
This card is chip enabled, which is practical if you travel to countries where magnetic stripe terminals are not common.
You get travel insurance. When you use this card to pay for travel bookings, you enjoy several travel insurance coverages:
Purchase protection. New purchases you make with this card will be covered for 120 days against damage or theft. This coverage provides a maximum of $500 per claim and $50,000 per account if your eligible purchases are stolen or accidentally damaged.
Additional Visa Signature perks. If you qualify for the Visa Signature version of this card (it will depend on your credit report and the information you provide), you can enjoy additional perks like travel and emergency assistance services and exclusive Visa Signature travel deals.
It has an annual fee. If you fly frequently on Southwest and use your credit card a lot, the perks you enjoy (complimentary travel insurance, rewards points) will likely make the $99 annual fee worth it. Most airline credit cards have a similar annual fee.
No introductory rate on purchases or balance transfers. From the very beginning, there is a 16.24% - 23.24% variable APR. That's all the more sad because this card actually lets you earn points on balance transfers.
The JetBlue Card is the basic credit card from JetBlue, another major budget airline in the US. This is one of the few airline credit cards that have $0 annual fee. It also has (with 16.24% - 23.24% variable APR after that, while Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card does not offer an introductory APR period. The welcome offer lets you earn 5,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in your first 90 days. That may not be as high as the welcome bonus you get with Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, but not bad considering this card has $0 annual fee. You earn 3 points per dollar on JetBlue purchases and 2 points per dollar at restaurants and grocery stores. Plus you earn 1 point per $1 for other purchases charged to this card. Compare that to 2 points/$1 for Southwest Airlines® purchases and purchases from participating hotel and car rental partners, and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases which you earn with Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. You get 50% savings on eligible inflight purchases on JetBlue, including food, movies and cocktails. In our opinion this card has faster earning potential than Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, but lacks some of the useful perks (travel insurance for example) which the Southwest card gives you.
Discover it® Miles takes a different approach to earning rewards travel. Instead of earning frequent flyer miles for a specific airline, this card lets you earn flexible miles which you can redeem towards many different travel purchases. The welcome offer of Discover matching all the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year (for example, 20,000 Miles earned is matched to become 40,000 Miles automatically, has a lot of earning potential. Just note that this offer is only for new cardmembers. You earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on all purchases you charge to this card. Miles can then be redeemed towards travel purchases made with this card, at the rate of 100 Miles = $1 value. Discover pays you back for up to $30 a year of in-flight Wi-Fi fees as an automatic statement credit. You enjoy a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months with 11.24% - 23.24% variable purchase APR after. This card has no foreign transaction fee and no annual fee. You don't get all of the benefits which Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card gives you, but if you want to be able to redeem rewards for flights on more than 1 airline (or for hotels, vacation packages, etc.), this card will give you more wiggle room.
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card has a lot to recommend it, and can help you earn award flights and a better loyalty program status with Southwest Rapid Rewards. We would highly recommend this card to people who fly Southwest often because if you do, you will probably earn enough Rapid Rewards points and tier qualifying points to cover the $99 annual fee and then some.
However, all things considered, this card does not pack as many airline benefits as most other airline credit cards. Since Southwest lets your bags fly free, they couldn't reserve this as a loyalty credit card benefit like most other airlines do. You also don't get free airport lounge visits or airline credits and discounts that you get with some other airline credit cards.
So the main appeal of this card lies in the direct Rapid Rewards Points you earn, with no need to transfer or convert points, and the solid travel insurance and purchase protection benefits you get. The Rapid Rewards program itself, with options to earn points at many partners and redeem points with other airlines, hotels, for gift cards, or in other ways is itself a good reason to stick with this card if you're a Southwest regular.
Ivan Daniel is a writer at GET.com a lifestyle and personal finance website. Email: email@example.com.
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What happened to the 50,000 points for $2,000 spent in first 90-days?? What a joke. 1,000 points is nothing!!!!
March 03 2015 at 16:03
If I get the card today and spend 2000 in the first month will I get the 50,000 right away so I could purchase an airline ticket??? Can I get this card in my business name? Thanks!!
January 18 2015 at 17:49
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Cards are rated by our team based primarily on the basis of value for money to the cardholder. The GET.com team rates each card based on its annual fee, rewards, benefits, bonus, introductory APR, ongoing APR, flexibility (in how its benefits can be used and how rewards are earned and redeemed), and other card features.