We compared Southwest's 5 credit cards to help you decide which is best for you

Business Insider 1 month ago

Southwest is smaller than the "big three" US airlines (American, Delta, and United), but it remains a great choice for many travelers thanks to customer-friendly policies like two free checked bags per customer and no change fees. Plus, while Southwest's route network is smaller than other airlines', it flies to some great vacation destinations, including Hawaii, Cancun, Aruba, Punta Cana, and more.

If you fly Southwest, a co-branded credit card can be a great way to earn extra Rapid Rewards points toward free flights, and spending on these cards can also help you earn the Southwest Companion Pass that lets you designate a loved one to bring along on flights for free minus taxes and fees. If you're interested in opening a Southwest credit card to improve your travel, here's everything you need to know about the current options to find the best pick for you.

Keep in mind that we're focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which can far outweigh the value of any rewards.

Southwest Rapid Rewards consumer credit cards: The biggest differences

Southwest has three Rapid Rewards consumer cards: the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier, and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card.

The first major difference you'll notice between these three cards is in their annual fees. The Plus card charges a $69 annual fee, while the Premier and Priority cards charge $99 and $149, respectively.

The anniversary bonuses are also different for each card:

Both the Premier and Priority cards do not charge a foreign transaction fee, and both cards can earn you Tier-Qualifying Points (TQPs) toward Southwest A-List status. You'll earn 1,500 TQPs for every $10,000 you spend on the cards in a calendar year, on up to $100,000 (15,000 TQPs) in spending each year. A-List status required 35,000 TQPs earned in a calendar year, and gets you benefits like priority boarding and a 25% points bonus on paid flights.

But Priority cardholders get a few extra perks:

  • $75 Southwest annual travel credit.
  • Four upgraded boardings per year when available
  • 20% back on in-flight drinks and Wi-Fi

All three cards come with a 40,000-point sign-up bonus if you spend at least $1,000 within three months of opening your account, plus another 20,000 points when you spend $12,000 in the first 12 months.

Each card also gives 2 points per dollar spent on Southwest and Rapid Rewards purchases and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else.

Additionally, the sign-up bonus and points you earn on all three personal Southwest credit cards count toward the Southwest Companion Pass. The Companion Pass is a benefit that lets you designate a friend or family member to travel with you for free on all your paid and award flights on Southwest — all they'll have to pay are taxes and fees. You need to earn 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year to get this perk, or take 100 one-way qualifying flights on Southwest in a calendar year.

Southwest Rapid Rewards consumer credit cards: Which card is right for you?

If your main goal for getting a Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card is to earn a sign-up bonus, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card could be a great choice. It offers the same 40,000-point sign-up bonus as the other two cards and the same earnings rate, and it has the lowest annual fee.

But if you plan to use your Rapids Rewards card for multiple years, the Premier and Priority cards offer better value. Both offer anniversary bonuses that are double or more what you'll get with the Plus card. And the two more expensive cards are better for overseas travelers too, since they don't charge foreign transaction fees.

When comparing the Premier and Priority cards, the Priority card easily comes out on top. Its higher annual fee is easily reduced by the $75 annual Southwest travel credit. It also has a better anniversary bonus and offers additional in-flight perks and discounts.

In short, if you're looking for a "one-time use" airline card to earn one or two free flights, you may want to choose the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card. Otherwise, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card offers the best long-term value.

Finally, note that you can't have two personal Southwest credit cards at the same time, and you can't open a new personal Southwest card if you've earned a sign-up bonus on any personal Southwest card within the last 24 months. So choose your card carefully.

$69 annual fee: Click here to learn more about the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card.

$99 annual fee: Click here to learn more about the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card.

$149 annual fee: Click here to learn more about the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card.

Southwest Rapid Rewards business credit cards: The biggest differences

Southwest has two co-branded business credit cards: the Southwest Rapids Rewards Premier Business card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business card.

The Premier Business card charges a $99 annual fee, while the Performance Business card is more expensive, at $199. However, the Performance Business card has a better anniversary bonus, giving 9,000 points each cardmember anniversary compared to the 6,000 points you'll get each year with the Premier Business card.

The biggest difference between these two cards is their ongoing earnings potential. While you'll earn 2 points per dollar on Southwest and Rapid Rewards purchases with the Premier Business Card, you'll earn 3 points per dollar with the Performance Business card.

And with the Performance Business card, you'll earn 2 points per dollar on the following business expenses as well:

  • Social media and search engine advertising
  • Internet, cable, and phone services

The Performance Business card also gives cardholders up to $100 for a Global Entry or TSA Pre application fee credit, four upgraded boardings per year (when available), and in-flight Wi-Fi credits. It's offering an 80,000-point sign-up bonus after you spend at least $5,000 within your first three months with the card.

The Premier Business Card is offering a 60,000-point sign-up bonus after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. Neither card charges foreign transaction fees.

As with the personal Southwest credit cards, the points you earn from the business Southwest cards' sign-up bonuses (as well as from everyday spending) count toward the Companion Pass.

Southwest Rapid Rewards business credit cards: Which card is right for you?

If your business spends a lot of money each year on social media advertising or internet, cable, and phone services, you'll definitely want to go with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business card.

You may also want to choose the Performance Business card if you fly four or more times each year. In that case, you could take full advantage of the four upgraded room boardings per year and some of the other in-flight perks.

However, if you don't spend a lot of money in the bonus categories, your earnings potential will drop. And if you only fly once or twice a year, you may not get the most value out of the additional flight-day benefits. 

In these cases, you may be better off choosing the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business card. It offers a lower sign-up bonus and 2x points rather than 3x points on Southwest purchases, but its annual fee is $100 lower.

$99 annual fee: Click here to learn more about the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business card.

$149 annual fee: Click here to learn more about the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business card.

Bottom line

Deciding which Southwest credit card is right for you requires evaluating your particular situation and spending habits. Begin by considering how you plan to use your Southwest credit card, then pick whichever one is the best fit for you.


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