The best Southwest Airlines credit card for family travelers

10h ago

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Travelers around the country love Southwest Airlines for its no-fuss attitude, family-friendly seating policy, strong route network (now including Hawaii!), two free checked bags, lack of change fees and its easy-to-use Rapid Rewards frequent flyer program. In fact, Southwest Airlines even comes in toward the top of the TPG Best Airline for Families study. Given that Southwest is a favorite for folks from families to retirees, let’s look at which one of the Southwest credit cards is the best fit for travelers who want to fly more while spending less.

Here is the current line-up of Southwest credit cards, their bonus offers and a look at which one is the best fit for different types of flyers.

The best Southwest Airlines credit cards of 2019

Choices are a good thing, and you have multiple options when it comes to the Southwest cobranded credit cards. There are five different Southwest credit cards issued by Chase, including three personal cards and two small business cards. Given all the options, it can be a little tricky to pick the best Southwest credit card for your family, so let’s dive right in.

(Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

Comparing the Southwest Airlines credit cards

Card name Welcome bonus Value of bonus Unique perks
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. $600 $75 annual Southwest travel credit; 20% back on in-flight drinks, Wi-Fi, messaging and movies; and four Upgraded Boardings in the A1–A15 position each year (worth up to $50 each). $149 annual fee.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. $600 No foreign transaction fees, earn points toward A-List status, $99 annual fee
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. $600 3,000 anniversary bonus points, $69 annual fee
Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card Earn 70,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months $1,050 Four A1–A15 annual boarding passes, Inflight Wi-Fi credits, Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application statement credit every four years, 3x points on Southwest charges. $199 annual fee.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card Earn 60,000 points when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months $900 No foreign transaction fees, earn points toward A-List status, 6,000 points at each renewal, $99 annual fee.

 

Choosing the best Southwest Airlines credit card

The first thing I look at when deciding which Southwest credit card is the best match for my family are the sign-up bonuses. Families require lots of points to get where they want to go, so you likely want to get as many points as possible when applying for a new rewards credit card. Right now, all of the public personal Southwest credit card sign-up bonuses are at 40,000 bonus points each.

(Photo by Eric Helgas / The Points Guy)

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card

This card is offering 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open and comes with a $149 annual fee. While is has the highest annual fee of the personal Southwest cards, it also has the best perks of the bunch and is my top pick of the personal cards for those who actively fly Southwest.

The Southwest Priority Card awards 7,500 bonus Rapid Rewards points at each account anniversary (worth $112.50 by TPG calculations); an annual $75 annual Southwest travel credit; 20% back on in-flight drinks, Wi-Fi, messaging and movies; and four Upgraded Boardings in the A1–A15 position each year (worth up to $50 each).

Note that Upgraded Boarding is only available the day of travel and is not the same thing as Southwest’s EarlyBird Check-In that sells for $15+ per person. Read the full card review.

APPLY HERE: Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

This card awards 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open and has a $99 annual fee. This is a solid middle-of-the-road Southwest card that offers perks such as no foreign transaction fees and can help you earn tier qualifying points for A-List status, but keeps the annual fee under $100. The Southwest Premier Card awards 6,000 bonus points at each account anniversary (worth $90 by TPG valuations).

APPLY HERE: Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

The more entry-level Southwest personal card awards 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open and carries a $69 annual fee. This card does not come with nearly as many built-in perks as the others, but the annual fee is also lower to compensate.

APPLY HERE: Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card

Interestingly, the Southwest small business cards have some better bonuses and perks available than the personal cards. So, if you are eligible to open a small business card, this is the one to get. The Southwest Performance Business Card is offering 70,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in the first three months. It also awards 9,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points after each account anniversary and comes with a $199 annual fee.

With the card, you’ll also get four A1–A15 boarding passes per year, up to 365 $8 Inflight Wi-Fi credits per year (covers all-day), a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck statement credit every four years, 3x points on Southwest charges and more. The 70,000 bonus points from this one card can get you pretty close to earning the Companion Pass!

APPLY HERE: Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card

This card awards 60,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months. It also comes with 6,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points awarded after each account anniversary and a $99 annual fee.

TPG has Southwest Rapid Rewards points valued at 1.5 cents apiece, so by those calculations, 60,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points are worth $900 and 70,000 bonus points would be worth $1,050. However, the value of the Companion Pass itself might tilt the value of the bonus points upward if you think you will be able to earn and use the pass. (Here’s how to earn the Companion Pass with the help of any of the cobranded credit cards.)

APPLY HERE: Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card

Related: How to Get the Best Seats on Southwest Airlines

Southwest Companion Pass factor

Families, couples and others considering a Southwest credit card should absolutely factor earning and using the Southwest Companion Pass into the equation. A Southwest Companion Pass allows the pass holder to designate one person to fly for free with them (other than paying taxes) for the remainder of the year in which it is earned and the entire following year.

Having the Southwest Companion Pass basically turns your Southwest airline tickets into buy one, get one (BOGO) deals for you and your designated companion. To earn the Southwest Companion Pass you need to earn 125,000 eligible Southwest Rapid Rewards points or take 100 qualifying one-way Southwest flights in a calendar year.

Not all Rapid Rewards points count toward earning the Companion Pass. For example, purchased points and transfers to Southwest Rapid Rewards from the Chase Ultimate Rewards program and cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card do not count toward earning the Companion Pass. However, the sign-up bonus points and the points earned from everyday spending on the Southwest cobranded credit cards do count toward earning the Southwest Companion Pass. 

Since the Companion Pass points calendar resets on Jan. 1 of every year, you want to sure and time your applications wisely so that you don’t accidentally fall short of earning a Southwest Companion Pass. If you earned 40,000 bonus points from a personal Southwest card early in the year and then later in the year earned 70,000 from the new small business card, you’d have 110,000 of the required 125,000 points needed in a calendar year to earn the Companion Pass just from the bonuses. And yes — the Companion Pass works to bring a friend or family member to Hawaii!

Image by John M Lund Photography Inc / Getty Images
Image by John M Lund Photography Inc / Getty Images

Which Southwest credit card are you eligible for?

When deciding which Southwest credit card is right for your family, you want to narrow down which card(s) and bonuses you are actually eligible to receive. With Chase’s general application restrictions, including the issuer’s infamous 5/24 rule and the terms on each specific card, it can get tricky.

The terms on the three personal Southwest credit cards state:

“The product is not available to either (i) current Cardmembers of any Southwest Rapids Rewards® Credit Card, or (ii) previous Cardmembers of any Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Card who received a new Cardmember bonus within the last 24 months. This does not apply to Cardmembers of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Business Card and Employee Credit Card products.”

In practical terms, this means you cannot get approved for a new Southwest personal credit card if you currently hold one and/or received a new card member bonus for one in the last two years. This only refers to primary account holders, so if you were just an authorized user on someone’s Southwest card that should not hurt your chances of getting your own card. Of note is that the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card are viewed differently than the personal cards and having one of them now, or in the past, does not disqualify you from getting a personal Southwest credit card. Additionally, having one of the small business cards does not disqualify you from having or getting the other.

While you do need a small business to open a Southwest business card, keep in mind that this doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge small business. Your legit side-hustle may need a credit card to keep expenses separate.

Who should get a Southwest credit card

There are several really good reasons to get a Southwest credit card. Anyone who wants a nice shot of Southwest bonus points in their Rapid Rewards account is a good candidate, especially when the sign-up bonuses are increased a bit.

Travelers who need some help qualifying for the Companion Pass are also good candidates, since bonuses of 40,000 – 70,000 points go a long way in getting you closer to the 125,000 Companion Pass eligible points needed in a calendar year to unlock BOGO Southwest flights.

Finally, Southwest credit cards offer some great perks for regular, and even occasional, Southwest flyers. WiFi passes, A1 – A15 boarding positions, travel credits, discounts on inflight purchases and more go a long way to making a very good airline to fly, an even better and more enjoyable opportunity.

Get your preferred seat on Southwest Airlines with a good boarding spot (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

Bottom line

Every family’s travel needs, goals and budget are unique, so there will never be a one-size-fits-all credit card recommendation. That said, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card gets my vote as the personal card offering most perks and benefits for those who fly Southwest, while the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card is a great choice for those in the market for a small business card with a massive sign-up bonus.

Southwest flying over Honolulu
(Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card: 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

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Featured image by Garry Lopater via Unsplash.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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