Comparing the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority, Premier and Plus credit cards
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest credit cards information and benefits. It was originally published on Sept. 12, 2019.
Sign-up bonuses are usually one of the best ways to differentiate middle-tier credit cards from their more premium competition. But with the three Southwest Airlines consumer credit cards offering the exact same sign-up bonus, we’ll have to dig a little deeper to see which one comes out ahead.
Currently, all three cards are offering 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
As a reminder, Chase issues the following cobranded personal Southwest credit cards:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
Let’s dive in and take a look at the differences between them:
|Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card||Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card||Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card|
|Anniversary points bonus||3,000 Rapid Rewards points||6,000 Rapid Rewards points||7,500 Rapid Rewards points|
|Earning rates||Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases.
1x everywhere else
|Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases.
1x everywhere else
|Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases.
1x everywhere else
|Other perks||N/A||N/A||$75 annual Southwest travel credit
Four upgraded boardings per year (when available)
20% back on inflight drinks and Wi-Fi
|Tier Qualifying Points||N/A||Earn up to 15,000 TQPs a year, 1,500 for each $10,000 spent||Earn up to 15,000 TQPs a year, 1,500 for each $10,000 spent|
|Foreign transaction fee||3%||None||None|
While Southwest travelers do have a choice to make, the spread in costs and benefits between these cards isn’t nearly as large as when you’re deciding between cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve.
TPG values Southwest Rapid Rewards points at 1.5 cents each, making the 40,000 bonus points from this sign-up bonus worth $600.
So which card should you get? With identical earning rates and sign-up bonuses, this calculation really boils down to each card’s annual fee and the benefits you get in return.
If you’re a frequent Southwest flyer
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card makes a very compelling case for itself. If you are a frequent flyer, you should have no trouble maxing out the $75 annual Southwest travel credit, dropping your effective out-of-pocket cost for this card from $149 to $74. Remember, every dollar or point you spend stretches twice as far if you’re lucky enough to have the famous Southwest Airlines Companion Pass. If you do, you can argue that a $75 credit is actually worth $150, cutting the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card’s annual fee to zero.
Related reading: Battle of the Airlines: Why I think Southwest Airlines is the best
Even if you’re not willing to take that numerical leap, you’ll still end up spending less each year holding the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card than if you opted for the mid-tier Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card — plus you’ll get more in return. The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card is the only one to offer any meaningful perks. In addition to the travel credit, you’ll get 20% back on inflight drinks and Wi-Fi, plus four upgraded boardings in the A1-A15 position a year, when available. (Note that this is not the same as Southwest’s Early Bird Check-In, which sells for between $15 and $25 a person when you’re booking a flight.) The only argument against the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card is that you do have to pay the full $149 up front.
If you’re looking for the cheapest card
If you’re looking for a cheaper initial cost to acquire the current sign-up bonus, you can pick between the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card (with a $99 annual fee) or the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card (with a $69 annual fee). What does the extra $30 a year on the Premier card buy you? For starters, your anniversary points bonus will be 6,000 instead of 3,000. TPG values that extra 3,000 points at $45, more than making up for the increased fee.
If you opt for the cheapest card — the Plus — you’ll get hit with a 3% fee on foreign transactions. This isn’t a problem for most of Southwest’s primarily domestic route network, but Southwest’s cheap fares, low fees and above-average customer services makes for a great excuse to take a trip to a Caribbean destination at an affordable cost, so you should definitely keep this in mind.
The thing that’s kept most people from opening these credit cards on their way to earning the Companion Pass has always been Chase’s restrictions on credit card applications. First and foremost is the 5/24 rule, which applies to all of these cards. Chase will automatically reject applicants for most of its credit cards if they’ve opened five or more credit cards in the last 24 months. You can read this complete guide to the 5/24 rule, but if you’re over your five slots, do not waste an application here.
In addition to the 5/24 rule, the terms and conditions of each of these cards state the following:
The product is not available to either (i) current Cardmembers of any Southwest Rapid 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.
If you currently hold a Southwest personal credit card, or have received a bonus for one in the last 24 months, you will not be eligible for this offer. Note that this only applies to personal credit cards, so if you recently opened the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card or Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card to fast-track your way to the Companion Pass, you can still open a personal card and get it even sooner.
The Southwest credit cards have always been popular because they offer one of the fastest routes toward earning the carrier’s coveted Companion Pass.
Anyone making this commitment to Southwest should have no problem maxing out the travel benefits that come with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card. After accounting for the $75 annual Southwest travel credit (worth twice as much when you have the Companion Pass), the elevated anniversary points bonus and other perks, this is, hands-down, the card that will add the most value to your year of companion travel.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card‘s $149 annual fee is relatively cheap in today’s world of hyper-expensive premium credit cards, but if that still feels like too much, it’s possible to get a good return from the Premier and Plus cards as well, while earning up to $1,200 worth of Southwest points with a much lower upfront cost.
Featured photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy.
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