Comparing the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority, Premier and Plus credit cards

Jan 22, 2020

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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 a sign-up bonus of 40,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months of account opening.

As a reminder, Chase issues the following cobranded personal Southwest credit cards:

Let’s dive in and take a look at the differences between them:

Card overview

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card
Annual fee $69 $99 $149
Anniversary points bonus  3,000 Rapid Rewards points 6,000 Rapid Rewards points 7,500 Rapid Rewards points
Earning rates 2x on Southwest flights and hotel and car rental partners

1x everywhere else

2x on Southwest flights and hotel and car rental partners

1x everywhere else

2x on Southwest flights and hotel and car rental partners

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.

Related reading: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve: Which card is right for you?

TPG values Southwest Rapid Rewards points at 1.5 cents each, making the 40,000 points from this sign-up bonus worth $975.

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

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 23: Kyle Henderson of Alexandria, Virginia checks his boarding pass at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter Wednesday, November 23, 2005, at the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in Baltimore, Maryland. Kyle arrived several hours early to the airport to beat the rush of people before he flies to visit his family for the holidays. (Photo by Chris Greenberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Greenberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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 40,000-point 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.

Eligibility

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.

Bottom line

A Southwest Airlines Co. Boeing 737 on the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on Friday, March 29, 2019 in Los Angeles, Calif. © 2019 Patrick T. Fallon for The Points Guy
A Southwest Airlines Co. Boeing 737 on the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). (Patrick T. Fallon for The Points Guy)

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 $600 worth of Southwest points with a much lower upfront cost.

Featured photo by Eric Helgas/The Points Guy.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,600

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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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