Credit Card Review: Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card
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In mid-2018, Southwest jumped on the bandwagon of airlines upping their cobranded credit card game and added the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card to its lineup of personal cards. Carrying a $149 annual fee, it’s Southwest’s first premium card, though it isn’t intended to match the premium cards of the Big 3 airlines — or their significantly higher annual fees. After all, while most airline credit cards revolve around perks like free checked bags, elite dollars requirement waivers and lounge access, perks like those aren’t applicable to Southwest flyers.
Instead, this card offers less-common perks, including an annual Southwest travel credit, upgraded boardings and the ability to fast-track the carrier’s coveted Companion Pass. But are the added benefits valuable enough to warrant a higher price tag? Today we’ll take a deep dive into the card to find out.
Who Is This Card For?
In case the card’s name didn’t give it away, the Southwest Priority makes the most sense for those who regularly fly Southwest. If you don’t, customer-friendly policies, like no change or cancellation fees, two free checked bags and an easy-to-use frequent flyer program, might make you want to rethink that.
Although the airline has two more personal credit cards and one business card in its portfolio, as you’ll learn from the analysis at the end of this post, in most cases, this’ll be the card you want.
Just remember that this card, along with the other Southwest cards, is subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule. Plain and simple, this means that if you’ve opened more than five credit cards in the past 24 months (from all banks, not just Chase), you won’t be approved. Also, Chase recently added new restrictions to Southwest personal credit cards specifically related to sign-up bonuses. As a result, you can’t open a new personal card if you already have one, nor can you open a personal version if you earned a sign-up bonus on one in the last 24 months.
The Southwest Priority is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 40,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months. The 40,000 points from this sign-up bonus are worth $600 based on TPG’s valuations. If you want to earn the Companion Pass — by earning 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or by taking 100 qualifying flights in a year — the good news is that these points count toward both A-List and Companion Pass eligibility. The Companion Pass grants you the benefit for the remainder of the year in which you earn it as well as the entire following year.
While you can’t combine this card with either the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card or Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card to earn the Companion Pass through credit card sign-up bonuses alone, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card is not subject to this rule, so you could open both the Priority and the business card to work toward the Companion Pass.
The one disappointing aspect of the card is its earning rates. The Southwest Priority card earns 2 points per dollar on Southwest purchases as well as Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases, and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Like the welcome bonus, these are identical to the bonus categories on Southwest’s other personal cards.
As a point of comparison, both American and United recently improved their cobranded credit card bonus categories to make them more valuable for everyday spending. In addition to bonus points for purchases with the respective airlines, those cards offer now bonus points for spending on categories such as dining.
Redeeming points with the Southwest Priority is very straightforward. Much like Delta and JetBlue, Southwest utilizes a dynamic points redemption system which fluctuates based on the current revenue price of the ticket. In other words, points maintain a fairly constant value and you should never have a hard time redeeming them. Plus, if your plans change, you can redeposit your award without penalty.
While many points and miles enthusiasts stay as far away from these types of rewards currencies as possible, they can often provide significantly greater value than traditional airline miles. For instance, you can fly from Los Angeles (LAX) to Newark (EWR) for just 6,821 points one-way in April. Meanwhile, American Airlines and United would charge you 12,500 miles — that is, assuming you even find saver award availability. If you book during one of the airline’s somewhat frequent flash sales, you could score awards as low as 1,325 points one-way. But the best idea might be to save your miles for when the airline launches flights to Hawaii later this year.
It should come as no surprise that the Southwest Priority’s money-saving perks revolve around its sponsoring airline. However, even occasional Southwest flyers should have no trouble utilizing them to more than offset the card’s annual fee.
- 7,500-Point Anniversary Bonus — Each year on your card-opening anniversary, you’ll receive 7,500 Rapid Rewards points. That’s worth about $112 based on TPG’s valuations.
- $75 Annual Southwest Travel Credit — During each card member year, you’ll receive a $75 travel credit that can be used on most Southwest purchases, including actual tickets (but excluding upgraded boardings and inflight purchases).
- Four Upgraded Boardings Per Year — Use your card at the ticket counter or gate to pay for a A1-15 boarding spots, and you’ll be reimbursed the cost, up to four times per year. Ordinarily, upgraded boarding costs between $30 and $50 per upgrade depending on the itinerary so this perk can get you up to $200 in value per year.
- 20% Inflight Savings — Receive 20% back in the form of a statement credit after you use your card to purchase inflight drinks, Wi-Fi, messaging and movies.
- Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs) Boost — Earn 1,500 TQPs that count toward A-List and A-List Preferred status for each $10,000 you spend in a calendar year, up to $100,000 in spending.
In addition to the Southwest-specific benefits, the card carries lost luggage reimbursement, baggage delay insurance, extended warranty and purchase protection. The card also has no foreign transaction fees, so you can safely make purchases overseas without accumulating extra charges.
Which Cards Compete With the Southwest Priority Card?
The first competitors that come to mind are Southwests other credit cards. We’ll skip the earning rates as they’re the same across the board, but here’s a general comparison of the personal cards.
|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||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|
Annual fee aside, the cards don’t look all that different at first glance. But when you break it down, the Southwest Priority is the obvious choice for anyone who flies Southwest two or more times a year. If you fly less than that, you might be better with one of the lower annual fee cards or even another travel rewards card entirely.
The Southwest Priority’s travel credit effectively drops the card’s annual fee to $74. Factor in its 7,500-point anniversary bonus, worth $112.50 according to TPG’s latest valuations, and you’ll actually come out $38.50 ahead just by having the card. This is before even considering the card’s other perks which we’ll dig into more later on. While Southwest’s other cards also have anniversary bonuses, they’re lower and the other cards don’t come with any annual travel credits so none of their annual fees can be fully offset.
If you’re not after the Companion Pass or other airline-specific perks and just want to rack up a lot of Rapid Rewards points, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve. Since Southwest is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, you can easily transfer your points earned with either of these cards to the airline, among other partners. The Preferred has a $95 annual fee and earns 2x points on all travel and dining purchases, meanwhile, the Reserve has a $450 annual fee and earns 3x points on travel and dining. Both cards offer valuable travel benefits including primary car rental coverage and trip delay protection.
As long as you fly Southwest twice per year, you’re sure to come out ahead with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card. The card’s everyday earning rates leave more to be desired, but impressive built-in perks like a $75 annual travel credit and 7,500-point anniversary bonus make up for it. And with the current limited-time offer that gets you the Southwest Companion Pass through Dec. 31, 2019, now’s an especially good time to consider this card.
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Earn 2 points $1 on Southwest and Rapid Rewards car and hotel purchases and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. This card also comes with an annual $75 travel credit.
- Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.
- 7,500 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
- $75 Southwest® travel credit each year.
- 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available.
- 20% back on in-flight drinks and WiFi.
- 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases.
- 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
- No foreign transaction fees.