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In mid-2018, Southwest joined other airlines in adding a premium cobranded credit card, 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, although it isn’t intended to match the premium cards of the Big 3 airlines — or their significantly higher annual fees. After all, most airline credit cards revolve around perks such as free checked bags, elite dollars requirement waivers and lounge access, but 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 the price tag? Today we’ll take a deep dive into the card to find out.

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Who Is This Card For?

In case the card’s name didn’t give it away, the Southwest Priority card makes the most sense for those who regularly fly Southwest. If you aren’t a regular customer, you might want to rethink that, since Southwest offers no change or cancellation fees, two free checked bags and the easy-to-use Rapid Rewards frequent-flyer program.

Although the airline has two more personal credit cards and two business cards in its portfolio, in most cases this’ll be the card you want, as we’ll see below.

(Photo by Owen CL / Unsplash)

Just remember that this card, along with the other Southwest cards, is subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule. 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, last year Chase 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 Southwest card if you earned a sign-up bonus on one in the last 24 months.

Welcome Bonus

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 three months. The 40,000 points from this sign-up bonus are worth $600, based on TPG’s valuations. This isn’t the highest bonus we’ve ever seen on this card, but 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 the points earned from this sign-up bonus count toward Companion Pass eligibility, but not A-List or A-List Preferred status. Once you earn a Companion Pass, you can keep it 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 Performance Business Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card are not subject to this rule, so you could open both the Priority and either of the business cards to work toward the Companion Pass.

Earning

The one disappointing aspect of this 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 improved their cobranded credit card bonus categories in 2018 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

Redeeming points with the Southwest Priority is very straightforward. Much like Delta and JetBlue, Southwest utilizes a dynamic points-redemption system that fluctuates based on the current cash 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.

Many points-and-miles enthusiasts stay as far away from these types of rewards currencies as possible, but 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 Southwest’s flash sales, you could score awards as low as 1,325 points one-way. But the best idea might be to use your miles for the airline’s flights to Hawaii, which began earlier this year.

Perks

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 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 insuranceextended-warranty and purchase protection. The card also has no foreign transaction fees, so you can safely make purchases overseas without accumulating extra charges.

How Does the Southwest Priority Card Compare with Other Southwest Personal Cards?

Let’s take a look at the earning rates, perks and annual fees across all three personal Southwest credit cards:

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

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.

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. Although 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.

Bottom Line

If you only fly Southwest once in a blue moon, you might be better off with one of the other Southewst cards with a lower annual fee or even another travel rewards card entirely. But 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 something to be desired, but impressive built-in perks like a $75 annual travel credit and 7,500-point anniversary bonus easily make up for it.

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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

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.

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More Things to Know
  • 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.
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$149
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each balance 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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