Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card review: Fast track to the Companion Pass
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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card
Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest credit card information.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card Overview
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card is the most rewarding of Southwest’s personal credit cards, with a $75 annual Southwest credit and 7,500 anniversary bonus points. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐½
*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
Southwest has made a name for itself with its uniform, streamlined operations and reputation of going above and beyond for passengers. Unlike other airlines, it doesn’t offer any lounges, any type of premium cabin or even seating with extra legroom. But it does offer a full suite of cobranded credit cards to help frequent flyers maximize their time in the air.
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In mid-2018, Southwest added the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card as its top-tier card in its lineup of personal cards. The card, which carries a $149 annual fee, isn’t intended to match the premium cards of the Big Three 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 these aren’t applicable to Southwest flyers.
Instead, this card offers an annual Southwest travel credit, upgraded boardings and the ability to fast-track earning the carrier’s coveted Companion Pass. Although with the current credit card offer (more on the offer below), you’ll see that new cardmembers can even earn the pass right away, allowing your companion to fly with you for free (plus taxes and fees) an unlimited number of times during the life of the pass.
So are the added benefits valuable enough to warrant the price tag? Today we’ll take a deep dive into the card benefits to find out.
Who is this card for?
As with all of Southwest’s cobranded cards, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card makes the most sense for those who prefer Southwest Airlines. As the card’s highest-earning (and most expensive) consumer credit card, it’s best suited for those who are loyal to Southwest and fly with the airline regularly. Even though it does have the highest annual fee of any of Southwest’s personal cards, the $149 you’ll pay each year is still much lower than other airlines’ top-tier offers, such as the revamped Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card with its $550 annual fee (see rates and fees).
Although the airline has two other personal credit cards and two business cards in its portfolio, this card is certainly one of the most rewarding to have in your wallet. For most travelers who enjoy flying Southwest, this is the card that you’ll want.
All Southwest cards are subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule. This means if you’ve opened more than five credit cards in the past 24 months (from all banks, not just Chase), you almost certainly won’t be approved. In 2018, Chase also added new restrictions to Southwest personal credit card sign-up bonuses. As a result, you can’t open a new personal card if you currently have one open, and you can’t open a new personal Southwest card if you earned a sign-up bonus in the past 24 months on any personal Southwest card.
Sign-up bonus: Southwest Companion Pass, plus 30,000 points
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card is offering a unique sign-up bonus where you’ll earn the Southwest Companion Pass, plus 30,000 points after spending $5,000 on the card within the first three months. With this offer, the Companion Pass will expire on Feb. 28, 2022. This offer is currently valid through March 10, 2021.
The value of this offer is not as straightforward as other Southwest credit card offers we’ve seen in the past, since the value of the Companion Pass truly depends on how much you’ll fly. If you don’t think you’re getting on an airline within the next year, then this offer won’t give you nearly as much value as an offer with a boatload of points. However, if you are ready to start traveling again, this could truly save you a ton of money (or Southwest points) since your companion will fly with you for free (plus taxes and fees) for the next year. Think of this as a BOGO on every single flight you take.
The pass will show up in your account a few days after your statement closes in the month where you meet the $5,000 minimum spend requirement. So let’s say you apply for the credit card now and your statement closes on March 15, 2021. If you spend $5,000 on your card before your first statement closes (not including the card’s annual fee), the pass should show up in your account two to five days after March 15.
We say should since the terms and conditions of the offer state that the pass will post to your account within eight weeks. But in normal practice, the timeframe listed above is typically how it works when it comes to earning the Companion Pass when it has to do with credit card spend.
Best of all, the 30,000 points earned from the offer — worth $450 based on TPG’s current valuations — can be used to book your ticket, still allowing the companion to be added to the flight.
The one thing to note is that you’ll be earning a promotional Companion Pass, which means it comes with a different expiration date. As previously mentioned, the pass that comes with this offer expires Feb. 28, 2022. Typically, when you earn the Companion Pass through the traditional method of earning 125,000 tier qualifying points, the pass expires Dec. 31 of the following year.
With that being said, the 30,000 points you earn from this offer will count towards the 125,000 points needed, so you can always combine this card with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card to extend your promotional pass through Dec. 31, 2022. Although Southwest doesn’t allow you to open two personal cards at the same time, the business credit cards are not subject to this rule.
Since the Performance Business card is offering up to a 100,000-point sign-up bonus — 70,000 points after $5,000 in spending in the first three months and another 30,000 points after spending $25,000 in the first six months of having the card — just meeting the first minimum spend requirement of $5,000 will give you enough points to earn the pass for the year. Adding 70,000 points to the 30,000 points from the personal card offer will put you at 100,000 points, which will earn you the pass right away, assuming you had a Southwest Rapid Rewards account open as of Dec. 31, 2020. (Those accounts received a 25,000-point boost towards earning the Companion Pass).
Main benefits and perks
It should come as no surprise that the perks on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card revolve around its sponsoring airline. However, even Southwest flyers who aren’t in the air 24/7 should have no trouble using 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, worth about $112, based on TPG’s valuations.
- $75 annual Southwest travel credit: During each cardmember year, you’ll receive a $75 travel credit that can be used on most Southwest purchases, including tickets (but excluding upgraded boardings and inflight purchases), dropping the card’s actual cost to $74.
- Four upgraded boardings per year: Use your card at the ticket counter or gate to pay for A1-A15 boarding spots and you’ll be reimbursed the cost, up to four times per year. Ordinarily, upgraded boarding costs between $30 and $50 per round-trip upgrade, depending on the itinerary, so this perk can be worth up to $200 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 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 addition to the Southwest-specific benefits, the card comes with lost-luggage reimbursement, baggage delay insurance, extended warranty and purchase protection. The card has no foreign transaction fees, so you can make purchases overseas without accumulating extra charges.
And of course, don’t forget that all Southwest flyers don’t pay change or cancellation fees, they get two free checked bags and have access to the easy-to-use Rapid Rewards program.
Earning and redeeming
The one disappointing aspect of this card is its earning rates. The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card earns two points per dollar on Southwest purchases, as well as on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases, and one point per dollar on everything else. Like the welcome bonus, these are identical to the bonus categories on Southwest’s other personal cards.
By comparison, Delta, American and United have all 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 bonus points for spending on categories such as dining.
Redeeming points with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card is very straightforward. Much like 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 depending on the time of year. 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 in early 2019.
How does the Southwest Priority compare with other Southwest personal cards?
All three cards are currently offering the same sign-up bonus of the Southwest Companion Pass, plus 30,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months. The difference between the cards comes in the form of perks and annual fees.
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|
|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|
When you break it down, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card is the obvious choice for anyone who flies Southwest two or more times a year.
The Southwest Priority 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 other Southwest cards also have anniversary bonuses, they are lower and don’t come with annual travel credits.
If you’re not after the Companion Pass or other airline-specific perks and just want to rack up Rapid Rewards points, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve. Because 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 $550 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.
If you only fly Southwest once in a blue moon, you might be better off with one of the other Southwest cards with a lower annual fee, or even another travel rewards card. But as long as you fly Southwest more than a couple of times 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.
Apply here for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve, please click here.
Additional reporting by Benét J. Wilson and Jennifer Yellin.
Featured photo by Angel DiBilio/Shutterstock
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