Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card review: Fast track to the Companion Pass

Apr 23, 2020

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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.

*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.

Related reading: Battle of the Airlines: Why I think Southwest Airlines is the best

Instead, this card offers an annual Southwest travel credit, upgraded boardings and the ability to fast-track earning the carrier’s coveted Companion 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.

In This Post

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 it’s $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.

Related reading: The best Southwest Airlines credit cards for family travelers

(Photo by Owen CL/Unsplash)

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 already have one, 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: 40,000 points

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card is offering a sign-up bonus of 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months. The 40,000 points from the bottom tier of this sign-up bonus are worth $600, based on TPG’s valuations.

This isn’t the highest bonus we’ve ever seen, but if you want to earn the Companion Pass — which requires earning 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or taking 100 qualifying one-way flights in a year — the good news is that the points earned from this sign-up bonus count toward Companion Pass eligibility.This pass allows you to bring a designated friend or family member for (almost) free on any Southwest flight you take. You’ll only need to pay the taxes and fees, just like you would on an award ticket.

Do keep in mind that this bonus will not help you hit 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 following year.

Related reading: How to quickly earn the Southwest Companion Pass

Although 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 card and either of the business cards to work toward the Companion Pass.

The information for the Southwest Performance Business card and Southwest Premier Business card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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 A1-15 boarding spots and you’ll be reimbursed the cost, up to four times per year. Ordinarily, upgraded boarding costs between $30 and $50 per 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 (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.
(Photo by Wyatt Smith / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

In addition to the Southwest-specific benefits, the card comes with lost-luggage reimbursement, baggage delay insuranceextended 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 2 points per dollar on Southwest purchases, as well as on 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.

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.

Related reading: How to redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards points

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX
(Photo by Max Prosperi)

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.

Related reading: How to get the best seats on Southwest Airlines

how does the Southwest Priority compare with other Southwest personal cards?

All three cards are currently offering the same sign-up bonus of 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 within the first three months of account opening, along with the same earning rates. 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
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

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.

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

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.

Related reading: Chase Sapphire Preferred card review

Bottom line

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.

Related reading: Comparing the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority, Premier and Plus Credit Cards

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.

Featured photo by The Points Guy.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points


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.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 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, 60,000 points are worth $750 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
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
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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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