Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card: An affordable way to earn points

Feb 15, 2021

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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

Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest credit card information.


Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card Overview

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card is the cheapest Southwest credit card on the market, which is either a strength or weakness depending on how you look at it. While the $69 annual fee is nice and low, the Plus card doesn’t have many perks to keep you interested past the initial welcome bonus. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐

*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.

In a hobby now dominated by ultra-premium credit cards with $450-plus annual fees and a laundry list of luxury perks, it’s hard to imagine that a cobranded airline card with a $69 annual fee might be valuable to loyal Southwest customers, but the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card does make sense for some flyers — but only under the right conditions.

Southwest is already relatively unusual in that it offers three affordable personal credit cards. With all three cards offering an identical sign-up bonus of the Southwest Companion Pass, plus 30,000 points after spending $5,000 on the card within the first thee months, it’s even more important to look at the differences between your three choices.

Let’s take a look at how the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card measures up.

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

In This Post

Who is this card for?

This is not the card that’s going to unlock the doors of fancy, first-class suites or give you all the trappings of elite status, but that’s never been what Southwest is about. The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card offers a basic earning rate and minimal benefits, but if you’re only flying Southwest occasionally, that’s really all you need. Plus, during the current sign-up offer, you can receive the elusive Southwest Companion Pass, which can give you a ton of value.

That being said, it’s important to keep in mind that the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus is subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule. If you’ve opened five or more new credit card accounts (including being added as an authorized user) in the past 24 months, you more than likely won’t be approved for this card. If you are under 5/24, also remember that opening this card will count toward that score, too, so make sure this will be worth that slot.

Another limitation with this card, along with all of Southwest’s personal cards, is the restrictions that were put in place back in 2018. If you currently hold any personal Southwest credit card — or earned a sign-up bonus on a personal Southwest card in the last 24 months — you won’t be eligible for the bonus on this card. Fortunately though, this restriction is just with the personal cards and doesn’t apply toward the Southwest business cards. This means you can have both a personal and a business card open at the same time — which is something you might want to do (more about this below).

Photo by Owen CL on Unsplash.
(Photo by Owen CL on Unsplash)

Current bonus: Southwest Companion Pass, plus 30,000 points

Whether you settle on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card or opt for one of its siblings instead (the mid-tier Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card or the top-tier Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card), you’ll earn the exact same sign-up bonus. With this unique offer — which lasts through March 10, 2021 at 6pm ET — you’ll earn the Southwest Companion Pass plus 30,000 points after you spend $5,000 on the card within the first three months.

This is a very different type of offer than what we’ve seen in the past. Instead of earning a boatload of Southwest points that can be used toward free flights, you’re instead being handed the Companion Pass and a smaller number of points (although still 30,000 points). The Companion Pass alone can truly be worth thousands of dollars, but the actual value depends on how much you plan on flying within the next 12 months. This is because the promotional pass that you earn as part of this offer expires Feb. 28, 2022 (this is the book-by and fly-by date).

It also depends on if a friend or family member will be flying with you on every flight you take. If most of your travel is solo — even if you travel every week — the Companion Pass will most likely not provide you much value. But if you have a child or significant other and you’re looking to hit the skies often over this next year, this pass can be invaluable.

For instance, let’s say you and your partner are looking to fly once a month over the next 12 months and the round-trip cost averages $250. With this buy-one-get-one pass, your partner will be saving a whopping $3,000 on flights solely due to the Companion Pass perk. While you’ll pay the taxes and fees on your companion’s ticket, for domestic flights you are looking at a minimal $5.60 per one-way flight. International flights, however, can cost more depending on the destination.

Not to mention the 30,000 points you also earn from the sign-up bonus are valued at $450 based on TPG’s valuations. These points can also be redeemed towards the primary member’s flight, and the companion can still be added for free (plus taxes and fees). If you fall into the category of “let’s go travel,” you’ll find this card’s sign-up bonus to be off the charts. But if you are still putting travel on hold, this is probably not the best time for you to apply for this card.

And since this particular pass expires in a year, you can also combine this offer with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card at some point in 2021. This will allow you to earn the pass through the traditional method, which means the pass won’t expire until Dec. 31, 2022 — giving you another 10 months with the pass.

As of right now, the sign-up bonus on the Performance Business card is 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Spending $5,000 on the card will earn you 80,000 points. Combine that with the 30,000 points that you’ll earn as part of the personal card offer and you are already at 110,000 points. Although you typically need 125,000 points in a calendar year to earn the pass, this year, Southwest is making it easier to earn the pass. As long as your Southwest Rapid Rewards account was open by Dec. 31, 2020, Southwest is adding 25,000 tier qualifying points to each eligible account. This means you only need to earn another 100,000 tier qualifying points this year — which is less than the amount you’ll earn from the current offers on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card (once you spend $5,000 on each card within three months).

Main perks and benefits

As you would expect from a card with an annual fee of only $69, there aren’t many perks associated with this card. The only thing you really get to offset your annual fee is 3,000 bonus points on your account anniversary, worth about $45 based on TPG’s valuations. While the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card might not be the most rewarding card for long-term spending, there are a few other benefits and protections worth mentioning:

  • Secondary car rental insurance and collision damage waiver
  • Baggage delay insurance: Up to $100 a day for up to three days when your bags are delayed more than six hours
  • Up to $3,000 in reimbursement for lost luggage
  • Roadside dispatch
  • Travel accident insurance (up to $500,000 depending on whether you hold the Visa Signature or Visa Platinum version of the card)
  • Extended warranty protection: Up to one year added to eligible manufacturers’ warranties of three years or less
  • Purchase protection: Up to $500 of damage or theft coverage for 120 days after making eligible purchases on your card

Earning and redeeming

The one area where most cobranded credit cards fall short is in the bonus categories, and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card is no exception. You’ll earn 2x points (or 3% back based on TPG’s valuations) for Southwest purchases and those made with Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners, and 1x (1.5%) everywhere else. Whether you’re looking to rack up cash or points, there are plenty of cards that offer a better return on everyday spending. When it comes to booking travel, it’s even possible to earn more Southwest points on your purchase by using a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve instead, but more on that later.

While most of Southwest’s route network is concentrated on domestic U.S. flights, be warned that the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card does have a 3% foreign transaction fee. When you combine this with the relatively low earning rates, it’s easy to say that this is not going to be the most rewarding card for you to use long term. Even if this card ends up in your sock drawer after the first six months, it might still be worth opening just for the bonus.

Rapid Rewards offers a few low-value redemption options including gift cards, merchandise, hotel stays, rental cars and travel experiences. You can even redeem for international flights on other carriers — but for all of these options, the rates are worse than what you’d get by redeeming for Southwest flights. And of course, with the Companion Pass, your points are worth twice as much when you use them for Southwest flights.

The airline offers three tiers of fares, ranging from the cheapest Wanna Get Away tickets to the more expensive Business Select ones.

(Image courtesy of Southwest)

The award rates are tied to the cash price of the tickets, unlike other airlines that use fixed-value charts. This means you don’t have to worry too much about saving up for a good redemption opportunity. If you have Rapid Rewards points, it’s almost always a good idea to use them instead of holding them for a future redemption.

Related: How to redeem points with the Southwest Rapid Rewards program

How does the Southwest Plus card stack up?

The most obvious competitors to the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card are the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card. The Premier has a slightly higher annual fee of $99, a better anniversary points bonus (6,000 points) and no foreign transaction fees. Other than that, there’s not much else to help it stand out.

If you’re interested in getting more out of your Southwest credit card, you should set your sights on the Priority Card. Your $149 annual fee is cut in half thanks to a $75 annual Southwest travel credit, which is really worth $150 while you have the Companion Pass. This essentially makes the Priority card free for any year that you have the Companion Pass, and less expensive than the mid-tier Premier card if you don’t. The Priority card also has a 7,500-point anniversary bonus and offers four upgraded A1-A15 boardings and a 20% discount on inflight drinks and Wi-Fi.

The question you ultimately need to answer for yourself is, do you want the cheapest card (the Southwest Plus), or are you willing to pay more money upfront and essentially have it returned to you in the form of Southwest travel credits and anniversary points bonuses?

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card is the cheapest way to get your hands on the amazing Southwest Companion Pass (as part of the sign-up offer). If that is the main benefit you are looking for, then this is the card to get. Although if you find yourself flying more (which most likely you are now that you’ll be a proud Companion Pass holder), you should strongly consider paying up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card instead.

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

Bottom line

For only $69 per year, this card’s current sign-up bonus will pretty much hand you the Southwest Companion Pass on a silver platter — all you have to do is meet the minimum spend requirement. The Companion pass alone is enough to make this card worth considering, especially for those who like Southwest but only fly with the airline occasionally.

Apply here for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card.

Featured photo by Robert Smith/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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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