Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card: An affordable way to earn points, now with a 50,000-point bonus

Jun 1, 2022

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card overview

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card has the lowest annual fee of any 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 affordable, the Plus card doesn’t have as many perks as its higher-priced counterparts to keep you interested past the initial welcome bonus. Card rating*: ⭐⭐⭐½

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

In a hobby now seemingly dominated by ultra-premium credit cards with $450-plus annual fees and laundry lists of luxury perks, it’s hard to imagine that a cobranded airline credit 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 — under the right conditions.

Southwest is already relatively unusual in that it offers three affordable personal credit cards. With all three cards currently offering identical 50,000-point welcome bonuses after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening, it’s even more important to look at the differences among your three choices.

Let’s take a look at how the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card and its perks measure up against its higher-end siblings.

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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 offers solid points-earning rates and minimal benefits, but if you’re only flying Southwest occasionally, that’s really all you need.

That 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 likely won’t be approved for this card. If you are under the 5/24 threshold, remember that opening this card will count toward that limit, so make sure this specific product will be worth a slot.

There’s another limitation, though. 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, this restriction is just on personal cards and doesn’t apply to Southwest business credit cards. This means you can have both a Southwest personal and a business card open simultaneously, which is something you might want to do (more about this below).

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 parked at Las Vegas’ Harry Reid International Airport (LAS). (Photo by Benét J. Wilson/The Points Guy)

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

Welcome offer: A quicker way to the Southwest Companion Pass

Whether you settle on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card or opt for one of its siblings (the mid-tier Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card or the top-tier Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card), you’ll earn the same sign-up bonus — 50,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

TPG values Southwest Rapid Rewards points at 1.5 cents each, making this sign-up bonus worth approximately $750.

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

What’s more, though, is that those 50,000 bonus points count toward earning the airline’s ultra-valuable Companion Pass, which is potentially worth thousands of dollars depending on how often you and a partner fly.

The Southwest Companion Pass is basically a two-for-one benefit that allows the holder to bring a designated friend or family member along on any Southwest flight they take. With the Companion Pass, you just pay the taxes and fees on the second ticket, sort of like you would on an award ticket. Even better, the Companion Pass can be applied to both paid and award tickets. So if you regularly fly with another person, this one perk can be very, very lucrative.

In order to attain the Southwest Companion Pass, you’ve got to earn 125,000 qualifying points or take 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year. By earning the sign-up bonus with this card, you’re already 40% of the way there. Granted, you’ll have to earn 75,000 more points to hit that qualifying threshold, but you have several more months in 2022 to do so, and then your pass will be good for the rest of the current calendar year and the following one. So the faster you earn it, the more time you’ll have to use it.

Read more: 13 lessons from 13 years’ worth of Southwest Companion Passes

Main perks and benefits

The value of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card doesn’t just end with the sign-up bonus. Here are all of the perks you’ll get in exchange for its $69 annual fee:

  • Reimbursement for up to two EarlyBird check-ins every card anniversary.
  • 3,000 bonus points each account anniversary year, worth about $45 by TPG valuations.
  • Baggage delay insurance: Up to $100 per day for up to three days when your bags are delayed more than six hours.
  • 25% back on inflight purchases of drinks and Wi-Fi on Southwest Airlines flights.
  • 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 for eligible purchases you make on your card.

Earning and redeeming

Here are the current earning rates on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus:

  • 2 points per dollar on local transit and commuting purchases, including ride-hailing services.
  • 2 points per dollar on internet, cable, phone services and select streaming service purchases.
  • 2 points per dollar on Southwest purchases and those made with Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners.
  • 1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases.

These bonus categories help make the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card a forerunner for everyday purchases.

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 if you intend to use it for purchases made abroad.

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.

The airline offers four tiers of fares, ranging from the cheapest Wanna Get Away tickets to the more expensive Business Select ones with Wanna Get Away Plus and Anytime fares in between.

(Screenshot from Southwest)

The award rates are tied to the cash price of the tickets, unlike some 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 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 the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card. The Premier has a slightly higher annual fee of $99, plus a better anniversary points bonus (6,000 points) and a higher earning rate on Southwest purchases (3 points per dollar versus 2 points per dollar with the Plus) and waives foreign transaction fees.

If you’re interested in getting more out of your Southwest credit card, you should set your sights on the top-tier Priority Card. Your $149 annual fee is effectively cut in half thanks to a $75 annual Southwest travel credit. The Priority card confers all the benefits of the other two cards, but it has a 7,500-point anniversary bonus, plus four upgraded boardings per year and the ability to earn unlimited tier qualifying points toward elite status.

The question you ultimately need to answer for yourself is whether you want the cheapest Southwest card — or if you are willing to pay more money upfront and essentially have it returned to you in the form of Southwest travel credits and anniversary points bonuses. By answering that question, you should be able to figure out if the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus is the right card for you, or if you should opt for one of the airline’s higher-end products.

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

Bottom line

For only $69 per year, this card comes with a solid sign-up bonus that’s enough to make this card worth considering, especially for those who like Southwest but only fly with the airline occasionally.

Official application link: Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card with 50,000 bonus points.

Additional reporting by Ryan Wilcox, Stella Shon and Christina Ly.

Featured photo by Sean Cudahy/The Points Guy.

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