Southwest Premier credit card review: A good value at a low cost
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Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card Overview
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card is the middle of the pack when it comes to Southwest personal credit cards. While airline credit cards generally don’t come with too many perks, the lack of foreign transaction fees and 6,000-anniversary bonus points should help offset this card’s reasonable $99 annual fee. Card rating*: ⭐⭐⭐½
*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
Savvy TPG readers know that we generally don’t recommend building your points strategy around a single cobranded airline credit card, as they tend to offer fewer perks and less flexibility than a comparably priced transferable points card. In particular, when it comes to the Southwest Rapid Rewards card portfolio, you’ll generally get better earning rates and more flexible redemption options with cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points — which you can then transfer to Southwest at a 1:1 rate.
That said, the Southwest credit cards have remained very popular among Southwest fans. The mid-tier version of the three personal Southwest cards — the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card — has a good balance of perks and an annual fee that could make it worthy of a spot in your card collection.
The card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 75,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening — just in time for those looking to plan a summer trip.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Southwest Premier Card to help you decide if it should earn a spot in your wallet.
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Who is this card for?
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card is ideal for regular Southwest flyers, as many of the perks are specific to the airline.
The Premier is also a good choice for those looking for a lower annual fee than the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card ($99 compared to $149) while still enjoying perks such as two annual EarlyBird check-ins, no foreign transaction fees and an anniversary bonus (6,000 points). That said, if you do fly with Southwest frequently, you should consider that the higher-tier Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card does offer a higher anniversary bonus (7,500 points) and more perks for flying.
But for more casual Southwest flyers, the Southwest Premier Card is a perfectly adequate option to supplement your other travel credit cards.
Do keep in mind that all of Southwest’s cobranded cards are beholden to Chase’s infamous 5/24 rule. If you’ve opened five or more new accounts over the past 24 months (across all issuers, not just Chase), you’re likely to be denied for this card. Also, note that adding it to you wallet will count toward your 5/24 tally, because it’s a personal card. If you plan to apply for other Chase cards in the near future, make sure this card is worth the slot it will take up.
Current sign-up bonus
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 75,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
TPG values Rapid Rewards points at 1.5 cents each, meaning 75,000 points are worth up to $1,125 alone. However, these points (along with any you earn by spending on the card) do count toward Companion Pass qualification. As a result, getting the card and earning the full bonus could put you closer to one of the best perks in the frequent flyer world.
Keep in mind that you can’t earn a sign-up bonus on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card if you currently have any personal Southwest card, nor are you eligible if you earned a sign-up bonus on a personal Southwest card in the past 24 months.
Main perks and benefits
While you don’t expect an airline credit card with a $99 annual fee to come loaded with perks, there are quite a few on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card worth mentioning. The first is the 6,000-point anniversary bonus you’ll receive after renewing your card each year. Although the annual fee is not waived the first year, TPG values 6,000 Rapid Rewards points at $90, meaning that the anniversary bonus will almost entirely offset that fee from your second year on.
Also, travelers will enjoy two EarlyBird check-ins per year with the Southwest Premier Card, which can get you on the plane early and help you snag a better seat. The card offers 25% back on inflight purchases as well.
You may also be interested in earning Southwest A-List elite status to further enhance your travels with the carrier. Doing so requires completing 25 qualifying flights or earning 35,000 tier-qualifying points (TQPs) in a calendar year. You can earn bonus TQPs by spending on the Premier card — 1,500 TQPs for every $10,000 spent per calendar year.
Earning and redeeming
Most airline credit cards award bonus points or miles for purchases directly with the carrier, and that’s certainly true here, as you’ll earn 3 points per dollar spent with Southwest when you swipe the Premier Card. However, it also has some other enticing bonus categories, as you’ll earn 2 points per dollar spent on local transit and commuting purchases, internet, cable and phone services, and with select streaming providers. You’ll then earn 1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases.
When it’s time to use those rewards, one of the best things about redeeming Southwest Rapid Rewards points is the simplicity of the process. Whether you select the cheapest Wanna Get Away fares or the most expensive Business Select tickets, the cost of your award ticket is tied to the cash price of the flight. This means you don’t have to worry about getting the highest possible cent-per-point redemption value. If you have Rapid Rewards points, it’s almost always a good idea to redeem them for Southwest flights — including options to Hawaii and international destinations.
Southwest also gives you the option to redeem your points for gift cards, merchandise, rental cars, hotels, and experiences, although these redemption options offer much lower values. Interestingly enough, Southwest also lets you redeem your Rapid Rewards points for international flights on other airlines. The exact redemption value varies, but it’s generally worse than you would get redeeming directly for Southwest flights.
Bear in mind too that Southwest allows all travelers to check up to two bags for free, and the carrier’s policy of no change or cancellation fees means that you can reprice your award ticket if the price drops. This offers valuable flexibility to get the best possible redemption.
Which cards compete with the Southwest Premier?
The most obvious competitors to the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier are the other two personal cobranded Southwest cards — the higher-end Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority and the lower-end Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card. This competition comes down to which card offers the best perks for you in exchange for its annual fee. If you’re struggling to pick between the three, you can check out our head-to-head comparison.
While the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus only costs $69 a year, it has a 3% foreign transaction fee and a smaller anniversary bonus of only 3,000 Rapid Rewards points (worth $45).
On the other hand, the Southwest Priority card has a $149 annual fee but includes a $75 annual Southwest travel credit. That immediately knocks the out-of-pocket cost down to $74 a year. This would cut the Priority card’s fee in half, while you still get a 7,500-point anniversary bonus, four upgraded A1-A15 boardings (when available), 25% back on inflight drinks and Wi-Fi, and no foreign transaction fees.
Many people who travel on Southwest even just a few times a year will be better off opting for the Priority card over the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card — at $74 a year (after subtracting the annual Southwest credit).
Another card that gives the Premier card a run for its money is a long-time favorite: the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. The Sapphire Preferred offers a sign-up bonus of 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. Those points are worth $1,200 if you transfer them to Chase’s incredible collection of 11 airline and three hotel partners, and this list includes Southwest.
Many travelers enjoy keeping their rewards as flexible, transferable points — though bear in mind that the Sapphire Preferred doesn’t confer any perks when traveling on Southwest-operated flights.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card can be a good option for frequent Southwest flyers and currently offers an elevated welcome offer. Even though some people will come out ahead by opting for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card and the $75 annual Southwest travel credit it carries, the Premier offers a decent return with a lower upfront cost.
Official application link: Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
Additional reporting by Ryan Wilcox, Stella Shon and Christina Ly.
Featured photo by Sean Cudahy for The Points Guy.
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