Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier credit card review: A good value at a low cost

Oct 22, 2021

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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 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, especially those looking to earn the coveted Companion Pass and the year (or up to two) of free flights it bestows on their designated travel companion.

The mid-tier version of the three personal Southwest cards — the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card — has a good balance of perks and annual fee that could make it worthy of a spot in your card collection. Especially since it’s offering one of its best welcome bonuses ever of up to 100,000 points — 50,000 after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open, plus an additional 50,000 points after spending $12,000 total on purchases in the first 12 months of account opening.

That bonus alone might be reason enough to apply, but this card has plenty of other strengths as well.

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In This Post

Who is this card for?

(Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card is ideal for regular Southwest flyers, along with anyone looking to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.

The Premier is also a good choice for those looking for a cheaper annual fee than the Priority’s $149, while still enjoying perks such as two annual EarlyBird check-ins, no foreign transaction fees and a 6,000-point card anniversary bonus. Suppose you do fly with Southwest quite a bit throughout the year. In that case, 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 most casual Southwest flyers, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier 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 more than five 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 because it’s a personal card, it will count toward your 5/24 tally. If you are planning to apply for other Chase cards in the near future, make sure this card is worth the slot it will take up.

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

Current sign-up bonus

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

All three Southwest personal credit cards — the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card — are currently offering identical sign-up bonuses where you can earn up to 100,000 bonus points.

You’ll earn 50,000 points after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months your account is open, plus an additional 50,000 points after spending $12,000 total on purchases in the first 12 months of account opening.

TPG values Rapid Rewards points at 1.5 cents each, meaning 100,000 points are worth $1,500. But they could be worth potentially more if your goal is to achieve the Southwest Companion Pass. In order to earn it, you must accrue 125,000 qualifying points or take 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year.

Timing is everything, and if you can wait to meet the minimum spend requirements to get the full 100,000 bonus points after your December 2021 statement closes, you’ll only need 25,000 more points to get the Companion Pass for the rest of 2022 and all of 2023.

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 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 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, Southwest recently added two EarlyBird check-ins per year to the Premier, which can help you snag a better seat. The card now also confers 25% back on inflight purchases.

You may also be interested in earning Southwest A-List elite status to enhance your travels. Doing so requires earning 25 qualifying flights or 35,000 tier-qualifying points 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.

Related: What is Southwest Airlines elite status worth in 2021?  

Earning and redeeming

You’ll earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases, local transit and commuting and internet, cable, phone services and select streaming services and 1x on all other eligible purchases.

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. And remember, with your Companion Pass, your points stretch twice as far using them on Southwest-operated trips, so there isn’t much reason to be looking at redemption options other than on Southwest flights.

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. With all three cards offering identical sign-up bonuses, this competition comes down to which card offers the best perks in exchange for its annual fee. If you’re struggling to pick between the three, you can check out our head-to-head comparison.

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

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 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. But remember that the Companion Pass doubles the value of your points and spending with Southwest, so for many people who have a Companion Pass, that $75 credit is actually worth $150.

This would make the Priority card essentially cost nothing out of pocket 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), the upper-tier Priority card is cheaper than the $99 Premier card.

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

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, including Southwest. But keep in mind that transferred points do not count toward the Companion Pass.

Related: Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card review

Bottom line

If you decide to pursue the Companion Pass, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card is a good avenue for doing so thanks to its current 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, and that’s before you even factor in the added savings that come with the Companion Pass.

Official application link: Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card. 

Additional reporting by Stella Shon.

Featured photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy.

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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