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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card review: Respectable perks and rewards at a low asking price

Solid rewards for occasional Southwest flyers, though overshadowed by its higher-tier brethren.

 /  15 min
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At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for and how we rate our cards. The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

Snapshot

4.5

Bankrate rating
Info
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Bottom line

This card offers solid entry-level rewards and benefits for frequent flyers, though you’ll probably find more value with a higher-tier Southwest card or general-purpose travel card.

Best airline sign-up bonus
  • Rewards value
    Rating: 3.8 stars out of 5
    3.8 / 5
    APR
    Rating: 4 stars out of 5
    4 / 5
    Rewards flexibility
    Rating: 4 stars out of 5
    4 / 5
    Features
    Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
    3.5 / 5
Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info
Recommended Credit

Earn 85,000 points

Intro offer

Info

$1275

Offer valuation

Info

1X - 2X

Rewards rate

Info

$69

Annual fee

21.49% - 28.49% Variable

Regular APR

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card overview

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card is a solid choice for Southwest flyers looking for an entry-level Southwest Airlines credit card. Although it comes with fewer perks than Southwest’s higher-tier airline credit cards, it also charges a lower annual fee and carries the same great welcome bonus. And while you’ll have to put up a $69 annual fee, the card’s annual benefits can easily cover the cost.

That said, the additional features you’ll get on higher-tier Southwest cards or premium general-purpose travel credit cards could easily offer enough value to make those cards worth a higher fee. 

Check out our in-depth look at the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card and the best alternatives.

  • Credit Card Cash Back
    Rewards
    • 2X points on Southwest purchases; Southwest hotel and car rental partners; local transit and commuting (including ride-shares); internet, cable, phone and select streaming services 
    • 1X points on all other purchases 
    • Rewards value: 1.5 cents per point 

    Expert Appraisal: Typical
    See our expert analysis

  • Rewards

    Welcome offer

    • Earn 85,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

    Expert Appraisal: Great
    See our expert analysis

  • Credit Card Search

    Rates and fees

    • $69 annual fee
    • 21.49 percent to 28.49 percent variable APR
    • 3 percent foreign transaction fee 
    • Up to $40 late payment and return payment fee
    • Balance transfer fee is the greater of $5 or 5 percent of the transfer 

    Expert Appraisal: Typical 
    See our expert analysis

  • Congrats

    Other cardholder perks

    • 3,000 bonus point anniversary bonus 
    • Lost luggage reimbursement 
    • Baggage delay insurance
    • 25 percent back on eligible in-flight purchases
    • Two EarlyBird Check-In boarding upgrades each year
    • First two checked bags fly free
    • No fees for flight changes
    • Purchase protection

    Expert Appraisal: Good
    See our expert analysis

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus pros and cons

Pros

  • Checkmark

    Comes with anniversary bonus points, which can help cover more than half of the card’s annual fee

  • Checkmark

    Offers a number of features found with pricier Southwest cards, including first two checked bags for free, plus two EarlyBird Check-In® each year

  • Checkmark

    Features the same signup bonus as the higher-tier Southwest cards

Cons

  • Not a good fit for Southwest fans looking for upgraded boardings or a fast track to elite status

  • Doesn’t earn bonus miles in popular everyday spending categories like groceries, gas or dining

  • It carries a 3 percent foreign transaction fee, unlike sibling cards

Why you might want the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

For the low annual fee of $69, Southwest packs a lot of value into this card, including several helpful travel perks. This makes the card a great choice for both occasional travelers and those just getting their feet wet with travel rewards. 

Welcome offer: Solid value, but a downgrade from the limited-time offer

New cardholders can now earn 85,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months from account opening. That's a good return on spend, and could offer enough value to offset your annual fee for several years (assuming a standard 1-cent-per point redemption value). This offer was recently updated from 50,000 points for spending $1,000 in the same time frame.

If you frequently fly Southwest, the value of the Companion Pass should easily outweigh the value of the points you'd receive with the new bonus, and you typically can only qualify for the Companion Pass by earning 135,000 points from qualifying purchases or taking 100 qualifying one-way flights. On the plus side, the points you can earn with the current bonus can get you more than a third of the way there. It's also hard to say when or if the card will feature the Companion Pass bonus offer again, so now can still be a great time to apply if you're eager for an influx of Rapid Rewards points.

Based on Bankrate's latest airline point valuations, which give Southwest Rapid Rewards an average value of around 1.5 cents per point, this bonus could be worth around $1,275 in Southwest flights. 

Cardholder perks: A great spread for the price 

While it lacks a few of the travel perks you’d expect on an airline credit card of this tier, like upgraded boarding status, the Rapid Rewards Plus does have a nice set of perks and can provide a lot of value, especially if you’re looking for a low-cost way to earn Rapid Rewards points.

You’ll receive a lineup of travel benefits, including lost luggage reimbursement of up to $3,000 per passenger and baggage delay insurance of up to $100 per day for three days. Additionally, your first two checked bags fly free (size and weight limits apply), and there are no fees for flight changes.

Of special note is the card’s anniversary bonus points: After your cardmember account anniversary each year, you’ll earn 3,000 bonus points, which equates to $45 toward flights based on a 1.5-cent point value.

These anniversary points are a great deal since their value nearly accounts for your entire annual fee. 

The Rapid Rewards Plus card also provides 25 percent back on eligible in-flight purchases and two EarlyBird Check-In® boarding upgrades each year (an up to $50 value).

Finally, when you use your card to buy items with eligible U.S. manufacturer’s warranties of three years or less, you may earn an extended warranty for an additional year. Further, purchase protection covers your purchases for up to 120 days against theft or damage, up to $500 per event and up to $50,000 per account.

Although general travel cards, like the flagship Chase credit cards, may offer a better benefit portfolio, these make up a pretty solid roster.  Even the top-shelf Southwest card only builds on this list with bonus elite status point opportunities, more boarding upgrades and a yearly travel credit.

Why you might want a different travel card

Adding the Rapid Rewards Plus to your wallet is light on risk and most travelers could enjoy its perks. But there are a few reasons why it’s not necessarily the best airline pick.

Rewards rate: Lacking in flexibility and power

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card earns Rapid Rewards points, which you can spend on Southwest Airlines bookings and products and services through the airline loyalty program. 

Every dollar you spend on purchases with Southwest Airlines will earn you 2X Rapid Rewards points. Southwest Airlines purchases include Southwest flight reservations, in-flight purchases, gift cards, vacation package purchases and bookings with the airline’s rental car and hotel partners. 

The Rapid Rewards Plus card will also earn 2X points on a variety of more niche purchases: local transit and commuting (including ride-shares), internet service, cable service, phone services and select streaming services. All other eligible purchases earn 1X points.

Unfortunately, these categories don’t cover the average person’s largest spending areas, so you may struggle to earn as many points with this card as you would with a card that earns in more common categories like dining or groceries. In contrast, the Chase Sapphire Preferred earns 3X points on dining and online grocery purchases. It also earns 5X points on travel booked through Chase, beating out the 2X points the Rapid Rewards Plus earns on Southwest flights.

Along with offering a lower rewards rate, the card’s points may offer less redemption value than other Chase card rewards. Bankrate’s latest points and miles valuations currently peg the value of Chase Ultimate Rewards points at 2.0 cents per point on average when you transfer to a top travel partner, while Rapid Rewards points are worth just 1.5 cents per point on average. This means the Rapid Rewards Plus can quickly fall behind in value on travel purchases. 

For example, here’s a quick look at how the reward value breaks down between these two cards when you book a $600 round-trip flight with Southwest Airlines.

Southwest (direct): $600 x 2X points = 1,200 points x 1.5 cents per point = $18 in value

Chase (via Ultimate Rewards portal): $600 x 5X points = 3,000 points x 2.0 cents per point = $60 in value 

Southwest Rapid Rewards points are also locked to Southwest Airlines, making them less flexible compared to the top general travel card competitors. Rewards programs such as Chase Ultimate Rewards or American Express Membership Rewards have travel partners that allow you to transfer your points to partner rewards programs. Moving your points in this fashion can boost the overall value of your points by as much as double in some cases.  

On the bright side, Southwest points are among the most valuable when strictly comparing airline points and miles. 

Rewards program Bankrate value* Estimated value of 50,000 points/miles
Southwest Rapid Rewards 1.5 cents  $750
JetBlue TrueBlue 1.3 cents  $650
Delta SkyMiles 1.2 cents  $600
United Airlines MileagePlus 0.9 cents  $450

Rates and fees: Could be better 

The APR on purchases and balance transfers ranges from 21.49 percent to 28.49 percent (variable), depending on your creditworthiness, with no zero-interest offers available currently. These are typical rates for cards of this tier, though you can find a few travel cards offering an intro APR on purchases, balance transfers, or even both. 

One major downside of the card for frequent international travelers is that if you use your card overseas, you will have to pay a 3 percent foreign transaction fee. This is a bit surprising since most travel-oriented cards — and the other premium Southwest Rapid Rewards cards — pose no foreign transaction fees.

First-year value vs. ongoing value

Although the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card carries a $69 annual fee, its solid rewards potential and additional benefits carry enough recurring value for many travelers to easily recoup the cost. Even if you only travel occasionally, the current sign-up bonus could offset the annual fee multiple times over in your first year based on our points and miles valuations.

Even after the first year, your annual credits alone can make up the annual fee. Your 3,000-point anniversary bonus and two complimentary EarlyBird Check-In® boarding upgrades each year can be valued at up to $95. Recouping the $69 fee through rewards spending shouldn’t be too hard, either, since you’d only need to spend about $192 per month across your 2X bonus categories if you redeem your points at a 1.5-cent value.

Here's a look at how much you could earn in your first year and beyond, based on our credit card value estimates:

Benefits and costs First-year value Ongoing value (no welcome offers)
Yearly rewards* +$284 +$284
Welcome offers +around a $1,275 value (85,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, at a value of 1.5 cents per point);
Perks (of monetary value)
  • +$45 (3,000 account anniversary bonus points at a point value of 1.5 cents per point)
  • +$50 (two EarlyBird Check-In® boarding upgrades per year)
  • +$120 (12 months of complementary DoorDash DashPass)
  • +$45 (3,000 account anniversary bonus points at a point value of 1.5 cents per point)
  • +$50 (two EarlyBird Check-In® boarding upgrades per year)
Annual fee -$69 -$69
Total value $1,080 $310

 

We tried it: Here’s what our experts say

Frequent personal finance contributor Tim Maxwell is a fan of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus—especially the value its Companion Pass perk delivers.

If you prefer Southwest Airlines over the competition, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card is the perfect tool to begin earning perks with the airline. The annual fee is low, and the value of the benefits is high.

The main attraction of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card is the coveted Southwest Companion Pass. It’s the premier travel pass and the primary reason I love this card as much as I do.

— Tim Maxwell, Personal finance writer

How the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus compares to other travel cards

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card offers good value to budget travelers focused on earning Rapid Rewards points. But for even better value, consider a different Southwest card or a general travel rewards card.

Image of Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
Bankrate Score
Apply now Lock
on Chase's secure site

Annual fee

$69

Intro offer

Earn 85,000 points
Info

Rewards rate

1X - 2X
Info

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info
Image of Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Bankrate Score
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
4.0

Annual fee

$99

Intro offer

Earn 85,000 points
Info

Rewards rate

1X - 3X
Info

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info
Image of Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Bankrate Score
Apply now Lock
on Chase's secure site

Annual fee

$95

Intro offer

60,000 bonus points
Info

Rewards rate

1x - 5x
Info

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info

Best cards to pair with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card limits the rewards you can earn outside of Southwest Airlines and its bonus category purchases. To maximize your spending, consider pairing it with a cash back card with higher rewards rates in other categories for everyday spending or a flat-rate rewards card.

Who is the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus right for?

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus may be overshadowed by other travel cards out there, but it can still prove a good fit for a few types of cardholders. 

Bankrate’s Take: Is the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card worth it?

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card is a good option if you fly occasionally and prefer to fly with Southwest. The boosted rewards and travel perks are well worth the modest annual fee. 

But if you travel frequently, one of the airline’s higher-tier cards like the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card can offer more lucrative perks and a slightly better rewards rate on Southwest purchases.

If you’re not a Southwest loyalist and like to travel with various airlines, a general travel rewards card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred may offer you more flexible rewards, better rates and higher-value benefits for a similar annual fee.

*The information about the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.  

How we rated this card

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We rate credit cards using a proprietary card scoring system that ranks each card’s estimated average rewards rate, estimated annual earnings, welcome bonus value, APR, fees, perks and more against those of other cards in its primary category.

Each card feature is assigned a weighting based on how important it is to people looking for a card in a given category. These features are then scored based on how they rank relative to the features on other cards in the category. Based on these calculations, each card receives an overall rating of 1-5 stars (with 5 being the highest possible score and 1 being the lowest).

We analyzed over 150 of the most popular rewards and cash back cards to determine where each stacked up based on their value, cost, benefits and more. Here are some of the key factors that influenced this card’s overall score and how the score influenced our review:

Frequently Asked Questions

Written by
Garrett Yarbrough
Writer, Credit Cards
Bankrate expert Garrett Yarbrough strives to make navigating credit cards and credit building smooth sailing for his readers. After regularly featuring his credit card, credit monitoring and identity theft analysis on NextAdvisor.com, he joined the CreditCards.com and Bankrate teams as a staff writer to develop product reviews and comprehensive credit card guides focused on cash back, credit scores and card offers.
Edited by Senior Editor, Credit Cards
Reviewed by Former Senior Director of Content

* See the online application for details about terms and conditions for these offers. Every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. After you click on the offer you desire you will be directed to the credit card issuer's web site where you can review the terms and conditions for your selected offer.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, is accurate as of the publish date. All products or services are presented without warranty. Check the bank’s website for the most current information.