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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card review: A solid option for domestic Southwest loyalists

While worth a solid look for some Southwest loyalists, travelers looking for more flexibility may not get as much value.

 /  5 min
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Snapshot

4.0

Bankrate rating
Info
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Bottom line

This high-tier Southwest card remains popular among Southwest loyalists for a good reason. Its ongoing rewards are solid, its welcome offer is generous and it offers substantial travel perks. But for cardholders looking for flexibility, this card might fail to hit the mark.

Image of Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

*
4.0
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Bankrate score
Info
Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info
Recommended Credit

1X - 3X

Rewards rate

Info

$99

Annual fee

Earn 85,000 points

Intro offer

Info

21.49% - 28.49% Variable

Regular APR

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card Overview

This card is an easy choice for travelers who live in a Southwest Airlines hub city. The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card can help you earn rewards for free or discounted Southwest flights. You’ll pay a slightly higher $99 annual fee than you would with its sibling card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, but the Rapid Rewards Premier card could put you on track to a higher elite status with the airline. 

What are the pros and cons?

Pros

  • Checkmark

    Cardholders receive an annual loyalty bonus of 6,000 points. This bonus — valued at $90 — covers nearly 90 percent of the $99 annual fee, making it potentially attractive to budget-conscious travelers.

  • Checkmark

    Rewards aren’t capped with this card, so you can continue earning at a generous rewards rate regardless of how much you spend.

  • Checkmark

    Your points won’t expire, so banking them for a big trip should be a breeze.

Cons

  • Southwest has no airline partners, so your rewards redemption options are limited.

  • Southwest only flies to a few international destinations.

A deeper look into the current offer

Quick highlights

  • Annual fee: $99
  • Welcome offer: Earn 85,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Rewards rate: Cardholders earn 3X points on all Southwest purchases, 2X points on local transit and commuting purchases (including rideshare), 2X points on Southwest Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases and 2X points on internet, cable, phone and select streaming services.
  • Purchase APR: 21.49 percent to 28.49 percent variable

Current welcome offer

New Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card can earn a valuable welcome bonus: 85,000 points after you spend $3,000 in your first three months. That's great value given the low spending requirement, and if you're able to get at least a 1-cent-per-point redemption value, it should hold enough value to offset your annual fee five times. In fact, we estimate the bonus is worth around $1,275 based on Bankrate's latest airline point valuations (which give Southwest Rapid Rewards an average value of 1.5 cents per point).

Unfortunately, the card's previous offer likely held even higher value for frequent Southwest travelers. Previously, the card carried a limited-time offer of 30,000 points and a Companion Pass® after a $4,000 spend in your first three months (it typically requires earning 135,000 points from qualifying purchases or take 100 qualifying one-way flights to earn the Companion Pass). That said, we don't know how soon — if at all — the card will carry that offer again, so now is still a fine time to apply.

Rewards rate

It’s simple to earn and redeem points with this card. This card has a tiered rewards program that favors Southwest spending and a straightforward redemption model that gives your points the best value when you redeem them for Southwest flights.

How you earn

You can redeem Rapid Rewards points for hotel stays, car rentals, experiences, gift cards and more through the Rapid Rewards Shopping portal — though you’ll get the most value from redeeming them for Southwest flights. There are three ways to redeem your points for airfare: Wanna Get Away tickets, Business Select tickets and Anytime tickets.

How to redeem

You can redeem Rapid Rewards points for hotel stays, car rentals, experiences, gift cards and more through the Rapid Rewards Shopping portal — though you’ll get the most value from redeeming them for Southwest flights. There are three ways to redeem your points for airfare: Wanna Get Away tickets, Business Select tickets and Anytime tickets.

Key cardholder perks

A head start on A-list elite status

You’ll need at least 35,000 Tier-Qualifying Points or 25 one-way flights per calendar year to qualify for Southwest’s A-List status — which comes with perks like priority boarding, a 25 percent points bonus on each flight and no charge for same-day standby flights. Luckily, the Premier card gets you a small head start toward Southwest elite status with a 1,500 bonus TQPs for every $10,000 you spend with the card.

No foreign transaction fees

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier credit card makes an excellent international traveling card since it charges no foreign transaction fees on purchases abroad. However, Southwest’s international destination options are relatively limited, and most Southwest flights abroad land in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America. 

Anniversary bonus

The generous 6,000-point anniversary bonus goes a long way toward helping travelers reduce the cost of owning this card. You’ll receive this 6,000-point bonus (valued at around $90) every year you hold your Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card. The bonus comes at no extra cost to you.

Rates and fees

Though the annual fee is standard for this type of card, cardholders should be pleased with how easily they can offset the $99 annual fee. Thankfully, outside of the annual fee and the balance transfer fee ($5 or 5 percent of the transaction, whichever is greater), the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card is light on fees. The 21.49 percent to 28.49 percent variable APR is middle-of-the-road compared to other travel cards, but you should pay your balance in full each month to avoid paying interest.

How the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier compares to other travel credit cards

With the right planning, travelers can benefit from this budget airline, its loyalty program and Southwest credit cards. But whether Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card is right for you depends on what you want out of your card. There are several options to consider when looking for a travel card, including cards not co-branded with an airline.

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 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 Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bankrate Score
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply
Apply now Lock
on Capital One's secure site

Annual fee

$95

Intro offer

Earn 75,000 miles
Info

Rewards rate

2 Miles - 5 Miles
Info

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card vs. the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card has many of the same benefits as its sibling card with a lower annual fee. You’ll get the same welcome bonus, and all your points count toward a Companion Pass. The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus offers a slightly lower rewards rate of 2X points on Southwest purchases, but the other 2X categories are similar: local transit and commuting, internet, cable, phone, select streaming, and Southwest hotel and car rental partners.

The Rapid Rewards Plus card also makes for a less appealing international travel card, as it charges a 3 percent foreign transaction fee. However, if your travel plans only include domestic travel, the card’s lower $69 annual fee may make it a better choice.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier vs the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a flat-rate travel card that helps cardholders earn miles and redeem them for purchases with its travel partners. It offers much more flexible redemption options than its counterpart, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card.

If you redeem your points on Southwest flights for as much value as possible, the Rapid Rewards Premier card is an easy decision. But if you want redeem your miles with as much flexibility as possible on multiple airlines, the Capital One Venture Rewards card is a better bet.

Best card to pair with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card

Because Southwest doesn’t have any airline transfer partners, Rapid Premier cardholders have few redemption options. Alternatively, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card can transfer points at a 1:1 rate to many hotel and airline partners. If you enjoy flying Southwest but require flexibility in your travel plans, the Sapphire Preferred is a good choice for pairing. Sapphire Preferred cardholders also get a 25 percent boost to points redeemed through Chase Travel℠.

Bankrate’s Take — Is the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card worth it?

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card can be worth it for travelers who prefer to fly Southwest. The card’s welcome offer and ongoing rewards are a good bet for anyone working towards earning free or discounted travel on Southwest Airlines. However, your options to redeem are limited, points become less valuable when transferred to Southwest travel partners and your options for redeeming on airfare are limited to Southwest flights only.

*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.  

Written by
Sarah Estime
Former Associate Writer, Credit Cards

As a former staff writer for Bankrate and CreditCards.com, Sarah offers sound advice that will improve your financial life and help simplify topics like travel hacking and credit card rewards.

Edited by Senior Editor, Credit Cards

* 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.