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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card review: The first-class travel card for Southwest loyalists

A worthwhile choice for Southwest frequent flyers

 /  11 min
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Snapshot

4.3

Bankrate rating
Info
Rating: 4.3 stars out of 5

Bottom line

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card is the best pick among the airline’s three personal credit cards despite its higher annual fee. But if Southwest isn’t your preferred airline or you want to pay a lower annual fee, Southwest's sibling cards or a general travel credit card may be a better fit.

Best overall Southwest Card
  • Rewards value
    Rating: 4 stars out of 5
    4 / 5
    APR
    Rating: 1 stars out of 5
    1 / 5
    Rewards flexibility
    Rating: 3 stars out of 5
    3 / 5
    Features
    Rating: 4 stars out of 5
    4 / 5
Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info
Recommended Credit

Earn 85,000 points

Intro offer

Info

$1275

Offer valuation

Info

1X - 3X

Rewards rate

Info

$149

Annual fee

21.49% - 28.49% Variable

Regular APR

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card Overview

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card is an ideal travel credit card for jet-setters who frequently book domestic flight and are loyal to Southwest. Building up rewards shouldn't be a problem with this card. You’ll earn points on many of your Southwest purchases, plus several everyday categories.

Best of all, you’ll get an annual Southwest travel credit, bonus points on your cardmember anniversary, discounts on in-flight purchases and four upgraded boardings per year (depending on availability), making it one of the stronger co-branded airline cards available.

  • Credit Card Cash Back

    Rewards

    • 3X points on Southwest purchases
    • 2X points on Southwest’s Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners
    • 2X points on local transit and commuting (including rideshares) 
    • 2X points on internet, cable phone and select streaming services
    • 1X points on all other purchases

    Expert Appraisal: Excellent
    See our expert analysis

  • Rewards

    Welcome offer

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

    Expert Appraisal: Good
    See our expert analysis

  • Credit Card Search

    Rates and fees

    • Annual fee: $149
    • APR: 21.49 percent to 28.49 percent variable
    • Penalty APR: up to 29.99%
    • No foreign transaction fees

    Expert Appraisal: Typical
    See our expert analysis

  • Congrats

    Other cardholder perks

    • $75 Southwest annual travel credit
    • 10,000 boost of Southwest Companion Pass qualifying points each year
    • 25% back on Southwest inflight purchases, including WiFi
    • 4 upgraded boarding on Southwest flights per year when available

    Expert Appraisal: Excellent
    See our expert analysis

Southwest Priority card pros and cons

Pros

  • Checkmark

    Cardholders can earn rewards easily on both Southwest-related travel purchases and some everyday expenses like transit and monthly internet, cable, phone and streaming services.

  • Checkmark

    Frequent Southwest flyers can enjoy great perks, such as upgraded boarding and an annual travel credit.

  • Checkmark

    It has a generous 7,500-point anniversary bonus, which is more than double what the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card offers.

  • Checkmark

    It has no foreign transaction fees, making it ideal for international travelers.

  • Checkmark

    Cardholders have access to premium travel and purchase protections.

Cons

  • The $149 annual fee may be hard to offset if you don't fly Southwest often, and it’s higher than several other airline cards’ yearly cost.

  • It offers the same rewards rate as its lower-tier sibling, despite the higher annual fee.

  • The card doesn't offer any luxury perks like lounge access or statement credits for expedited airport screening.

Why you might want the Southwest Priority

This card lets you earn rewards fast with its everyday categories, but the airline perks make the Southwest Priority card stand out for brand loyalists. 

Welcome offer: Terrific value  

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card offers a decent welcome offer for an airline rewards card. You can earn 85,0000 points after spending $3,000 within the first three months. According to Bankrate's latest valuations, this offer could be worth around $1275  — more than enough to offset the annual fee for the first year.

That said, this welcome offer does not differ from some of Southwest's sibling cards, which have much lower annual fees and many of the same perks. So it's worth considering whether they'll fit your needs. You can take advantage of the same sign-up bonus value without the yearly cost, especially if the Rapid Rewards Priority card's other perks don't appeal to you.

Rewards: Plenty of ways to earn and redeem points

Racking up points should be no trouble with your Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card if you frequently fly with Southwest and regularly commute with local transit and ridesharing services. Southwest purchases earn 3X points. This includes flights, in-flight purchases and Southwest Airlines gift cards. You can also net 2X points on other legs of your journey with the airline’s hotel and rental car partners. Once you’re home, stock up toward your next trip with 2X points on local transit (including rideshares) and your monthly internet, cable, phone and select streaming service bills. All other purchases earn 1X points.

On top of that, you can earn points by shopping through the Southwest Rapid Rewards shopping portal, eating out at restaurants in its Dining Rewards program (registration required) and taking advantage of other promotional point offers as a Rewards Member. Although these reward opportunities can be pretty niche, you could earn decent points from TurboTax and 1-800-Flowers purchases, among others.

Your Rapid Rewards points will never expire while your account is open. There are no blackout dates or restrictions for award flights, and you have flexible redemption options for an airline card. For instance, you can redeem through the More Rewards program or Chase for more options, which include: 

  • International flights with other carriers
  • Hotel stays
  • Rental cars
  • Rapid Rewards Access Event exclusive experiences
  • Merchandise
  • Gift cards
  • Transferring or gifting points to other Rapid Rewards members
  • Donating points to eligible charities
  • Statement credits toward eligible Chase Pay Yourself Back purchases

This is a solid roster of choices, but several other airlines’ cards may provide even more flight-centric redemption options, such as seat upgrades, in-flight purchases, incidental airline expenses, and airport lounge access.

Bankrate estimates that Southwest points average 1.5 cents per point, which rivals competing cards. However, your reward value will fluctuate depending on several factors, including the redemption option and your reward flight’s destination, time and date.

Perks: Solid travel credits

While you won’t get fancy perks like airport lounge access with this Southwest card, you’ll save plenty. You can enjoy the following travel benefits: 

  • Four Southwest upgraded boardings a year (subject to availability)
  • A $75 Southwest travel credit every year (automatically applied when using your card on eligible travel purchases through the airline)
  • 7,500 anniversary bonus points 
  • 25 percent back on inflight purchases, such as drinks and Wi-Fi
  • 10,000 Companion Pass points every year
  • 1,500 tier qualifying points (TQPs) towards elite status per $10,000 in purchases
  • One year of DoorDash DashPass for $0 delivery fees and lower service fees (after that, you’re automatically enrolled at the current monthly DashPass rate; must activate by Dec. 12, 2024)

Since the annual bonus points can be worth almost $113 (at a value of 1.5 cents apiece based on Bankrate's estimates), this perk along with the annual travel credit could easily offset the annual fee every year. If you take advantage of the additional discounts and credits, then this Southwest card can be quite lucrative.

You also receive several protection benefits as a Visa cardholder like auto insurance coverage for rental cars and roadside dispatch. These protections can be helpful while traveling.

Additionally, this card can help you achieve Southwest elite status. With the Priority card’s bonus of 1,500 TQPs per $10,000 in purchases, you can start working your way to A-List or A-List Preferred. With A-List status, you earn 25 percent more points on Southwest purchases, while A-List Preferred delivers an extra 100 percent.

Why you might want a different travel card

While the Priority card offers a terrific welcome offer, other cards could be a better option considering the Priority card's annual fee, which might be too high for some travelers. 

Fees: Costly annual fee and penalty fees could add up

While the Rapid Rewards Priority card has plenty of great perks, it also comes with a bunch of fees that might cut into savings. The annual fee of $149 is the highest of any Southwest personal credit card. You would need to take full advantage of the perks to offset this cost.

On the other hand, Southwest offers two other airline cards with a lower yearly cost and similar benefits. For instance, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card features the same rewards rates with a $99 annual fee.

Additionally, this card's fees and interest skew a bit high though typical for a travel card. The lower end of its ongoing variable APR is slightly above the current average credit card interest rate. The card also charges a penalty APR (up to 29.99%), which could remain indefinitely if you miss a minimum payment or make a payment that is returned. The balance transfer fee is on the higher side too —  5% of the amount of each transfer with a $5 minimum, so this might not be the best option if you plan to consolidate any credit card debt. 

However, there are no foreign transaction fees and Southwest never charges change fees, providing more flexibility with your travel plans. And you’ll generally avoid these penalty rates and fees if you pay off your balance every month.

First-year value vs. ongoing value

If you’re on the fence about Southwest’s highest-priced credit card, evaluating how much value the Southwest Priority card offers during the first year and beyond could help make your decision.

Because of its annual perks, the Priority card offers perhaps the best ongoing value of any Southwest card. Its rewards rates for travel are solid for a brand-specific airline card, but the non-travel categories might not be as useful for most cardholders.

We estimate Southwest points are worth around 1.5 cents each, which is a relatively high value for airline rewards. However, general-purpose travel cards often earn even more valuable rewards. For example, Bankrate’s valuations show both Chase Ultimate Rewards points and Capital One miles can be worth more: Around 2.0 cents for Amex points and 1.7 cents for Capital One miles with the right transfer partners. Combined with excellent rewards rates and bonus categories, competing premium travel cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card could end up being stronger rewards options for some cardholders.

While the Southwest Priority card’s rewards might not be its strongest feature, its valuable welcome offer means the card’s first-year value stands out among airline cards, and the card's annual perks completely offset the annual fee without eating into the rewards you earn from your spending. Together, these factors add up to great long-term value that could easily justify the annual fee.

Here's a look at how much you could earn in your first year and beyond, based on our credit card value estimates and setting aside the Companion Pass offer since it's value will depend on how frequently you fly with a travel partner.

Benefits and costs First-year value Ongoing value
Yearly rewards* +$276 +$276
Welcome offers +$1275 value (85,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Calculated using Bankrate’s Rapid Rewards valuation of 1.5 cents per point)
Perks
  • +$120 (4 complimentary upgraded Southwest boardings per year; a $30 value each)
  • +$113 (7,500 bonus points on the account anniversary each year; calculated using Bankrate’s Rapid Rewards valuation of 1.5 cents per point)
  • +$75 (Southwest annual travel credit)
  • +$120 (4 complimentary upgraded Southwest boardings per year; a $30 value each)
  • +$113 (7,500 bonus points on the account anniversary each year; calculated using Bankrate’s Rapid Rewards valuation of 1.5 cents per point)
  • +$75 (Southwest annual travel credit)
Annual fee -$149 -$149
Total value $1,710 $435

*Based on our formula used to calculate each card’s average rewards rates and average ongoing rewards value, using Bureau of Labor Statistics spending data and an assumed $15,900 yearly spend over three years ($1,325 per month).

We tried it: Here’s what our experts say

Senior credit cards editor Nouri Zarrugh has used Southwest rewards cards for years, but the top-tier card’s annual travel credit and enhanced anniversary bonus were reasons enough to switch.

“I had a lower-tier Southwest card for a long time, but I upgraded to the Priority card a few years ago after I realized it has so many upsides. I can earn rewards at the same rate as I would with the Premier card, but the Priority card's $75 annual travel credit and 7,500 anniversary points can entirely offset its annual fee. That's likely not the case with the Premier card since it only offers 6,000 anniversary points.”

— Nouri Zarrugh,Senior Credit Cards Editor at Bankrate

How the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card compares to other travel credit cards

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card has terrific cardmember perks and rewards that rival co-branded airline cards. But when compared to some of the best general-purpose travel cards, the Southwest Priority card has much less rewards value. 

Although the Priority is perhaps the best card for frequent Southwest flyers, a more versatile card could be more valuable in terms of rewards and perks for many cardholders who aren’t aiming for A-List status.

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

Annual fee

$149

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® 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 Priority Credit Card

Pair your Southwest credit card with a credit card that has no annual fee and will reward you for everyday purchases, such as the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. This card touts 5 percent cash back on travel purchased through Chase and on Lyft purchases (through March 2025), 3 percent on dining and drugstore purchases and 1.5 percent cash back on all other purchases. You can use this card to earn travel cash back rewards on other airlines. If you have a premium Chase card, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you can even pool your points into your premium card and then transfer these points to your Southwest rewards account if you’d like.

Who is the Southwest Priority card right for?

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

This card is perfect for Southwest loyalists who fly often enough with the airline to make use of the points or are pursuing elite status. If qualified for the Companion Pass, frequent flyers should have no trouble raking in massive value for the comparatively low $149 annual fee.

If you need more flexibility (and can’t be loyal to Southwest), you’ll be better off with a general travel rewards credit card. These tend to come with bonus rewards on a broader range of spending categories and more redemption options. Look for one that lets you transfer points and for a high value so you can use your points and miles for a wide range of airlines and hotels.

*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.  

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

* 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.