Southwest Airlines is considered one of the most family-friendly air carriers in the U.S—and for good reason. Not only does Southwest have a generous cancellation and rebooking policy, but it also allows two free checked bags per person while boasting one of the most popular airline loyalty programs available: Southwest Rapid Rewards.

There are several easy ways to earn rewards once you sign up for a free loyalty account. Two examples are shopping through its online portal and signing up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining program. You can also earn Southwest points by flying with the airline.

Co-branded airline credit cards from Southwest and Chase also let you earn points for each dollar you spend, plus a decent sign-up bonus. Here are the best credit cards to use for Southwest Airlines, along with a basic overview of how many points you can earn.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card has the lowest annual fee of all three consumer Southwest rewards card options. For $69 per year, cardholders can earn:

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

New cardholders can also earn 75,000 points after spending just $3,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. And, as with all Chase-branded Southwest credit cards, points earned count toward the Southwest Companion Pass. Once earned, this pass allows you to fly a designated companion with you for (virtually) free.

It’s also worth noting that all three Southwest credit cards offer the ability to earn 3 points per $1 on purchases with restaurants via the Rapid Rewards Dining program. In order to receive this 3X rate, you must opt into Southwest email communications. Should you opt-out, you’ll only receive a meager 1 point for every $2 spent.

Lastly, points earned with Rapid Rewards credit cards can be redeemed for travel with Southwest, hotels, gift cards, merchandise and more.

Additional card details:

  • 3,000-point cardmember anniversary bonus
  • 3 percent foreign transaction fee on purchases made outside of the U.S.
  • Two complimentary EarlyBird Check-in upgrades per year
  • 25 percent back on inflight purchases
  • No blackout dates, change fees or booking fees

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier

For a $99 annual fee, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is a middle-of-the-road option from Southwest. New cardholders can earn the same 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within three months of account opening, but its ongoing rewards are a slight step up from what’s offered by the Rapid Rewards Plus:

  • 3X points on purchases with Southwest
  • 2X points on local transit, commuting (including rideshares), internet, cable, phone services and select streaming services
  • 1X points on everything else

Two additional differences to note are that you’ll earn 3,000 more bonus points with the Premier cardmember anniversary bonus (compared to the Plus), and you won’t have to pay foreign transaction fees.

Additional card details:

  • 6,000-point cardmember anniversary bonus
  • Two complimentary EarlyBird Check-in upgrades per year
  • 25 percent back on inflight purchases
  • 1,500 tier qualifying points (TQPs) for every $10,000 you spend (up to $100,000 in spending per year)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No blackout dates, change fees or booking fees
  • 3X points on purchases with restaurants via Rapid Rewards Dining
  • Points earned count toward the Companion Pass

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority

As the most premium card in Southwest’s lineup, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card offers the following ongoing rewards for a $149 annual fee:

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

Unfortunately, all three consumer cards from Southwest share the same 75,000-point sign-up bonus (earned after spending $3,000 within your first three months).

Further, you’ll earn 7,500 points each year on your cardmember anniversary (1,500 more points than the Premier and 4,500 more than the Plus).

Additional card details:

  • 7,500-point cardmember anniversary bonus
  • Four upgraded boardings per year
  • 1,500 tier qualifying points (TQPs) for every $10,000 you spend (up to $100,000 in spending per year)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 25 percent back on inflight purchases
  • No blackout dates, change fees or booking fees
  • 3X points on purchases with restaurants via Rapid Rewards Dining
  • Points earned count toward the Companion Pass

Best cards for earning tier status with Southwest

If you’re interested in pursuing elite status with Southwest, the Rapid Rewards Priority and Premier cards can give you a leg up (as you may have already noticed within each card’s “additional card details”). Once you have either of these airline credit cards, you’ll earn 1,500 tier qualifying points (TQPs) for each $10,000 you spend (up to a limit of $100,000 in spending per year, equal to 15,000 TQPs).

These TQPs can be used to earn one of the following positions:

Tier status How to earn it What you get
A-List status 25 qualifying one-way flights within a calendar year or earn 35,000 TQPs within a calendar year. Priority boarding, 25 percent earning bonus, free same-day standby, priority check-in and security, dedicated phone line
A-List Preferred 50 qualifying one-way flights within a calendar year or earn 70,000 TQPs within a calendar year Priority boarding, 100 percent earning bonus, free same-day standby, priority check-in and security, dedicated phone line, free in-flight wifi
Companion Pass 100 qualifying one-way flights within a calendar year or earn 125,000 TQPs within a calendar year Designated companion flies free for the rest of the year you earn the pass and the entire next year

Cards that let you transfer points to Southwest

In addition to co-branded Southwest Airlines credit cards, Chase offers several options that let you transfer what you earn to Southwest and other Chase Ultimate Rewards partners at a 1:1 ratio. In other words, you can sign up for these cards, earn rewards and move your points to the airline (for free) later on.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a well-regarded travel card for a reasonable $95 annual fee. Cardholders earn a stellar 5X points on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards and 2X points on general travel. Further, the card offers:

  • 5X points on Lyft purchases through March 2025
  • 3X points on dining (including eligible delivery services), select streaming services and online grocery purchases (excluding Walmart, Target and wholesale clubs)
  • 1X points on everything else

New cardholders can earn a 60,000-point welcome bonus after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. Among other Sapphire Preferred benefits, perhaps one of the biggest selling points of the card is the 25 percent boost you can get on your Ultimate Rewards points when redeeming for travel via the Ultimate Rewards portal.

Additional card details:

  • $50 annual hotel stay credit
  • 25 percent points bonus when you redeem for travel through Chase
  • 10 percent anniversary point bonus
  • Free year of DoorDash DashPass
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Transfer points 1:1 to popular hotel and airline partners, including Southwest

Chase Sapphire Reserve

As the (older) sister card of the Sapphire Preferred, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers heightened travel rewards for a $550 annual fee: 5X points on air travel through Ultimate Rewards, 10X points on hotel stays and car rentals through Ultimate Rewards and 3X points on general travel purchases (after first earning the $300 travel credit). Further, cardholders earn:

  • 10X points on Lyft purchases through March 2025
  • 10X points on Chase Dining purchases through Ultimate Rewards
  • 3X points on restaurant purchases
  • 1X points on all other purchases

New cardholders get the same welcome bonus offer compared to the Preferred (80,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months), but there are a variety of excellent Sapphire Reserve benefits that make the card worth it.

Additional card details:

  • $300 annual travel credit
  • 50 percent points bonus when you redeem for travel through Chase
  • Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit
  • Free Lyft Pink and DoorDash DashPass membership
  • Up to $120 in credits toward Peloton membership
  • 1:1 points transfer to popular hotel and airline partners, including Southwest

Ink Business Preferred

Lastly, the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card is a lucrative option for both self-employed workers and small business owners. For a $95 annual fee, this Chase business card offers:

  • 3X points on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year (then 1X points)
  • 1X points on all other purchases

In terms of a welcome bonus, cardholders have the chance to earn 100,000 bonus points after spending $15,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. The Ink Business Preferred offers the same 25 percent points boost as the Sapphire Preferred, meaning this sign-up bonus is potentially worth up to $1,500 when redeemed for travel through Chase.

Additional card details:

  • 25 percent points bonus when you redeem for travel through Chase
  • Free employee cards
  • Cellphone protection
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Additional Ink Business Preferred benefits

The bottom line

Whether you’re looking to reach a new tier status with Southwest, earn the Companion Pass or something more, Southwest Airlines offers a bevy of options by which you can earn rewards. However, the right card for you may depend on the categories you spend the most in, how much you’re willing to pay in annual fees and any additional card perks you’re interested in taking advantage of.

Be sure to compare all the top Southwest credit cards before you decide—and keep in mind that you can always pair a co-branded Southwest credit card with a flexible travel card from Chase.