Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card review

Bankrate Staff  in  Airline How we rate our cards  | 

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Best airline sign-up bonus

Annual Fee:
$69
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
15.99% - 22.99% Variable
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Bankrate Rating

 

Best for occasional Southwest flyers

  • Rewards rate: Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Southwest hotel and car rental partners; 1x points on all other purchases
  • Welcome offer: 40,000 points after spending a total of $1,000 in purchases within the first three months, plus 3X points on dining (including eligible delivery services) for the first year
  • Annual fee: $69
  • Purchase intro APR: N/A
  • Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
  • Regular APR: 15.99 percent to 22.99 percent variable APR

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is an ideal choice for Southwest flyers looking for an entry-level Southwest Airlines credit card. And though it comes with fewer perks than higher-tier Southwest cards, it also charges a lower annual fee and carries a decent welcome bonus.

Read on to find out if this is the right travel rewards card for you.

Current sign-up bonus

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card now offers 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months, plus 3X points on dining (including eligible delivery services) for the first year. However, to qualify, you can’t have another Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card and can’t have received a new cardmember bonus in the past 24 months from the Southwest Rapid Rewards program.

Rewards

The rewards on this card are designed for those who prefer flying with Southwest Airlines.

Earning rewards

Every dollar you spend on purchases with Southwest Airlines will earn you 2 Rapid Rewards points. All other purchases earn you 1 point per dollar. 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.

You’ll also earn 3,000 bonus points each year on your account anniversary and can earn up to three points per dollar at participating restaurants through the Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining program, which is especially helpful for stacking your first-year dining bonus category for extra points.

Redeeming rewards

You can use your points to purchase Southwest flights to 90-plus destinations as well as for other approved products and services in the Rapid Rewards shopping portal like gift cards, cruises, car rentals, hotel stays and merchandise.

There are some restrictions, however. Points can’t be used for special fares such as those for infant, military, government and child passengers. Additionally, they can’t be used for Southwest amenities like extra bags and carrying on pets.

How much are points worth?

The value of Southwest points can vary based on a number of factors including the day, fare class, demand, destination and time. On average, Rapid Rewards points have a value of about 1.3 cents to 1.4 cents when booking Southwest flights. To find out the point cost of your desired flight, log in to Southwest.com and enter your flight details.

Benefits

Along with earning rewards, you’ll also enjoy the following benefits of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus credit card.

Travel perks

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

Purchase protection

When you use your card to buy items with eligible U.S. manufacturer’s warranties of three years or less, you’ll get a 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.

Anniversary bonus

After your cardmember account anniversary each year, you’ll earn 3,000 bonus points.

Rates and fees

This card comes with a $69 annual fee. The APR on purchases and balance transfers ranges from 15.99 percent to 22.99 percent (variable), depending on your creditworthiness.  Cash advances come with a higher APR of 24.99 percent variable, along with a fee of either $10 or 5 percent of your transaction amount, whichever is more. Balance transfers also come with a fee of $5 or 5 percent of the transaction amount, whichever is more.

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. Additionally, if you make your payment late or have your payment returned, you can face a fee of up to $39 per instance. The good news is there are no fees for returned checks or going over your credit limit.

How the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus compares to other cards

How does the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card compare to other similar cards?

If you fly frequently and want to enjoy even more perks from Southwest, consider the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card. While it has a higher annual fee of $149, you get several advantages in return, including a 7,500 point anniversary bonus every year, four upgraded boardings per year, $75 travel credit per year, 20 percent back on all in-flight purchases and no foreign transaction fees.

Or, if you’d prefer a more flexible travel rewards card, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card may be a better fit. It has a $95 annual fee, a bit higher, but offers two miles per dollar spent on all purchases with no limits. You can earn a welcome bonus of 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

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 purchases to 1 point per dollar. To maximize your credit card return on investment, consider pairing it with a cash back card with higher rewards rates in other categories.

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, for example, lets you earn 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year, then it’s 1 percent), 6 percent cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3 percent back at U.S. gas stations, 3 percent back on transit and 1 percent back on everything else. However, it comes with a $95 annual fee ($0 introductory annual fee for one year).

If you’d prefer a no-annual-fee card that helps you earn more rewards, the Citi® Double Cash Card rewards you with up to 2 percent cash back on all purchases: You earn 1 percent when you make purchases and 1 percent when you pay off those purchases.

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. It will help you to earn miles you can use to pay for flights. However, if you travel frequently, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card can offer more perks. Additionally, if you like to travel with various airlines, a card like the Capital One Venture will offer you more flexibility.

Pros

  • Lowest annual fee on a Southwest credit card
  • Decent rewards rate on Southwest Airlines purchases
  • Includes perks like your first two checked bags for free

Cons

  • No intro APR offer
  • Carries a foreign transaction fee
  • Annual fee may still be too steep for casual travelers
  • Very little flexibility for those looking for variety in airlines