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.
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.