Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card review: The improved entry-level Southwest card takes flight

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Snapshot

4.1

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Bottom line

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card offers solid entry-level rewards and benefits for frequent flyers and is much improved after its latest update—especially its sign-up bonus. However, depending on how often you fly with Southwest and where your biggest expenses lie, you’ll probably find more value with a higher-tier Southwest card or, more likely, a general-purpose travel card.

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on Chase's secure site

Best airline sign-up bonus

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Rewards rate

2X–2X

Annual fee

$69

Intro bonus

100,000 points

Regular APR

15.99% - 22.99% Variable

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent  (670 - 850)

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card overview

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is an ideal choice for Southwest flyers looking for an entry-level Southwest Airlines credit card. Although it comes with fewer perks than Southwest’s higher-tier airline credit cards, it also charges a lower annual fee and carries the same great welcome bonus. And while you’ll have to put up a $69 annual fee, the card’s annual benefits can easily cover the cost.

That said, frequent Southwest flyers on the hunt for better perks may be happier paying a higher annual fee and getting more perks with a higher-tier Southwest card or opting for a premium general-purpose travel credit card that offers both more perks and rewards flexibility.

What are the advantages and disadvantages?

Pros

  • Lowest annual fee on a Southwest credit card
  • Decent rewards rate on Southwest Airlines purchases, Southwest hotel and car rental partners, not to mention everyday expenses like transit, select streaming services and internet, cable and phone services
  • Includes perks like your first two checked bags for free, plus two EarlyBird Check-In® each year

Cons

  • No intro APR offer
  • Carries a 3 percent foreign transaction fee, unlike sibling cards
  • $69 annual fee may still be too steep for casual travelers
  • Very little flexibility for those looking for variety in airlines

A deeper look into the current card offer

Quick highlights

  • Rewards rate: Earn 2X points on Southwest purchases; Southwest hotel and car rental partners; local transit and commuting (including ride-shares); internet, cable, phone and select streaming services; 1X points on all other purchases
  • Welcome offer: Earn up to 100,000 points in the first year: 50,000 points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first three months, plus another 50,000 after spending $12,000 on total purchases during the first 12 months
  • 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

Current sign-up bonus

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card now offers an impressive two-tiered sign-up bonus: a total up to 100,000 points in your first year. You can earn 50,000 points after spending $2,000 in your first three months, plus another 50,000 points on top of that once you’ve spent a total of $12,000 in your first 12 months.

This is an excellent offer, both in terms of its value and its standing relative to competing airline card offers. Your 100,000-point bonus could be worth up to $1,400 based an estimated point value of 1.4 cents apiece. This matches the bonus value you’ll find on other Southwest consumer cards, including those with a higher fee, and outclasses many of the intro bonuses you’ll find with beloved travel cards—airline-branded or not. The bonus spending requirement is also reasonable, requiring just a $1,000 per month minimum for your first year with the card, which should be doable for the average cardholder.

Plus, earning this bonus means you’ll be extremely close to earning the coveted Southwest Companion Pass, which requires you to earn to fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 125,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points within a calendar year. Assuming you meet the bonus spending requirement, you can end the year with 112,000 Rapid Rewards points, even if you only earn 1X points on all your spending,

Rewards rate

The rewards on this card are designed for those who prefer flying with Southwest Airlines, earning Rapid Rewards points to spend on bookings, products and services through the airline loyalty program and now other popular everyday expenses. However, keep in mind that your points aren’t as flexible as those you’d earn with a general travel card since they’re tied to Southwest, and their value may vary based on the airfare’s variable pricing model. Even so, the reward-eligible purchases and redemption options are pretty varied compared to other airline cards in the Rapid Rewards Plus card’s class.

How you earn

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. Points will be added to your account within 72 hours after your completed flight.

If you don’t fly as often, the Rapid Rewards Plus card will also earn 2X points on a variety of more common purchases: local transit and commuting (including ride-shares), internet service, cable service, phone services and select streaming services.

You’ll also earn 3,000 bonus points each year on your account anniversary and can earn up to 3X points per dollar at participating restaurants through the Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining program.

Bankrate insight

According to Chase’s reward category guidelines, the following streaming services will earn you 2X points with this Southwest Rapid Rewards card:

  • Disney+
  • Hulu
  • ESPN+
  • Netflix
  • Sling
  • Vudu
  • Fubo TV
  • Apple Music
  • SiriusXM
  • Pandora
  • Spotify
  • YouTube TV

How to redeem

Not only can you put your points toward Southwest flights to more than 90 destinations, but you can also use them for other approved products and services via the Rapid Rewards shopping portal like gift cards, cruises, car rentals, hotel stays, exclusive events 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. You also can’t pay the difference with cash if you don’t have enough points (your entire ticket has to be paid for with points). On the bright side, your rewards don’t expire for the life of your account.

How much are the rewards 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, we’ve found the Rapid Rewards points have a value of about 1.3 cents to 1.4 cents when booking Southwest flights, but The Points Guy estimates them to carry a 1.5-cent market value. To find out the point cost of your desired flight, log in to Southwest.com and enter your flight details.

Fortunately, Rapid Rewards points’ value is on the slightly higher side of what you’d typically see from airline reward programs—The Points Guy values Delta SkyMiles at 1.1 cents each and American AAdvantage miles at 1.4 cents, for example.

Other cardholder perks

Along with earning rewards, you’ll also enjoy a small but satisfying serving of benefits with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus credit card. You won’t receive a truckload of travel insurance or any luxury travel perks, but the card provides enough value to smooth out a few common travel snags and offset its annual fee.

Travel perks

You’ll receive 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 checked bags fly free (size and weight limits apply), and there are no fees for flight changes.

Now, Southwest’s latest upgrade to the Rapid Rewards Plus card provides 25 percent back on eligible in-flight purchases and two EarlyBird Check-In® boarding upgrades each year (an up to $50 value).

Although general travel cards, like the flagship Chase credit cards, may offer a better benefit portfolio, these make a pretty solid roster considering the top-shelf Southwest card only builds on this list with bonus elite status point opportunities, more boarding upgrades and a yearly travel credit.

Purchase protection

When you use your card to buy items with eligible U.S. manufacturer’s warranties of three years or less, you may get your warranty extended 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, which equates to $42 toward flights based on a 1.4-cent point value.

This is a great deal since it nearly accounts for your entire annual fee, but the other two Southwest Rapid Rewards cards make this bonus much more valuable by at least doubling it.

Complimentary DoorDash DashPass

Like other co-branded Chase credit cards, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus offers 12 months of complimentary DoorDash DashPass if you enroll by Dec. 31, 2021. After that, you’ll be responsible for the current monthly DashPass rate.

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, with no zero-interest offers available currently.

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.

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. Additionally, if you make your payment late or have your payment returned, you can face a fee of up to $40 per instance. The good news is there are no fees for returned checks or going over your credit limit.

First-year value vs. ongoing value

Although the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card poses a $69 annual fee, its solid rewards potential and additional benefits carry enough recurring value to easily recoup the cost. Even the base sign-up bonus of 50,000 points (after spending $2,000 on purchases in the first three months) covers the annual fee more than 10 times over in your first year (based on a 1.4-cent point value).

The impressive sign-up bonus and 12 months of complimentary DoorDash DashPass add tremendous value to your first year with the card. Fortunately, your annual credits alone more than make up the annual fee afterward. For instance, your 3,000-point anniversary bonus and two complimentary EarlyBird Check-In® boarding upgrades each year can be valued at up to $92. Recouping the $69 fee through rewards spending shouldn’t be too hard either, though, since you’d only need to spend about $206 per month across your 2X bonus categories if you redeem your points at a 1.4-cent value.

Benefits and costs First-year value Ongoing value (no welcome offers)
Yearly rewards* +$284 +$284
Welcome offers +$1,400 value (100,000 total bonus points after spending at least $12,000 during the first 12 months, at a 1.4-cent point value)
Perks (of monetary value)
  • +$42 (3,000 account anniversary bonus points at a 1.4-cent value)
  • +$50 (two EarlyBird Check-In® boarding upgrades per year)
  • +$120 (12 months of complimentary DoorDash DashPass)
  • +$42 (3,000 account anniversary bonus points at a 1.4-cent value)
  • +$50 (two EarlyBird Check-In® boarding upgrades per year)
Annual fee -$69 -$69
Total value $1,827 $307

*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).

Bankrate staff experience

Frequent Bankrate personal finance contributor Tim Maxwell is a fan of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus—especially the value its Companion Pass perk delivers.

If you prefer Southwest Airlines over the competition, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card is the perfect tool to begin earning perks with the airline. The annual fee is low, and the value of the benefits is high.

The main attraction of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card is the coveted Southwest Companion Pass. It’s the premier travel pass and the primary reason I love this card as much as I do.

— Tim Maxwell, Personal finance contributor at Bankrate

The Southwest Companion Pass is a stellar value because it allows a selected travel companion to fly with you for virtually free (they’ll be responsible for the fees and taxes, starting at $5.60 for a one-way flight and $11.20 round-trip) an unlimited number of times until your pass expires. What makes this an even sweeter value is that your pass is active for the remainder of the year that you earned it, plus the entirety of the next year. That means if you qualify in January, you’ll essentially have a Companion Pass for almost two years (your companion can be changed up to three times per year, for convenience).

You can qualify for the Companion Pass by earning 125,000 points from qualifying purchases. This would normally take spending $62,500 in your 2X categories across one calendar year—about $5,209 per month—but you can achieve over 99 percent of the points required just by qualifying for the full 100,000-point sign-up bonus by spending in your 2X categories. That means you can obtain a Companion Pass just by spending $12,500 in your first year, or only about $1,042 per month during your first 12 months.

How the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus compares to other travel cards

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

As the entry-tier Southwest Rapid Rewards card that still charges a $69 annual fee, it could be worth considering the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card ($99 annual fee) or even the $149 annual fee Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card.

While they have higher annual fees, the Premier and Priority cards offer several advantages and upgraded benefits in return. In fact, the Premier card’s doubled 6,000-point anniversary bonus more than covers the $30 annual fee increase (worth $42 at a 1.4-cent point value). This and the Premier card’s bonus Tier-Qualifying Points (1,500 TQPs per $10,000 spent annually) toward Southwest elite status make a valid case for skipping the Rapid Rewards Plus in favor of the Premier.

Going one step further, it’s also reasonable to go straight for the Rapid Rewards Priority since the value of the 7,500-point anniversary bonus, the $75 annual Southwest travel credit and the four upgraded Southwest boardings per year more than cover its $149 annual fee as well. However, the Priority card is strikingly similar to the Premier outside of these extra benefits, so it’d also be reasonable to pick the Premier if you’re not as concerned about those perks.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Prospective cardholders that want to stay in the Chase cards sphere might also benefit from the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Although it has a $95 annual fee, it earns excellent rewards on more purchases than travel and dining that can then be transferred to Southwest flights—giving you more travel options in a pinch. Plus, it provides extensive enough travel protections, pairing possibilities and other valuable perks to crown it as one of the best travel cards for beginners.

Or, if you’d prefer a less involved travel card, the flat-rate Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card may be a better fit. It also poses a $95 annual fee but offers unlimited 2X miles per dollar spent on all purchases. You can earn a welcome bonus of 60,000 miles (equal to $600 in travel through Capital One) once you spend $3,000 on purchases within your first three months. Although its rewards and benefits aren’t as rich as the Sapphire Preferred card’s, the Venture could be a wise option if you’d rather go with a one-size-fits-all travel card.

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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

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4.1
Apply now

on Chase's secure site

Annual fee

$69

Sign up bonus

100,000 points

Rewards rate

2X–2X

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent(670 - 850)
Chase Image

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

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4.0
Apply now

on Chase's secure site

Annual fee

$99

Sign up bonus

100,000 points

Rewards rate

2X–3X

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent(670 - 850)
Chase Image

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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4.3
Apply now

on Chase's secure site

Annual fee

$95

Sign up bonus

60,000 points

Rewards rate

2X–5X

Recommended credit

Good to Excellent(670 - 850)

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 and its bonus category purchases. To maximize your spending, consider pairing it with a cash back card with higher rewards rates in other categories for everyday spending or a flat-rate rewards card.

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 in purchases, 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 the first year).

If you’d prefer a no annual fee card that helps you earn more rewards on the widest variety of purchases possible without a spending limit to worry about, the Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card rewards you with unlimited 2 percent cash rewards on all purchases.

Similarly, a card that earns boosted flat-rate rewards that you can transfer to Southwest Airlines for a potentially higher value could come in handy, such as the Chase Freedom Unlimited®.

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 earn boosted rewards you can use to pay for flights—even on purchases outside travel. However, if you travel frequently, one of the airline’s higher-tier cards like the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card can offer more perks and a slightly better rewards rate on Southwest purchases.

However, if you like to travel with various airlines in addition to Southwest, a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred will offer you more flexibility with better, less Southwest-focused rewards and benefits for the annual fee.

Frequently Asked Questions