Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card review: A solid option for domestic Southwest loyalists
This card is a boon for Southwest fans. Still, travelers looking for more flexibility may not get as much value.
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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card Overview
This card is an easy choice to make for travelers who live in a city served by Southwest Airlines. The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card can help you rapidly earn rewards for free or discounted Southwest flights. You’ll pay a slightly higher $99 annual fee than with its sibling card the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, but you’ll be well on your way to earning A-list status in the Southwest Rapid Rewards loyalty program. Cardholders will earn 3X points on Southwest purchases; 2X points on Southwest hotel and car rental partners; 2X points on local transit and commuting (including rideshare); 2X points on internet, cable, phone services and select streaming services; and 1X points on everything else.
What are the advantages and disadvantages?
- Southwest doesn’t have any airline partners, so your rewards redemption options are limited.
- Southwest only flies to a few international destinations, so your options for traveling abroad are limited.
A deeper look into the current card offer
- Annual fee: $99
- Welcome offer: 75,000 points after spending $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening
- Rewards rate: Cardholders earn 3X points on all Southwest purchases, 2X points on local transit and commuting purchases (including rideshare), and 2X points on internet, cable, phone and select streaming services.
- Purchase APR: 18.99 percent to 25.99 percent variable
- Balance transfer APR: 5 percent fee of the amount being transferred, or $5, whichever is greater.
Current Welcome Offer
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card stands out among the best travel rewards credit cards in a few ways. Cardholders earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. This bonus is worth a substantial $1,125 according to Bankrate’s latest points valuation — a big boost from the card’s previous offer of just 50,000 points after a $1,000 spend in the same timeframe.
Unfortunately, Southwest no longer offers the Companion Pass as a welcome bonus. Still, all points earned as part of the bonus count toward the Companion Pass (in 2023, you’ll need 135,000 total qualifying points or 100 qualifying one-way flights to qualify on your own).
Earning points and redeeming points is simple with this card. Its primary points value lies in earning Rapid Rewards points that can be applied to earning a Southwest Companion Pass.
How you earn
Despite being a tiered rewards program, the earnings are limited. Cardholders will earn an elevated 3X points on all Southwest purchases, this includes airfare and inflight purchases. Get 2X points on internet, cable, phone and select streaming services and 1X points on everything else.
The good news for cardholders? Your earnings aren’t capped by a spending limit. You’ll earn points on every Southwest flight you take.
How to redeem
You can redeem your Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier points for hotel stays, car rentals, experiences, gift cards and more through the Rapid Rewards Shopping portal — though you’ll get the most value from redeeming them for Southwest flights. There are three ways to redeem your points for airfare: Wanna Get away tickets, Business Select tickets and Anytime tickets.
Key cardholder perks
A head start on A-list elite status
You’ll need at least 35,000 Tier-Qualifying Points or 25 one-way flights per calendar year to qualify for Southwest’s A-List status — which comes with perks like priority boarding, a 25 percent points bonus on each flight and no charge for same-day standby flights. Luckily the Premier card gets you a small head start toward Southwest elite status.
No foreign transaction fees
Southwest’s international destination options are relatively limited. Most Southwest flights abroad land in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America. Despite this, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier credit card makes an excellent international traveling companion to those destinations and beyond. It doesn’t charge any fees for foreign transactions, and travelers can use Southwest’s More Rewards portal to book hotels and rental cars with points.
The generous 6,000-point anniversary bonus goes a long way toward helping travelers reduce the cost of owning this card. You’ll receive this 6,000-point bonus (valued at around $90) every year you hold your Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card. The bonus comes at no extra cost to you.
Rates and fees
Though the annual fee is pretty standard for this type of card, cardholders should be pleased with how easily they can offset the $99 annual fee. The 6,000-point anniversary bonus valued at around $90 covers nearly the entire cost of the annual fee on its own. Thankfully outside of the annual fee and the balance transfer fee ($5 or 5 percent of the transaction, whichever is greater), the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card is light on fees. The 18.99 percent to 25.99 percent variable APR is middle-of-the-road compared to other travel cards, but be sure to pay your balance in full each month to avoid paying interest.
How the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier compares to other travel credit cards
Southwest — both the airline and its co-branded credit cards — have a loyal customer base, for good reason. With the right planning, travelers can get a lot from this budget airline and its loyalty program. But are Southwest credit cards — the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card or its siblings — right for you? It depends on what you’re looking for from your card.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card vs. the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card has many of the same benefits as its sibling card with a lower annual fee. You’ll get the same welcome bonus, and all points earned count toward a Companion Pass. The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus does offer a slightly lower rewards rate 2X points on Southwest purchases; 2X points on Southwest hotel and car rental partners; 2X points on local transit and commuting (including rideshare services); 2X points on internet, cable, phone services and select streaming services; and 1X points on all other purchases.
The Rapid Rewards Plus card also makes for a less appealing international travel companion as it charges a 3 percent foreign transaction fee. But if your travel plans only include domestic travel, the lower $69 annual fee may put the Rapid Reward Premier card behind in the race to your wallet.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier vs the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit card
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a flat-rate travel card that helps cardholders earn miles to be redeemed through its travel partners. It offers much more flexible redemption options than its counterpart, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card. Its welcome bonus of 75,000 points — valued at roughly $750 when redeemed through the Capital One Travel portal according to our latest valuation (though the value of the points can increase to an estimated $1,500 if redeemed with a high-value Capital One travel partner) — is on par with the Rapid Rewards Premier’s welcome bonus, also valued at roughly $750. That said, the Venture bonus does have a hefty spending requirement of $4,000 within three months of account opening.
If you’re looking to redeem your points on Southwest flights for as much value as possible, the Rapid Rewards Premier card is a no-brainer. On the other hand, if being able to redeem your points with as much flexibility as possible on multiple airlines, the Capital One Venture Rewards card is a better bet.
Best card to pair with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card
Because Southwest doesn’t have any airline transfer partners, Rapid Premier cardholders are limited in how they can redeem their points. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, on the other hand, can transfer points at a 1:1 rate to many hotel and airline partners. If you enjoy flying Southwest but require flexibility in your travel plans, the Sapphire Preferred is a good choice for pairing. Sapphire Preferred cardholders also get a 25 percent boost in points when redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.
Bankrate’s Take: Is the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card worth it?
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card is definitely worth it for travelers who prefer to fly Southwest. The card’s welcome offer and ongoing rewards are a boon for anyone working towards earning free or discounted travel on Southwest airlines. However, your options to redeem are limited. Points become less valuable when transferred to Southwest hotel and rental car partners, and your options for redeeming for airfare are limited to Southwest flights, so travelers who value flexibility should look elsewhere.