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Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred

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Finding the perfect travel credit card can be difficult because of the vast number of choices out there. You’ll likely be deciding between premium cards, issuers, rewards structures, co-branded cards and more.

In this battle, we’re going to take a look at the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card versus the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. Both of these credit cards offer rewards for avid travelers, but the difference comes down to how you travel.

If you are loyal to the Southwest brand and their travel partners, then the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus might appeal to you more. However, if you need more flexibility with travel brands and the ability to earn more rewards on more bonus categories, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card could suit you better.

While this is a simplified breakdown of these cards, it helps to look at additional card details, perks and benefits to choose the one that best fits your lifestyle. Here’s how these cards stack up against one another based on your spending habits.

Main details

Cards Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card points Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card points
Welcome bonus Earn 75,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
Rewards rate
  • 2X points on Southwest purchases, Southwest hotel and car rental partners, local transit and commuting (including ride-shares) and internet, cable, phone and select streaming services
  • 1X points on all other purchases
  • 3X points on dining (including eligible delivery services), select streaming services and online grocery purchases (excluding Walmart, Target and wholesale clubs)
  • 5X points on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards and Lyft Rides (Lyft offer through March 2025)
  • 2X points on other travel
  • 1X points on other purchases
Intro APR N/A N/A
Annual fee $69 $95

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred highlights

Welcome bonus winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred wins the welcome bonus battle because you’ll get 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Not only do you get more welcome points than the 75,000 the Rapid Rewards Plus Card offers, but these points are more flexible since you have many redemptions options. Plus, they are worth 25 percent more when you redeem them for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. So, your 80,000 points could be worth up to $1,000 for travel.

Rewards rate winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Sapphire Preferred offers bonus categories with higher rewards rates while also giving you more categories to choose from:

  • 3X points on dining (including eligible delivery services), select streaming services and online grocery purchases (excluding Walmart, Target and wholesale clubs)
  • 5X points on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards and Lyft Rides (Lyft offer through March 2025)
  • 2X points on other travel
  • 1X points on all other purchases

The Rapid Rewards Plus caps out at 2X on its bonus categories:

  • 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

Even if you are the supreme Southwest brand loyalist, squeezing more points from this reward structure could be challenging, but not impossible. If you are conscientious with your spending, there’s potential to earn more rewards and even qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass, which we’ll cover below.

Annual fee winner: Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus

The Rapid Rewards Plus card boasts a slightly lower annual fee of $69, versus the Sapphire Preferred’s $95 annual fee. However, with that lower annual fee, you might not have as many perks or earn as many rewards as you would with the Sapphire Preferred.

Foreign transaction fee winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred

Generally speaking, you’d expect travel credit cards to omit the foreign transaction fees, as the Chase Sapphire Preferred does. However, the Rapid Rewards Plus card does charge a 3 percent foreign transaction fee. Southwest is mainly a domestic airline, which could explain why there’s a foreign transaction fee, but it’d be nice to rack up Rapid Rewards points overseas without incurring additional charges.

Which card earns the most?

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred spending example

Here’s a spending example of what you could earn with each card. Of course, if your spending habits are much different than this example, your rewards yield could be much different, too.

Spending category Annual Spending Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card Chase Sapphire Preferred
Groceries $4,687.00 9,374 14,061
Dining $2,375.00 2,375 7,125
Gas $1,313.00 2,626 1,313
Apparel & services $1,434.00 1,434 1,434
Streaming $1,200.00 2,400 3,600
Entertainment $1,200.00 2,912 1,200
Internet cable and phone $1,200.00 2,400 1,200
Personal care products and services $646.00 646 646
Southwest Travel $1,440.00 2,880 2,880
All other travel $1,440.00 1,440 7,200*
Account anniversary bonus 3,000 4,066
Total $16,935.00 31,487 44,725

*Assumes other travel is booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

In this example, we can see that the Chase Sapphire Preferred will far out earn your Southwest Rapid Rewards card by about 30 percent, and this example doesn’t even include the welcome bonuses. Don’t forget that points earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred fetch 25 percent more value when redeemed for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal—so your points are potentially worth more as well.

One thing that hasn’t yet been mentioned is the anniversary bonuses that each card offers, which is also factored into the spending example above. The Rapid Rewards Plus has a 3,000-point annual account anniversary bonus, while the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers a 10 percent annual bonus. This means you’ll get 10 percent of the points you earned on your total combined spending in points from the previous year. These points are automatically added to your rewards balance on each account anniversary.

Why should you get the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

Additional benefits

You can’t really talk about a Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card without mentioning the potential to score the coveted Southwest Companion Pass. In essence, the Companion Pass allows you to bring along a travel buddy, each time you fly Southwest, for just the cost of fees and taxes. Typically, you can earn the pass by earning 125,000 points from qualifying purchases or taking 100 qualifying one-way flights.

If you were able to score the 75,000-point welcome bonus (after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months) and about 30,000 more points from your spending, like in the example above, you’d be over halfway to the points needed to get the pass.  Most people try and go the distance to qualify and it ends up being a game-changer in terms of squeezing more value out of your card.

The Rapid Rewards Plus offers some perks and benefits you’d expect with a travel card, but they are pretty minimal when compared to other more premium travel credit cards. But there are some useful features like the lost luggage reimbursement of up to $3,000 per passenger and baggage delay insurance up to $100 per day for three days. As an airline, Southwest gives you your first two checked bags for free (size and weight limits apply), and there are no fees for flight changes.

The Rapid Rewards Plus Card also offers extended warranty protection of up to a year when you use your card to buy items with eligible U.S. manufacturer’s warranties of three years or less. Also, 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.

Redemption options

Although you don’t get the same flexibility and boosted redemption value as you would with Ultimate Rewards points earned with the Sapphire Preferred card, you can redeem your points toward more than just Southwest airfare bookings.

You can redeem points for Southwest flights to more than 90 destinations and for other approved products and services via the Rapid Rewards shopping portal—like gift cards, cruises, car rentals, hotel stays, exclusive events and merchandise.

Recommended credit score

You’ll need a good to excellent score (670 to 850) to qualify for this card.

Why should you get the Chase Sapphire Preferred?

Additional benefits

Unlike the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred boasts a long list of travel-specific benefits and protections:

  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance of up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip. This covers non-refundable travel costs like flights, hotels or site-seeing tours.
  • Baggage delay insurance of up to $100 per day for five days, which covers any essential purchases needed (such as clothing, toothpaste, shampoo) for baggage delays of six hours or more.
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver for rentals purchased with your Sapphire Preferred card. This covers theft and collision damage for up to the cash value of the car being rented.
  • Trip delay reimbursement of up to $500 per ticket for travel held back more than 12 hours (or that which subsequently needs an overnight stay).
  • 24/7 travel and emergency assistance services for the Sapphire Preferred cardholder, their spouse and any children under 22.

Additional card perks include:

  • A $50 annual hotel stay credit.
  • 10 percent points bonus on your total combined spending in points from the previous year will automatically be added to your rewards balance on each account anniversary.
  • Free year of DoorDash DashPass.
  • Purchase protection for new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft, up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.

Depending on your spending habits, the credit and bonuses alone could cover your annual fee for the Sapphire Preferred. So, if that annual fee was a major turn-off for this card, you can at least take comfort in knowing that it’s justified.

Redemption options

Honestly, this is one of the more exciting features of the card. You can redeem points for a number of travel partners that include hotel and airfare partners at a 1:1 ratio (1 cent per point). If you book travel accommodations in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, you’ll get 1.25 cents per point.

Then, you can also redeem your points for cash back, statement credits, gift cards, merchandise (including Apple product purchases) and Chase Experience events. You can also use your points at checkout on Amazon.com and PayPal for a lower value (0.8 cents apiece). With Chase’s Pay Yourself Back tool, you can redeem points for cash back or statement credits for spending in select spending categories. Using this tool can also boost the value of your points, but the bonus categories do change every so often.

Recommended credit score

You’ll need a good to excellent score (670 to 850) to qualify for this card.

The bottom line

Getting the right credit card can be a great path to travel discounts, perks and benefits—but not all travel cards offer the same benefits for the same type of traveler. In this case, if you’re a die-hard Southwest fan with a buddy who shares the same affinity, this card wins out, mainly for the potential to earn rewards towards a Southwest Companion Pass, plus earn extra rewards here and there.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred has a slightly higher annual fee, flexible redemption options for points and enough annual credits that could potentially cover the annual fee—plus more travel protections and no foreign transaction fees. These characteristics make it ideal for international jet setters wanting more premium features out of their travel card.

All said, your final choice between these cards will come down to the kind of traveler you are—which is up to you to decide.

Written by
Aja McClanahan
Personal Finance Writer
Aja McClanahan is an author, blogger and speaker on personal finance and entrepreneurship. Aja is the author of "How a Mother Should Talk About Money with Her Daughter."
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