Southwest Airlines credit card review

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The Southwest Airlines® Rapid Rewards® Premier and Plus Credit Cards have long been a popular choice for frequent fliers, but does the offer of 60,000 miles come with any strings attached?

The answer is yes, that string involves a fairly reasonable initial spending requirement:

  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open

That’s not a significant burden if you use your card as your primary card for a few months instead of spreading your charges around on other cards or using cash. Southwest Airlines has built their reputation on customer service and providing exceptional value to everyday people by acting different from the other airlines – so it’s to be expected that they exceed expectations when it comes to their frequent flier credit cards.

Rapid Rewards Premier®

The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Visa card is issued by Chase bank.

Is there an annual fee?
As with most credit cards that offer airline-specific frequent flyer miles or points, there is an annual fee. The Rapid Rewards Premier fee is $99, which is in line with other airline cards. However, what makes the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier credit card different is that it provides recurring points bonus every year: 6,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.

How do the rewards work?

You’ll earn the following on this card:

  • 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Southwest’s rental-car and hotel partners include Avis, Alamo, Budget, Hertz, Starwood, Best Western, Marriott and more. So you have plenty of ways to earn 2 points per dollar without flying.

But what’s most impressive about the Southwest Airline credit card points is their value…

  • Many other credit cards: 6,000 points = $60.00 airfare credit
  • Southwest Airlines card: 6,000 points = about $83 for “Wanna Get Away” airfare
    Please note that the govt fees (which are as low as $5) are not included with the award flights, so you will have to pay those out of pocket.

Southwest reward fares are tied to the cash cost of the ticket, so less-expensive fares will cost you fewer points than pricier ones. That may work better for you than the system employed by other airlines, which generally impose a flat 25,000-point redemption minimum for round-trip fares.

no-change-feesNo change fees?
On top of the fare difference, most airlines charge up to a $150 fee just to changing your flight! SWA is the only major carrier that doesn’t charge a fee to change your ticket. All you pay is the fair difference (if applicable).


Free bags?

free-checked-bagsBoth your first AND second checked bags are free because Southwest doesn’t charge for the first two checked bags. This benefit doesn’t come from the card, rather from flying Southwest.

No Foreign Transaction Fees?
This is a great perk and should be a requirement of all travel-related credit cards. If you’ve ever gone overseas without it you quickly find out how painful foreign transaction fees are when you get back home and the bill arrives.
a-list
Get to A-List status faster?

If you’re like a lot of travelers and show up for your flights at the last minute, then you often find yourself in the dreaded “C” boarding group (i.e. a middle seat in the back of the plane). Priority check-in and security lane access along with priority boarding are sweet perks, indeed. This card can help you get there faster because you earn 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points for every $10,000 in purchases (up to $100,000 in purchases annually). That means you can earn up to 15,000 Tier Qualifying Points annually through your card. If you make it to A-List, you get these coveted benefits:

a-list-benefits
Remember the above benefits are NOT from the credit card. They are provided by Southwest Airlines with your A-List status once you qualify.


Visa Signature benefits?

This tier of credit card offers the following benefits for free:

Purchase protection – Have you ever bought an item, only to have something horrible happen to it days or weeks later? Eligible purchases made on your Southwest Airlines Visa Signature card are covered up to 90 days from date of purchase against theft, vandalism, fire damage, accidentally discharged water or certain weather conditions. At their discretion they will pay to repair, replace, or reimburse you – up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per cardholder.

Concierge – Enjoy free Visa Signature phone concierge service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Lost luggage reimbursement – When you use your Signature-version credit card to pay for the entire cost of an eligible common carrier ticket (i.e. airline ticket) there is coverage for your carry-on bags and checked luggage if they’re lost or stolen, up to $3,000 per trip.

Auto rental collision damage waiver – This benefit covers eligible rentals against collision damage and theft.

Travel accident insurance – With a covered Visa Signature card, receive travel accident insurance when you pay for tickets (eligible common carrier tickets) in full using the card. This coverage applies to accidental death and dismemberment with up to $250,000 in coverage for eligible incidents.

Check and confirm with the Chase Southwest credit card customer service for details, exclusions, and limitations. Benefits are subject to change without notice.

Rapid Rewards® Plus

This card has a slightly lower annual fee ($69). For the most part, its rewards and benefits reflect those of the Premier version, with the following differences:

  • 3,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary
  • Visa Signature or Classic benefits: This card is offered at the Signature or lower Classic level (with slightly less-robust benefits). Which version you get will be determined by your credit report and the information you provide in your application.

Verdict?
With compelling rewards, enticing benefits and lucrative sign-up offer, these credit cards are a solid choice for the co-branded airline reward category. The current 60,000 point sign-up bonus gives you a good start in the Rapid Rewards program.