Southwest Airlines credit card review

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The Southwest Airlines® Rapid Rewards® Premier credit card has long been a popular choice for frequent fliers, but does the offer of 25,000 miles come with any strings attached?

The answer is yes, but the only string only involves a fairly reasonable initial spending requirement which most reward cards require these days. You have to spend $1,000 in the first three months of getting the card to earn 25,000 points, good for anywhere Southwest flies. That’s not a significant burden if you use this 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 what they term “outrageous 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 card.

Review of the Southwest Airlines® Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Visa card is issued by Chase bank. A few years ago, Chase launched Rapid Rewards Premier, which was a newer version of their previous Rapid Rewards Visa Signature card.

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. After your cardmember anniversary you get 6,000 bonus points. That’s enough to score you $85 worth of “Wanna Get Away” fares, offsetting a majority of the annual fee.

How do the rewards work?

The old Southwest Airlines credit card rewards program was a bit more complicated. Fortunately the newer program they launched a couple years ago is simpler and even better…

  • 1 point per $1 on regular purchases
  • 2 points per $1 on Southwest Airlines purchases (flights, in-flight food/beverage, etc)
  • 2 points per $1 at Rapid Rewards partner car rental companies:swa-partners-rental
  • 2 points per $1 at Rapid Rewards partner hotels:swa-partners

As you can see there are quite a few hotels on that list! 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 = $85.00 credit 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 Airlines goes the extra mile to deliver even more value: When you run the numbers on the Southwest Airlines Premier card, you will see a $350 “Wanna Get Away” flight is yours for only 24,475 points + government fees. Compare that to the typical 25,000+ mile minimum that many airline cards require for an almost free roundtrip flight (I say almost since all airline frequent flier programs still charge the applicable taxes and fees out of pocket on the award airfare. It’s not just SWA who does that).

no-change-feesNo change fees?
On top of the fare difference, most airlines charge up to a $150 fee just to changing your stinking 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… yet another great reason to choose the Southwest Airlines credit card application! Compare this to most carriers, which charge you up to $50/roundtrip just for your first bag alone. If you’re traveling with your family it’s amazing how much this one perk will save you. SWA gets a lot of PR value for this one. I even saw the phrase “Bags fly free here” painted on the side of the plane with an arrow pointing to the cargo hold, recently.

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.
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. 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:

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?

If you have qualifying credit, you will be approved for the Visa Signature version. This tier of credit card offers the following benefits for free:

Purchase Security* – 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.

Complimentary 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. When applying you are first considered for the Visa Signature tier. If you don’t qualify for that, you will be automatically considered for the Visa Platinum tier which has different benefits.

Verdict for 2016?
With a compelling rewards program, enticing benefits and lucrative sign-up offer, this credit card is a solid choice for the co-branded airline reward category. The current 50,000 point sign-up bonus can be redeemed for two round-trip “Wanna Get Away” fare within the continental United States. Southwest Airlines’ advertising slogan states “You are now free to move about the country”. This Rapid Rewards Premier credit card promotion can fulfill that promise quickly.