Southwest Airlines is a favorite affordable carrier for millions of Americans. Recently, Southwest and Chase released a new credit card: The Southwest Airlines® Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. How does it compare to other major airline credit cards and unbranded miles rewards credit cards?
Rewards and Benefits
The Rapid Rewards Premier Card pays two points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways, then the standard one point per $1 spent on other purchases. This rewards structure is typical of airline credit cards, whereas unbranded miles cards like the Capital One Venture card pay 1.5 or 2 points for every dollar spent, not just on certain airlines.
The Southwest Premier Card, however, also offers members a 6,000-point bonus every year that’s enough for a $100 “Wanna Get Away” fare.
Points earned with the Southwest Airlines® Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card can be redeemed for more than just Southwest flights: gift cards, car rentals, cruises, hotel stays, and flights on over 50 carriers.
Finally, this card gets you faster “A-List” status in the Rapid Rewards program. You’ll get 1,500 Tier qualifying points for every $10,000 you spend each year, up to a maximum of 15,000 points.
The Southwest Premier card is the limited-time bonus offer: You earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 with the first three months of opening your account. Those points can be redeemed for two roundtrip fares at the “Wanna Get Away” fare level (a fare class with restrictions). Although we commonly see credit cards with signup bonuses worth $100 or even $200 – these two roundtrip flights (despite restrictions) are easily worth $300 or more and are a pretty tempting sign-up bonus.
Rates and Fees
The annual fee on the Rapid Rewards premier credit card is $99. That’s not uncommon for airline credit cards and can be offset if you use the annual $100 credit upon renewal. At the time of this review, the regular APR on this card is 15.24 percent. There is no introductory interest rate on either purchases or balance transfers.
As a rule, airline credit cards like this Southwest Visa are best used for paying for air travel and then repaying the balance in full every month. If you’re going to be carrying a balance, try a 0 percent APR balance transfer credit card instead.
Unlike many credit cards, the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards credit card has no foreign currency transaction fees – a feature that can mean big savings if you travel abroad.
The Bottom Line
If you’re not loyal to Southwest or can’t take advantage of the free flights offered with this card, choose a more general travel rewards credit card.
If, however, you fly Southwest regularly, this card is an easy way to net some free travel. Because the anniversary bonus offsets the annual fee, you could hold onto this card just for booking your Southwest travel and come out ahead.