What’s the Best Southwest Credit Card? We Compare the Benefits & Fees

Finding the best Southwest credit card boils down to satisfying your personal travel preferences and spending habits. Here’s a side-by-side look at each card to help you choose what makes the most sense for you.
Last updated Mar 10, 2020 | By Miranda Marquit
what southwest credit card should you get

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If you’re looking for a travel rewards card and you frequently fly Southwest, it likely makes sense to consider a Southwest credit card. These cards can get you access to exclusive perks, like the legendary Southwest Companion Pass.

There are five options to choose from — three consumer cards for personal use and two business credit cards for business expenses — with annual fees ranging from $69 to $199.

The best Southwest credit card for you depends on your needs and how frequently you fly. In this comparison, we’ll dive deep into the details to help you figure out which card can serve you best.

Southwest credit cards: A side-by-side comparison

Each Southwest credit card offers different perks, as well as ways to potentially earn A-List Status faster. Here’s how they compare:

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card

Card type Consumer Consumer Consumer Business Business
Sign-up bonus Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months Earn up to 100,000 points: 70,000 points after you spend $5,000 in the first 3 months; plus, another 30,000 points after you spend $25,000 in the first 6 months
Bonus points for cardmember anniversary 3,000 6,000 7,500 6,000 9,000
Tier qualifying points N/A 15,000 15,000 15,000 15,000
Rewards rate 2X points for every $1 spent on Southwest Airlines purchases and 1X points on all other purchases 2X points with Southwest and on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases; 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases 2X points per $1 spent on eligible Southwest purchases and 1X points on all other purchases 2X points on eligible Southwest Airlines purchases and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases 3X points on Southwest purchases; 2X on internet, cable, and phone services, as well as social media and search engine advertising; and 1X on everything else
Annual fee $69 $99 $149 $99 $199
Foreign transaction fees 3% None None None None
Recommended Credit Excellent, Good Excellent, Good Excellent, Good Excellent, Good Excellent, Good
Travel protection benefits Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Purchase protection Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Differences to note

Despite having many similarities, each Southwest credit card brings something different to the table. Here are some of the differences to note:

Annual fee

Each Southwest credit card charges an annual fee, but before you turn your back on these cards, consider the value you’ll be able to squeeze out of the benefits and rewards. If you travel enough on Southwest, paying an annual fee — even a higher one — might be worth it. Here’s how they compare:

Card Annual fee
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus $69
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier $99
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business $99
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority $149
Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business $199

Cardmember anniversary points

Each Southwest credit card comes with points you can receive on your cardmember anniversary — but not every card offers the same amount.

Card Points received on cardmember anniversary
Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business 9,000
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority 7,500
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier 6,000
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business 6,000
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus 3,000

Additionally, it’s worth noting that you don’t get 15,000 qualifying points toward A-List Status with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card. So if earning A-List Status is a goal, you’ll want to consider a different option.

Foreign transaction fees

The only card in this group that charges foreign transaction fees is the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card. All of the other Southwest credit cards have no foreign transaction fee, so you can feel comfortable using them abroad without worrying about accruing extra fees each time you swipe.

Which Southwest credit card should you choose?

Now let’s dig into which Southwest credit card could be right for you based on your travel preferences and goals.

Best for frequent flyers: Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority

If you regularly fly on Southwest, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority is likely the best choice to consider. Offering the most perks out of all the Southwest card offerings, some of the standout benefits that come with the Priority include:

  • $75 annual Southwest travel credit
  • Four Upgraded Boardings each year (a savings of up to $200 per year)
  • 20% back on inflight purchases
  • 7,500 bonus points on cardmember anniversary

With these perks and the opportunity to earn up to 2X points on Southwest purchases and Southwest hotel and rental car partner purchases, the Priority sets itself apart. If you’re able to use your four Upgraded Boardings each year, there’s a good chance you can actually offset the annual fee.

Best middle-of-the-road option: Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier

If you’re not sure Southwest’s top-of-the-line Priority card is right for you but you want to earn earn similar rewards, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier is your best bet.

The Premier card offers 2X points with Southwest and on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases; 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. This card has a lower annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, and free checked bags when you fly Southwest. You’ll also receive 6,000 anniversary points each year, which can help you on your way to earning A-List Status.

Best for perks with low annual fee: Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus

If you’re looking for a basic credit card that can help you earn free flights on Southwest without a high annual fee, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus is likely the right choice for you.

Despite the lower annual fee, you’ll still earn up to 2X points on Southwest purchases and purchases made with partner rental car and hotel brands, and receive 3,000 points on your cardmember anniversary. One of the simple payoffs of this card is that just one free flight per year is likely more than enough to offset the annual fee.

Best for small business: Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business

If you tend to travel the same routes for business on a regular basis, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business is a strong Southwest credit card choice to consider.

With this card you will earn 3X points on Southwest purchases; 2X on internet, cable, and phone services, as well as social media and search engine advertising; and 1X on everything else, as well as 9,000 points on your cardmember anniversary. This is on top of the handful of other valuable travel perks, including four upgraded boardings per year, inflight wifi credits, and a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit. You'll also be able to add additional employee cards at no cost and earn points on employee spending.

Best for earning a Companion Pass

One of the easiest ways to get a Companion Pass is to apply for a Southwest credit card with a generous sign-up bonus. After you’ve earned the sign-up bonus, you’ll be well on your way to earning the coveted Pass.

If, however, you’re eligible for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card, you could also consider applying for both a personal and a business credit card to earn the Companion Pass faster. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll be on the hook for two annual fees, so make sure you aren’t biting off more than you can chew.

Still not convinced?

If you’re still on the fence about pledging your loyalty to Southwest or you want a credit card with a broader travel focus, here are two other options to consider:

Chase Sapphire Preferred

With a comparable annual fee and broader rewards-earning categories, the Chase Sapphire Preferred might be what you’re looking for in a travel rewards card. What’s more, cardholders can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book Southwest flights through the Chase travel portal.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards

Another card with a comparable annual fee, the Capital One Venture Rewards goes one step beyond and waives the fee in the first year. You can also earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day, making it a decent card for everyday spending. When you’re ready to use your rewards, the Venture card offers a lot of flexibility in choosing your airline of choice.

Bottom line

Tucking a Southwest credit card into your wallet can be a good choice if you frequently travel Southwest and want perks like free checked bags. While it may take some time to figure out which one suits you best, the right card ultimately comes down to how much you travel, the perks you expect in a credit card, and how the card fits into your overall lifestyle.

Double points on Southwest Airlines flights

Benefits

  • 40,000 bonus point sign-up offer
  • 2X points on Southwest Airlines purchases
  • 7,500 points every year on Cardmember anniversary
  • $75 Southwest annual travel credit
  • Four upgraded boardings per year when available