Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Review: Can You Really Get Free Flights?

If you frequently fly Southwest, the Rapid Rewards Priority card might be the right move for you.
Last updated Sep 19, 2020 | By Miranda Marquit

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If you travel frequently, the right credit card can help you earn nearly-free flights and other perks that might make your adventures less expensive. If you're a frequent flyer with Southwest, it might be worth getting the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, which offers high-value perks for loyal Southwest fans.

In this review, we will take a look at what you can expect from the card so you can make a decision about whether it’s the best airline credit card for you.

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

Drawbacks

  • Has annual fee

In this Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card review:

Who should get the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card?

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card is best for those who frequently use Southwest when they travel. Most of the perks for the card are aimed at Southwest, including the 20% back on inflight purchases and the $75 Southwest annual travel credit. If you’re loyal to Southwest, this can be a solid choice, even with the annual fee.

In order to increase your chances of being approved for this card, you need to have good to excellent credit. Also, depending on how frequently you travel with Southwest, you may want to consider other Southwest credit cards, such as the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier and Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus.

If you don’t travel with Southwest very often, it might not make sense to get this airline credit card. If you aren’t interested in airline loyalty, one of the more general travel credit cards might make more sense. 

Card basics

Card type Travel
Credit card issuer Chase
Annual fee $149
Sign-up bonus Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Reward rate 2X points with Southwest and on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases and 1X points on all other purchases
Recommended credit score Excellent, Good
Foreign transaction fee None

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card benefits and perks

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority offers a number of benefits that can help you decide whether it’s worth the annual fee.

  • Lucrative sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. That’s enough points to potentially pay for a round-trip flight.
  • Decent rewards: With this card, you can earn 2X points with Southwest and on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases and 1X points on all other purchases.
  • Annual Southwest travel credit: Each year you remain a cardmember, you can receive a $75 travel credit. That’s enough to account for about half the annual fee.
  • 7,500 anniversary points: You get an anniversary bonus every year your card remains open. Every year, you receive an extra 7,500 points after your cardmember anniversary.
  • 4X upgraded boardings each year: When available, you can take advantage of upgraded boarding up to four times each year. This is without needing A-List Status, which can be a bit of a perk if priority boarding is important to you.
  • Reach A-List Status faster: Members that reach A-List Status by earning 35,000 TQPs (tier qualifying points) each calendar year enjoy priority check-ins, free same-day standby, a 25% earning bonus on eligible Southwest flights, and more. The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority can help supercharge your earnings to reach the status faster.
  • Earn a Companion Pass faster: Once you’ve earned 125,000 points in a calendar year, you’ll receive the Southwest Companion Pass, which allows you to choose a companion to fly with you for free (minus taxes and fees) for up to two years, depending on when the pass is earned. By earning the sign-up bonus for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, you’ll be well on your way there.
  • Discount on inflight purchases: You'll get 20% back as a statement credit when you use your card for inflight purchases like WiFi and drinks.
  • Purchase protection: With this card, you get up to $500 purchase protection against damage or theft for 120 days.
  • Lost luggage reimbursement: If you lose your luggage or it's damaged on a flight you've booked with this card, you're covered up to $3,000.

Drawbacks to the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card

  • Annual fee: This card does come with an annual fee of $149, which is relatively high for an airline card. That said, if you can take advantage of the perks this card offers, it may be worth it for you.
  • Limited flight redemptions: You can redeem your rewards with hotel and car rental partners, but your flight redemptions are limited to Southwest. If you prefer the flexibility of redeeming your rewards with other airlines, a general travel rewards card may be a better option.

Earning & redeeming Southwest Rapid Rewards points

Understanding how to best earn and redeem your rewards is an important part of determining if the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card is right for you. Here’s what you need to know about making the most of your points.

Potential earnings in years one and two

Here's a look at how your points can add up with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card. To calculate these values, we used a point valuation of $0.014.

Remember, this is an estimation. The actual value will be determined by how much you spend and in which categories you spend.

Year one earnings: $880

Year two earnings: $320

These values are based on the FinanceBuzz Credit Card Rewards Valuation Model which takes a look at points earned via spending, the sign-up bonus, and the annual fee.

Note that we accounted for general travel spending in these amounts, not the added value of purchases with Southwest or Southwest partners. These earnings also do not include the $75 annual bonus and the 7,500 bonus points you'll earn on your cardmember anniversary. When you consider these factors, this card offers significantly more value.

Best ways to earn

Your best bet for earning rewards is going to be using your card to book travel on Southwest Airlines, as well as with Southwest partners. You’ll earn 2X points for each dollar spent on Southwest Airlines and Rapid Rewards purchases. Rapid Rewards program hotel partners include Choice Hotels, Best Western, Marriott, and World of Hyatt. Car rental partners include Budget, Hertz, Avis, Alamo, Thrifty, and others.

Category Rewards rate
Southwest Airlines and Rapid Rewards purchases 2X
all other purchases 1X

Additionally, if you’re able to reach A-List or A-List Preferred elite status, you can earn more rewards for flight purchases, increasing the rate at which you earn Rapid Rewards points with Southwest.

Maximizing your redemptions

For the most part, your best redemption value will come from redeeming rewards for Southwest flights. The redemption value of Southwest points depends on the fare you redeem for, as well as other factors. You can redeem your points for merchandise, gift cards, and hotel stays, but your best value will be using points for Southwest airfare. You can do this by signing into your Rapid Rewards account and selecting points when looking at fare costs.

If you redeem your rewards for a $25 gift card, it might take 3,000 points, making each point worth $0.0083 cents. However, if you redeem points for a Southwest flight, you might pay 23,849 points for a ticket that costs $343. In this case, each point would be worth $0.014. You may be able to get even more value for certain award flights, depending on how you choose to redeem your points.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card FAQs

In addition to looking at common benefits of the card, let’s also take a look at some common questions you might need answered before you decide what to do next.

Does the Southwest Rapids Rewards Priority Credit Card come with priority boarding?

With the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, you get four free chances at upgraded boarding per year. In general, Southwest requires you to pay for this upgrade, to the tune of $30, $40, or $50. If you use your four upgrades a year, that’s a value of between $120 and $200. You can also get priority boarding if you reach A-List Status using your card.

Is the Southwest Priority Card worth it?

Whether the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card is worth it depends on how often you fly Southwest. If you spend a lot of time with Southwest and fly it fairly loyally, you can benefit, even with the $149 annual fee. You can get perks and rewards that could help you offset the cost. However, if you only fly on occasion with Southwest, you may want to consider a different Southwest credit card — or another top credit card altogether.

What credit score do you need for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority credit card?

To get approved for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card, you'll likely need a good to excellent credit score. A good FICO score is 670 or above.

What is the best Southwest card?

The best Southwest credit card will likely be different for everyone. Frequent Southwest flyers may get the most value from the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card. While travelers who only fly Southwest occasionally may be better off with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card, which offers a lower annual fee and fewer perks.

Do Southwest points expire?

Your Southwest points will not expire unless you close your credit card.

Other cards to consider

If you're not sure you fly with Southwest frequently enough to justify the Priority card's $149 annual fee, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card may be a better fit for you. This card offers a slightly lower annual fee of $99, and you'll still have the opportunity to earn Rapid Rewards on your purchases.

If you aren’t loyal to Southwest, a more flexible travel card might provide you with more opportunities to earn rewards. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred has a lower annual fee, and you earn points on all travel and dining — not just with specific partners. Additionally, this travel rewards credit card offers the option to transfer your points to over a dozen hotel, car rental, and airline partners.

Double points on Southwest Airlines flights

Special Offer

Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months

See how these cards compare:

Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Preferred
  • 80,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 2X points on eligible dining and travel purchases
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card
  • 40,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 6,000 points every year on cardmember anniversary
  • 2X points on eligible Southwest purchases
  • No blackout dates