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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card Review [2024]: Can You Really Get Free Flights?

If you frequently fly Southwest, the Rapid Rewards Priority card might be the right move for you.

Updated July 3, 2024
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Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
4.5

OUR VIEW

Southwest Airlines is loved by many travelers for its free checked bags, no change fees, and a fun, friendly experience courtesy of its outgoing flight attendants. If you’re already committed to Southwest as your airline of choice, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card can help elevate your flight experience and allow you to fly for less.

With this card, you can earn earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You can also earn Rapid Rewards points, and it offers an anniversary point boost and several travel-related protections.

While the $69 annual fee is relatively low compared to other airline cards, it's still an expense – but one that could prove worthwhile if you fly Southwest.

Pros

Solid rewards rate
Redeem points for flights, gift cards, and more
3,000 bonus points after cardmember anniversary
2 EarlyBird Check-Ins® per year

Cons

Has annual fee
Has foreign transaction fee
Limited travel benefits compared to premium Southwest cards
How we evaluate products

Key takeaways

  • The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card offers solid benefits for frequent Southwest travelers, such as earning rewards and upgraded boardings.
  • A robust welcome offer can get you well on your way to earning a Companion Pass that allows one person to fly free for up to two years.
  • For an annual fee, cardholders get many perks for flying Southwest, but there is little flexibility in earning and redeeming rewards.
  • Other Southwest Rapid Rewards cards have a lower annual fee and similar benefits, which are great for those who occasionally fly on Southwest.

Card basics

Card type Travel
Credit card issuer Chase
Annual fee $149
Welcome offer Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
Reward rate 3X points on Southwest purchases; 2X points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners; local transit and commuting, including rideshare; and on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming; plus 1X points on all other purchases
Recommended credit score Excellent, Good
Foreign transaction fee None

Who should get the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card?

The frequent Southwest traveler

Traveling frequently on Southwest Airlines is a must to get the most value from a Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card. Since most of the perks for the card revolve around Southwest Airlines, be sure you can reasonably fly with Southwest several times a year to take full advantage of the card's benefits. It helps if you live near a Southwest hub airport.

Cardholders can earn 7,500 anniversary points, a $75 annual Southwest travel credit, 25% cashback on in-flight purchases, up to four Upgraded Boardings per year, and 10,000 Companion Pass qualifying points per year.

Friends of mine used a Southwest Rapid Rewards card several years ago and took advantage of the Companion Pass. If you’re not familiar with this perk, it allows the pass holder to bring along one designated person to fly with them for free (plus taxes and fees starting at $5.60 one-way).

You need to fly on 100 qualifying one-way Southwest flights or earn 135,000 qualifying points in a calendar year to get the Companion Pass. Once earned, you have this benefit for the remainder of the calendar year plus the entire following calendar year.

In the case of my friends, both parents earned the Companion Pass with the help of their Southwest card and were able to take their two kids on a ton of great trips with nearly free flights for almost two years.

Though the perks are great (especially the potential to earn the Companion Pass — the top benefit, in my opinion), you need to travel primarily with Southwest to take advantage of all the card benefits. If you aren’t interested in airline loyalty, one of the more general travel credit cards might make more sense.

What you should know before applying

While all of the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards have similar welcome offers, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card goes above and beyond its sister cards with travel perks and rewards. If you're not sure which one is right for you, you can compare all five Southwest cards before you decide.

When my kids are a bit older, I’ll likely open the Priority card because of the higher anniversary point bonus and $75 annual travel credit. Those perks add value, making the higher annual fee less of a burden.

That said, if you’re unsure whether Southwest Airlines is your first choice, or you simply want flexibility to choose other airlines or even hotel partners, you have options. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card both offer fairly flexible travel rewards with a lower annual fee.

Here’s a closer look at this card’s top benefits

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

  • Lucrative welcome offer: With the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, you can earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. This could be worth one or possibly even two round-trip flights within the continental U.S. For example, I searched flights from Louisville to Washington, D.C., in July and found round-trip options for Wanna Get Away fares (typically the cheapest for Southwest) starting at 27,000 Rapid Rewards Points.
  • High earning on Southwest purchases: Earn 3X Rapid Rewards points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases.
  • 7,500 annual Rapid Rewards points: An easy way to add to your rewards balance is the annual cardmember anniversary bonus of 7,500 points.

Southwest travel perks

  • Earn a Southwest Companion Pass: With your welcome offer of 50,000 points, you’re well on track to earn the 135,000 points required within a calendar year to qualify for a Companion Pass. This is a huge perk that lets you bring a traveling buddy on Southwest flights for free (besides taxes and fees) for up to two years.
  • Up to 4 upgraded boardings per year: Each year, you can get an upgraded boarding experience up to four times, making your travel experiences smoother. Upgraded boarding means you get first access to seats and overhead bins and the best boarding position available for A1-A15.
  • $75 annual travel credit: Receive a $75 travel credit each year you’re a cardholder. This can reduce the cost of a flight, and you might think of it as a way to recoup about half of the $149 annual fee.

Baggage, vehicle, and purchase protection

  • Baggage delay and lost luggage protection: If your bags are delayed by over six hours, you can receive up to $100 per day for the purchase of necessities. Cardholders also get up to $3,000 per passenger for damaged or lost luggage.
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver: If you decline a car rental company’s collision insurance and put your rental car on your Southwest card, you receive insurance protection against theft and collision damages.
  • Roadside dispatch: You can breathe easier on the road thanks to the Southwest roadside dispatch service for issues like a flat tire, lockout service, or a tow.
  • Purchase protection and extended warranty protection: Making purchases with this card can extend a manufacturer’s warranty up to one year. You also receive purchase protection against damage or theft for 120 days (up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account).

Drawbacks: Why you may want a different card

  • Annual fee: This card does come with an annual fee of $149, which is relatively high for an airline card. That said, I can definitely see the potential to take advantage of the card’s perks, making it worth the cost.
  • 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.
  • Lack of rewards flexibility: The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card is limited in how you can earn rewards. If, for example, you aren’t that loyal to Southwest Airlines or you hardly ever fly, you won’t be able to maximize the rewards potential of this card.

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: $1,347

Year two earnings: $752

These values are based on the FinanceBuzz Credit Card Rewards Valuation Model, which takes a look at points earned via spending, the welcome offer, 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 or the 2X rewards rate on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners; local transit and commuting, including rideshare; and on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming. These earnings also do not include the $75 annual travel credit 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 3X points for each dollar spent on Southwest 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 purchases 3X
Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners; local transit and commuting, including rideshare; and on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming 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 and utilizing your Companion Pass at every opportunity. 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 upgraded boardings per year (when available) in positions A1 to A15. In general, Southwest requires you to pay $30, $40, or $50 upfront, but you'll be reimbursed each anniversary year.

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?

The answer to whether this card is worth it depends on your spending and travel habits. It’s most likely very worth the $149 annual fee if you’re a frequent Southwest traveler and plan to continue in that loyalty.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card is also excellent if you’re looking to travel with a buddy. Maybe you’re hoping to get in a lot of flying over the next few years with your spouse. In that case, using your welcome bonus plus regular spending to earn a Companion Pass makes the benefits of this card tough to beat.

If you aren’t big on Southwest or prefer redeeming your points for other purchases or perks, find a different rewards card.

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

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card typically requires you to have a credit score in the good or excellent range, so you’re more likely to be approved with at least a 670 FICO score.

Which Southwest credit card is best?

The best Southwest credit card depends on your flight habits. The more often you fly Southwest, the more value you’ll get out of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card and its $149 annual fee.

But other cards like the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card offer similar benefits, such as 10,000 annual Companion Pass qualifying points and lower annual fees. Even if you only fly a couple of times a year on Southwest, you can get perks from these lower-fee branded cards.

How much are 50,000 Southwest points worth?

The exact monetary value of Southwest points varies depending on how you redeem them. Redeeming for merchandise or gift cards won’t take your points as far as redemptions for Southwest flights.

Rapid Rewards points you redeem for Southwest flights are worth around 1.4 cents per point, though it can inch up to 1.5 or 1.6 cents per point. Assuming a value of 1.4 cents per point gives you about $700 in Southwest flights for 50,000 points.

Do Southwest points expire?

No, so you don’t need to fret about spending money with a rewards program only to find that you’ve missed the window of opportunity to redeem your points. Southwest points don’t expire, so even if your spending is on the low side, you can take your time to accumulate enough points for the flights or rewards you want.

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 Credit 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 and benefit from a similar welcome offer.

If you aren’t loyal to Southwest, a more flexible travel card might provide you with more opportunities to earn rewards. In my case, since I don’t fly very often, an airline-specific credit card doesn’t make sense.

Another option, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, has a lower annual fee, and you earn points on all travel and dining — not just with specific partners. I just recently booked a flight using my rewards points earned with that card (through the Chase Travel portal), and I appreciated that I had a variety of airline options. Additionally, this travel rewards credit card offers the option to transfer your points to over a dozen hotel, car rental, and airline partners.

Bottom line

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is a worthwhile travel card if you’re fairly loyal to Southwest Airlines and plan to fly quite a bit. You’ll earn the highest rate of rewards of any personal Southwest Rapid Rewards card, which could make the $149 fee easier to handle.

In particular, this card is useful if the Southwest Companion Pass appeals to you. Pouring most of your expenses onto this card and taking advantage of the lucrative welcome offer could help you qualify and enjoy this major travel perk.

If you’re looking for a more flexible travel card, though, consider one that offers many benefits across multiple airlines, hotels, and car rental partners. The Capital One Venture or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card might fit your needs for a lower annual fee.

Generous Welcome Bonus

4.5

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Current Offer

Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

Annual Fee

$69

Rewards Rate

2X points on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners; on local transit and commuting, including rideshare; and on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming; plus 1X points on all other purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Author Details

Miranda Marquit

Miranda Marquit has covered personal finance for more than a decade and is a nationally-recognized financial expert and journalist, appearing on CNBC, NPR, Forbes, Yahoo! Finance, FOX Business, and numerous other outlets.

Author Details

Kate Underwood

Kate Underwood is a professional writer who spent fifteen years as a high school English and French teacher before writing about personal finance. Her specialties include investing, retirement planning, loans, and credit card rewards. Her work can be found on numerous publications, including Business Insider and ConsumerAffairs. She lives in Kentucky with her husband, two kids, and way too many pets.