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 Dec 16, 2019 | 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 regularly fly 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 right choice 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

Who should get this 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 credit card. If you aren’t interested in airline loyalty, a more general travel credit card might make more sense.

Card basics

Annual Fee $149
Intro Bonus Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
Recommended Credit Score Excellent, Good
Foreign Transaction Fee None

Top card benefits

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. That’s enough points to potentially pay for a round-trip flight.
  • 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: Every year, you receive an extra 7,500 points after your card member 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 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.

Earning & redeeming

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.

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 with Southwest and its rental car and hotel partners. Some of the hotel partners include Choice Hotels, Best Western, Marriott, and World of Hyatt. Rental car partners include Budget, Hertz, Avis, Alamo, Thrifty, and others.

Category Rewards rate
Southwest purchases 2X
Southwest hotel and rental car partner purchases 2X
All other purchases 1X

Additionally, if you’re able to reach A-List or A-List Preferred Status, you can earn more rewards for each flight, 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 other travel, but your best value will be using points to buy Southwest flights. 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 83 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 1.4 cents.

Common questions

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.

How much is the Southwest Priority sign-up bonus worth?

If we assume that each Rapid Rewards point is worth about 1.4 cents, then the 40,000 point sign-up bonus is worth about $560 in flights. However, some fares might come in with a value of as much as 1.6 cents (or more) per point, or $640 value in flights. In the end, fares might come with different values, so it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how much you’ll end up with, but there’s a good chance you can book a round-trip flight for free with the bonus (minus taxes and fees).

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.

Other cards to consider

If you aren’t loyal to Southwest, other cards 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. 

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
  • 60,000 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
  • No foreign transaction fees
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
  • No foreign transaction fees