Credit Cards Credit Card Reviews

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card Review

overall rating
3.4

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The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus credit card is the least expensive of the three co-branded credit cards offered by the airline, which perennially scores very high in customer satisfaction. With its relatively low $69 annual fee and relatively rich rewards, this might be the best value among the trio of Southwest cards, provided you’re comfortable with a card that offers few if any luxury travel benefits.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

overall rating
3.4
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
On Chase's Secured Site.

Current Offer:

Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months your account is open.

Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 15.99% - 22.99% variable
Annual Fee $69
Rewards Earning Rate 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases. 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 3%
how this card stacks up
When compared among all rewards cards in our database:
Rewards
Benefits
Low Fees
Security/Customer Experience
Low Interest
worst best

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is not one of our top rated airline credit cards. You can review our list of the best airline credit cards for what we think are better options.

Full Review of Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

Pros
  • Rewards are relatively rich

  • Anniversary bonus helps justify the annual fee

  • Generous bonus

Cons
  • No airline-specific perks

  • Restrictive redemption options

Pros Explained

  • Rewards are Relatively Rich: By rewarding you with 2 miles for every dollar spent at Southwest, and 1 mile per dollar on other purchases, this card provides an additional method, other than taking Southwest flights, to earn loyalty miles with the airline. Based on our research, Southwest Rapid Rewards points are worth 1.49 cents apiece. That means you’re earning an effective rewards rate of 2.98% on Southwest Airlines purchases and 1.49% on all other purchases, both of which are competitive rates. 
  • Anniversary Bonus Helps Justify the Annual Fee: The card charges a $69 annual fee, which isn’t waived the first year. But the cost of that charge, after the first and every year, can be rationalized considering the award of 3,000 bonus points every time you renew your account. At 1.49 cents per point, that’s roughly $45 in value, which after the first year can help one feel better when paying the annual fee. 
  • Generous Bonus: You earn 40,000 miles after spending $1,000 within the first three months your account is open, an easy goal for almost any cardholder to meet. Those rewards miles are worth about $600 when used to redeem for flights. But those earnings simultaneously put you on the fast track to earning a free Companion Pass. The pass, one of the best companion perks in the business, allows someone to fly with you for only the cost of taxes and fees on all your flights after you complete 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 125,000 qualifying points within a year. The pass runs for a full year plus the remainder of the year in which you reached the milestone. Since those are high bars to clear, introductory point bonuses really help when it comes to reaching them. For example, even if you aren’t a very frequent traveler, applying for both the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus credit card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business credit card (if you own a small business)—which offers 70,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months—you could qualify for the pass, or at least be well on your way to doing so. You're allowed to carry both a consumer and business card with Southwest. Just keep in mind that you need a business to apply for the airline’s business credit card.

Cons Explained

  • No Airline-Specific Perks: Most airline credit cards offer special airline-related benefits like priority boarding, credits for TSA Precheck and Global Entry fast-track security status, and in-flight discounts. While all Southwest passengers get two checked bags for free, this card doesn't add any extra perks to that feature. 

This Card is Best For

  • Avatar for Loyalty Status Seeker Persona
    Seeks the recognition and perks of branded travel partner status
    Loyalty Status Seeker
  • Avatar for Frequent Flyer Persona
    Flies often for business or leisure
    Frequent Flyer
  • Avatar for Frequent Diner Persona
    Dines out regularly while traveling or in home city
    Frequent Diner
  • Avatar for International Traveler Persona
    Travels outside of U.S. on occasion or frequently
    International Traveler

The least expensive of the airline's three co-branded credit cards, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus is for Southwest customers who want to pay less for a card, and are prepared to get less from it as well. 

After a first-year fee of $69, the cost of the card in subsequent years is a little easier to bear, thanks to the value of the card's 3,000-point anniversary bonus. That’s less than the bonuses with the other Southwest cards, at least one of which offers more travel perks as well. 

This card, though, better suits those who may not wish or need to pay more upfront for a card, especially if they're unsure as to when they'll redeem points for flights, and to where. Southwest flies to fewer countries than other major U.S. airlines. Its routes are primarily within the U.S. Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, and using points with its global partners yield much less value per point than if you redeem directly with Southwest. 

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card Bonus

The card offers 40,000 bonus points after you spend just $1,000 in the first three months. By our calculations, that bonus would deliver an average value of $596 when redeemed for flights on Southwest. That represents an impressive, nearly 60% return on net purchases made in the first three months needed to earn the bonus. 

Also, the card's minimum spending requirement is so low—just a little more than $333 per month—even for those who are on a tight budget should be able to reach it.

Rewards Earning Details

In addition to the card's bonus, you’ll earn 2 points per dollar on Southwest Airlines purchases and 1 point per dollar everywhere else. 

While getting just 1 point per dollar on most of your purchases doesn’t sound appealing, remember that the effective rewards rate is nearly 1.5 % due to the average value of Southwest points. That makes the card competitive with those that offer the same percentage in cash back or the same number of points per dollar spent on other airlines that have a lower value for each point.

There are no limits on the number of points you can earn. Each year, members can earn 3,000 anniversary bonus points. You can also earn 10,000 points for each person you refer to a Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card. That bonus is good for up to 5 referrals per year or 50,000 points. 

Rewards Redemption Details

The most obvious way to redeem points earned with this card is for flights aboard Southwest. The number of points needed to redeem depends on the fare. The points required for particular flights vary, even for the same or similar flights, just as the money prices for flights vary over time and based on demand. There are no blackout dates for using rewards. 

Besides Southwest airfare, you can also redeem rewards for:

  • Gift cards
  • Merchandise
  • International flights aboard 50+ carriers
  • Hotel stays with partner brands
  • Rental cars
  • Exclusive experiences

Again, the number of points you need to redeem and their associated value depends on the redemption option. 

How to Maximize Your Rewards

It goes without saying, but the more you use your credit card, the more points you'll earn. And using the card for all Southwest purchases is an obvious priority, given the favorable mileage those transactions receive.

Then there's the need to get the most air travel for your points by shopping for the least points for the most favorable flights. The number of points you need to book a flight can vary based on a number of factors, including the destination, time, travel dates, demand, fare class, point redemption rate and more. Ideally, to get the best deal you must check frequently with the airline early and often, to check on the availability of flights and their cost in points.

Also, by our calculations, redeeming points with Southwest, rather than with one of the carrier's international partners, yields the best bang for your buck. 

Be sure, too, that you've signed up for Southwest's mailing list to get notifications when it runs fare deals. To get on the list, click on "Special Offers" at the top of any page on the airline’s website and click the "Sign up and save" button. With Southwest, unlike some other airlines, the redemption amount for flights goes up and down in step with changes to their cash price, so by shopping the sales you can save points on a particular flight as readily as you can save money. 

Also unlike some other airlines, Southwest Airlines customers—and not only elite ones—can cancel award tickets without penalty. So after you book your flight, check back now and then to see if the price has dropped. If it has, you can cancel, get your points back, then rebook the same flight for less.

Another way to rack up Rapid Rewards points quickly is to refer friends and family members to apply for the card. You’ll receive 10,000 bonus points for each friend or business that gets approved for a qualifying Southwest credit card. You can earn up to 50,000 points this way each year.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card's Outstanding Benefits

  • Lost luggage reimbursement: If your or an immediate family member's carry-on or checked baggage is lost or damaged by the carrier, you can get up to $3,000 per passenger in reimbursement for lost or damaged items.
  • Baggage delay insurance: If your baggage is delayed by more than six hours, you can get up to $100 a day for three days in reimbursements for essential items like clothing and toiletries.

Standard Benefits

  • Purchase protection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Travel and emergency assistance services
  • Roadside dispatch
  • Concierge services

Cardholder Experience

Chase, which issues the Southwest co-branded cards, ranks fourth in J.D. Power's 2019 Credit Card Customer Satisfaction study behind Capital One, Discover and American Express. That said, its overall rating is only slightly higher than the average among all national credit card issuers.

The bank provides free access to your VantageScore credit score through its Credit Journey program, but you can sign up at no charge for that score even if you don't have a Chase credit card. Also, keep in mind that many major card issuers provide free access to your FICO credit score, which is more likely to be used by lenders.

Chase offers 24/7 customer service via phone, which is standard for the credit card industry. You can also send a secure message through your online account if the matter isn’t urgent. For general account management, you can use the Chase mobile app.

Security Features

As a Chase cardholder, you can lock your account through the bank's mobile app, which can come in handy if the card has been lost or stolen. You can then unlock it if you recover the card. Chase isn’t the only card issuer that offers this feature, but it's not standard. 

The card also has the ability to make contactless payments. This means that instead of swiping or inserting your card, you simply tap it to a contactless card reader. This checkout experience is faster than the other two options, and it still provides the same level of security as your card's chip.

Hidden Fees to Watch Out For

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card has a 3% foreign transaction fee. In most cases, travel credit cards don’t charge this fee on international purchases. So if you’re planning an overseas trip, consider taking a different travel card.

Our Verdict

As the most modest of the carrier's three co-branded credit cards, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus credit card allows you to earn valuable rewards on Southwest Airlines without paying a steep annual fee. 

It's a notably lean card when it comes to travel perks, however. If you’re prepared to pay more, if only upfront, to get more from a Southwest card, consider the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority credit card. It costs $149 a year, but offers four upgraded boardings per year, a 7,500-point anniversary bonus and a $75 annual Southwest travel credit. Those last two items could justify the annual fee, since the anniversary bonus alone is worth $111.75 when used to buy flights. You would need to be fine, though, in paying a $149 fee for a year, compared with a fee of less than half as much for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus. 

As with any airline credit card, too, consider the potential drawbacks of having less flexibility with your rewards. With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, for instance, you can redeem your points directly with Chase or transfer them to several hotel and airline loyalty programs, including Southwest Rapid Rewards.

Apply Now
For Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
on Chase's Secured Site.
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CURRENT CARD
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
overall rating
3.4
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 15.99% - 22.99% variable
Annual Fee $69
Rewards Earning Rate 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases. 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Investopedia Credit Card Rating Methodology
Investopedia is committed to delivering the best credit card recommendations in the industry. We’ll tell you when a card is good, we’ll tell you when a card is bad, and we’ll only call a card the best if we would recommend it to our friends or family members.
Overall Star Rating Explained
To rate credit cards we objectively assess, score and weight nearly 100 individual card features which roll up into five major feature sets: fees, interest, rewards, benefits and security/customer service. Here’s how we weighted those feature sets for the overall star rating of a card:
We have applied our proprietary rating methodology to every generally-accepted credit card in the U.S. domestic market to allow consumers to make fully informed choices. It’s important to note that for our overall score that we make a number of assumptions about how you would be using your credit card:
  1. While we make no assumption as to whether balances are carried on a given card we do assign varying weights to all credit cards’ introductory APR (if present) in addition to the regular, long term purchase and balance transfer interest rates.
  2. We utilize BLS (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) income and average category spending data to calculate annual earnings rates for rewards cards that offer cash back, points or miles rewards at a set rate on all spending or in consideration of bonus rewards for certain spending categories, like gasoline, groceries, restaurants or travel.
  3. We determine the maximum points value of rewards cards by dividing the points, cash back or miles required to exchange for the retail price of the most valuable redemption option (for example, in the case of a card that offers a domestic roundtrip airline ticket as a redemption option vs. another redemption option of lesser value that requires the same amount of points or miles to acquire, we would base the rewards value on the airline ticket).
  • Cards that are selected best overall in their respective categories generally feature most if not all of the following attributes:
  • Low or Reasonable Fees Credit card fees come in many forms but the primary ones involve those for annual card membership and balance transfer. There are a myriad of reward and non-reward card options that charge no annual fee but for the many that do assess an annual fee the cost is often justified by their lucrative ongoing rewards and initial signup bonuses. Balance transfer fees are occasionally waived during introductory periods with certain cards, a factor which is heavily and positively weighted in our scoring model for cards offering this benefit. When charged, balance transfer fees range between 3% - 5%, which we grade accordingly. Other standard fees can generally be avoided, such as those for paying late or taking cash advances but we rate those relative to other cards in the market for reference, though with less weight assigned
  • Competitive Interest Many cards offer 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for varying lengths and then revert to a permanent or regular APR (based on a variable rate tied to the prime rate) that applies to any balances not paid in full. We rate both introductory APR percentage and length (in months) along with the midpoint of the variable regular APR interest rate range.
  • Valuable Rewards Credit card reward programs can be based on cash back, points or travel rewards (which can be generic or travel partner-specific, as with airline and hotel co-brand card programs). For cards that offer rewards we determine the value per dollar spent along with average redemption values and assign more favorable ratings to cards that offer superior consumer value. We also assign value to sign-up bonus offers and their initial spending requirements, when present.
  • Excellent Benefits Credit card benefits cover a range of offerings like concierge service, TSA Pre-check, auto rental coverage, travel accident insurance, lost luggage assistance and free credit scores. We rate cards on the number and level of over a dozen standard and upscale benefits and provide extra weighting emphasis for those travel-related perks that apply to premium travel cards when present.
  • Solid Security/Customer Service Security and customer service features like lost or stolen card replacement, being able to lock one’s card from an issuer app and 24 hour customer support are becoming more standard across the card market and we provide a significant amount of weighting to features in this area.
  • You can also read the full version of our methodology for a more in-depth look at how we assess cards and award them the best in various categories.