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
Rewards are relatively rich
Anniversary bonus helps justify the annual fee
No airline-specific perks
Restrictive redemption options
- Rewards are Relatively Rich: By rewarding you with 2 points for every dollar spent at Southwest, and 1 point per dollar on other purchases, this card provides an additional method, other than taking Southwest flights, to earn loyalty points with the airline. Based on our research, Southwest Rapid Rewards points are worth 1.45 cents apiece. That means you’re earning an effective rewards rate of 2.9% on Southwest Airlines purchases and 1.45% 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 1.45 cents per point, that’s roughly $44 in value, which after the first year can help one feel better when paying the annual fee.
- Generous Bonus: You earn 40,000 points after spending $1,000 within the first three months your account is open, an easy goal for almost any cardholder to meet. Those rewards points are worth approximately $580 when used to redeem for flights according to Investopedia's valuation of Rapid Rewards points. 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.
- 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
Seeks the recognition and perks of branded travel partner status
Flies often for business or leisure
Dines out regularly while traveling or in home city
Travels outside of U.S. on occasion or frequently
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 $580 when redeemed for flights on Southwest. That represents nearly a 60% return on net purchases made in the first three months needed to earn the bonus.
Also, the card's minimum spending requirement is relatively low—just a little more than $333 per month—even for those who are on a tight budget should be able to reach it with everyday spending.
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 1.45 % 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
- 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.
- Purchase protection
- Extended warranty protection
- Travel and emergency assistance services
- Roadside dispatch
- Concierge services
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.
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.
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 $108.75 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.