Full Review of Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card
Rewards are relatively valuable
Annual perks more than cover the cost of the annual fee
$149 annual fee, on the high side for an airline card
- Rewards and Bonuses are Relatively Valuable: Southwest Rapid Rewards points are worth a substantial 1.5 cents apiece, based on our research. With earnings of 2 points per dollar spent with Southwest, and a point dollar on other purchases, this card offers an effective rewards rate of 3% on flights and incidentals and 1.5% on everything else. Given that valuation, the card's 40,000-point bonus is worth about $600, which is an impressive return indeed on spending $1,000 within the first three months of account opening.
- Annual Benefits More Than Cover the Annual Fee: Two annual credits alone more than justify the card’s $149 fee. The 7,500 bonus points awarded on each card anniversary are worth roughly $113. Adding in the card’s annual $75 Southwest travel credit yields $188 to apply annually to the cost of tickets on Southwest—a total of almost $40 more than the annual fee. You also get certificates for four annual upgraded boardings. Worth $30, $40 or $50 apiece, depending on your flight itinerary, these allow you to board early and secure one of the desirable seats at the front. (Southwest does not in general have assigned seating.) These upgraded boardings, then, could add as much as $200 in annual value to the card.
- $149 Annual Fee, On the High Side For an Airline Card: If you hold other credit cards, the $149 annual fee for this card may give pause. The leading co-branded airline cards charge about $50 less per year than this one, and many of them waive the fee the first year to give you some time to "test-drive" the card and its benefits. Those $99 cards include this card’s sibling, the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier, which offers comparable rewards and bonuses, but minus most of the perks and credits of the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Priority.
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
Like all airline cards, the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Priority is aimed exclusively at dedicated customers of its branded airline. If you fly regularly with the airline, you'll get the most from such card benefits as upgraded boarding to secure the airline's best seats, which are typically unassigned.
That said, the card's $149 annual fee is also justified by annual $75 credit and the value of the 7,500 points you get on every renewal anniversary. That makes this card worth considering even if you fly only a few times a year on Southwest.
The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards is also helpful if you're looking for a suitable card to take abroad with you. This card charges no foreign-transaction fee, which would be useful to use for purchases on the ground when flying to some of the select few foreign destinations Southwest serves, in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card Bonus
As a new cardholder, you'll earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend just $1,000 in the first three months. With many other airline credit cards, you can expect to spend $1,000 per month or more for the same three-month period to qualify for the one-time offer. Based on our research, this card's bonus would represent roughly a $600 value when used to buy Southwest flights. That total represents an impressive 60% return on the money required to earn the bonus.
Rewards Earning Details
You can earn two tiers of rewards with the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Visa. First, you can earn 2 points per dollar on Southwest Airlines purchases. Qualifying transactions include payment for flights and incidentals as well as purchases made at partner hotels and rental car companies.
To earn the 2 points per dollar at travel partners, you need to book with them directly or through Southwest.com. If you use your card to book through a third-party site, like Hotels.com or Expedia, you'll earn just 1 point per dollar. All other purchases made with the card earn 1 point per dollar.
While those earnings rates are typical of many airline credit cards, Southwest points are worth more than those of many other airlines, by our estimates. With each point worth about 1.5 cents, the effective rewards with the card are about 3% for Southwest purchases and 1.5% for everything else.
There are no limits on the number of points you can earn. Each year, members earn 7,500 anniversary bonus points. You can also earn 10,000 points for each person you refer to either of the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards, this one or the Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa, card, with its $99 annual fee. The bonus is good for up to 5 referrals per year or 50,000 points.
Rewards Redemption Details
Several factors go into determining how many points you need to book an award flight, including the destination, time, travel dates, demand, fare class, point redemption rate and more.
With Southwest, there's a correlation between the cash price and the number of points you need. So when the airline runs a fare sale, which happens frequently, the number of points required to book drops along with the cost.
Other redemption options include:
- Gift cards
- Hotel stays, rental cars, cruises and other travel
- International flights with other carriers
- Experiential rewards
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You can increase your return on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Visa credit card in multiple ways. The first is to earn the 40,000-point bonus. To do that, you need to spend $1,000, on any purchases, within the first three months after account approval—an easy goal for almost anyone to meet. That earns you 40,000 points, worth about $600 when used to buy flights.
Because the price of a Southwest award ticket is tied to the cash price of the fare, you won’t have to do much strategizing to get the most out of your Rapid Rewards points. Simply divide the cash price of the ticket by the number of points required for an award ticket to determine how much you’re getting per point.
Also, to take advantage of the airline’s frequent fare sales, be sure to sign up for Southwest's mailing list to get notifications when it runs fare deals. To start receiving emails, click on "Special Offers" at the top of any page on the airline’s website and click the "Sign up and save" button.
If you didn't book your ticket during a fare sale, no problem. Southwest offers free cancellations on award tickets, so check now and then to see if the price has dropped. If it has, you simply cancel your flight and book it again to save the difference.
Another way to earn points with the card is to refer your friends and family members. You'll receive 10,000 bonus points for each friend or business you refer that applies and gets approved for a qualifying Southwest credit card. You can earn up to 50,000 points each year through referrals.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card's Outstanding Benefits
- Upgraded boardings: You'll get four upgraded boardings each year when available. This benefit allows you to get a position in the A1–A15 boarding group, which means you'll be one of the first 15 people on the plane. This feature usually costs $30 to $50 per flight.
- Southwest annual travel credit: You'll get $75 each year that you can use for most purchases with Southwest, including flights. The only purchases you can’t cover with the credit are upgraded boardings and in-flight purchases.
- Anniversary bonus points: You'll get 7,500 bonus points after your cardmember anniversary every year. Based on the flights we researched, that could be enough to get one round trip flight and still have points left over.
- Lost luggage reimbursement: If you or an immediate family member's baggage (carry-on or checked) 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 a carrier for 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
- Secondary rental car insurance
- Travel and emergency assistance services
- Roadside dispatch
- Travel accident insurance
Chase, which issues this card, ranks fourth among national card issuers in J.D. Power’s 2019 Credit Card Customer Satisfaction study.
The bank does not offer complimentary access to your FICO credit score, which is what most major lenders use for credit decisions and is the standard among most national credit card issuers. Instead, it offers free access to your VantageScore credit score through its Credit Journey program, whether you have a Chase card or not.
Chase provides 24/7 customer service via phone, which is typical among major credit card issuers. You can also send a secure message through your online account, but there’s no option to communicate with a representative through the Chase mobile app.
If you lose your card or it’s been stolen, Chase allows you to lock the card through your mobile app. If you find the card again, you can also unlock it, so it’s ready for use. This feature isn’t unique to Chase, but not all major card issuers provide it.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card is also contactless, which means that you can just tap your card to a contactless reader to pay—no swiping or inserting is required. The tap-and-pay checkout experience is faster than using the EMV chip and provides the same level of security.
Despite its $149 annual fee, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card can be well worth it if you fly Southwest even a couple of times per year. The Southwest annual travel credit of $75 and the anniversary bonus, worth $113 by our calculations, can also help justify the annual fee.
If you often travel with a sidekick and have a small business, pairing the card with a Southwest business credit card could allow you to earn the Companion Pass, at least for the introductory year with both cards. The pass gives you a free ticket (plus taxes and fees) every time you fly with your designated plus-one for at least a full year.
Combining the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, and its 40,000-point bonus, with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card, which offers 70,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 in the first three months, will get you most of the way to enough points to earn the coveted companion pass, which requires 125,000 points to be earned during the calendar year.
Remember, though, that there are some restrictions with the card. As with any airline credit card, your valuable redemption options are limited. If you want more flexibility, consider a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which allows you to book just about any type of travel through Chase or transfer your points to airline or hotel partners, including Southwest.