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Which Southwest Credit Card is Right for You?

Trips With Tykes has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Trips With Tykes and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

If you want to earn points towards free flights aboard Southwest Airlines, one of the easiest ways to do that is with a Southwest co-branded credit card. Chase currently offers three Southwest personal credit cards (in addition to two business cards) that are an excellent way to load up your Southwest Rapid Rewards account balance.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card are two offerings that have been around for many years. And in the summer of 2018, Chase and Southwest launched a third personal card the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card. But the card names are pretty similar and the cards have some benefits similarities, so it’s sometimes hard to keep them straight.

Southwest Credit Cards - Southwest Ticket Counter

My husband and I have had a Southwest credit card or two in our wallets for the better part of a decade. We have used the benefits for a LOT of free travel. So, with three Southwest personal credit card choices available (as well as two business cards), which one should you get if you are in the market for a new travel rewards credit card?

Here are my best tips for selecting the right Southwest credit card for you, so you can fly free on Southwest with your kids (or without!) on your next travel adventure.

Southwest Credit Cards - Plane at Orlando

Should You Get Any Southwest Credit Card?

Before we get to the breakdown of the individual card offerings, it’s always smart to talk about who should – and shouldn’t – be looking at Southwest credit cards at all.

Don’t Get a Southwest Card If….

If you don’t live near an airport served by Southwest, chances are probably good that a card won’t be a fit for you. Southwest’s coverage map has expanded considerably in the past few years, however, so take a peek to see if airports have been added that you didn’t know about.

If you fly mostly overseas, Southwest probably isn’t going to be a major draw for you either. Many travelers still don’t know that Southwest does now fly internationally. These flights, however, are mostly to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central American destinations. There’s simply no way to get to Europe or Asia or even Canada yet with your Southwest Rapid Rewards points.

Finally, don’t get a Southwest credit card if you aren’t paying your credit card balances in full each and every month. Travel rewards cards of any type are not good fits for anyone who carries a balance – the rewards are cancelled out (and then some) by the high interest rates. Don’t go further into debt over a few airline miles.

Do Consider a Southwest Card If…

Southwest Airlines Plane Designs - How to fly for free with Southwest Credit Cards

If you travel a few times a year domestically and have the usual limitations that most regular folks with jobs and kids in school do, chances are good a Southwest card is right for you.

In fact, I think Southwest points are some of the most valuable currencies for traveling families and real people. Why? Their flexibility. So many other airlines have serious capacity controls on their award seats. When you are looking for three or four or more seats to fly to see grandma at Christmas time, it’s not likely a family can use miles for what they want.

On Southwest, however, there are no blackouts on award seats. If there is a seat on the plane available, it can be purchased with Rapid Rewards points. Of course, you’ll pay more in points for more expensive fares. But using your points on Southwest is imminently doable the vast majority of the time with a little pre-planning.

Finally, I also know a lot of you are looking to build up your Southwest Rapid Rewards point balance now that Southwest flies to a number of Hawaii destinations. A new credit card is surely the quickest way to get to that mai tai quicker. Priorities, people!

Related: Southwest Hawaii Flight Review from OAK to HNL

Southwest Credit Cards - Southwest Airlines Boarding at Burbank

Comparing the Three Current Personal Southwest Credit Cards

So, on to the three specific personal card offerings to choose from.

(Note that these consumer cards are subject to Chase’s informal 5/24 rule. So if you get a lot of credit cards, make sure you haven’t gotten 5 or more in the last 24 months from any issuer or you will be almost assuredly turned down. You can also only earn a single signup bonus on any of these Southwest cards once every 24 months.)

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card Art February 2021

The newest of the three card offerings, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card, is the closest to a premium card that Southwest and Chase have ever offered. The card has the highest annual fee of the three but comes with more perks that may more than cancel that fee out for folks who fly Southwest even occasionally.

The salient points about the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card to keep in mind:

  • $149 annual fee
  • Current Signup Bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening (also earn 3x points on dining – including eligible delivery services and takeout – for the first year).
  • Earning for spending:
    • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases.
    • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Annual renewal: Earn 7,500 anniversary points each year.
  • $75 Southwest annual travel credit.
  • Four Upgraded Boardings per year.
  • 20% back on in-flight purchases (drinks, WiFi, movies)
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Earn tier qualifying points towards A-list Status.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card Art February 2021

Key points to keep in mind for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card:

  • $99 annual fee
  • Current Signup Bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening (also earn 3x points on dining – including eligible delivery services and takeout – for the first year).
  • Earning for spending:
    • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases.
    • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Annual renewal: Earn 6,000 anniversary points each year.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Earn tier qualifying points towards A-list Status.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card Art February 2021

And finally the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card:

  • $69 annual fee
  • Current Signup Bonus: Earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening (also earn 3x points on dining – including eligible delivery services and takeout – for the first year).
  • Earning for spending:
    • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases.
    • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Annual renewal: Earn 3,000 anniversary points each year.

Which Southwest Card Do I Recommend for New Customers?

What’s my advice? If I had never had a Southwest credit card at this very moment, I would undoubtedly choose the new Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card. But that’s based on my family’s travel patterns. We fly Southwest at least every other month, so we can make use of the Southwest travel credit and upgraded boardings. I also routinely purchase WiFi on all those flights, so the 20% savings add up.

If you are a more infrequently flying family who is simply looking to add to your points balance in anticipation of a couple of big trips, however, those benefits might not be as valuable. In that case, I’d probably recommend the card with the lowest annual fee – the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card.

I can’t really make as much of a case for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card any more for new signups. It’s annual fee is simply too close in price to the Priority card ($149 vs. $99). Assuming you can use only the Priority card’s $75 Southwest travel credit and no other benefits, you come out ahead with the Priority.

So to summarize:

  • Best card for infrequent flyers: Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card.
  • Best card for more regular Southwest travelers: Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card
Southwest Credit Cards - View from Wing Winglet

What About Southwest Business Credit Cards?

All the cards detailed so far in this post are personal consumer credit cards. Chase now has two Southwest business credit card offerings too. I personally have both of the business cards, and definitely think that anyone who owns a business of their own – like me – should consider these cards, likely in addition to a personal card.

The two business credit card offerings are:

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card

Key points to keep in mind for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card:

  • $99 annual fee
  • Current Signup Bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earning for spending:
    • Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases.
    • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Annual renewal: Earn 6,000 anniversary points each year.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Earn tier qualifying points towards A-list Status.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card

Key points to keep in mind for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card:

  • $199 annual fee
  • Current Signup Bonus: Earn 70,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. Plus earn an extra 30,000 bonus points after spending $25,000 on purchases in the first 6 months.
  • Earning for spending:
    • Earn 3 points per $1 spent on Southwest and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases.
    • Earn 2 points per $1 spend on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable, and phone services
    • Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • Annual renewal: Earn 9,000 anniversary points each year.
  • Four Upgraded Boardings per year.
  • Free in-flight WiFi credits.
  • Credit towards either Global entry or TSA Precheck fees.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • Earn tier qualifying points towards A-list Status.

Personally, as a frequent Southwest business traveler, I prefer the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card because of the improved earning possibilities and fringe benefits. I already have a dozen days of flying Southwest booked in the next 3 months, so the $8 WiFi credits alone are worth nearly $100 to me which just so happens to be the difference in the annual fees.

And remember – if you are eligible for a business card as well as a personal card, getting both is a pretty easy path to qualifying for a Southwest Companion Pass. While you can’t “double dip” by getting two personal cards at the same time, you can definitely get one business card and one personal card.

Want to learn more about flying Southwest Airlines? Check out these related articles:

Track Southwest Credit Card Rewards More Easily with Travel Freely!

TravelFreely Logo

If you’ve had a Southwest credit card in the past, do you know when you are eligible again for a welcome offer? Keeping track of rewards credits cards and their ever-changing rules is so time-consuming and confusing. But there is now a FREE tool that can do this for you – Travel Freely.

Simply input the date you signed up for a card and it will track everything – what cards and welcome offers you are eligible for and when, when you need to complete minimum spending requirements to earn welcome offers, and when any card annual fees are coming due. It’s game-changing for anyone looking to maximize Rapid Rewards points or any other miles and points currency.

Sign up for Travel Freely here – it’s totally FREE to use!

Disclosure: I was a paid #SouthwestStorytellers ambassador for Southwest Airlines in 2018. This particular post, however, is not written in conjunction with that partnership and is not endorsed or approved by Southwest Airlines.

Advertiser Disclosure: Trips With Tykes has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Trips With Tykes and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. 

Want to save money flying on Southwest Airlines? Earn points toward free flights with one of the Southwest credit cards from Chase. Find out which Southwest credit card is best for your travel and spending patterns to earn maximum travel rewards.

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