About Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card

By J.R. Duren
HighYa Staff Published on: May 21, 2017

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus is a credit card from Chase that gives you free Rapid Rewards points up-front, provided you hit a certain spending limit, as well as free points on almost every purchase you make.

Known as an airline rewards card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card is actually a downgraded version of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier.

By “downgraded” we mean that, if your credit scores aren’t good enough when you apply for the Premier card, Southwest may give you the Plus card instead.

However, just because the Plus is a downgrade from the Premier, that doesn’t mean it’s not a great credit card. To find out how much value it could have for you, we explored the following topics:

  • Short-term benefits: What do you get the first year?
  • Long-term benefits: What do you get down the road?
  • Rates and fees: What will Chase charge you?
  • Reviews: What are other experts saying?
  • Conclusion: Pros, cons and why it could work for you.

Our review is going to cover each of those topics. At the end, we’ll wrap up with the pros, cons and who might light this card, along with our final word on the Rapid Rewards Plus card.

We’ll also sprinkle in some comparisons between the Plus card and the Premier card, too.

The Short-Term Benefits of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card

Picture yourself the day that you find out you’re accepted for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card. It’s a good day, right?

40,000-Point Bonus

Well, remember that day, because you have exactly 90 days to spend $1,000, and, if you can do that, you’ll get to enjoy 40,000 free Rapid Rewards points that can be used to book flights through the Rapid Rewards account set up for you when you get your card.

Those 40,000 miles will never expire, but, remember, they’ll most likely show up in your Rapid Rewards account anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks after you hit $1,000.

Also, your card’s annual fee (more on that later) doesn’t count toward that $1,000, nor do any balance transfers or balance transfer fees.

How Does Rapid Rewards Work and What Are Rapid Rewards Points?

Southwest’s Rapid Rewards is their frequent flyer program. If you don’t already have a Rapid Rewards account when you sign up for the Southwest Plus card, then you’ll get one once you’re accepted for the card.

Your Rapid Rewards account is your home base for booking flights and checking on your points totals. Each month, any Rapid Rewards points your rack up from your purchases (more on that in a second) will be automatically deposited to your account each month.

Those “points” can then be used to buy a seat on a Southwest flight. To figure out how many points a flight costs, you can do a flight search on the Southwest website and click “Points”:

Screenshot of Southwest website

Once you hit the “Search” button, you’ll get a list of results that show you various flight times (in most cases) as well as points prices for their cheapest “Wanna Get Away” seats, refundable seats and business-class seats.

Screenshot of Southwest website

Click on the seat you want and, after filling out your information, Southwest will automatically deduct the flight cost from your Rapid Rewards account.

Long-Term Benefits of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Card

One of the reasons we focus on the long-term benefits of a particular card is to help you see what value the card has for you over the course of two or three years and not just the first year.

Sure, a card can give you a great bonus up front, but once that bonus is used up, what incentive do you have to continue using the card?

Some consumers don’t really care too much about that, but, if you want a card that can bring you consistent rewards, then thinking two or three years down the road is a wise choice.

Points for Purchases

As we mentioned earlier, airline rewards cards usually give you points every time you make a purchase. Whenever you use your Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Visa to make flight, hotel or rental car purchases on Southwest.com, you’ll earn two points for every dollar you spend.

Nearly every other purchase you make will get 1 point for every $1 you spend – excluded purchases included online gambling money, traveler’s checks and other money-based purchases.

Those points, as we’ve talked about, can be used to purchase flights, but you can also use them to buy gift cards, hotel stays, car rentals and merchandise through a special Southwest online store.

All items listed on the site are priced by points. For example, a 13.3” MacBook Air with 128 GB of store cost 131,760 points at the time of publishing, while the retail price at Best Buy was on sale for $799.

In our opinion, the redemption rate on electronics is really high. Normally, 131,000 points has a cash value of $1,310, so you can see why paying 131,760 for a laptop you can buy for $799 with cash doesn’t work in your favor.

Our suggestion? Stick with using your points for Southwest flights – that’s where the best value is. As our earlier example showed, you can book a round-trip flight from Fort Lauderdale to Nassau, Bahamas for about 15,000 points, whereas the cash price of the same flight is around $350.

Pro tip: The 2x/1x points structure is the same on the Rapid Rewards Premier card.

3,000 Anniversary Points

As a Rapid Rewards Plus cardholder, you’ll get 3,000 points deposited to your account each year on your cardmember anniversary. The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card will give you 6,000 points on your anniversary.

Travel and Shopping Benefits/Protection

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus is part of the Visa Platinum program, which is a specific set of benefits and protections you get whenever you use your Plus card to purchase something.

Some of these benefits include complimentary car rental insurance, baggage delay insurance and reimbursement for luggage lost during air travel.

Each of the Visa Platinum perks comes with its own set of limits and exclusions, so make sure you read through the Visa Platinum benefits guide to understand what’s covered and what’s not covered.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card’s Rates and Fees

Here’s a quick breakdown of the Rapid Rewards Plus’ rates and fees:

  • APR for purchases: 16.74%-23.74%
  • APR for balance transfers: 16.74%-23.74%
  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%
  • Balance transfer fee: 5%
  • Late payment fee: Up to $37
  • Annual fee: $69

The APR on this card is typical of Chase credit cards – both the Rapid Rewards Premier and the United MileagePlus Explorer have the same APR.

The Plus card has a 3% foreign transaction fee, which you won’t find on the Premier. However, if you don’t plan to use your card for international travel, that shouldn’t be a big deal.

Also, the Plus card’s annual fee is $30 less than the Premier card, which, in terms of points value, is equivalent to the 3,000 fewer points you get on your anniversary.

Reviews of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus

Southwest’s Rapid Rewards credit cards are pretty popular, which means that HighYa isn’t the only one who’s written a review of the card.

The Simple Dollar

The Simple Dollar’s Holly Johnson calls the Plus card one of “the best rewards credit cards for domestic airfare.”

She gives the card high marks for the fact that you get a sizeable intro bonus, no cap on the points you can earn and the fact that points never expire as long as your account is open.

On the negative side, she noted that the card may not be helpful if you don’t live near a Southwest hub or the majority of your travel takes place outside the U.S. and the Caribbean.

Award Wallet

Award Wallet notes that the card has a great sign-up bonus and that you’ve got plenty of chances to earn points, including the cardmember anniversary bonus.

“Offering one of the most valuable signup bonuses for its price point, the Southwest Plus Card will earn you 40K Rapid Rewards points after hitting the small minimum spend,” the site said, “which can translate into a significant amount of travel if you play your cards right!”

Nerd Wallet

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card has a very short review on Nerd Wallet, but the site rightly points out that the card is great for savvy travelers who know how to maximize their Rapid Rewards points.

They knock the card for its $69 annual fee, but we think it’s a pretty reasonable price to pay considering that Chase’s other airline rewards card, the United MileagePlus Explorer, has a $95 annual fee.

At the time of publishing, the Southwest Plus had four user-generated reviews. All four were five stars, with one user noting, “I got this card a year ago and I love it. I’m basically going to pay for my entire honeymoon with the signup bonus alone.”

Our Final Thoughts About the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Card

This airline rewards card from Chase has a lot of positives and very few negatives. We’re going to list them here and then give you our thoughts about who the ideal person is for this card.

The Pros

The Southwest Plus has a great sign-up bonus. The points are, based on our research, worth at least two round-trip flights between Los Angeles and New York. You can stretch those points even further by using them on shorter flights.

Just remember to book early, as the cheapest rewards seats are usually booked faster than the rest.

In our opinion, the card’s $69 annual fee is very reasonable considering that you can get two cross-country flights from the sign-up bonus.

Is the card better than the Southwest Premier? In our opinion, it all depends on the kind of traveler you are, which we’ll get to in a second.

The Cons

If there’s one thing we don’t’ like about this card, it’s that you only get double points when you book travel through the Southwest website.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred gives you double points on travel in general (flights, car rentals, taxis, etc.) and on restaurants. Considering that the Sapphire Preferred gives you multiple avenues for double Chase Ultimate Rewards points, it could be the better choice.

Remember, too, that you can transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to your Southwest Rapid Rewards account at a rate of 1:1.

Who is the Southwest Plus Good For?

We’d say the ideal cardholder would be someone who doesn’t travel outside the United States or the Caribbean (no foreign transaction fees) and likes to fly Southwest.

This card is also great for travelers who have a trip coming up that requires travel within the United states, as Southwest’s rewards flight prices tend to require fewer points than all the other major carriers: Delta, American and United.

Headed on a honeymoon to the Caribbean? Sign up for this card about a year ahead of time to rack up enough points to get free flights and possibly even a free car rental.

Now, if you travel outside the United States in addition to your domestic travel, the Rapid Rewards Premier card might be the better option simply because you don’t have a foreign transaction fee.

If you’ll save more than $30 (the difference between annual fees) with the Premier card’s 0% transaction fee, then it will be the better fit.

The Final Word: The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus is a Great Card

All things considered, we think the Southwest Plus card is an excellent choice for an airline rewards card. If you want to do more research before you make your final decision, check out our Best Airline Rewards Credit Card of 2017 article.

In the article, we analyze six different cards across 10 different categories to come up with a winner.

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