About Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card

By J.R. Duren
HighYa Staff
Published on: Jan 19, 2017

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier credit card from Chase provides cardholders with several travel benefits for people who like to fly Southwest Airlines.

The credit card is currently offering new cardmembers 40,000 points (known as Rapid Rewards points) after $2,000 in purchases in the first three months. Many consumers will see “40,000 points” and sign up without hesitation.

A quick, emotions-driven sign-up is what Chase wants, but we’re here to help you pause for a moment, take a step back and see the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card for what it is. To accomplish that, we’re going to cover the following topics:

  • Travel and non-travel benefits
  • Fees and penalties
  • Public opinion about the card
  • How it compares to other airline and travel cards

Once we walk you through each of those areas, we’ll conclude our review with some general conclusions about Chase’s Southwest Airlines credit card.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card’s Benefits

The Southwest credit card offers two main classes of benefits: travel and non-travel. We’re going to explore each one to help you understand what you can and can’t get out of this card.

Points Benefits

As we mentioned earlier, new cardmembers will get a 40,000-points bonus when they spend $1,000 in the first three months. That shouldn’t be a problem since the average American has at least $2,000 of monthly expenses they can charge.

On top of that, cardmembers get 6,000 miles on their card anniversary.

Whenever you make purchases with your Rapid Rewards credit card, you’ll get 1 point for every dollar you spend and double points when you buy Southwest tickets or purchase a hotel room or rental car from Southwest Partners.

To deposit those points and use them, you’ll have to set up a Rapid Rewards account, which only takes three or four minutes.

Your 40K Bonus Points Can Get You Pretty Far

To book a flight with your Rapid Rewards points, you’ll need to go to the Southwest website or app and do a search for the flight you want. You’ll be able to choose a points option that lets you see results by how many points they cost instead of dollars.

One of the keys to making a wise decision about an airline reward card is to know how much your points can get you.

A 40,000-point bonus isn’t worth much if a round-trip flight costs 50,000 points, but the value goes up significantly if you can squeeze two or three flights out of your points.

To figure out how much of a bargain 40,000 Rapid Rewards points is, we took a look at rewards fares for flights from Los Angeles (LAX) to New York (LGA) about 60 days before departure. We chose this flight because it’s one of the more popular routes in the United States.

We found that Southwest offered a round-trip fare for 16,660 Rapid Rewards points, a total so low that you could actually take that flight two times and still have 6,680 points left over from your 40k bonus. In our opinion, that’s a great deal.

However, your flight of choice may be Portland to Dallas (22K points when we checked) or another route that isn’t LAX-to-LGA. Because you have specific travel needs, make sure you research flight costs before you sign up for the card.

In some cases, Southwest may not fly from your home airport to the destination you want, and, in other cases, flights may cost too many points to make the sign-up bonus worth it.

Rapid Rewards Tiers

For every $10,000 you spend, you’ll also get 1,500 points closer to A-List status, Southwest’s version of membership tiers. This program is divided into A-List and A-List Preferred.

Both programs offer varying levels of points bonuses when you purchase tickets, as well as priority flight check-in and boarding, along with priority security check-in and free same-day standby.

Preferred members get additional perks: a dedicated customer service line, free in-flight wifi, and a 100% bonus on points instead of the 25% for non-Preferred A-List members.

Included in this program are Companion passes, which are vouchers you can use to book a free reservation for a traveling partner. Cardmembers (and all Rapid Rewards customers) get a free Companion pass when they rack up 110,000 points.

According to Southwest’s terms and conditions, though, your 40,000 bonus points don’t count toward that total. Also, the 1,500-point payouts are capped at 15,000 total points.

Other Southwest Travel Perks

Passengers who fly with Southwest will be happy to know they get two checked bags for free. Also, you won’t be charged any fees for changing a flight.

If you need to make a change, Southwest will reserve your new seat and you’ll only be responsible to pay for fare differences (i.e. the flight you switched to is more expensive than the flight you switched from). These same rules apply to flights booked with points.

Non-Travel Related Benefits

Our research revealed that the main non-travel related benefits of this card are that customers will get notifications about periodic 3x- and 2x-points bonuses on purchases made at certain retail or online stores – 3x points at Home Depot was one example we read about.

Also, your Southwest credit card comes with Chase’s fraud protection – you aren’t responsible to pay for any fraudulent charges made to your account.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card’s Fees and Penalties

Credit cards tend to charge their customers fees for making late payments (late fees) or not paying off their balance in full every month (APR). You’ll also be charged a fee if you want to transfer a balance to your Rapid Rewards card. Here’s a quick list of the fees/penalties:

  • 16.74% – 23.74% APR, depending on your credit scores and history
  • $99 annual fee
  • 5% balance-transfer fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $15 late fee for balances less than $100
  • $27 late fee for balances of $100–$249.99
  • $37 late fee for balances of $250 or more

What Other People Are Saying About the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card

The Southwest credit card has made the rounds on all the popular credit-card and finance websites, so there’s a decent pool of praises and complaints we can pull from.

At the time of publishing, 28 reviewers on Credit Karma gave the Southwest card an average score of 4.2 stars. Many of the positive reviews expressed happiness about getting the card, while others said they appreciated how easy it was to redeem points for flights.

Nearly 70% of reviewers gave the card 5 stars and 21% gave the Premier card 1 or 2 stars. Complaints focused on individual instances where consumers wanted extra perks and were denied.

Over at credit-card site WalletHub, more than 250 reviewers gave the card an average score of 3.8 stars. Customers said they loved how easy it is to rack up miles with the card and that the 6,000 anniversary miles eased the pain of the $99 annual fee.

Negative reviews pointed out the high annual fee (we’ll get to that in the next section) and the fact that your Rapid Rewards statement doesn’t show you exactly which purchases you made that garnered extra rewards points.

You have to trust that Southwest is giving you your extra points, the reviewer said.

How the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Compares to the Competition

The easiest way to compare the Rapid Rewards card to other airline and travel cards is by writing out the card’s annual fee, the intro points/miles bonus and points/miles-per-dollar.

The Southwest Card Versus Other Airline Cards

We’ve done just that in our Best Airline Rewards Card of 2017 article. What we found is pretty interesting. The Rapid Rewards card finished fifth out of six cards, but the standings were very tight.

The main reason the card finished outside the top three is because it doesn’t offer a lot of added luxuries.

For example, at the time of our rankings, United MileagePlus cardmembers got two free passes for United Club access. Also, United MileagePlus and Gold SkyMiles (Delta) cardholders got free priority boarding on all flights.

Southwest has no airport lounges and priority boarding is reserved for A-List and A-List Preferred passengers only, not Rapid Rewards credit card customers. The card also lost points for its high APR and high annual fee.

These rankings come with a caveat, though: Southwest’s daily perks to all customers – no flight-change fees and two free checked bags – really make the customer experience awesome.

So, while those perks aren’t specific to cardholders, they are part of the package that comes with owning a Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier credit card.

Our advice? If you choose this card, make sure you pay off your balance in full, every month, so that you don’t get hit with interest charges. If you can do that, you negate the card’s high APR and increase its value.

The Southwest Card Versus Other Travel Cards

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier is a great card, but its high annual fee may make you want to check out other travel cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Capital One Venture.

Southwest Card Versus Chase Sapphire Preferred

Why? Because the Sapphire Preferred card’s annual fee of $95 is waived the first year and you get the same amount of bonus points (40K) as you do with the Southwest card.

Also, the Sapphire Reserve gives you double points on restaurant and dining purchases, which, according to the most recent stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, will get you about 5,000 extra points a year.

If you’re a Southwest loyalist and you’re hesitant about using a non-Southwest card, you’re in luck. The points you get from your Sapphire Reserve can be transferred to your Southwest Rapid Rewards account at a rate of 1:1.

Now, you could also argue that the Rapid Rewards card is just as beneficial as the Sapphire Reserve because you get 6,000 free miles every year.

But then again, there are Sapphire Preferred loyalists who say it’s the superior card because the 40K bonus points you get are Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

These “CUR” points, as they’re known, can be redeemed for cash purchases of plane tickets and hotel rooms, or they can be transferred to, for example, Hyatt’s Gold Passport program and United and Southwest’s frequent flyer programs.

Based on our research, though, Southwest offers better value than United. Remember that LAX-LGA flight we mentioned earlier? On Southwest, it will cost you 16,660 miles, but on United, it will cost you 25,000 miles and you’ll be faced with longer layovers.

Southwest Card Versus Capital One Venture

Another card that might come into the discussion is the Capital One Venture card, which offered, at the time of publishing, 40,000 “miles” whose cash value is $400. You can use that cash value to pay off travel purchases on your credit card statement, but you can’t transfer the miles to frequent flyer programs.

While that $400 is a nice perk, it doesn’t match Southwest’s Rapid Rewards points. For example, a flight from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Nassau, Bahamas, will cost you $199 or 4,320 Rapid Rewards points.

That $199 price tag is just about half of your Venture bonus, while the 4,320 Rapid Rewards points represent less than 10% of your 40K points bonus.

Our Final Thoughts About the Southwest Rapid Rewards Card

As we said during the introduction of this article, choosing a credit card is more than just swooning over introductory bonuses.

You have to have a good sense of how the card can benefit you over time, what you’ll pay in fees and how the card you want compares to others in the same category.

40K Sign-Up Bonus is a Great Deal

In our opinion, the 40,000 Rapid Rewards points offered at the time of publishing is an industry-leading total for airline cards because those points can get you two round trips and still leave you with nearly 7,000 Rapid Rewards points.

Credit Card Fees Are High

The card’s annual fee is high – the highest of all travel cards and airline cards under $100 a year. Although, that “highest annual fee” distinction is tempered by the fact that it’s only $5 more than competing cards.

Its APR is also high, but that’s par for the proverbial course when it comes to Chase credit cards. You’ll get the same 16.74%–23.74% APR when you sign up for a Chase Sapphire Preferred or a United MileagePlus Explorer card.

Measures Up to Other Travel & Airline Cards

If you Google “best travel rewards card”, you’ll probably get a ton of articles about the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Preferred. Both cards have, with the help of travel bloggers, become the go-to cards for people who want free flights or hotel stays.

But, in our opinion, aside from the Sapphire Preferred’s $0 annual fee for the first year, we don’t think it offers any real long-term advantages for Southwest loyalists who want free flights on their favorite airline.

We don’t consider the Sapphire Reserve a fair comparison since the card has a nearly $500 annual fee.

As for how the card compares to other airline cards, we think the Southwest cards gives its rivals some serious competition.

We talked about how the card was near the bottom of our rankings, but that has a lot to do with the card’s APR and annual fee, as well as Southwest’s lack of airport lounges.

If you can pay off your Southwest credit card’s balance every month, you’ll neutralize the high APR and this card can become, in our opinion, a strong candidate for best airline rewards card and a great choice for fans of Southwest Airlines.

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