About Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card

By J.R. Duren
HighYa Staff
Published on: Jul 26, 2018

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card is an airline rewards card that has multiple valuable rewards that result in free flights as well as priority boarding benefits and several other perks.

The card is one of three Southwest credit cards, with this one occupying the top spot in terms of rewards and benefits. While the card is the clear winner when it comes to earning free flights and travel perks, it does have a higher annual fee than the Rapid Rewards Premier and the Rapid Rewards Plus.

During the course of this review, we’re going to help you decide if this is the right card for you by examining its rewards and benefits, rates and fees and then comparing it to similar airline rewards cards from other airlines.

We’ll close with a section that helps you see what the card’s biggest strengths and weaknesses, then offer some advice about who we think this card is best for.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority’s Rewards

Airline rewards credit cards usually offer two common bonuses and, in some cases, a few other rarer perks. This Southwest card has rewards that are both common and rare.

65,000 Points for a Sign-Up Bonus

This card will give you up to 65,000 points for using your card for everyday spending. However, the bonus is split into two tiers.

The first tier is a 40,000-point bonus you’ll earn after spending $1,000 in the first three months of owning this card. Based on the spending habits of the average household, this bonus will be easy to get. The points will show up in your Rapid Rewards account up to eight weeks after you hit the $1,000 mark.

If you don’t have a Rapid Rewards account, Southwest will set one up for you when you’re approved for the card. If you’ve already got an account, you can link it to your card when you apply.

To get the remaining 25,000 points, you’ll need to spend $15,000 within the first year of owning your card. Our research of spending habits reveals that the average family can spend at least $2,500 on their credit card every month, which means you can hit that $15,000 requirement in about six months.

Like the initial 40,000-point bonus, the 25,000 points will take up to eight weeks to show up in your account.

We’ve looked through various Southwest flights and discovered that round-trips can be booked for less than 12,500 points. We did a search of flights from Phoenix to Seattle and discovered that the trip would cost you a total of 11,466 points.

Even if your round trips cost you 15,000 points, you’d be able to get at least four flights from your sign-up bonus. Based on our research of dozens of airline rewards card, this sign-up bonus couple with affordable rewards seats make the card’s bonus the best in the market.

Points on Purchases: 22,000 Points Per Year

Every airline credit card has at least two tiers of rewards you get with purchases you make. The first tier is the bonuses you get is for purchases you make with the airline and with related travel purchases like rental cars. This bonus is usually 2 points or miles per dollar you spend.

The Southwest Priority card follows suit by giving you double points for every dollar you spend through Southwest. Because the Southwest website offers vacation packages and car rentals in addition to tickets, the card’s fine print says you have multiple ways to earn double points:

  • Flights
  • In-flight purchases
  • Gift cards
  • Vacation purchases
  • Hotel partners
  • Rental car partners

Remember, though, these double-points opportunities are only available through the Southwest website or by booking over the phone with Southwest.

As an example, if you book a $2,000 vacation package through Southwest, you’ll earn 4,000 Rapid Rewards points.

The second type of points bonus you usually get with airline cards is a 1x bonus on every dollar you spend for non-airline-related purchases. We call this the “everything else” category. Based on our research of the spending habits of the average American household, we believe that you can earn about 25,000 points a year in this category.

In total, we think the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card can earn you 27,000 points a year.

7,500 Points on Your Anniversary

The third main points reward you get with this card is a 7,500-point bonus every year on your cardmember anniversary. These are free points that don’t require any spending.

So, when you add these points to the 27,000 points you can earn through spending, this card gets you, on average, about 34,500 points a year.

Based on our research on this card and other cards like it, we believe that yearly points total is slightly above average. What makes these points a little more valuable than, say, points from the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select or United MileagePlus Explorer is that Southwest’s flights tend to cost fewer rewards points.

There’s a good chance that, if you book early, you can find cheap enough rewards seats to get two round-trip flights out of your rewards.

United’s cheapest flights will cost you 25,000 MileagePlus miles, which renders the card’s approximately 30,000 yearly points just barely good enough to get one round-trip flight. And, if you happen to miss out on the cheap rewards seats, 30,000 points won’t be enough to book a seat there and back.

Additional Bonuses: In-Flight Discount, Priority Boarding and $75 Travel Credit

Your Southwest Priority card gives you a trio of additional travel-related benefits you’ll enjoy if you fly Southwest often enough.

Any in-flight purchases you make with your card will earn a 20% discount that will appear as a credit on your statement in the following weeks. This is not a discount taken at the point of purchase.

The next benefit you get is four upgraded boarding passes, which means you get to board in the first group: A1-A15. The Southwest boarding process, if you don’t know, is a first-come, first-serve scenario. Check-in begins online 24 hours before the flight’s departure time. Those who check in first get to board first, save for the instances in which someone pays for priority boarding.

Normally, you’d pay $30, $40 or $50 for priority boarding based on your itinerary. Assuming that your four passes average $40 saved, this perk is worth $160.

The final main benefit you get with the Southwest Priority card is a yearly $75 travel credit. According to the card’s fine print, this credit will be applied to your account anytime you make a Southwest purchase with your card. The only Southwest purchases that don’t count are upgraded boarding and in-flight purchases.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card’s Rates and Fees

What makes this card unique is that it has an annual fee of $149 that puts it in a middle ground between the typical airline rewards card annual fee of $95 and the luxury rewards cards that have annual fees above $450.

The card’s interest rate, which kicks in if you don’t pay off your balance in full every month, ranges from 17.74% to 24.74% for purchases and balance transfers. This range is average for travel-related cards.

Late fees are up to $37 and you’ll be charged a 5% fee to make balance transfers, which is pretty standard for Chase travel credit cards.

Cash advances will get a 26.74% APR.

Comparing the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority to Other Airline Rewards Cards

One of the ways we like to analyze a card is to compare it to similar cards so you have some context by which to judge how good a card actually is.

We’re going to do that in this section by comparing the Southwest Priority to two other credit cards we mentioned earlier: the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select and the United MileagePlus Explorer.

Southwest Priority United MileagePlus Explorer Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select
Sign-up bonus 65,000 40,000 60,000
Yearly rewards 34,500 30,000 30,000
Cheapest round-trip rewards flight 11,500 25,000 25,000
Priority boarding 4x per year Complimentary Complimentary
Best APR 17.74% 17.74% 17.74%
Annual fee $149 $95 (1st year waived) $99 (1st year waived)

What stands out the most about the Southwest Priority card is that they don’t waive the annual fee the first year, whereas the other two cards do. This idea of not waiving the annual fee is something you usually see with luxury airline rewards cards that have annual fees above $400. The United MileagePlus Club is a good example of this type of card.

Another disadvantage we see is that you only get four upgraded boarding passes a year as opposed to the unlimited priority boarding you get with the United and American Airlines cards.

The benefit to the Southwest Priority card is the fact that Southwest gives its customers two free checked bags. The United and AAdvantage cards provide one free bag and the second bag is $35. So, every trip you take with two bags you’ll pay $70 to send that baggage there and back.

This presents an interesting scenario. The Southwest Priority card’s annual fee is higher but if you take two bags with you on most trips, you’ll end up saving more money on Southwest after just one round-trip flight.

Our opinion about which card is best is this: the Southwest Priority is the better choice if you’re concerned about getting the most value out of your miles and you don’t mind not having guaranteed priority boarding on each flight.

Our Final Word: Pros and Cons of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Card

Based on our research of this credit card, we believe its greatest strength is that you get more out of your yearly points than you do with the competition. Depending on the route you fly, your rewards seat will cost you half of what you’d pay for other airlines.

The downside to the card is that you don’t have guaranteed priority boarding on every flight like you do with the cards from United and American. However, since Southwest’s boarding is determined by who checks in first, you do have some control over how quickly you board.

In general, we believe this card is best for someone who usually flies Southwest and checks two bags when they fly. If that’s you, we believe the value the Southwest Priority card offers is pretty lucrative and will keep you happy year after year.

The cost of rewards flights is low, you always get two free bags and, according to consumer-research firm J.D. Power, Southwest customers rank the airline higher in customer satisfaction than every other major or low-cost carrier in the country.

If you aren’t convinced this card is right for you, then take a few minutes to read through our guide to the best airline rewards credit cards of 2018. The guide will show you how each card compares in several different categories like rewards, interest rates and sign-up bonuses.

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