Credit Card Reviews

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card: When All You Need Are the Basics

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There are three Southwest consumer credit cards for fans of the airline, and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card has the lowest annual fee of the bunch. It also offers the fewest benefits, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. After all, you don't want to pay for benefits you never wind up using.

Points count toward the Southwest Companion PassAnnual fee and foreign transaction fees
Receive extra points each yearModest rewards on purchases
Lowest annual fee of the three Southwest cardsFew cardholder benefits
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If you enjoy flying Southwest Airlines and don't want to spend $99 or more on credit card annual fees, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card could be right up your alley. It offers a large intro bonus and an extra 3,000 Rapid Rewards points every cardholder anniversary. However, there's still a $69 annual fee, so you'll want to make sure the benefits will outweigh the cost.

The Intro Bonus Is a Big One-Time Benefit

The three Southwest consumer credit cards offer a large intro bonus for new cardholders that lets you earn 40,000 bonus points if you spend $1,000 within 3 months of opening your account.

The value of the points depends on how you redeem them. While you can choose from many options, including merchandise, gift cards and hotel stays, the points are often worth the most if you use them to book Southwest flights.

Southwest ties the number of points you need to the current cost of a flight. On average, your points may be worth about 1.5 cents each. The 40,000 bonus points are therefore worth about $600.

Additionally, the intro bonus will help you qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass. This prized airline status allows you to choose a companion who you can add to every one of your Southwest flights for the remainder of the current calendar year and the next calendar year. You can change your companion up to three times per year.

No matter the cost of your ticket or where you go, you only have to pay for the taxes and fees on your companion's ticket, and those start at just $5.60 for a one-way flight. However, to earn the Companion Pass, you'll need to earn 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year. You can earn the remaining points from credit card purchases, Southwest flights and Southwest partner hotel and rental car bookings.

Get Double Points for Hotel Stays and Car Rentals

While you can earn points using your Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, the card doesn't offer a great earnings rate on all purchases. You get 2 points per dollar on Southwest flights and Rapid Rewards partner hotel and car rental purchases, and 1 point per dollar on other purchases. By comparison, there are cash back credit cards that offer 1.5% to 2% cash back on every purchase and don't have an annual fee.

A general travel rewards card may offer more rewards on a wider variety of purchases. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has a $95 annual fee, but you earn 2 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on all dining and travel purchases and 1 point on other purchases.

The Ultimate Rewards points that you earn with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card are worth 1.25 cents each when you redeem them for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Or, you can transfer the Ultimate Rewards points from your Chase account to your Southwest Rapid Rewards points account at a 1-to-1 ratio. The transferred points don't count toward the Companion Pass status, but it gives you the option of booking rewards flights and hotel stays. It's important to compare card features such as these when deciding whether an airline card will offer the most value for your needs.

Earn Bonus Points Each Year

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card offers one Southwest-specific perk: You will get 3,000 bonus points each cardholder anniversary year. If each point is worth 1.5 cents, that means the anniversary bonus is worth $45, less than the card's $69 annual fee.

The other Southwest cards offer more anniversary points, but also charge higher annual fees. If you want a Southwest card with a low annual fee and you rarely travel outside the country (or have a different card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees), the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card may be your best option.

But for an extra $30 each year, you can get the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and get 6,000 anniversary bonus points a year. That 6,000-point bonus is worth about $90, which is much closer to that card's $99 annual fee. Plus, the card doesn't charge foreign transaction fees, and it gives you a path toward earning elite status through credit card purchases.

Plus Credit CardPremier Credit CardPriority Credit Card
Annual fee$69$99$149
Rewards from purchases2 points per $1 spent on Southwest flights and Rapid Rewards partner hotels and rental cars.

1 point per $1 elsewhere

2 points per $1 spent on Southwest flights and Rapid Rewards partner hotels and rental cars.

1 point per $1 elsewhere

2 points per $1 spent on Southwest flights and Rapid Rewards partner hotels and rental cars.

1 point per $1 elsewhere

Bonus points each cardmember year3,0006,0007,500
Foreign transaction fee3%NoNo
Earn tier qualifying points (TQPs) from purchasesNo1,500 TQPs per $10,000 you spend, on up to $100,000 in purchases each calendar year.1,500 TQPs per $10,000 you spend, on up to $100,000 in purchases each calendar year.
Additional Southwest benefitsNoNo$75 annual Southwest travel credit

Statement credits for up to four upgraded boardings each year

20% statement credit on inflight drinks and Wi-Fi


If you fly often, the high-end Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card could be worth the $149 annual fee. You get a $75 annual Southwest travel credit, bringing your effective cost down to $74, and you receive 7,500 anniversary points—worth about $112.50.

You can also use the card for in-flight Southwest drinks and Wi-Fi and get a statement credit for 20% of your purchase. You'll also get statement credits for up to four upgraded boarding purchases ($30 to $50 each) every year.

Receive Travel and Purchase Protections

Although the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card has the lowest annual fee of the three Southwest cards, it offers the same travel and purchase protections as the other two cards.

With all three, the benefits change slightly depending on if you get approved for a Visa Signature version of the card, which has a minimum $5,000 credit limit, or a Visa Platinum version with a lower credit limit. With the Visa Platinum version, you don't receive travel and emergency assistance services and get a lower limit for the travel accident insurance.

The travel and purchase protections include:

  • Auto rental collision damage waiver: Will cover you if a vehicle you rent is stolen or damaged and your primary insurance doesn't cover all the costs.
  • Roadside dispatch: Call to get connected to a roadside dispatch service with pre-negotiated rates.
  • Lost luggage reimbursement: Receive the cash value for items that are lost, stolen or damaged while you're traveling—up to $3,000 per passenger.
  • Baggage delay insurance: If your bags are delayed for more than six hours, you can get up to $100 daily (three days maximum) for eligible emergency supplies.
  • Travel accident insurance: If you lose a limb or die while traveling, the insurance may pay up to $250,000 or up to $500,000 for Visa Signature cardholders.
  • Travel and emergency assistance services: Only available with the Visa Signature version, the assistance services can help connect you with medical, legal, translation and transportation services while you're traveling, but won't help you pay for it.
  • Extended warranty protection: Get up to one extra year of warranty coverage on items that you purchase. To qualify, their original warranty must be for three years or less and meet other eligibility requirements for the program.
  • Purchase protection: You can get up to $500 per incident (up to $50,000 per account) if something you buy with your card gets lost or stolen within 120 days.

These benefits may be available on other Visa Platinum and Signature cards, and you may be able to get additional benefits from Visa if you're a Signature cardholder. The protections also are often only available if you used your card for the purchase or to book travel.

Additional Info

Purchase APR: 17.49% - 24.49% VariableGrace period: 21 days
Transfer APR: 17.49% - 24.49% VariableAnnual fee: $69
Cash advance APR: 26.49%Balance transfer fee: Greater of $5 or 5% of the transferred balance amount
Minimum interest charge: NoneCash advance fee: Greater of $10 or 5% of the cash advance amount
Foreign transaction fee: 3%
Late payment fee: Up to $39
Returned payment fee: Up to $39

Authorized-User Policy

There's no fee to add an authorized user to the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card. The person will receive a card that they can use for purchases, but you'll be responsible for paying the bill for transactions from both the primary and authorized user cards. Additionally, the authorized user's purchases can earn points that will be added to your Rapid Rewards account.

Is This Card Right for You?

With its $69 annual fee and only a few benefits, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card might not be a great fit for many people. The most exciting feature is the intro bonus provides a lot of value relative to the card's annual fee. However, you may be better off with a different you're looking for a credit card that offers great ongoing rewards and benefits.

For frequent Southwest flyers, that could be the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card or Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card. If you rarely fly or want more varied earnings and redemption options, consider a general travel rewards card or cash back card.