Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card Review

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is an airline card designed to reward customer loyalty. It’s a solid option if you’re a fan of the carrier and have a need or desire to travel around the country frequently.

Since Southwest is not a part of any airline alliance, the Rapid Rewards points you earn are not redeemable for flights operated by other airlines. However, Southwest flies to over 100 destinations within the U.S., offers some of the best flight prices, and even gives you 2 free checked bags per flight, so being tied down to them isn’t going to be a huge problem for many.

While most airline cards award bonuses on flight purchases only, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier provides extra points for booking with its hotel and car rental partners too.

The Essentials of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

  • APR: 17.74%-24.74%
  • Annual Fee: $99
  • Primary Feature: 2x Rapid Rewards points per dollar spent on purchases from Southwest and its hotel and car rental partners, 1x Rapid Rewards point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Introductory Bonus Offer: 40,000 Rapid Rewards points if you make $1,000 worth of qualifying purchases in the first 3 months.

What’s Interesting about Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier

True to its name, this card gives you opportunities to earn points, fast. Apart from the introductory offer of 40,000 points, and extra rewards for eligible hotel stays and car rental purchases, card members also receive an anniversary bonus of 6,000 points each year.

This is particularly handy if you’re trying to meet the requirements for the Southwest Companion Pass, which basically gets you free flights for a travelling companion, taxes and fees aside. The pass is valid from the date you become eligible to the end of the following calendar year. While earning the pass won’t be easy, as you’ll need 125,000 Rapid Rewards points or enough qualifying one-way flights, it can literally save you thousands of dollars once you have access to it.

Spending on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card gets you tier-qualifying points too, and having enough of these will give you A-List or A-List Preferred Status. You get 1,500 tier-qualifying points for every $10,000 spent on the card, up to a maximum of 15,000 tier-qualifying points. While the perks for being on the A-List and A-List Preferred vary, we’re talking about cool things like priority check-in, free same-day standby, bigger bonus points for Southwest flights and free Wi-Fi.

This card also excels when it comes to redemptions. With flight redemptions, there are unlimited reward seats and no block-out dates or restrictions. Your points can also be used for hotel stays, rental cars, international flights on 50+ airlines, merchandise, gift cards and more.

The lack of foreign transaction fees makes this card a good one to have when you’re overseas, though this may not be a big deal for cardholders who mainly travel domestically.

Things to Consider

There are a couple of drawbacks to bear in mind. Firstly, unlike many airline cards on the market, the annual fee on this card is not waived in the first year. This means that you can’t try it out for free before committing to it financially.

Secondly, you only earn double rewards for travel-related purchases. Now, if you’re more of an occasional rather than a regular traveler, then a general travel rewards credit card can potentially earn you more points for spending on other things like dining and groceries.

Additionally, purchases will only qualify for extra rewards if they’re made from Southwest and its partners. This could be problematic for budget-conscious travelers who value having a broad range of options so they can find the lowest prices.

While the card’s APRs are pretty standard compared to other airline credit cards, there are definitely cheaper interest rates out there. It’s also worth noting that you can’t earn points on things like cash advances and balance transfers.

How to Get the Most from this Card

Making the most from Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card requires you to get to know the airline’s rewards partners, and use them for your hotel and car-rental needs as often as possible. It goes without saying, you should also fly with Southwest whenever you travel domestically.

Since you’ll have to spend $1,000 on qualifying purchases within the first 3 months to get the welcome bonus, it‘s worth applying for the card when you know you’ve got a trip coming up.

It’ll be wise to pay for eligible purchases with this credit card for the extended warranty and purchase protection too. And don’t forget, the Visa Signature/Platinum program provides handy insurance coverage for things like lost or delayed luggage and travel-accident insurance.

Other Card Options that Might Interest You

In close competition with the Rapid Rewards® Premier is the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express. It pays 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. Offering similar APRs, one highly attractive feature of the Gold Delta SkyMiles is the bigger introductory bonus of 60,000, which you’ll get provided you make $2,000 qualifying purchases within 3 months. Another advantage is that the annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year.

Now, if like to use Southwest Airlines but are more of a leisure traveler, then the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card could be a great option.

For $69 a year, you get double rewards for qualifying travel purchases, and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else. The annual card member bonus is smaller at 3,000 points, but the APRs are similar, and you’ve still got the opportunity to earn the 40,000 welcome bonus points.

The drawbacks with this card are that you will be charged 3% for foreign transactions and you won’t earn any tier points, either.

The Final Word

The Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card is fantastic for cardholders with a very specific profile. It suits a frequent domestic traveler who loves flying with Southwest enough to use them every time, and who is also trying to accumulate points for the Companion Pass or elite status. If that doesn’t sound like you, then you might be better off with a general travel-rewards credit card that will give you more points on a broader range of spending.