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: 17.49% – 24.49% variable
  • 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: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

What’s Interesting about Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier

True to its name, this card gives you opportunities to earn points, fast. With the introductory offer, you can earn earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. 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 traveling 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 per calendar year, 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 per year. 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 black-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.

Secondly, you only earn double rewards for Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner 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 in the first 3 months, 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 Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card. It pays 2 miles per dollar spent on Delta purchases, at restaurants worldwide, and at U.S. supermarkets, and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. Offering similar APRs, one highly attractive feature of the Delta SkyMiles Gold is the introductory bonus of up to 70,000 bonus miles. Earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 10,000 bonus miles after your first anniversary of card membership. Offer expires 4/1/2020. Another advantage is that the annual fee of $99 is waived in the first year.

Now, if you 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 an annual fee of $69, you get 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental 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 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.The drawbacks with this card are that you will be charged a 3% fee 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.

Kristie Kwok

Personal Finance Contributor

Kristie Kwok is a finance content writer with in-depth knowledge of the banking industry from her previous work experience in banks such as UBS, Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland. She is a qualified accountant with a Bachelor of Commerce degree, specializing in Accounting and Finance.