Southwest Credit Card Reviews: Rapid Rewards Plus Versus Premier

Last Updated: 1/3/2013

Southwest Airlines has been busy as a beaver revamping their Rapid Rewards Frequenty Flyer Loyalty Program. With this rework, it’s worth taking a fresh look at the two Southwest credit cards offered by Chase-the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card and the Rapid Rewards Premier Card. We’ll review both cards in this post, and give you pointers as to which one makes the most sense to apply for.

Snapshot: Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Plus and Premier Cards by Chase
SWA Rapid Rewards Plus Card SWA Rapid Rewards Premier Card
Earning Rewards
Base Rewards 1 point on all purchases.
Bonus Category Rewards
  • 2 pts/$ on all SWA purchases
  • 2 pts/$ on all Rapid Rewards partner hotel and car rental purchases.
Sign Up Bonus 25,000 points after spending $1,000 within 1st 3 months of account opening. 25,000 points after spending $1,000 within 1st 3 months of account opening.
Annual Bonus 3,000 points every year on cardmember anniversary 6,000 points every year on cardmember anniversary
Tier Qualifying Points None Earn 1,500 tier qualifying points for every $10K in purchases with a max of 15,000 TQ points annually.
Other Bonuses Up to 10,000 bonus points with eligible balance transfers (1 point per $1 of transfer). Must be made within 90 days of account opening. Up to 15,000 bonus points with eligible balance transfers (1 point per $1 of transfer). Must be made within 90 days of account opening.
Redeeming Rewards
Core Redemption
  • Wanna-Get-Away Fare: 60 points per $ of airfare price
  • Anytime Fare: 100 points per $ of airfare price
  • Business Select Fare: 120 points per $ of airfare price
Partner Redemptions
  • You can redeem for international travel to over 800 destinations on 50+ global carriers
  • Gift cards
  • Travel packages
  • Car rentals
Points Expiration Points never expire as long as you have activity in your Rapid Rewards account within a 24 month period (any activity resets the clock and you have another 24 months)
Fees & Other
Annual Fee $69 $99
Foreign Transaction Fee 3% of overseas purchase amount after conversion to USD None

Earning Rewards With the Southwest Credit Card Offerings

Earning rewards with SWA Rapid Rewards Plus and Premier credit cards is fairly straight-forward. You earn 1 point on every purchase, and an additional point (thus, 2 points total) on any purchases of Southwest Airlines tickets or any purchases of goods and services through any partners of Southwest. Of course, you also earn additional points for flying SWA based on the cost of the airfare (meaning: the more you pay for the ticket, the more points you earn). You can read our review of the Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Program to gain a better understanding of who these partners are and how much you can earn by doing business with them (word of caution: you don’t earn much!).

Redeeming SWA Points

Southwest points can be redeemed for free flights according to the table below:

Redeeming Southwest Airlines Points
Fare Type Business Select Anytime Wanna Get Away
Example Fare $220 $200 $100
Points per Dollar to Redeem 120 100 60
Total Points Required for Free Flight 26,400 20,000 6,000
Dollar Value Per SWA Point $0.0083 $0.0100 $0.0167

As you can see, Wanna Get Away fares offer by far the best value for your SWA points, but they can be a bit harder to secure (although in a recent spot-check, GetDebit determined that Wanna-Get-Away fares were available on roughly 70% of the flights we checked!)

On a pure dollar-value-per-point basis, Southwest is one of the highest ranking airlines for economy seating, with a calculated value of $0.0167 per point (meaning: every point you earn is worth about $0.0167 cents). You can read about how we arrive at the SWA point value estimate here, but also keep in mind that often times (especially with airlines and hotels!) the value generated by the rewards card is secondary to individual’s preferences.

To Choose Or Not To Choose: Rapid Rewards Plus Versus Rapid Rewards Premier

So maybe you’ve decided you want to get a SWA Rapid Rewards credit card. The next logical question, is, of course, which one? Well, the answer depends on how long you think you’ll keep this card.  If you only plan on using it for 1 year, then definitely the Rapid Rewards Plus card is the way to go.  However, if you plan on keeping the card for several years or more, then the Premier card is the better bet-the annual 6K points bonus outweighs the additional $30 of annual fees.  Also, with the SWA Rapid Rewards Premier card, you earn tier qualifying points (1,500 for every $10K of spend), so there’s additional value there (not factored into the below analysis).

Why You Should Apply for the Rapid Rewards Premier Card Versus the Plus Card
Plus (1-yr) Premier (1-yr) Plus (5-yr) Premier (5-yr) Plus (10-yr) Premier (10-yr)
Sign-up bonus (cash val) $416 $416 $416 $416 $416 $416
Annual bonus (cash val) $0 $0 $200 $400 $450 $900
Annual fee $69 $99 $345 $495 $690 $990
All bonuses-annual fee $347 $317 $271 $321 $176 $326
Net gain (loss) Premier vs Plus ($30) +$50 +$150

Parting Shots

So if you are a big fan of Southwest Airlines, then you should definitely consider applying for either of their loyalty cards (Rapid Rewards Plus if you don’t plan on having it more than a year or two, otherwise the Rapid Rewards Premier card). With very high availability and excellent dollar value per point ($0.0167 per point) for Wanna Get Away flights, the SWA loyalty program offers excellent value.  The 25,000 point sign-up bonus is solid as well.

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