Southwest Credit Card Review: Is Plus Card the Right Choice?
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card is good for any frequent Southwest flyer. The card has a 40,000 points sign-up bonus, earns double points on Southwest purchases and can help you earn the valuable Southwest Companion Pass. There is also an anniversary bonus that helps offset the cost of the $69 annual fee, which is not waived for the first year.
Southwest is great for economy domestic flights and is particularly popular among couples and families. The airline offers two free checked bags to every passenger, and seats are not assigned, so it’s usually easier to sit together if you’re traveling in a group. You also won’t be charged change fees if you have to alter your travel plans.
The best perk offered by Southwest is its extremely valuable companion pass, which allows for unlimited buy one, get one free tickets. It can be difficult to get the pass, but having the Southwest credit card makes it easier since all the points you earn count toward the pass.
Bonuses and Benefits
Knowing what benefits come with a credit card can help you decide if it’s a good fit for you. Here we cover the bonuses and perks that the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card offers and the value of the Chase Rapid Rewards® points you earn.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card from Chase is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 40,000 points after spending at least $1,000 in the first three months of opening an account. That’s a relatively low spending requirement for a bonus of that size. Rapid Rewards points are easy to use because you don’t have to worry about award availability. If a seat is available for purchase on a Southwest flight, then it can be paid for using points.
There is also an annual bonus of 3,000 points that has no requirement other than keeping your account open. The value of this bonus helps offset much of the annual fee.
What You Get
- 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months
- 3,000 every year you renew your card
- 2 points per dollar for Southwest purchases
Southwest Rapid Rewards points never expire as long as your credit card account is open. This is the easiest way to prevent points from expiring. If you close your credit card, points expire 24 months from the date of your last activity. It’s easy to keep your points alive indefinitely with even a small amount of qualifying activity. You can take a flight, spend on the credit card, transfer points from the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, redeem points or earn points through a partner, such as a hotel, rental car company or dining program.
What is the value of the Rapid Rewards® Points?
The number of Rapid Rewards points required to book an award fluctuates with the cash price of tickets. The value is not fixed, though the range of values is typically within 1 to 2 cents per point. In general, lower priced tickets offer better point values. Southwest’s cheapest fare class is Wanna Get Away, which typically offers 1.4 to 2 cents per point. The middle fare class is called Anytime, which offers lower values, typically around 1.2 cents per point. The most expensive fare class is called Business Select, which gives you values closer to one cent per point.
What is CPM and How Is It Calculated?
Cents Per Mile (CPM) is a way to measure the value of miles. It tells you how many cents you get for each mile you redeem by dividing the cash price of the airline ticket (minus taxes and fees charged for an award ticket) by the number of miles the award flight costs. This is a somewhat subjective calculation because the price of the flight in both cash and miles fluctuates by season and availability.
How we calculate CPM:
The Best Ways to Redeem Sauthwest Points
The best way to redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards points is for Wanna Get Away fares. These are the lowest cost type of ticket and offer the highest point values. These fares typically result in point values within the range of 1.4 to 2 cents each. This is in line with low price domestic economy awards from the major legacy carriers.
Wanna Get Away fares on Southwest offer more flexibility than tickets from most other airlines. You can cancel without a fee and the funds will go into your Southwest account for use at a later date. You also get two free checked bags with every ticket.
San Francisco–ChicagoEconomy classMiles price25,440points+$11.2 feeDollars price$398
Newark–DenverEconomy classMiles price27,154points+$11.2 feeDollars price$417
Los Angeles–HoustonEconomy classMiles price19,328points+$11.2 feeDollars price$317
Havana–TampaEconomy classMiles price6,624points+$72.06 feeDollars price$205
Punta Cana–AtlantaEconomy classMiles price36,328points+$104.66 feeDollars price$710
Montego Bay–ChicagoEconomy classMiles price33,896points+$95.11 feeDollars price$587
Washington–San AntonioBusiness classMiles price125,200points+$11.2 feeDollars price$1,150
Fort Lauderdale–PittsburghBusiness classMiles price98,184points+$11.2 feeDollars price$908
Pittsburgh–PhoenixBusiness classMiles price118,724points+$11.2 feeDollars price$1,092
Houston–MexicoBusiness classMiles price90,720points+$92.43 feeDollars price$889
Belize City–DenverBusiness classMiles price104,880points+$73.81 feeDollars price$991
Cancun–Fort LauderdaleBusiness classMiles price89,040points+$77.55 feeDollars price$890
Other ways you can redeem points
Hotel Stays10 partners10 part.
Points can be redeemed for hotels and related items, such as passes to theme parks.
Car Rental8 partners8 part.
Rapid Rewards can be redeemed for gift vouchers and certificates for rental car companies.
Gift Cards4 partners4 part.
Points can be redeemed for gift cards, though this is a poor use of points, achieving values of only 0.83 cents per point.
Rapid Rewards cannot be redeemed directly for cash back.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card earns two points per dollar on Southwest purchases, including hotel and rental car partners. All other purchases earn one point per dollar. This is not a particularly good card to use on everyday purchases unless you are attempting to get the Southwest Companion Pass, which is awarded after earning 110,000 points in a calendar year.
- Car Rental
- Southwest purchases
- All Other Purchases
The following transactions do not earn points: balance transfers, cash advances, travelers checks, foreign currency, money orders, wire transfers or similar cash-like transactions; lottery tickets, casino gaming chips, race track wagers or similar betting transactions; overdraft advances; interest; unauthorized or fraudulent charges; and fees of any kind, including the annual fee.
Earning double points does not require booking a flight on Southwest. You’ll also get two points per dollar spent with the airline’s many travel partners.
Free Checked Bag
The credit card is not required for your bags to fly free on Southwest flights. Each passenger gets two free checked bags.
No Change Fees
There are no change or cancelation fees, though fare differences may apply.
Earn the Companion Pass Faster
Points earned from spending on the Rapid Rewards credit card counts toward the Southwest Companion Pass.
Earn Elite Status Fast
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card does not earn credit toward elite status. This benefit is reserved for the higher annual fee Premier card.
Fees: the cost of Having the Card
The annual fee for the Rapid Rewards Plus card is $69. If you make $4,367 in purchases a year, you’ll cover the cost of the card. That’s because you’ll earn at least 4,367 points, and they’re worth at least 1.58 cents each. If you spend about $2,000 a month, you’ll pay off the card in slightly over two months. If any of your spending is with Southwest, you’ll have to spend even less to cover the annual fee.
The 40,000 points sign-up bonus is worth $632 based on a point valuation of 1.58 cents. This easily cover the cost of the annual fee and the makes the card a great value during the first year.
- Annual Fee
- Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
- Foreign Transaction Fee
- 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars
- Late Payment Fee
- Up to $15 if the balance is less than $100; up to $27 if the balance is $100 to less than $250; up to $37 if the balance is $250 or more
See What It Takes to Cover an Annual Fee:
Get anniversary bonus: 3,000 points
You will receive 3,000 bonus points each anniversary year – enough to cover more than a half of the annual fee.
We strongly recommend to spend not less than $1,456 per months to cover the annual fee in three months.
We’ve broken out our estimates for the first- and second-year net earnings you’ll get with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus credit card. Is the card worth getting, and should you keep it after you get the sign-up bonus? Let’s find out.
These estimates are based on an annual monthly spend of $2,000
Top 5 Benefits of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus credit card offers several excellent benefits, such as a great sign-up bonus and the ability to earn a companion pass.
- Companion Pass Qualification: The Southwest Companion Pass is one of the most coveted items in the travel rewards industry. It’s good for unlimited buy one, get one free tickets for both paid and award bookings. The sign-up bonus, as well as all points earned from spending, count toward the 110,000 points requirement to get the pass.
- Big Sign-up Bonus: The 40,000 points sign-up bonus could be enough for multiple free round-trip flights, depending on the routes you choose.
- Hassle-Free Redemptions: Southwest does not use a traditional award chart; points can be used to book any flight available for sale without having to worry about award availability.
- Anniversary Bonus: Receive 3,000 points each year on your account anniversary. These points are worth about $47, which offsets a good portion of the annual fee.
- Low Annual Fee: The $69 annual fee is lower than many airline credit cards, which typically cost $99.
Should You Get the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card?
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card is a great choice for someone looking to quickly earn a bunch of Southwest points. The sign-up bonus of 40,000 points is enough for multiple free flights. It is also a good card for those looking to experience the other benefits of flying Southwest, such as free checked bags and no change fees.
This card is a great tool for someone who is working toward the Southwest Companion Pass. Since all points earned from spending on the card count toward the companion pass, it can significantly expedite the process of reaching the necessary 110,000 points in a year.
Need more info? Check out our frequently asked questions. If you have other questions, please click on “Ask Now” below.
The Southwest credit card is issued by Chase bank. One very important thing to bear in mind is that the Southwest card falls under Chase’s 5/24 rule. That means that you will not be approved for the card if you have opened five or more credit card accounts with any bank in the last 24 months. Keep this in mind if you are considering applying for this card, and you may want to prioritize it over non-Chase card applications.
The current sign-up bonus for the Southwest Plus card is 40,000 points. However, there are occasionally higher sign-up bonus offers, so if you are patient you may be able to get a better bonus in the future.
There are three Southwest cards currently available for applications. They are the personal Plus card, the personal Premier card and the Business Premier card. There is not a business version of the Plus card, so if you prefer to have a business card, you will have to pay the higher annual fee of $99 for the Premier card. Note that the both versions of the Premier cards come with a higher level of benefits.
Compare Rapid Rewards Cards
Other Southwest cards
There are three co-branded Southwest cards currently available: the Plus card, as well as both a personal and business version of the Premier card. The Premier cards come with a somewhat higher annual fee in exchange for better benefits.
|Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card||Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card|
|Sign-up bonus||60,000 points||40,000 points||40,000 points|
|APR On Purchases||16.99% to 23.99% Variable±||16.99% to 23.99% Variable±||16.99% to 23.99% Variable±|
|Second Year Value||$474||$427||$474|
The personal and business versions of the Premier card are nearly identical. They both come with a $99 annual fee, which is $30 higher than the Plus card. In exchange for the higher annual fee, there are three areas in which the Premier cards offer better benefits than the Plus. There is no foreign transaction fee, the anniversary bonus is 6,000 points instead of 3,000, and you can earn Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs) toward elite status. You’ll get 1,500 TQPs for every $10,000 in spending, for a maximum of $100,000 per year.
Compare the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card to Other Cards
There are also many alternatives to the Southwest credit cards. Other airline cards, such as the Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines cards, earn miles which can be redeemed specifically with those airlines. The Capital One Venture card is similar to a cashback card because it earns points that are worth one cent each toward any flight on any airline.
All of these cards currently have 40,000 points sign-up bonuses except for the Spirit Airlines card, which offers only 15,000 points. The Southwest and Frontier cards both require that the annual fee be paid in the first year, while the Venture card and Spirit Airlines card waive the fee until the second year.
Each of these cards offer a different way of redeeming points and miles. Frontier Airlines uses a region-based award chart where all flights within the U.S. are the same price. Spirit uses a distance-based chart where prices increase with the distance traveled. Venture Rewards points have a fixed value and can be redeemed at a flat rate of one cent each for any travel expense.
Whenever you apply for a credit card make sure you read the terms and conditions of the card and the rewards program to find out about minimum spend requirements and any restrictions to ensure you can successfully obtain the card and earn the rewards it offers.
Card Terms and Conditions
While it's easy to focus on the benefits offered by the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, it's worth taking a closer look at the terms and conditions. There's a lot to consider as you think about how you're going to use the card. Will you carry a balance, get a cash advance or maybe make a big purchase? Below is a rundown of the various interest rates, purchase protections, security features and mobile banking options that come with the Visa card.
- Intro APR:
- See Terms and Conditions
- Intro APR for balance transfers:
- See Terms and Conditions
- Ongoing APR:
- 16.99% to 23.99% Variable±
- Minimum Grace Period:
- 21 days
- Extended Warranty Protection:
- Extends the time period of the U.S. manufacturer's warranty by an additional year. Warrenty must be for three years or less.
- Purchase Protection:
- Covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft for up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.
Cash Advance Features
- Ongoing APR:
- 25.99% Variable±
- Cash Advance Fee:
- Either $10 or 5% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater
Security and Protections
Chase offers a variety of security features and several different ways to monitor and manage your account.
- Fraud Alerts:
- Get notified of potential fraud via text and easily clear the card with a text response.
- Banking On the Go:
- Track your account with Chase’s mobile app.
- EMV Chip Technology:
- Get global acceptance and enhanced security at merchants that use chip enabled terminals.
- Credit Score Monitoring:
- Receive free access to Credit Journey, which includes your VantageScore 3.0.
The Chase Mobile App has a very high level of functionality, allowing you to do almost anything you can do on the full website. You can see statements, make payments, redeem rewards, send secure messages and much more using the mobile app.
Additional Cardholder Benefits
Applications for the Southwest Plus card are initially considered for a Visa Signature. If the applicant does not qualify, the card may be approved as a Visa Platinum card instead, which comes with a lower level of benefits. The benefits below apply to Visa Signature cards.
Visa Signature Travel Benefits
- Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver:
- Coverage for theft and collision for most rentals in the U.S. and abroad when the rental is paid for with your card. Coverage is secondary to your personal insurance.
- Baggage Delay Insurance:
- Reimbursement for essentials, such as toiletries and clothing, if bags are delayed over 6 hours. Get up to $100 per day for 3 days.
- Lost Luggage Reimbursement:
- Get up to $3,000 per passenger for damaged or lost bags. Coverage includes the cardholder and immediate family members on the same travel itinerary. There is a maximum of $500 for items such as jewelry and electronics.
- Roadside Dispatch:
- Call 1-800-VISA-TOW for roadside assistance, including lockout service, towing, jump-start and gas delivery. A service charge of $59.95 per service call applies.
- Travel Accident Insurance:
- Receive accidental death or dismemberment coverage of up to $500,000 for any air, bus, train or cruise ship transportation paid for with your card.
- Travel and Emergency Assistance Services:
- Legal and medical referrals, and other travel and emergency assistance is available 24/7/365. If service is provided, charges apply.