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Which Southwest Airlines Credit Card is Best For You?

*Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

This article was last updated July 13, 2021 . Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

If you’re a frequent Southwest flyer or run a business where you do most of your flying on the Dallas-based carrier, it only makes sense to have a credit card that helps you earn points — and elite status — under the airline’s Rapid Rewards® loyalty program.

Southwest Airlines offers three consumer credit cards — Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card as well as two business cards: the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card.

We explain the similarities and differences between Southwest Airlines’ four credit cards to help you decide which one is your best option. However, considering the higher points per $1 spent, better sign-up bonuses and more lucrative benefits offered by rival airline- and travel-branded cards, only hard-core Southwest flyers should consider getting one of these cards.

Best Southwest Credit Cards
Best for frequent Southwest flyers Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
Best for intermittent Southwest flyers Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Best low annual fee Southwest card Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
Best Southwest card for business Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card
Best low annual fee Southwest business card Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

Pros and cons of Southwest credit cards

  • Companion Pass. To get this popular pass, fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year. Once you hit either goal, a companion may tag along — free — on every subsequent flight for the following full calendar year, plus the remainder of the year in which you earned the pass.
  • Airline status. You qualify for A-List status after flying 25 one-way trips or earning 35,000 tier qualifying points and A-List Preferred after 50 one-way trips or 70,000 tier qualifying points in a calendar year. A-List gives you priority check-in and dedicated security lanes (where available), along with priority boarding, an additional 25% bonus points, a dedicated customer service line and free same-day standby on flights. A-List Preferred members get all of the above, plus 100% bonus points and free in-flight Wi-Fi.
  • “Transfarency.” Everyone who travels on Southwest Airlines gets two free checked bags. In addition, you won’t have to pay a fee if you need to change your flight, but you may have to pay the fare difference.
  • Great flexibility for reward travel. There are no blackout dates or seat restrictions. You earn unlimited points that don’t expire as long as your card account is open, and there are no limits on how many points you can earn.
  • Solid route network. You can use your rewards to travel to more than 100 destinations in the U.S., Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. For cardholders who want to travel outside of Southwest’s network, you can book flights using points via the airline’s More Rewards website.
  • Travel and protection benefits. All cards come with lost luggage reimbursement, baggage delay insurance, extended warranty and purchase protection.
  • Fewer points per $1 spent. While you do earn extra points per $1 spent on Southwest-related travel and Rapid Rewards hotel and rental car partners, you don’t earn them in popular categories like dining, groceries, gas or broader travel.
  • Companion Pass. You will have to pay fees and government taxes whenever your companion uses the pass.
  • No sharing. You can’t share your A-List or A-List Preferred priority boarding benefits with others traveling with you.
  • No airline priority benefits. None of the cards automatically come with benefits like priority check-in and boarding — unless you have A-List status — or airport lounge access like other airline-branded credit cards; however, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card does offer reimbursement for up to four priority boarding passes a year.
  • Traveling internationally. While cardmembers can use their points to book international flights outside Southwest’s route network, you may not want to do it since your points are only worth about 1 cent. You’re much better off using your points on Southwest flights.

Best For Frequent Southwest flyers

Southwest Rapid Rewards<sup>®</sup> Priority Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Apply Now
on Chase's secure site
Introductory APR N/A
Annual Fee $149
Regular Purchase APR 15.99% - 22.99% Variable

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card offers the following sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 3X points on dining purchases for the first year.

For the ongoing rewards rate: Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. In addition, there is a $75 annual travel credit available with this card.

The annual fee is $149.

Every year, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card cardholders will receive 7,500 points on their card anniversary.

This card also allows you to earn 1,500 tier qualifying points (TQPs) for every $10,000 you spend on the card, up to $100,000 for 15,000 TQP. These TQPs help you qualify for Rapid Rewards A-List or A-List Preferred status. You earn A-List status after flying 25 one-way trips or 35,000 tier qualifying points, or A-List Preferred after 50 one-way trips or 70,000 tier qualifying points in a calendar year.

If you are a loyal traveler on the airline and want a card with a few more benefits than what’s offered by the other two Southwest consumer cards, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is a good fit. Plus, with the annual $75 travel credit, that effectively cuts the annual fee in half.

Southwest has joined other airlines by offering a 20% statement credit when you use the card for in-flight drinks, messaging, movies and Wi-Fi. Plus, each card anniversary year, you’ll be reimbursed when you buy up to four passes for boarding positions A1 through A15 — however, these passes can only be purchased at the departure gate or ticket counter on the day of travel, when available.

  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Purchase protection
  • 4 upgraded boardings annually when available
  • $75 annual travel credit
  • Anniversary points bonus
  • Travel and emergency assistance
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card offers the following sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 3X points on dining purchases for the first year.

For the ongoing rewards rate: Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. In addition, there is a $75 annual travel credit available with this card.

The annual fee is $149.

Every year, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card cardholders will receive 7,500 points on their card anniversary.

This card also allows you to earn 1,500 tier qualifying points (TQPs) for every $10,000 you spend on the card, up to $100,000 for 15,000 TQP. These TQPs help you qualify for Rapid Rewards A-List or A-List Preferred status. You earn A-List status after flying 25 one-way trips or 35,000 tier qualifying points, or A-List Preferred after 50 one-way trips or 70,000 tier qualifying points in a calendar year.

If you are a loyal traveler on the airline and want a card with a few more benefits than what’s offered by the other two Southwest consumer cards, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is a good fit. Plus, with the annual $75 travel credit, that effectively cuts the annual fee in half.

Southwest has joined other airlines by offering a 20% statement credit when you use the card for in-flight drinks, messaging, movies and Wi-Fi. Plus, each card anniversary year, you’ll be reimbursed when you buy up to four passes for boarding positions A1 through A15 — however, these passes can only be purchased at the departure gate or ticket counter on the day of travel, when available.

  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Purchase protection
  • 4 upgraded boardings annually when available
  • $75 annual travel credit
  • Anniversary points bonus
  • Travel and emergency assistance
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver

Best For Intermittent Southwest flyers

Southwest Rapid Rewards<sup>®</sup> Premier Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Apply Now
on Chase's secure site
Introductory APR N/A
Annual Fee $99
Regular Purchase APR 15.99% - 22.99% Variable

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card offers the following sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 3X points on dining purchases for the first year.

For the ongoing rewards rate: Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. In addition, there is also a $75 annual travel credit available with this card.

The annual fee is $99.

Every year, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card cardholders will receive 6,000 points on their card anniversary.

This card also allows you to earn 1,500 tier qualifying points (TQPs) for every $10,000 you spend on the card, up to $100,000 for 15,000 TQP. These TQPs help you qualify for Rapid Rewards A-List or A-List Preferred status. You earn A-List status after flying 25 one-way trips or 35,000 tier qualifying points, or A-List Preferred after 50 one-way trips or 70,000 tier qualifying points in a calendar year.

If you want a card that helps you get A-List or A-List Preferred status, gives you extra points for your cardmember anniversary and offers more travel and purchase benefits, this one may be a better option, even with its $99 annual fee.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card lets you earn 1,500 tier qualifying points each time you spend $10,000, with a spending cap of $100,000 a year. Those TPQs count toward elite status on Southwest Airlines, but considering that it takes 35,000 points just to get A-List, you’d have to spend $100,000 a year on the card just to get 15,000 miles — you’re better off flying 25 one-way segments instead to get A-List status. In addition, you earn 6,000 bonus points on your anniversary and you have the chance to earn 10,000 bonus points for each friend who gets the card, up to 50,000 a year.

But you’ll have to ask yourself if these benefits are worth the card’s $99 annual fee, especially since you can get the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card cheaper, thanks to that card’s annual $75 credit. Plus, you don’t get the 20% discount on in-flight purchases with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card.

  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Purchase protection
  • Anniversary points bonus
  • Travel and emergency assistance
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card offers the following sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 3X points on dining purchases for the first year.

For the ongoing rewards rate: Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. In addition, there is also a $75 annual travel credit available with this card.

The annual fee is $99.

Every year, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card cardholders will receive 6,000 points on their card anniversary.

This card also allows you to earn 1,500 tier qualifying points (TQPs) for every $10,000 you spend on the card, up to $100,000 for 15,000 TQP. These TQPs help you qualify for Rapid Rewards A-List or A-List Preferred status. You earn A-List status after flying 25 one-way trips or 35,000 tier qualifying points, or A-List Preferred after 50 one-way trips or 70,000 tier qualifying points in a calendar year.

If you want a card that helps you get A-List or A-List Preferred status, gives you extra points for your cardmember anniversary and offers more travel and purchase benefits, this one may be a better option, even with its $99 annual fee.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card lets you earn 1,500 tier qualifying points each time you spend $10,000, with a spending cap of $100,000 a year. Those TPQs count toward elite status on Southwest Airlines, but considering that it takes 35,000 points just to get A-List, you’d have to spend $100,000 a year on the card just to get 15,000 miles — you’re better off flying 25 one-way segments instead to get A-List status. In addition, you earn 6,000 bonus points on your anniversary and you have the chance to earn 10,000 bonus points for each friend who gets the card, up to 50,000 a year.

But you’ll have to ask yourself if these benefits are worth the card’s $99 annual fee, especially since you can get the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card cheaper, thanks to that card’s annual $75 credit. Plus, you don’t get the 20% discount on in-flight purchases with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card.

  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Purchase protection
  • Anniversary points bonus
  • Travel and emergency assistance
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver

Best For Low annual fee Southwest card

Southwest Rapid Rewards<sup>®</sup> Plus Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Apply Now
on Chase's secure site
Introductory APR N/A
Annual Fee $69
Regular Purchase APR 15.99% - 22.99% Variable

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card offers the following sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 3X points on dining purchases for the first year.

For the ongoing rewards rate: Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. There is no $75 annual travel credit available with this card.

The annual fee is $69.

Every year, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card cardholders will receive 3,000 points on their card anniversary.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is a good choice for a traveler who wants a basic Southwest Airlines-branded card without a lot of bells and whistles.

In exchange for a lower annual fee, you won’t get benefits such as an annual flight credit, the ability to earn tier qualifying points toward A-list status, nor upgraded boarding opportunities or a discount on in-flight purchases.

But given that the signup bonus is the same as the other two consumer cards, you still can squeeze some free flights out of this card for a very reasonable annual fee, and Southwest will top off your rewards with 3,000 bonus points on your card anniversary.

Finally, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card does charge a foreign transaction fee of 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars, which is not included on the other consumer cards.

  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Purchase protection
  • Anniversary points bonus
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Travel emergency assistance

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card offers the following sign-up bonus: Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn 3X points on dining purchases for the first year.

For the ongoing rewards rate: Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases. Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. There is no $75 annual travel credit available with this card.

The annual fee is $69.

Every year, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card cardholders will receive 3,000 points on their card anniversary.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is a good choice for a traveler who wants a basic Southwest Airlines-branded card without a lot of bells and whistles.

In exchange for a lower annual fee, you won’t get benefits such as an annual flight credit, the ability to earn tier qualifying points toward A-list status, nor upgraded boarding opportunities or a discount on in-flight purchases.

But given that the signup bonus is the same as the other two consumer cards, you still can squeeze some free flights out of this card for a very reasonable annual fee, and Southwest will top off your rewards with 3,000 bonus points on your card anniversary.

Finally, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card does charge a foreign transaction fee of 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars, which is not included on the other consumer cards.

  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Purchase protection
  • Anniversary points bonus
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Travel emergency assistance

Best For Frequent Southwest business flyers

Southwest Rapid Rewards<sup>®</sup> Performance Business Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

Apply Now
on Chase's secure site
Introductory APR N/A
Annual Fee $199
Regular Purchase APR 15.99% - 22.99% Variable

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card offers the following sign-up bonus: Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

For the ongoing rewards rate: Earn 3 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases. 2 points per $1 spent on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable, and phone services. 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. There is no $75 annual travel credit available with this card.

The annual fee is $199.

Every year, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card cardholders will receive 9,000 points on their card anniversary.

Employee cards are free, plus cardholders get up to 365 in-flight WiFi credits annually.

If you’re a business owner looking to earn and redeem airline Southwest miles on business travel, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card should be on your radar.

In addition to the card’s a generous sign-up bonus, you’ll get four upgraded boardings per year (when available), up to a $100 statement credit every four years for Global Entry or TSA Precheck application and you can earn TQPs toward A-list status.

Keep in mind that the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card charges an annual fee of $199. However, the value you can get from the card’s annual bonus and rewards rate can help offset that amount each year.

  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Purchase protection
  • Anniversary points bonus
  • Travel and emergency assistance
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card offers the following sign-up bonus: Earn 80,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.

For the ongoing rewards rate: Earn 3 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases. 2 points per $1 spent on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable, and phone services. 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. There is no $75 annual travel credit available with this card.

The annual fee is $199.

Every year, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card cardholders will receive 9,000 points on their card anniversary.

Employee cards are free, plus cardholders get up to 365 in-flight WiFi credits annually.

If you’re a business owner looking to earn and redeem airline Southwest miles on business travel, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card should be on your radar.

In addition to the card’s a generous sign-up bonus, you’ll get four upgraded boardings per year (when available), up to a $100 statement credit every four years for Global Entry or TSA Precheck application and you can earn TQPs toward A-list status.

Keep in mind that the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card charges an annual fee of $199. However, the value you can get from the card’s annual bonus and rewards rate can help offset that amount each year.

  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Purchase protection
  • Anniversary points bonus
  • Travel and emergency assistance
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver

Best For Low annual fee Southwest business card

Southwest Rapid Rewards<sup>®</sup> Premier Business Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

Apply Now
on Chase's secure site
Introductory APR N/A
Annual Fee $99
Regular Purchase APR 15.99% - 22.99% Variable

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card offers the following sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

For the ongoing rewards rate: Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases. 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. There is no $75 annual travel credit available with this card.

The annual fee is $99.

Every year, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card cardholders will receive 6,000 points on their card anniversary.

Employee cards are free.

The  Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card is designed to reward businesses that use it to pay for company spending.

Like the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card allows you to earn 1,500 TQPs that help you earn A-List or A-List Preferred elite status on Southwest Airlines, but what you won’t get with this card is the Wi-Fi credits, the higher rewards rate on business expenses in select categories, the statement credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck or the upgraded boarding opportunity.

  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Purchase protection
  • Anniversary points bonus
  • Travel and emergency assistance
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card offers the following sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 points after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

For the ongoing rewards rate: Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® Hotel and Car Rental Partner purchases. 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. There is no $75 annual travel credit available with this card.

The annual fee is $99.

Every year, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card cardholders will receive 6,000 points on their card anniversary.

Employee cards are free.

The  Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card is designed to reward businesses that use it to pay for company spending.

Like the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card allows you to earn 1,500 TQPs that help you earn A-List or A-List Preferred elite status on Southwest Airlines, but what you won’t get with this card is the Wi-Fi credits, the higher rewards rate on business expenses in select categories, the statement credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck or the upgraded boarding opportunity.

  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Baggage delay insurance
  • Extended warranty protection
  • Purchase protection
  • Anniversary points bonus
  • Travel and emergency assistance
  • Travel accident insurance
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver

The bottom line

Know that there are other airline- and travel-branded cards that offer more points per $1 spent in top categories like gas, dining and groceries, better airline-related benefits, and have more lucrative travel and purchase benefits than the Southwest Airline cards.

However, Southwest has a strong route network that’s mainly U.S.-based, so as long as you’re traveling to the cities it serves, it’s all good. But it’ll cost you if you want to use your Rapid Rewards® points to take that dream trip to Europe, because of the lower point values on the More Rewards website.

If you are a loyal Southwest Airlines flyer and are OK with the carrier’s North American route network, fewer points per $1 spent outside of flights and limited benefits, then you should choose one of these cards.

But if you want to earn more points per $1 spent on dining, gas, groceries and an expanded definition of travel (including things like hotels, homeshares, rideshares and parking), along with more benefits, then you may want to target travel-branded personal or business credit cards.

Benét J. Wilson

Benét is the founder and editor-in-chief of Aviation Queen LLC, a freelance writing business. She has written extensively about the airline/airports and travel industries for more than 25 years. She has a journalism degree from American University in Washington, D.C.

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The above offers and/or promotions may have since changed, expired, or is no longer available. Check the Issuers’ website for more details.