Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card Review

The information related to the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card has been collected by Money Crashers and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is a travel rewards credit card with a $69 annual fee and a rewards program that favors frequent Southwest Airlines travelers. Its perks aren’t as luxurious as those of some competing travel cards, but its solid benefit lineup is nevertheless useful for cardholders who fly Southwest regularly – particularly those in the air often enough to qualify for Companion Pass status.

If you live near a Southwest hub and need a no-frills airline credit card, the Southwest Airline Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card is worth a closer look.

Key Features of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

These are the most important features of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card.

Sign-up Bonus

For a limited time, earn 50,000 Rapid Rewards points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months after your account opening date.

Earning Rapid Rewards Points

This card earns unlimited 2 Rapid Rewards points per $1 spent on direct Southwest Airlines purchases. These include purchases of airfare, vacation packages, in-flight entertainment, in-flight refreshments, and other incidentals, as long as they’re made directly with the airline and not through a third-party booking site such as Expedia.

Several other purchase categories earn 2 points per $1 spent:

  • Purchases with hotel and rental car partners, including Hertz and Marriott Bonvoy
  • Transit and local commuting purchases, including rideshare
  • Internet, cable, and phone services, and select streaming purchases

All other purchases earn an unlimited 1 Rapid Rewards point per $1 spent. As long as your account remains open and in good standing, your points never expire.

Redeeming Rapid Rewards Points

Rapid Rewards points can be redeemed for free Southwest Airlines flights, with no blackout dates or seat restrictions.

What Is the Minimum Redemption for Rapid Rewards Points?

Redemption amounts vary according to the posted dollar value of flights, which can vary by flight time, season, date and day of the week, destination, distance, and other factors. However, redemptions always require at least 5,000 Rapid Rewards points for one-way flights and 10,000 for round-trip flights.

What Is the Redemption Value for Rapid Rewards Points?

Points are reliably worth at least $0.015 and can be worth up to $0.02 apiece for certain flights. In general, short-haul flights offer better value, though this is not a hard and fast rule. Moreover, the number of points required to redeem a particular flight frequently vary – sometimes daily.

What Else Can You Redeem For and Is It Worth It?

If you don’t want to redeem for flights, you can also redeem for merchandise, experiences (such as music shows), rental cars, and gift cards, through Southwest More Rewards.

However, More Rewards usually values points at well under $0.01 apiece. More Rewards also works with more than 50 international airlines and a number of hotel chains to allow Rapid Rewards redemptions on more than 800 international flight routes and at approximately 70,000 hotels worldwide.

Redemption minimums and point values vary by airline and hotel, but are typically lower than what’s possible with Southwest redemptions.

Cardmember Anniversary Bonus

Every year your account remains open and in good standing, you get a 3,000-point bonus on your cardmember anniversary.

10,000 Companion Pass Boost Points Toward Companion Pass Status

Each year you remain a cardholder in good standing, you get 10,000 “boost points” (also known as Tier Qualifying Points) toward Companion Pass status. Boost points are Rapid Rewards points earned through cash fare and credit card purchases, but not sign-up bonuses or partner purchases.

What Is Companion Pass Status?

Companion Pass status is the highest status level within Southwest Airlines’ frequent flyer program. It’s available to travelers who accumulate at least 110,000 Tier Qualifying Points or complete at least 100 one-way Southwest Airlines segments in a calendar year.

What Do You Get With Companion Pass?

Companion Pass status bestows the right to bring a companion traveler on any Southwest flight at no additional fare charge, though taxes and security fees do still apply. This benefit can be invoked as many times as you wish, though cardholders cannot travel with more than one companion per flight.

How Long Does Companion Pass Last?

Companion Pass status becomes active as soon as it’s earned and remains in effect for the entire calendar year. For instance, if you earn Companion Pass status in September, you enjoy it until December 31 of the following year – more than 15 months.

Additional Southwest Travel Benefits

This card’s additoinal Southwest travel benefits include:

  • 2 EarlyBird check-ins each year at no additional cost, making it much more likely you’ll earn a coveted A-slot for boarding
  • 25% off eligible in-flight purchases, including food and beverage
  • Up to 2 free checked bags per flight
  • No change fees

Important Fees

The annual fee is $69, applied to your first statement. The foreign transaction fee is 3% of the total transaction amount. Balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 5%, while cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 5%.

Credit Required

This card requires excellent credit. Check your credit before you apply and look for ways to improve it if you’re not comfortably above the 700 FICO threshold.

Advantages of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

Is the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card right for you? If these selling points speak to you, it just might be.

  • Earn 2x Points on All Southwest Purchases. This card earns double points on all direct Southwest and partner purchases, not just airfare. In-flight entertainment, food and drink, vacation packages, gift cards, hotel nights, rental cars, and more all earn double points. By contrast, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card‘s 3x point benefit applies only to airfare, vacation packages, and cargo shipments, while the United MileagePlus Explorer Card‘s double-point benefit applies only to airfare purchases made directly with the airline.
  • Earn 2x Points on Other Eligible Purchases as Well. This card’s non-Southwest 2x categories are quite broad: Rapid Rewards partner hotels and car rental companies, transit and local commuting, and a slew of entertainment and utility purchases. You can put quite a significant fraction of your total household spend on this card and earn above the 1x baseline.
  • Progress Toward Companion Pass Status. You still have to spend (and earn) pretty aggressively, but you can definitely make significant progress toward Companion Pass status with this card’s 10,000-point boost. That’s enough to make the difference if you’re almost but not quite there at the end of the year.
  • Solid Sign-up Bonus. This card has one of the better sign-up bonuses (especially considering the low spend requirement) in the sub-$100/year price class.
  • Points Never Expire. Accumulated points never expire as long as your account remains open and in good standing. That’s not the case with British Airways Avios, which expire after 36 months.
  • No Change Fees. Southwest Airlines doesn’t impose change fees if you decide to alter your reward flight’s time, date, or even destination after your initial booking. You’re just responsible for the cost difference in dollars or points, if any. This is relatively rare among major airlines, most of which charge $100 to $200 for changes under normal circumstances.
  • First and Second Checked Bag Free. Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus cardholders always get their first and second checked bags free, which is great if you’re taking a longer trip or one that requires lots of luggage (such as a golf or ski outing). That’s better than United’s Explorer and the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard, both of which offer just one free checked bag per ticket.
  • Decent Cardmember Anniversary Bonus. This card’s 3,000-point anniversary bonus isn’t enough to cover the cost of an entire flight segment, but it can certainly push you over the edge if you’re close to having enough points for a free flight.

Disadvantages of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card

These are the biggest downsides of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card. Read carefully to decide whether this really is the right airline credit card for you.

  • Annual Fee Is in Effect From Day One. This card’s $69 annual fee isn’t excessive, but it is in effect from day one. This is a disadvantage relative to many competing cards that waive their respective annual fees in the first year.
  • Budgeting and Planning Ahead for Redemptions Is Difficult. The exact number of Rapid Rewards points needed for a reward flight is subject to change based on an array of factors, including flight time, date, season, and passenger demand. Southwest’s website has a redemption calculator, but it’s not a scientific instrument, so it’s not ideal for long-term planning. You won’t know exactly how many points you need for your next award flight until you book it. For instance, a flight that requires 9,000 points today might require 12,000 tomorrow, or vice versa. By contrast, most other major airline cards, including United MileagePlus Explorer and Delta Gold SkyMiles Credit Card from American Express, have flat redemption rates for specific fare and route classes – for example, 12,500 points for any economy-fare domestic one-way, or 25,000 for a domestic round-trip.
  • Has a Foreign Transaction Fee. This card has a 3% foreign transaction fee. While that’s pretty standard in the credit card world, it’s rare for a travel rewards card – especially one that allows redemptions on international flights. If you travel internationally on a regular basis, look elsewhere.

Final Word

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is a practical travel card that puts less emphasis on luxury perks than on value-added benefits. It’s nice not to have to worry about change fees or checked bag fees, even if you have to hang out in the main gate area while waiting for your flights.

There are plenty of other travel cards out there, of course. But for frequent travelers who live near Southwest hubs, this one should be high on the list.

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