Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card (Review)

The Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card is one of my favorite rewards credit cards. Actually, there are several Southwest branded cards offered by Chase, but this review is focused on the one called the “Premier” card.

To fully appreciate the value of this card, it’s necessary to understand how the Southwest Rapid Rewards program works. Unlike most frequent flyer programs, which charge a fixed number of miles for a round trip flight (e.g. 25,000 miles for a round trip domestic flight), Southwest does things a bit differently.

With Southwest Rapid Rewards, the number of points you need is tied directly to the cost of the ticket. This is important, because Southwest often runs some incredible fare sales, and during their fare sales, the number of points required for a rewards flight also goes down.

A good rule of thumb is that for Southwest’s “Wanna Get Away” fares, it takes approximately 55 points per dollar of the ticket fare. So a $200 ticket would require 11,000 points (200 x 55).  (The exact number of points per dollar can vary due to the effect of government fees, which vary from one airport to another, but using 55 points per dollar will get you close.)

Let’s look at an example. A typical Southwest round trip “Wanna Get Away” fare from Nashville to Chicago might be $225, which would require about 12,375 points (225 x 55). But during one of Southwest’s sales, that same round trip is often only $98, which requires only 5,390 points (98 x 55).

When you compare that to the 25,000 points (or miles) that would be required when redeeming a rewards flight on American, Delta, or United, you begin to see the value of the Southwest Rapid Rewards program.

Another good thing about Southwest Rapid Rewards is that Southwest doesn’t limit the number of reward seats available. If there’s a seat available on the flight, you can get it, regardless of whether you are using points or dollars. That’s a refreshing change compared to the limited number of rewards seats available on most airlines.

Now back to the review of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card. One of the best things about this card is that you get a generous new member bonus when you meet some modest initial spending requirements.

The standard deal is that you get 25,000 bonus points when you meet their spending requirements (usually $1,000 in purchases during the first 3 month of card membership.) But a couple of times a year, Chase and Southwest run a promotion in which you get 50,000 bonus points as a new card member. (The spending requirement is usually a little higher, such as $2,000 in the first 3 months.)

When you do the math, 25,000 bonus points equals over $450 in Southwest fares, and the 50,000 bonus points equals over $900 in Southwest fares.

The card carries a $99 annual fee (which is NOT waived the first year), but when I can get $900 in airfare for $99, I’ll take that deal all day long. (By the way, each year on your anniversary date, you get 6,000 bonus points, which equates to over $100 in airfare, so that covers the cost of the annual fee.)

In addition to the bonus points, you also get 1 point per dollar spent in purchases on the card. (2 points per dollar spent on Southwest purchases), so if you use this as your main credit card, it’s pretty easy to build up a lot of Southwest points.

As I said at the beginning of this review, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card is one of my favorite rewards credit cards. If you enjoy traveling (and if your home airport is served by Southwest), then I highly recommend this card.