Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card vs. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card: Which one is best for you?

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In a Nutshell

Southwest fans enjoy wide-ranging perks and benefits with both the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. But we think that those who get the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card have a little more to rejoice about.
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At a glance: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card vs. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
Annual fee $69 $99
Sign-up bonus Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus three points for every dollar spent on dining purchases — including takeout and eligible delivery services — for the first year (one point per $1 spent after that) Earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Plus three points for every dollar spent on dining purchases — including takeout and eligible delivery services — for the first year (one point per $1 spent after that)
Anniversary points 3,000 bonus points after your card member anniversary 6,000 bonus points after your card member anniversary
Point value Two points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases (one point per $1 spent on all other purchases) Two points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases (one point per $1 spent on all other purchases)
Variable APR for purchases and balance transfers 15.99% - 22.99% 15.99% - 22.99%
What else you should know

Points don’t expire as long as your account is open, and there are no blackout dates when booking with points

Foreign transaction fee of 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars

Points don’t expire as long as your account is open, and there are no blackout dates when booking with points

$0 foreign transaction fee

Spending with this card helps you rack up Tier Qualifying Points to get you to A-List status, which grants you priority boarding and check-in, a 25% earning bonus and complimentary same-day stand-by, and you’ll earn 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points for every $10,000 in eligible net purchases on the card


With more airlines charging passengers for carry-on bags now, Southwest is becoming a rare find among domestic carriers — as the airline allows travelers to bring not one but two free checked pieces of luggage.

Aside from the airline’s generous baggage policy, there’s a lot to love about Southwest Airlines®, especially its Rapid Rewards® credit cards.

Cobranded by Chase, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card are geared toward loyal Southwest fans who are savvy points collectors.

Both cards also come loaded with great perks. Here are some of our favorites.

  • Earn two points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases
  • Hefty sign-up bonuses
  • Flexible point-redemption programs
  • Comprehensive travel protection benefits such as auto rental collision damage waivers, travel accident insurance and lost baggage reimbursement
  • A faster path to the Companion Pass, which allows cardholders to travel with a friend for free if they have earned 125,000 points or made at least 100 one-way trips through Southwest Airlines in a calendar year. (The benefit does not include taxes and fees, which start at $5.60 one-way. Once you earn a Companion Pass with points, it will last for the remainder of the year in which you earned it and the following full calendar year.)

While we’re impressed by both cards, we do think one has a slight advantage over the other — the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card.


  1. The winner: Why we prefer the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
  2. Counterpoint: Why you might want the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card instead
  3. Heads up: What to consider when applying for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card
  4. Bottom line: Is the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card right for you?

The winner: Why we prefer the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

These two cards share several of the same benefits, such as nonexpiring points and a significant sign-up bonus. But there are a few factors that we think make the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card a better choice.

Better anniversary reward

Although the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card’s annual fee is $30 more than the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, you get 3,000 additional Rapid Rewards® points after your card member anniversary.

“If this is a card you intend to hold for the long-term, it seems paying the extra $30 per year for the Premier would be worth it,” says Brad Barrett, certified public accountant and travel rewards coach at RichmondSavers and TravelMiles101.

No foreign transaction fee

Southwest has limited international options, as most destinations are only located in the Caribbean, with a few flights that go to Mexico, Costa Rica and Cuba.

However, if you do find yourself in Turks and Caicos or one of the several other international destinations that Southwest flies to, you can enjoy no foreign transaction fees with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card.

Otherwise, if you’re a holder of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, you’re subject to a 3% foreign transaction fee on purchases made outside the U.S.

Easier path to A-list status

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card offers a more straightforward way to get to A-List status — a program that offers great rewards that include priority status on boarding, check-in and security; 25% more points on every flight purchased through Southwest; and free same-day standby.

In general, Southwest flyers can earn A-List status in two ways.

  1. Flying 25 one-way trips on Southwest in a year (including stops and connections).
  2. Earning 35,000 Tier Qualifying Points per calendar year.

And there are only two ways to earn Tier Qualifying Points.

  1. Purchasing a revenue flight through Southwest.
  2. Using the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card or the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card.

With the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, you can earn 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points for every $10,000 in purchases you make with the cards (and you can earn up to 15,000 points per year). So, each time you spend, you’re working toward A-List status — something you can’t do with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card.

Pair the qualifying points you earn with your card with the points you earn by booking Southwest flights, and you’re well on your way.

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Counterpoint: Why you might want the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card instead

Everyone has different travel and spending lifestyles, and it’s important to choose a card that matches your budget and habits.

Although the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card comes with double the anniversary points, a streamlined way to reach A-List status and no foreign transaction fees, these perks might not be necessary for everyone.

Depending on how often you travel and what your preferred destinations are, you might be better off with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card. Here are a few reasons why.

Lower annual fee

If the $99 annual fee for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card doesn’t seem worth it, then you may find yourself happier with the lower $69 annual fee of Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card.

“For people who may earn significant points through their normal spending, maybe they don’t judge the extra 3,000 miles to be worth paying $30 for,” Barrett says.

Foreign transaction fee doesn’t matter if you don’t travel abroad

Sure, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card may carry a 3% foreign transaction fee, but if you rarely travel abroad, this might not matter. And you may be better off pocketing the extra $30 you don’t spend on the annual fee each year.

Companion Pass still available

With the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, you can still take advantage of the Companion Pass. It allows you to bring along a friend for only the cost of taxes and fees (from $5.60 one-way) every time you buy a ticket or cash in points for a Southwest flight. You typically qualify for the Companion Pass by earning 125,000 qualifying points or by flying 100 qualifying one-way flights booked via Southwest Airlines in a calendar year.

Remember, the Companion Pass only lasts for the remainder of the year you earned it and the following calendar year.

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Heads up: What to consider when applying for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

For those tempted by the allure of A-List status, there are a few caveats to keep in mind.

Though the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card’s 1,500-point deal for every $10,000 spent may sound good on paper, you’re only allowed to rack up 15,000 points a year. And that makes it slightly challenging to achieve A-List status, which requires members to earn 35,000 Tier Qualifying Points in a calendar year in order to make the cut.

If you want to reach A-List status, you’ll need to pair the points you earn with your card with points you earn through booking Southwest flights. So it’s important to understand Southwest’s Tier Qualifying Point system, which is designed to benefit big spenders.

Southwest flights carry specific point values.

  • Business Select® Fare: Earn 12 points per $1 spent
  • Anytime Fare: Earn 10 points per $1 spent
  • Wanna Get Away® Fare: Earn six points per $1 spent

While selecting a Business Select® Fare or Anytime Fare flight can get you more qualifying points, they are on the pricier side. So when considering point value versus budget, these are critical factors to keep in mind.


Bottom line: Is the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card right for you?

Although there are only a few differences between the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, we think the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card offers more bang for your buck.

You’ll earn double your anniversary points, get a leg up working toward A-List status and never have to worry about pesky foreign transaction fees.

Overall, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is better for people with plans to travel internationally and who are strategic about collecting and redeeming rewards points. Qualifying for A-List status doesn’t hurt either.


At a glance: Other rewards cards to consider

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card 100,000 points after spending $4,000 within 3 months of account opening
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card Free checked bag on Alaska flights for you and up to six of your travel buddies on the same reservation
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card Annual fee of $0 intro, $99 after first year

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

From cardholders in the last year

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card , you can earn a 100,000-point sign-up bonus after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening. Also, using your card for travel and dining at restaurants earns you two points per $1 spent, and you’ll get one point per $1 spent on other purchases.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card

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With the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card , you’ll earn unlimited three miles for every $1 spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases and one mile per $1 spent on all other purchases. Travelers on a budget will appreciate the card’s reasonable $75 annual fee. And foreign transaction fees? None.

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card cardholders receive 40,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening — plus, you can earn up to $50 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your new card within the first three months of membership.


About the author: Julie Morse is a freelance content strategist, journalist and researcher. She believes that financial literacy is the key to successful money management, and has written articles on inve… Read more.