Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card review: Plenty of upgrades for loyal flyers

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In a Nutshell

There are a number of Southwest Airlines credit cards available to consumers, but the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is aimed right at Southwest loyalists. The card gives Southwest flyers the ability to earn points toward A-List elite status and rewards long-term cardholders with an annual point bonus and $75 travel credit. But not everyone will use enough benefits to justify the $149 annual fee.

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Pros

Cons

No blackout dates for flight redemptions Costly annual fee
Four boarding group upgrades per year, when available Only right for frequent Southwest Airlines travelers, as others may not take full advantage of the card’s benefits
Annual point bonus and Southwest travel credit
Ability to earn points toward A-List status
Generous sign-up bonus available

 

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The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is loaded with features for frequent flyers

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card has numerous features aimed at Southwest flyers chasing the airline’s A-List status. The card also offers the chance for all flyers to earn extra miles and flight credits annually.

Here’s a quick look at the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card’s most standout features — and one notable drawback.

4 upgraded boardings per year

Unlike travelers on many airlines, Southwest flyers only get to pick their seats once they’re already on the plane. If you board late, you may get stuck in a middle seat or be forced to sit apart from your traveling companion. Worse yet, there might not be any room for your carry-on bag in the overhead bins.

Thankfully, when you use the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, you will receive a statement credit for the purchase of up to four upgraded boardings each account anniversary year. The upgrade allows you to board in positions A1 to A15 — the airline’s top boarding group. You can purchase an upgraded boarding at the departure gate or ticket counter on the day of travel only, when available.

Earn tier qualifying points toward A-List status

A-List status is Southwest’s version of airline elite status, with benefits including priority boarding and check-in. Traditionally, this status is earned by accruing 35,000 tier qualifying points or flying 25 qualifying one-way Southwest flights in a calendar year.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card gives frequent Southwest flyers a way to speed up the A-List qualification process: Cardholders earn 1,500 tier qualifying points for every $10,000 in purchases, up to $100,000 in purchases annually. If you make up to $100,000 in purchases annually, you could earn a nice boost of up to 15,000 points toward A-List status.

$75 travel credit and 7,500 bonus Rapid Rewards® points per year

Cardholders get two annual benefits: a $75 Southwest annual travel credit and 7,500 bonus Rapid Rewards® points, which are awarded each cardholder account anniversary.

When you use your Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card for purchases (excluding upgraded boardings and in-flight purchases) the travel credit will be automatically applied to your account, and the 7,500 bonus points can be redeemed like any other Rapid Rewards® points.

The sign-up bonus brings real value

If you don’t like to wait for perks, you’ll probably want to take advantage of the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card’s sign-up bonus. You can earn 40,000 bonus points once you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

Only earns one point per $1 spent on most purchases

Unfortunately, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card has limited point-earning potential. The card earns two Rapid Rewards® points per $1 spent on purchases made directly with Southwest Airlines and at participating Rapid Rewards® hotel and rental car partners, and one point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Some other travel credit cards offer a points-earning multiplier on specific bonus categories of purchases, not just on purchases with specific airlines or hotels. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers the same two points per $1 spent on all travel and dining purchases. Earning at that two-times rate on more purchases can yield a meaningful number of points, depending on your spending habits.

What else you need to know about the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card has additional features worth mentioning for Southwest loyalists. Here’s a quick look:

  • There’s no foreign transaction fee, so you can use your credit card abroad without worrying about the 1% to 3% fee that some other cards charge.
  • The card offers a 20% statement credit on in-flight purchases of drinks and Wi-Fi.

Understanding your points and redemption options

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card earns Southwest Rapid Rewards® points that can be used for a variety of redemption possibilities. The card earns two Rapid Rewards® points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases as well as purchases made through the airline’s car rental and hotel booking partners, and one Rapid Rewards® point per $1 spent on other purchases.

As with many airline rewards programs, your Rapid Rewards® points can be used to buy flight tickets. Because the prices of airline tickets fluctuate, the value of Southwest Rapid Rewards® points also varies.

However, the good news is that you can use these points for any Southwest-operated flight. This means you won’t need to adjust your plans — just book the flight you want with no blackout dates.

You can redeem Southwest Rapid Rewards® points for hotels, car rentals and gift cards — but at a less favorable rate. Gift card redemptions generally hover around 1 cent per mile and should be treated as a last-ditch option for redeeming points.

Who is this card good for?

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is great for frequent Southwest flyers. Having the ability to earn points toward A-List status means that you can earn this status more quickly with less flying. Additionally, the statement credit for four upgraded boardings makes it easy for Southwest flyers to secure a better seat and overhead storage space on their way toward A-List status.

However, this card isn’t our top pick for less-frequent travelers. If you only fly Southwest once or twice a year, the upgraded boardings benefit may go to waste. Likewise, the ability to earn extra points toward A-List status is only a worthwhile benefit if you’re already chasing Southwest elite status.

Not sure this is the card for you? Consider these alternatives.