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Southwest unveils premium airline credit card

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Southwest Airlines is launching a new premium airline credit card.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, issued by Chase, features a whopping limited-time 65,000-point sign-up bonus, but you won’t qualify for the entire bonus unless you spend a total of $15,000 on the card during the first year the account is open. You’ll earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening and an additional 25,000 points after you’ve spent a total of $15,000 within your first year.

Additional benefits include up to four upgraded boardings per year (when available) and a $75 annual Southwest travel credit.

Why we like it

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card could put you ahead of the game when it comes to earning a Southwest Airlines® Companion Pass.

When you fly Southwest, Companion Pass allows you to take one designated guest to fly with you for next to nothing. Their ticket will be free, but you’ll have to pay taxes and fees, starting at $5.60 for one-way flights. You can use the Companion Pass as often as you fly for the remainder of the year in which you earn it, and the entire calendar year after that.

To qualify, you’ll need to earn 110,000 Companion Pass–qualifying points in a calendar year (or fly 100 qualifying one-way flights in a calendar year on Southwest).

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card sign-up bonus offers a chance to earn 65,000 Rapid Rewards® points, which is already more than half the points you’ll need to earn the Companion Pass. Just note that the sign-up bonus is split into two parts.

  • You’ll earn 40,000 points after spending $1,000 on purchases during the first three months after opening the account
  • Then, you’ll earn another 25,000 points after you’ve spent $15,000 total in your first year

The card also offers two points for every $1 spent on Southwest Airlines, and on hotels and rental cars booked through Southwest Rapid Rewards® partners. You’ll earn one point per $1 on all other purchases. So if you spend enough in your first year to qualify for the entire sign-up bonus, that’s a minimum of 15,000 additional points earned on purchases — which means you’ll have 80,000 points toward qualifying for the Companion Pass.

In addition to getting you closer to Companion Pass, here are a few other features we like about Southwest’s latest offering.

  • You’ll earn 7,500 bonus points each year after your account anniversary
  • Beyond the points, you’ll also receive a $75 Southwest annual travel credit
  • You could score up to four upgraded boardings per year, when available — an appealing perk for Southwest® flights, where travelers are assigned boarding groups when they check in
  • And if you make in-flight purchases for things like Wi-Fi, movies or drinks, you’ll get 20% back

What to watch out for

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card may be great for domestic travelers, but Southwest doesn’t operate many international flights (other than to the Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America). So accumulating all the Southwest Rapid Rewards® points in the world won’t do you any good if you want to earn points to use toward a trip to Europe or Asia.

Here are a few other things to watch out for.

  • The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card comes with a $149 annual fee
  • The first-year spend to earn the full 65,000-point sign-up bonus is $15,000 — that comes out to $1,250 per month (while doable for some cardholders, it may be out of reach for others)
  • The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card doesn’t offer some of the perks that come with some other premium travel cards, like credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®, or complimentary airport lounge access

About the author: Tim Devaney is a personal finance writer and credit card expert at Credit Karma. He’s a longtime journalist who prides himself on being a good storyteller who can explain complex information in an easily digestible wa… Read more.