Southwest Premier credit card review


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Our quick take: The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card is Southwest’s mid-tier credit card, and earns both Southwest points for award flights as well as points that can help you qualify for the airline’s A-List or A-List Preferred elite status.

Pros:

  • Earn 3 points for every dollar you spend on Southwest Airlines purchases, 2 points on local transit and commuting (including ride-shares), internet, cable, phone services and select streaming services, hotels and car rentals booked through the Rapid Rewards travel site and 1 point for all other purchases.
  • 6,000 bonus points every year on your card holder anniversary starting with the second year you have the card.
  • 25% back on in-flight purchases.
  • Two EarlyBird Check-In credits per year.
  • Earn tier-qualifying points towards A-List elite status.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

Cons:

  • Not as many travel protection benefits as other Chase credit cards.
  • No introductory rate on purchases or balance transfers.
  • $99 annual fee.

Current sign-up bonus: Earn up to 100,000 bonus points — 50,000 after spending $2,000 within the first three months after opening the account, plus another 50,000 points after spending $12,000 total within the first 12 months.

Best for: Southwest flyers who want a credit card with no foreign transaction fees and the opportunity to earn tier-qualifying points towards Southwest’s A-List elite status.

See if you qualify for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier credit card.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card costs just $99 per year, making it the mid-tier option within the airline’s family of credit cards. With a sub-$100 annual fee, it’s easy to try out the card to see if it works for your family.

While the card costs $30 more a year then the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card (which has a $69 annual fee), it’s fairly easy to offset that extra cost. That’s because starting with the second year you have the Southwest Premier card and every year thereafter, you’ll earn 6,000 bonus points on your card holder anniversary. Those 6,000 points are worth $84 when redeemed for the airline’s “Wanna Get Away” fares, which effectively offsets almost the entire annual fee each year.

You’ll also earn more points on Southwest travel spend with the Southwest Premier card, along with the opportunity to earn qualifying points toward A-List elite status and no foreign transaction fees. Unfortunately though, you’ll be missing out on many of the benefits that come along with the more expensive Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card, such as travel statement credits, upgraded boarding and a discount on inflight drinks and Wi-Fi.

But the real benefit of the Southwest Premier card — and all Southwest credit cards — is that the points earned from the sign-up bonus, along with all your regular spending on the card, count toward the amazing Southwest Companion Pass. With this pass, a friend or family member can fly with you for free (plus taxes and fees) an unlimited number of times. Think of it as a buy-one-get-one deal, which could save you thousands of dollars during the length of the pass (which expires on Dec. 31 the year after the pass is earned).

That makes the Southwest Premier card a great choice if your sole purpose is to try to earn the Southwest Companion Pass. That’s because the card is currently offering new card holders up to 100,000 bonus points — 50,000 after spending $2,000 within the first three months after opening the account, plus another 50,000 points after spending $12,000 total within the first 12 months. That’s the highest sign-up bonus offer we’ve ever seen on this card.

You typically need 125,000 points in a calendar year to earn a Southwest Companion Pass, so after earning the sign-up bonus on the Southwest Premier, you can earn the remaining Companion Pass-qualifying points with the everyday purchases you make on the card, as well as Southwest flights and partner activity, such as purchases made through the Southwest Rapid Rewards shopping portal, car rentals and hotel stays.

Earn a Southwest Companion Pass with the help of the Southwest Premier credit card.

Points earned on the Southwest Premier card never expire, and you’ll never have to worry about blackout dates or seat restrictions when redeeming your points. That’s because the number of points required for a free flight on Southwest is directly tied to the cash cost of the ticket, so a low-priced ticket means a lower number of points required for the seat. Southwest also doesn’t charge any change or cancellation fees when altering a ticket booked with points, so if your plans change, it’s easy to get your points back for free.

Southwest

You don’t have to pay any change or cancellation fees when booking Southwest flights with points.

Additionally, all purchases you make with the Southwest Premier card can help you earn A-List or A-List Preferred elite status on Southwest. With every $10,000 in purchases on the card, you’ll earn 1,500 tier qualifying points (TQPs). Thanks to a recent enhancement, there’s no longer any limit to the number of qualifying points you can earn this way, which means you can theoretically earn Southwest elite status solely by using your Southwest Premier credit card.

To earn A-List status, you need to earn 35,000 TQPs in a calendar year, while A-List Preferred requires 70,000 TQPs. While we don’t recommend putting that much spending on your credit card solely to earn status, this is a great way to combine points earned from flying with points earned with your credit card.

The Southwest Premier card also now comes with two EarlyBird Check-In credits per year. With EarlyBird Check-In, Southwest will automatically check you into your flight prior to the traditional 24-hour check-in window. Since Southwest doesn’t offer assigned seats but instead awards boarding positions based on the earliest check in time, you’ll end up having a better boarding position and the opportunity to select your preferred seat with EarlyBird Check-In.

Normally, EarlyBird Check-In is an add-on option that typically costs between $15 and $25 each way, so if you take advantage of the two credits on the Southwest Premier card, you could save as much as an additional $50 each year.

Other perks of having the Southwest Premier card include 25% back on in-flight purchases, shopping protection benefits and no foreign transaction fees.

Get EarlyBird Check-In credits with the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier credit card.

The Southwest Premier card isn’t great when it comes to bonus categories. While it now earns 3 points for every dollar you spend on Southwest and 2 points per dollar on select other purchases, most of your everyday purchases will still only earn 1 point per dollar.

Since Southwest points are generally worth 1.4 cents apiece when redeemed for the carrier’s Wanna Get Away fares, that means you’re only earning an effective 1.4% return on most of your purchases. That’s less than CNN Underscored’s benchmark credit card, the Citi® Double Cash Card, which earns 2% cash back on all purchases — 1% when you make a purchase, and another 1% when you pay it off — and doesn’t charge an annual fee.

Even other travel cards can earn a better return. For instance, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns 3 points per dollar on dining and select online grocery purchases, and 2 points per dollar on all travel purchases (or 5 points per dollar if purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards). You then have the flexibility to transfer your Chase points to Southwest at a 1-to-1 ratio, or to one of the other 13 airline and hotel partner loyalty programs.

Another downside of the Southwest Premier is that you won’t get the same travel protection benefits that come with many other Chase credit cards. While the Southwest Premier offers car rental collision insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, baggage delay insurance and travel accident insurance, it doesn’t offer some of the better benefits, such as trip cancellation and interruption insurance as well as trip delay insurance. Additionally, the car rental insurance is secondary to your personal car rental insurance, while other cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, offer primary car rental insurance.

Related: Having a credit card with trip insurance could save you thousands on your next vacation.

Also, keep in mind that there are several restrictions when applying for Southwest credit cards. With all three Southwest personal credit cards — the Plus, Premier and Priority — you’re only eligible to get the card if you don’t already have another personal Southwest credit card, and haven’t received a sign-up bonus on any of the three cards within the past 24 months. And with all Chase cards, you won’t get approved if you’ve opened 5 or more credit cards across all banks in the last 24 months (also known as Chase’s “5/24” rule).

Within the Southwest family, there are actually five different credit cards — three personal and two business cards — so there’s four other Southwest cards to consider.

On the personal side, the Southwest Plus card has slightly fewer benefits than the Southwest Premier but a lower annual fee. The anniversary bonus points on the Southwest Premier can make up for the difference in cost, but only if you keep the card for at least a few years.

Or, if you’re a Southwest frequent flyer who’s looking for a card with lots of benefits, then you’ll want to consider the Southwest Priority card. The earning rates on the Southwest Priority are the same as the Southwest Premier, but you’ll get a $75 Southwest annual travel credit, four upgraded boardings per year and 7,500 bonus points (worth $105 toward Wanna Get Away fares) on every card holder anniversary starting with the second year you have the card.

Finally, if you’re looking for a card that provides more flexibility but still offers the opportunity to redeem points on Southwest, you might want to consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve®. Points from both cards transfer to Southwest, along with many other travel partners, such as JetBlue, United and Hyatt, at a 1-to-1 ratio. But keep in mind that points earned on these two cards won’t count towards the Southwest Companion Pass like they do on Southwest credit cards.

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The Southwest Premier card is generally a better long-term value than the cheaper Southwest Plus card.

If you’re looking for a Southwest card solely to earn the Southwest Companion Pass — and you don’t need a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees — then you might consider the Southwest Plus card instead of the Southwest Premier, since it’s cheaper and currently comes with the same sign-up bonus. And if you want a card with additional perks when you’re flying on Southwest, the Southwest Priority is the way to go.

But if you fly Southwest just a few times per year and don’t need all of the benefits that come along with the Priority card, but you also want a Southwest card that can help you earn elite status and doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees when you’re traveling overseas, then the Southwest Premier card is definitely one to consider.

Learn more about the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier credit card.

Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best credit cards of 2021.

Get all the latest personal finance deals, news and advice at CNN Underscored Money.





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Written by Bourbiza Mohamed

A technology enthusiast and a passionate writer in the field of information technology, cyber security, and blockchain

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