Southwest has 5 credit cards offering big welcome bonuses, perks, and points that count toward the Companion Pass — here's how to decide which is best for you

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Southwest is smaller than the “big three” US airlines (American, Delta, and United), but it remains a great choice for many travelers thanks to customer-friendly policies like two free checked bags per customer and no change fees. Plus, Southwest points never expire, so even if you’re not traveling right now, you don’t have to worry about losing your hard-earned rewards.

If you fly Southwest, a co-branded credit card can be a great way to earn extra Rapid Rewards points to use for free flights, and the points you earn from these cards can also help you earn the Southwest Companion Pass. When you have a Companion Pass, your designated companion can fly with you for almost free (just pay taxes and fees) on paid and award tickets.

Even better, Southwest has made it easier for Rapid Rewards members to earn the Companion Pass in 2021. Normally, you’d need to earn 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year to unlock this benefit, but all Rapid Rewards members with active accounts as of December 31, 2020, have received 25,000 qualifying points for 2021 — effectively reducing the Companion Pass requirement to just 100,000 points this year.

The best Southwest credit cards in 2021

Chase issues three personal and two small-business Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards and some have elevated welcome bonuses — however, the offers to earn up to 80,000 points with the personal Southwest cards will end on February 8, 2021. 

Here’s what to know to help you decide which Southwest credit card is best for you.

We’re focused here on the rewards and perks that come with each card. These cards won’t be worth it if you’re paying interest or late fees. When using a credit card, it’s important to pay your balance in full each month, make payments on time, and only spend what you can afford to pay.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Both the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card cards do not charge a foreign transaction fee, and both cards can earn you Tier-Qualifying Points (TQPs) toward Southwest A-List status. You’ll earn 1,500 TQPs for every $10,000 you spend on the cards in a calendar year, on up to $100,000 (15,000 TQPs) in spending each year. A-List status requires 35,000 TQPs earned in a calendar year, and gets you benefits like priority boarding and a 25% points bonus on paid flights.

But Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card holders get a few extra perks:

  • Up to $75 Southwest annual travel credit
  • Four upgraded boardings per year when available
  • 20% back on inflight drinks and Wi-Fi

All three cards come with a limited-time increased welcome bonus of up to 80,000 points (50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months ,and an additional 30,000 points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 9 months). New cardholders also earn 5x points on Southwest purchases between December 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, on up to $2,000 in spending per month (then 2x). However, these offers will end on February 8, 2021.

Each card also earns 2 points per dollar spent on Southwest and Rapid Rewards purchases and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else.

How to decide which Southwest credit card is right for you

If your main goal for getting a Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card is to earn a sign-up bonus, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card could be a great choice. It offers the same sign-up bonus as the other two cards and the same earnings rate, and it has the lowest annual fee.

But if you plan to use your Rapids Rewards card for multiple years, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card cards offer better value. Both offer anniversary bonuses that are double or more what you’ll get with the Plus card. And the two more expensive cards are better for international travelers because they don’t charge foreign transaction fees.

When comparing the Premier and Priority cards, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card easily comes out on top. Its higher annual fee is easily reduced by up to $75 in annual Southwest travel credit. It also has a better anniversary bonus and offers additional inflight perks and discounts.

In short, if you’re looking for an airline card to earn one or two free flights, you may want to choose the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card. Otherwise, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card offers the best long-term value.

Finally, note that you can’t have two personal Southwest credit cards at the same time, and you can’t open a new personal Southwest card if you’ve earned a sign-up bonus on any personal Southwest card within the last 24 months. So choose your card carefully.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card also gives cardholders up to $100 for a Global Entry or TSA Pre application fee credit, four upgraded boardings per year (when available), and inflight Wi-Fi credits. It’s offering a sign-up bonus of up to 100,000 points — 70,000 points after you spend at least $5,000 on purchases within your first three months of account opening, plus an additional 30,000 points after you spend $25,000 total in the first six months from account opening.

As with the personal Southwest credit cards, the points you earn from the Southwest small-business cards count toward the Companion Pass.

If your business spends a lot of money each year on social media advertising or internet, cable, and phone services, you’ll definitely want to go with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card. You may also want to choose the Performance Business card if you fly four or more times each year. In that case, you could take full advantage of the four upgraded room boardings per year and some of the other inflight perks.

However, if you don’t spend a lot of money in the bonus categories, your earnings potential will drop. And if you only fly once or twice a year, you may not get the most value out of the additional day-of-flight benefits. 

If you decide the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card don’t make sense for you, you may want to consider one of the consumer Southwest credit cards discussed above.

Quick tip: With the reduced requirements to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass in 2021, you could earn the pass outright by unlocking the full welcome bonus on the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card.

Or, because you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest and other airline and hotel partners when you have Chase travel cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, and Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card, one of these cards could be a better pick if you value flexibility. However, Chase Ultimate Rewards points transferred to Southwest will not count toward earning the Southwest Companion Pass.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

Annual Fee
Regular APR
Credit Score
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  • 5 out of 5 Stars
    Editor’s Rating
    Annual Fee

    $199

    Regular APR

    15.99%–22.99% variable APR

    Credit Score

    Good to ExcellentA five pointed star

  • A five pointed star
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  • 5 out of 5 Stars
    Editor’s Rating
  • Details
  • Pros & Cons
    • Earn 70,000 points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $25,000 on purchases in the first 6 months.
    • 3 points per $1 spent on Southwest Airlines® purchases.
    • 9,000 bonus points after your Cardmember anniversary.
    • 2 points per $1 spent on social media and search engine advertising, Internet, cable, and phone services and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
    • 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available.
    • Inflight WiFi Credits.
    • Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® Fee Credit.
    • Employee cards at no additional cost, earn points on employee spending.
    Pros
    • Generous sign-up bonus of up to 100,000 Rapid Rewards points
    • 3x bonus points on Southwest purchases
    • Valuable Southwest perks including four upgraded boardings per year, in-flight Wi-Fi credits, and 9,000 points each year on your anniversary
    Cons
    • $199 annual fee is on the high side

    Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.

    Please note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they’re subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.

    Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Personal Finance Insider team. We occasionally highlight financial products and services that can help you make smarter decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to adopt a certain investment strategy. What you decide to do with your money is up to you. If you take action based on one of our recommendations, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners. This does not influence whether we feature a financial product or service. We operate independently from our advertising sales team.

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