CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value, but does not review all financial companies or all available financial offers. We may receive compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as CreditCards.com, and this compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site.
Our quick take: The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card is an ideal choice for frequent Southwest flyers, as the card offers valuable perks when flying Southwest that can more than make up for its annual fee.
- Earn 3 points for every dollar you spend on Southwest Airlines purchases.
- Earn 2 points per dollar on local transit and commuting purchases (including ride-shares), internet, cable, phone services and select streaming purchases and on hotels and car rentals booked through the Rapid Rewards travel website.
- Earn 1 point per dollar for all other purchases.
- $75 Southwest annual travel credit.
- Four upgraded boardings per year, when available.
- 25% back on in-flight purchases.
- 7,500 bonus points every year on your card holder anniversary starting with the second year you have the card.
- No foreign transaction fees.
- Not as many travel protection benefits as other Chase credit cards.
- No introductory rate on purchases or balance transfers.
- $149 annual fee.
Current sign-up bonus: Earn up to 100,000 bonus points — 50,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first three months, plus an additional 50,000 points after spending $12,000 total in the first 12 months.
Best for: Southwest flyers who want elite VIP benefits from their credit card when they travel.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card is Chase’s most expensive Southwest personal credit card, but for very good reasons. From bonus points, an annual Southwest travel credit and the opportunity to board the plane first, the card offers some great benefits, especially compared to Southwest’s other two personal credit cards. In fact, these perks can easily offset the card’s annual fee, making it one you’ll have no problem keeping in your wallet year after year.
In addition, all points earned on the Southwest Priority card — including bonus points from the card’s sign-up offer — count toward the coveted Southwest Companion Pass, which allows a friend or family member to fly with you for free (plus taxes and fees) an unlimited number of times. It’s essentially a terrific buy-one-get-one deal that could save you thousands of dollars for the duration of the pass.
Points earned on the Southwest Priority card never expire, and you’ll never have to worry about blackout dates or seat restrictions when redeeming your points. That’s because Southwest has what’s known as a “fixed-value redemption” frequent flyer program, which means when you redeem your points, the number of points you’ll need is tied to the cash price of the ticket. So while you’ll always be able to get a seat with points as long as there’s one for sale, the higher the price, the more points you’ll need to secure a seat.
Right off the bat, Southwest Priority card holders get an annual $75 Southwest travel credit, which can even be used to buy Southwest tickets. Just use your card to pay for your flight — or the taxes and fees on an award flight — and you’ll receive a statement credit offsetting the cost, up until you hit the $75 cap. Since this credit is effectively the same as cash, it effectively cuts your annual fee in half from $149 to just $74.
Then, starting with your first anniversary as a Southwest Priority card holder — which means after you’ve had the card for a year and each year thereafter — you’ll receive 7,500 bonus points. Currently, Southwest points are worth approximately 1.4 cents per point when you redeem them for the airline’s “Wanna Get Away” fares, making those 7,500 bonus points worth $105. That means with just the bonus points and the travel credit, you’re actually coming out ahead by $31 after paying your annual fee starting with your second year as a card holder.
On top of these two concrete money-saving benefits, you’ll also get four upgraded boarding certificates each year with the Southwest Priority card. Southwest boards its planes a little differently than most other airlines, as there are no assigned seats. Instead, you’ll get a boarding position between A1 and C60 when you check in to your flight, with A1 being the first to board and C60 being the last.
But, if you don’t get a boarding position you like, you can pay for an upgraded boarding position — A1 through A15 — at the airport, if available. The cost depends on the flight but ranges between $30 and $50 per upgraded boarding position. With the Southwest Priority card, you’ll get a statement credit for this purchase, up to four a year, saving you between $120 and $200 per year.
Be one of the first to board with four free upgraded boardings per year on the Southwest Priority card.
And if earning Southwest A-List elite status is important to you, the Southwest Priority card can get you a few steps closer, as you can earn 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs) for every $10,000 in purchases you make on the card. There’s no cap to the number of qualifying points you can earn, which means theoretically you could earn A-List status without even stepping foot on a Southwest plane. However, you’d probably be better off combining TQPs earned from the credit card with TQPs earned from flying Southwest.
On top of it all, the Southwest Priority card also offers 25% back on all in-flight purchases made on Southwest, along with shopping protection benefits and no foreign transaction fees.
The biggest disadvantage of the Southwest Priority card is its bonus categories, and Southwest points themselves. While you’ll earn 3 points for each dollar you spend on Southwest, you’ll only earn 1 point per dollar on all other travel purchases that aren’t booked through the Southwest Rapid Rewards travel portal. And while the card now also earns 2 points per dollar on transit and commuting, along with select telecommunication purchases, there are no bonus points for some of the more common categories, such as gas, groceries or restaurants. This means on most of your everyday purchases, you’ll only earn 1 point per dollar.
Compare that to a credit card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which earns 3 points per dollar on dining out, select streaming services and online grocery purchases, and 2 points per dollar on all travel purchases (or 5 points if purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards). You can even transfer your Sapphire Preferred points to Southwest or one of Chase’s 13 other airline and hotel partner loyalty programs for more flexibility.
Another downside of the Southwest Priority card is that it doesn’t provide the same travel protections that you see on many other Chase credit cards. While the card offers some travel protection benefits, including car rental collision insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, baggage delay insurance and travel accident insurance, it doesn’t offer some of the better — and more utilized — benefits, such as trip cancellation and interruption insurance, as well as trip delay insurance. Additionally, the card’s car rental coverage is secondary, meaning you’ll need to first look to your own personal auto insurance policy for coverage if you have an accident with your rental car before your credit card coverage kicks in.
Also, there are restrictions you’ll want to be aware of when you apply for a Southwest credit card. You’re only eligible to get the Southwest Priority card if you don’t currently have a personal Southwest credit card, and if you haven’t received a sign-up bonus on any personal Southwest card in the past 24 months. In addition, if you’ve opened five or more credit cards across all banks in the last 24 months, Chase will deny any new credit card applications. This is known as Chase’s “5/24” rule.
CNN Underscored has chosen the Citi® Double Cash Card card as our current “benchmark” credit card. That doesn’t mean it’s the best credit card on the market — rather, we use it as a basic standard to compare other credit cards and see where they score better, and where they’re worse.
Here’s how the Southwest Priority card scores against our benchmark. The features of each card in the below chart are colored in green, red or white. Green indicates a card feature that is better than our benchmark, red indicates the feature is worse than our benchmark and white indicates the feature is either equivalent or cannot be directly compared to our benchmark.
When reviewing other credit cards, we use this format and these criteria to compare them with our benchmark. You can read our credit card methodology for more details on what we take into account when it comes to perks, protections and redemption value.
If you’re looking for a credit card that earns Southwest points, there are several additional options beyond the Southwest Priority card. First, Chase offers five different Southwest credit cards — three personal cards and two business ones — so there are four other Southwest cards to consider.
On the personal side, there’s the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card. Both charge lower annual fees than the Southwest Priority card but come with far fewer perks. They could be good choices for less frequent Southwest travelers, but probably aren’t best for true Southwest fanatics.
There’s then the previously mentioned Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which has more bonus categories than the Southwest Priority and more valuable points that can also be transferred to Southwest at a 1-to-1 ratio — meaning when you transfer 1,000 points, you’ll get 1,000 Southwest points — whenever you want to book a Southwest flight. And if your vacation takes you elsewhere, you can instead transfer your Chase points to other travel partners, such as United, JetBlue and Hyatt, meaning you’ll have a lot more flexibility.
But the main disadvantage of using the Chase Sapphire Preferred instead of the Southwest Priority card is that points earned with the Sapphire Preferred don’t count toward the Southwest Companion Pass, so you’d be better off with a Southwest credit card if that’s a priority for you.
The Southwest Priority card is an excellent choice for frequent Southwest flyers.
It doesn’t have the best bonus categories or the most valuable points, but if you’re a frequent Southwest flyer, then the Southwest Priority card should have a place in your wallet. While you might not use the card for everyday spending — unless you’re trying to rack up qualifying points toward the Southwest Companion Pass — it can easily pay for itself if you fly Southwest more than a few times a year, and the card’s benefits will be popular among Southwest loyalists.
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.
Latest Travel News