Southwest Credit Cards
Personal cards: 60,000 Southwest points: 40,000 points with $1,000 initial spend, 20,000 additional points with a total of $12,000 of spending in first year. ($710 net value, .06/$)
Premier Business card: 60,000 points with $3,000 spend. ($770 net value, 26/$)
Performance Business card: 80,000 points with $5,000 spend. ($950 net value, 19/$)Signup Bonus Chart
2x Southwest Purchases (≈3%)
1x Everywhere Else (≈1.5%)
3% Foreign Transaction Fee
The Southwest Airlines cards offer very lucrative signup bonuses. In addition, the signup bonuses from these cards usually play a key role in anyone trying to earn the Southwest Companion Pass. Unfortunately, they are subject to the Chase 5/24 rule.
Anyone who regularly flies Southwest can benefit from the Priority version of the card. It comes with 7,5000 points and a $75 credit each year that are worth more than the annual fee, and also gives you free paid upgraded boardings and inflight purchase discount.
Southwest Credit Card Options
TThere are four different Southwest Airlines credit cards.
Plus version. The Plus version usually has the same signup offer as the other cards, and has the lowest annual fee ($69). As a result, it is usually the best option, for someone who is only planning on collecting the signup bonus (or earning the companion pass), and getting rid of the card after the first year. Chase Webpage. Alternative Webpage.
Priority version. The Priorityversion is usually the best deal for anyone who wants to a Southwest airline card for the long run. It the highest annual fee ($149), but a $75 Southwest travel credit lowers the effective annual fee to $74, which is less than the Premier version, and only a little more than than the Plus version. For the extra $5, you get 7,500 anniversary points each year (instead of 3,000), a 20% discount on inflight purchases, four free upgraded boardings each year, and the ability to earn extra tier qualifying points. Chase Webpage. Alternative Webpage. Signup Bonus Chart.
Premier version. With the introduction of the Priority version, there isn't much reason to get the Premier version. The Plus version is the better deal if you are only interested in the signup bonus, and the Priority version offers a better set of benefits for the price. Chase Webpage. Alternative Webpage.
Premier Business version. The Business version of the Premier card has a normal signup bonus of 60,000 points (rather than only 40,000 points), but doesn't come with the opportunity to earn elite status qualifying points, or the bonus reward rates on hotel and rental partners. More importantly, it isn't limited by the "one card" rule that applies to the personal versions, so can play a key role for anyone who wants an easy path towards the Southwest companion pass. Chase Webpage Alternative Webpage. Signup Bonus Chart
Performance Business version. For an extra $100 or so per year, the Performance version of the Business card gives you an extra 3,000 anniversary points, 4 free upgraded boardings per year, $8 WiFi credits (limit once per day), a $100 TSA application credit, an extra reward point on SWA airline purchases, and 2x bonus rewards on online advertising and telecommunication services. At least for now, it comes with a whopping 80,000 point signup bonus ($5,000 initial spend), but this may go down to 60,000 points later. $199 annual fee. Chase Webpage. Southwest Webpage. Alternate Webpage. Signup Bonus Chart.
Collecting the Signup Bonus
Our base value for Southwest points is 1.5 cents per point. Unlike most other frequent flyer programs, the required number of miles for a Southwest airline ticket is based on the cash ticket price, rather than where you are flying. The points required for your fare is calculated based on the "base" price of the ticket. But because the award ticket actually covers most of the taxes and fees, and not just the base fare, the value per point is actually a bit higher than the amount used to calculate the required points. For a typical fare, you can expect to get about 1.5 cents per point, but it is slightly higher for inexpensive tickets, and slightly lower for more expensive tickets. Get the Most From Southwest Rapid Rewards.
- It is worth signing up for a personal version of this card, just to collect the signup bonus. The normal 40,000 point signup offer is valued at $600 (at 1.5 cents per point).
- You CAN'T earn the signup bonus from multiple "personal" versions of the Card. You have to choose either the Plus, Premier, or Priority version. You can only eligible for the signup bonus from one of these cards, if you haven't earned one from the other cards, in the last two years. You can, however, receive the signup bonuses on both versions of the business card.
- You might want to wait for a better signup offer. These cards often have bonus offers of 50,000 or 60,000 points.
- The business premier version has a normal signup bonus of 60,000 points, with a $3,000 initial spending requirement. That works out to a net value of $770 (26 cents per dollar spent).
- The business performance version has an even higher signup bonus of 70,000 points, with a $5,000 initial spending requirement.
- It is difficult to collect a signup bonus a 2nd time, because of the Chase 5/24 rule. Normally, you are eligible for a Chase signup bonus, if you haven't already earned the bonus, from the same card, during the last two years. However, due to the Chase 5/24 rule, if you've been signing up for other cards, you won't be able to get approved, when you reapply. You'll need get under the 5/24 limit, before you can earn one of the bonuses again. Dealing with the Chase 5/24 Rule.
After subtracting the annual fee, and the opportunity cost of using the card for $2,000 of spending, the calculated net value of the sign-up is $560 (28 cents per dollar spent). Your value may be higher or lower, depending on how much you value the points. How Much are Points Worth?
Earning the Southwest Companion Pass
Depending on how you travel, the Southwest Companion Pass may be the best travel benefit out there. It essentially allows a couple to fly for half-price, whenever they want, on Southwest airlines, for up to two years. Every time you buy a Southwest ticket, or redeem your points for an award ticket, your companion gets to fly for "free" (only paying nominal taxes and fees). Over the course of the year or two that you have the pass, you can save thousands of dollars on airfare. Get 2 for 1 Travel with the Southwest Airline Companion Pass
- The easiest way to earn the pass is through credit card signup bonuses. The “normal” way to earn a Companion Pass is by taking 100!!! qualifying one-way flights, or earning 125,000 Southwest points (110,000 points in 2019), during a calendar year. To earn one strictly by flying, you’d have to fly a lot. Points you earn from spending with a Southwest credit card count, but most people don’t have an extra $125,000 to spend on their credit card. As a result, for almost everyone, the only realistic way to qualify for the pass, is by signing up for Southwest Airlines credit cards.
- If you collect the signup bonus version for both business versions of the cards, you'll earn enough miles to qualify for the pass. You'll receive 130,000 points, plus whatever points you earn to meet the total of $8,000 in initial spending requirements. Fortunately, if you have any kind of small business, even a side business that hasn't made any money yet, you are eligible to sign up for business cards.You can also signup for one of the personal versions and one of the business versions, instead of both business versions. Unlock Extra Reward Points with Business Credit Cards.
- While reaching 125,000 points in a year will qualify you for the pass, you don't need to spend any of your points to get it—you can use the points to book lots of free travel instead. Once you are finished earning enough points to acquire the pass, you’ll have enough points for around $3500 worth of free airfare. Since Southwest airline points are worth about 1.3 - 1.5 cents each, you can use your 125,000 points for about $1750 worth of tickets. And because you have the pass, you’ll get $1750 worth of companion tickets as well. The 140,000 or so points you'll earn from qualifying for both business card signup bonuses can be used to purchase around $4,000 in flights using the Companion Pass.
- If you qualify at the beginning of the year, you can earn a companion pass for almost two years. When you qualify for the companion pass, it is valid for the remainder of the year that you qualify, and the entire following year.
- 'Unfortunately, the Chase 5/24 rule limits your ability to take advantage of this strategy, while also signing up for other credit cards. If re-qualifying for a Companion Pass is important to you, you are limited to a maximum of four other new (personal) credit cards every two years. The simplest approach is probably to have one person keep under this limit, while the other person freely applies for any desired credit cards.
But, if you aren't willing or able to sign up for business versions, it is much harder. It is not possible to receive the signup bonuses for more than one personal card every 24 months. Earning the signup bonus on one of the personal cards might get you about half way to qualifying for the pass, but you'll need to earn the additional points in some other way.
Other Notable Benefits
- Anniversary point bonus. Every year you hold onto the card, you'll receive bonus points on your anniversary. You'll get 9,000 points from the Performance Business version, 7,500 points from the Priority version, 6,000 points from the Premier version (personal or business), or 3,000 points from the Plus version.
- Earns tier qualifying points. For every $10,000 you spend on the Performance, Priority and Premier version of the card, you'll earn 1,500 qualifying points towards A-List (or A-List Preferred status). You can earn up to 15,000 qualifying points in this way. Annual maximum is based on the 12 months starting from your last statement date in December.
- Bags are always free. Unlike almost all other airlines, Southwest doesn't charge extra for checked bags. Therefore, you don't need to get their credit cards to get a checked bag benefit.
- Primary Rental Car Insurance (Business Premier only). The Southwest Business Premier card comes with primary rental car insurance. Unlike the secondary insurance that comes with most other credit cards, if you get in an accident, you won't need to involve your auto insurance company. The personal version of the Premier card does not come with this benefit. Credit Cards That Provide “Primary” Rental Car Coverage.
- Access to the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection. As with all Visa Signature cards, you'll get access to Visa's luxury hotel program. Whenever you book one of the 900+ participating hotels, you'll receive a set of valuable benefits, including free breakfast, late check-out, and a $25 food and beverage credit. The Visa program has slightly weaker benefits than the other luxury hotel programs, but includes a number of more affordable hotel options, and a price guarantee. Take Advantage of Luxury Hotel Programs for Valuable Extra Perks.
- Access to Visa Signature Offers. Your card entitles you to a set of special offers available from Visa.
In addition, the Priority card has the following additional benefits:
- $75 annual travel credit. You'll get this credit even for your initial year, and then for every anniversary year thereafter. For anyone who regularly flies on Southwest, this reduces the effective annual cost of the card to $74.
- 4 upgraded bookings each year. You'll be automatically reimbursed for upgrading boardings (position A1-A15) purchased at the departure gate or ticket counter with your card. You get 4 upgrades the first year you have the card, and each anniversary year thereafter.
- 20% inflight purchase discount.
- You are better off making your Southwest Airlines purchases with a card that earns a high reward rate for all your airfare spending. 2x Southwest points are better than what you'd earn from most general-purpose reward cards, but not as good as what you'd earn from a card that offers high bonus rewards on airfare purchases.Best Credit Cards for Travel Spending.
- You don't want to use these cards for your everyday spending. You'll earn higher rewards from a good general-purpose reward card. Get a Great General Purpose Reward Card and Use It for All of Your Spending.
Getting Rid of the Card
If you are collecting signup bonuses, make sure you really want to cancel your Southwest Airline card. You will likely be blocked from getting it again by the Chase 5/24 rule.
If you want to lower your annual fee, you can convert to one of the lower cost options. Unfortunately, there isn't a no-annual-fee version.
When downgrading your card, you'll get a prorated rebate of the annual fee. So it can be worthwhile doing so, even if you forgot to downgrade at your account anniversary.
If you are under 5/24 and it has been two years since you've earned the signup bonus on a Southwest personal card, you can earn the signup bonus on a new card. Or you could cancel your current card, reapply, and earning the signup bonus again. (Each Chase Southwest Business card is on its own 24 month track, rather than as a family of cards).
You can cancel your card without losing your Southwest points. They are treated like any other points in your account.
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