Southwest Airlines 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. These bonuses usually play a key role in anyone trying to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.
Anyone who regularly flies Southwest can benefit from the Priority version of the card. Every year, it gives you 7,500 points and a $75 credit, which are worth more than the annual fee, while also providing free upgraded boardings and an inflight purchase discount.
Because it is hard to use credit card travel benefits during the pandemic, Chase has made some temporary changes to their cards.
- You'll earn 3x points on up to $1,500 of grocery spending in May and June. This benefit is only available for the personal cards.
- The amount of TQPs you'll earn for spending on the Premier and Priority card are doubled through the end of the year. You'll earn 3,000 TQPs per $10,000 spent.
Southwest Credit Card Options
Five Southwest Airlines credit cards are currently available. The business cards usually have higher signup bonuses, but not always.
Plus. 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. Signup Bonus Chart.
Priority. Usually the best deal for anyone who wants a Southwest 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 actually less than the Premier version and only a little more than than the Plus version (assuming you'll spend that much on Southwest tickets every year). For the extra $5, you get 7,500 anniversary points every 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. There isn't much reason to get the Premier version. The Plus version is the better deal just for the signup bonus and the Priority version offers a better set of benefits for the price. Chase Webpage. Alternative Webpage. Signup Bonus Chart.
Premier Business. The Business version of the Premier card 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. 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. $199 annual fee. Chase Webpage. Alternate Webpage. Signup Bonus Chart.
Collecting the Signup Bonus
The approximate value of Southwest points is 1.5 cents per point. Unlike most other frequent flyer programs, Southwest calculates the required number of miles based on the cash ticket price, rather than having fixed award prices based on your destination. 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 number of 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 typical signup bonus is 40,000 Southwest points, valued at $600 (at 1.5 cents per point). After subtracting the annual fee and the opportunity cost of using the card for $2,000 of spending, the calculated net value for the initial year is $560 (28 cents per dollar spent). How Much are Points Worth?.
- You CAN'T earn the signup bonus from multiple "personal" versions of the card. You need to choose either the Plus, Premier, or Priority version. And you are only eligible for the signup bonus 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.
- The business premier version has a typical 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.
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 on Southwest airlines, whenever they want, 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 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 of spending to put on their Southwest 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 for both business versions of the Southwest cards, you'll earn enough miles to qualify for the pass. Even with the standard signup bonuses, 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 to five (personal) credit cards every two years. The simplest approach is probably to have one person stick primarily to business cards to keep under this limit, while the other person freely applies for any credit cards they want.
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'd still need to earn the additional points in some other way.
Other Notable Benefits
- Anniversary point bonus. You'll receive bonus points every year when you renew your card. 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, or 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 through credit card spending. 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 larger number of more affordable hotel options and a best 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 receive a credit each you have the card, including the first. 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 upgraded boarding (position A1-A15) purchased at the departure gate or ticket counter using your card. You get 4 upgrades each year you have the card, including the first.
- 20% inflight purchase discount.
- You are better off making your Southwest Airlines purchases with a card that earns a higher reward rate for airfare spending. 2x Southwest points is okay but not as good as what you'd earn from one of the better cards.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
- You can cancel without worrying about losing your Southwest points. Once you earn them, they are treated like any other points in your Southwest account.. Any unused certificates are safe as well.
- We normally recommend holding onto or product changing your Chase cards rather than cancelling them. Chase's 5/24 rule can make it difficult to get a new Chase card when you want to. Keeping your card preserves the option of getting a new card through a product change, rather than a new application. But since Southwest doesn't offer a no-annual-fee card, it makes sense to cancel if you aren't getting enough value out of your card.
- You can wait to cancel your card until after the annual fee shows up on your statement. As long as you cancel within 30 days of the statement closing date, Chase will refund the fee. After 30 days, you can receive a small pro-rated refund on the personal cards by downgrading to the $69 Plus version.
- Chase doesn't make retention offers. Unless something has changed, you don't need to bother checking.
You can product change between the Premier ($149), Priority ($99), and Plus ($69) cards, or between the Performance Business ($199) and Premier Business ($99) card.
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