Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card: An affordable way to earn points

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card Overview

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card is the cheapest Southwest credit card on the market, which is either a strength or weakness depending on how you look at it. While the $69 annual fee is nice and low, the Plus card doesn’t have many perks to keep you interested past the initial welcome bonus. Card Rating*:

*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.

In a hobby now dominated by ultra-premium credit cards with $450+ annual fees and a laundry list of luxury perks, it’s hard to imagine that a cobranded airline card with a $69 annual fee might be valuable to loyal Southwest customers, but the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card does make sense for some flyers — but only under the right conditions.

Southwest is already relatively unique in that it offers three affordable personal credit cards. With all three cards offering an identical sign-up bonus of up to 75,000 points (40,000 points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months account is open and an additional 35,000 points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first six months), it’s even more important to look at the differences between your three choices.

Let’s take a look at how the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card measures up.

Related reading: Battle of the Airlines: Why I think Southwest Airlines is the best

In This Post

Who Is This Card For?

This is not the card that’s going to unlock the doors of fancy, first-class suites or give you all the trappings of elite status, but that’s never been what Southwest is about. The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card offers a basic earning rate and minimal benefits, but if you’re only flying Southwest occasionally, that’s really all you need. Plus, if you have the carrier’s elusive Companion Pass, you can get a ton of value from the program.

That being said, it’s important to keep in mind that the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus is subject to Chase’s 5/24 rule. If you’ve opened more than five new credit card accounts (including being added as an authorized user) in the past 24 months, you more than likely won’t be approved for this card. If you are under 5/24, also remember that opening this card will count toward that score, too, so make sure this will be worth that slot.

Photo by Owen CL on Unsplash.Current Bonus — Worth up to $1,125

Whether you settle on the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card or opt for one of its siblings instead (the mid-tier Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card or the top-tier Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card ), you’ll earn the exact same sign-up bonus for all three cards. Earn 40,000 points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months and an additional 35,000 points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first six months account is open — which totals to 75,000 points. The full bonus is worth $1,125 based on TPG’s valuations.

It’s worth noting that when TPG decided to value Rapid Rewards points at 1.5 cents each, we were considering the average redemption value one could hope to achieve. Having a Companion Pass essentially doubles the value of your points, as every ticket you book becomes a two-for-one. This means that 75,000 points are worth about $2,250, and if you have or are currently pursuing the Companion Pass, it should be easy to get this type of elevated return on your sign-up bonus.

Related reading: How to quickly earn the Southwest Companion Pass

Just be aware of the relatively new restrictions on these cards that were announced back in 2018. If you currently hold any personal Southwest credit card — or earned a sign-up bonus on a personal Southwest card in the last 24 months — you won’t be eligible for the bonus on this card.

Main perks and benefits

As you would expect from a card with an annual fee of only $69, there aren’t many perks associated with this card. The only thing you really get to offset your annual fee is 3,000 bonus points on your account anniversary, worth about $45 based on TPG’s valuations. While the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card might not be the most rewarding card for long-term spending, there are a few other benefits and protections worth mentioning:

Secondary car rental insurance and collision damage waiver
Baggage delay insurance: Up to $100 a day for up to three days when your bags are delayed more than six hours
Up to $3,000 in reimbursement for lost luggage
Roadside dispatch
Travel accident insurance (up to $500,000 depending on whether you hold the Visa Signature or Visa Platinum version of the card)
Extended warranty protection: Up to one year added to eligible manufacturers’ warranties of three years or less
Purchase protection: Up to $500 of damage or theft coverage for 120 days after making eligible purchases on your card

Earning and redeeming

The one area where most cobranded credit cards fall short is in the bonus categories, and the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card is no exception. You’ll earn 2x points (or 3% back based on TPG’s valuations) for Southwest purchases and those made with Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partners, and 1x (1.5%) everywhere else. Whether you’re looking to rack up cash or points, there are plenty of cards that offer a better return on everyday spending. When it comes to travel bookings, it’s even possible to earn more Southwest points on your purchase by using a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve instead, but more on that later.

While most of Southwest’s route network is concentrated on domestic U.S. flights, be warned that the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card does have a 3% foreign transaction fee. When you combine this with the relatively low earning rates, it’s easy to say that this is not going to be the most rewarding card for you to use long term. Even if this card ends up in your sock drawer after the first six months, it might still be worth opening just for the bonus.

Rapid Rewards offers a few low-value redemption options including gift cards, merchandise, hotel stays, rental cars and travel experiences. You can even redeem for international flights on other carriers — but for all of these options, the rates are worse than what you’d get by redeeming for Southwest flights. And of course, with the Companion Pass, your points are worth twice as much when you use them for Southwest flights.

The airline offers three tiers of fares, ranging from the cheapest Wanna Get Away tickets to the more expensive Business Select ones.

The award rates are tied to the cash price of the tickets, unlike other airlines that use fixed-value charts. This means you don’t have to worry too much about saving up for a good redemption opportunity. If you have Rapid Rewards points, it’s almost always a good idea to use them on Southwest-operated flights.

Related reading: How to redeem points with the Southwest Rapid Rewards program

How Does the Southwest Plus Card Stack Up?

The most obvious competitors to the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card are the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card. The Premier has a slightly higher annual fee of $99, a better anniversary points bonus (6,000 points) and no foreign transaction fees. Other than that, there’s not much else to help it stand out.

If you’re interested in getting more out of your Southwest credit card, you should set your sights on the Priority Card. Your $149 annual fee is cut in half thanks to a $75 annual Southwest travel credit, which is really worth $150 while you have the Companion Pass. This essentially makes the Priority card free for any year that you have the Companion Pass, and less expensive than the mid-tier Premier card if you don’t. The Priority card also has a 7,500-point anniversary bonus and offers four upgraded A1-A15 boardings and a 20% discount on inflight drinks and Wi-Fi.

The question you ultimately need to answer for yourself is do you want the cheapest card (the Southwest Plus), or are you willing to pay more money upfront and essentially have it returned to you in the form of Southwest travel credits and anniversary points bonuses?

(Photo by Wyatt Smith / The Points Guy)
The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card is the cheapest way to get your hands on the current bonus of up to 75,000 point bonus, but as usual, you get what you pay for. Loyal Southwest fliers or those looking for additional perks to enhance their travel should strongly consider paying up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card instead.

Related reading: Comparing the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority, Premier and Plus credit cards

Bottom Line

For only $69 per year, this card’s current sign-up bonus can help you earn a significant chunk of the points required for a Companion Pass. That alone is enough to make this card worth considering, especially for those who like Southwest but only fly with the airline occasionally. Just make sure to apply before Feb. 10, 2020, when the offer disappears.

Apply here for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card with an up to 75,000 points when you hit qualifying spend.

Featured photo by The Points Guy

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