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The best Southwest credit cards of 2021

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The best Southwest credit cards of 2021

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.

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.

Read more: The best airline credit cards in 2021

Chase issues three personal and two small-business Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards. Here's what to know to help you decide which Southwest credit card is best for you.

Chase Southwest personal credit cards comparison

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Annual fee

$69

$99

$149

Welcome bonus

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)

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)

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)

Rewards rate

2x points on Southwest purchases

2x points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases

2x points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare

2x points on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming

1x point per dollar on everything else

3x points on Southwest purchases

2x points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases

2x points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare

2x points on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming

1x point per dollar on everything else

3x points on Southwest purchases

2x points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases

2x points on local transit and commuting, including rideshare

2x points on internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming

1x point per dollar on everything else

Anniversary points

3,000

6,000

7,500

Foreign transaction fee

Yes

No

No

Other benefits

Two EarlyBird Check-Ins per year

25% back on inflight drinks and Wi-Fi

Earn tier-qualifying points toward A-List elite status

Two EarlyBird Check-Ins per year

25% back on inflight drinks and Wi-Fi

Earn tier-qualifying points toward A-List elite status

$75 annual Southwest travel credit

4 upgraded boardings per year when available

25% back on inflight drinks and Wi-Fi

Review

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus credit card review

Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier credit card review

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority credit card review

Southwest has three Rapid Rewards personal cards: the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card, and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card.

The first major difference you'll notice between these three cards is in their annual fees. The Plus card charges a $69 annual fee, while the Premier and Priority cards charge $99 and $149, respectively.

The anniversary bonuses are also different for each card:

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card: 3,000 anniversary bonus points
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card: 6,000 anniversary bonus points
  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card: 7,500 anniversary bonus points

Read more: Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier card review

As part of recent updates, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card and Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card now offer two EarlyBird Check-Ins per year (which normally costs $15 to $25 and allows you to automatically check-in 36 hours prior to departure) and 25% back on inflight purchases.

However, 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, and there's no limit to the number of TQPs you can earn (previously, there was a cap).

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.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card holders get a few extra perks (but don't receive the EarlyBird Check-In benefit):

With all three cards, you can earn 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).

Each card also earns bonus points on Southwest and Rapid Rewards purchases, local transit and commuting, (including rideshare), and internet, cable, phone services, and select streaming, and 1 point per dollar spent on everything else.

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit CardChase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit CardChase Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

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 a similar earnings rate, and it has the lowest annual fee.

Read more: Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card review: Earn points for a low 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 than 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 $75 in annual Southwest travel credit. It also has a better anniversary bonus and offers additional inflight perks and discounts.

Read more: Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card review: Earn a great welcome bonus and enjoy valuable travel perks

In short, if you're looking for an airline card to earn free flights in the short term, 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.

Additionally, all of the Southwest cards are subject to Chase's 5/24 rule, which means you won't get approved if you've opened five or more cards (from any bank) in the past 24 months.

Southwest business credit card comparison

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

Southwest has two co-branded business credit cards: the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

Annual fee

$99

$199

Welcome bonus

Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card

Rewards rate

3x points on Southwest purchases

2x points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners

2x points on rideshare

1 point per dollar on everything else

4x points on Southwest purchases

3x points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners

2x points on rideshare

2x points on social media and search engine advertising

2x points on internet, cable, and phone services

1 point per dollar on everything else

Anniversary points

6,000

9,000

Foreign transaction fee

No

No

Other benefits

Two EarlyBird Check-Ins per year

25% back on inflight purchases

Earn tier-qualifying points toward A-List elite status

Earn tier-qualifying points toward A-List elite status

$100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit

4 upgraded boardings per year when available

Inflight Wi-Fi credits

Review

Southwest Premier Business card review

Southwest Performance Business Credit Card review

The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card charges a $99 annual fee, while the Performance Business card is more expensive, at $199. However, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card has a better anniversary bonus, giving 9,000 points on each cardmember anniversary compared to the 6,000 points you'll get each year with the Premier Business card.

The biggest difference between these two cards is their ongoing earnings potential. While you'll earn 3x points per dollar on Southwest purchases and 2x points on Rapid Rewards hotel and car partners with the Premier Business Card, you'll earn 4x points and 3x points per dollar in these categories, respectively, with the Performance Business card.

And with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card you'll earn 2x points per dollar on the following business expenses as well:

  • Social media and search engine advertising
  • Internet, cable, and phone services

Both cards also earn 2 points per dollar on local transit and commuting, including rideshare, and offer up to $500 in fee credits for points transfers (for example, to other members) each year.

Read more: Southwest Premier Business card review: A solid bonus and perks for Southwest flyers, and points count toward the Companion Pass

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 Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card.

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 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.

Read more: The Southwest Performance Business card offers valuable frequent-flyer perks

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.

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 CardRelated Content Module: More Credit Card CoverageRelated Product Module: Credit Cards
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