The new entry for Southwest in the “premium” card space is their Rapid Rewards Priority card. Southwest already had two personal cards, the Plus and the Premier, so what did they bring to the table with their newest entry into the co-brand card market?
If you decide that you want to sign up for the Southwest Priority card, or any of the Southwest credit cards, we’d appreciate it if you use our link. We receive Southwest points for each referral, and that helps us keep Your Mileage May Vary HQ going strong.
Let’s take a closer look at what the Southwest card has to offer to new cardholders and if it makes sense to hold onto the card for the long term.
$145 Annual Fee not waived the first year
Sign Up Bonus
The current sign up bonus for the Southwest Priority card is 40,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points if you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months. Over the past year, this bonus has been as high as 60,000 points or there was a time when you could earn a Companion Pass as a signup bonus. 40,000 points are still worth $520 in Southwest flights. I’ll let you decide if you want to sign up now or wait to see if the bonus might go up again (I’m betting it will).
When spending on the card, you earn points in the Southwest Rapid Rewards program as follows:
- 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest and Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases
- 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
I have to be honest, I’m a bit unclear about which purchases for hotels and rental cars will earn two points. Is it through any company that partners with Southwest, or do you have to book through Southwest? The documentation on this benefit is very vague at which expenses will qualify.
For a premium card, only earning 2 points per dollar on Southwest purchases is pretty disappointing because that’s the same amount of points you’ll receive with any of the Southwest co-brand cards. This card’s value doesn’t lie in earning Rapid Rewards points. You can earn 3x Ultimate Rewards points on Southwest airfare with the Sapphire Reserve and 2x points with the Sapphire Preferred. Ultimate Rewards points can transfer to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio, so there’s no benefit on spending on the card, even on Southwest.
Here’s where the Southwest Priority Card starts to shine
- 7,500 anniversary points each year. Valuing Southwest points at 1.3 cents each, that’s $97 value. But that’s like buying Southwest points, and I hate to purchase points. What else?
- $75 Southwest annual travel credit. OK, as long as you’re going to fly Southwest during the year, this is easy to spend. I’d value this at $75.
- Four Upgraded Boardings per year when available. I’ve written about how Priority Boarding is the way to get the best boarding spot on the plane and it costs $30 – $50 per flight. This benefit alone could be worth the annual fee of the card.
- 20% back on In-flight WiFi and drinks. YMMV for what this is worth to you. It would depend on how much you fly on Southwest (and how much you drink when flying on Southwest)
- Earn tier qualifying points – You’ll earn 1,500 tier qualifying points (TQPs) for each $10,000 in purchases up to $100,000 in purchases annually, which equals 15,000 TQP. TQPs can be used to count toward qualification for Rapid Rewards A-List or A-List Preferred status. A-List starts at 35,000 TQP, so this will get you almost halfway, but $100,000 is a ton of money to spend. Figure you can use this to get over the top if you’re close to qualifying, but that’s about it.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees
- Points earned with the card count towards earning a Southwest Companion Pass
Ways to use Southwest Rapid Rewards points
The points you earn with the signup bonus and spending on the card are deposited into your Southwest Rapid Rewards account. From there, you can use the points to book flights on Southwest. Here are the values for redemptions:
- Wanna Get Away – 76-78 points per dollar
- Anytime and Business Select – 78 points per dollar
That’s around a value of 1.3 cents per Southwest point. How much you’ll pay for a ticket is directly related to how much that ticket costs. The nice thing is that you’ll never have a blackout date from redeeming points on Southwest. Prices might be high, but you’ll always be able to use points as long as there’s a cash ticket available.
If you think the Southwest Priority card is right for you. Here’s our referral link.
I recently signed up for this card. I was able to get the 60,000 point bonus, but that’s not what is so exciting for me. Sure, I had to pay the $145 annual fee. However, I was able to get $160 in Priority Boarding fees refunded for the flights when I forgot to pay for Early Bird check-in, and I’ve already been reimbursed my $75 credit for Southwest tickets I purchased with the card. That’s $235 in credits for the $145 fee. Add in the $520 in points I’ll get from the signup bonus, and I’m at $755 back for paying $145, thank you very much.
I’ve had both of the other Southwest cards before and eventually canceled them because the only thing I received each year for the annual fee was some bonus points. With the Priority card, I get a $75 flight credit and four Priority Boarding reimbursements, which means I’ll be able to skip paying for early-bird and save the $80 in fees.
That’s saving $155, and I’m only paying $145, I’ll get better seats for both of us for two flights, and I’ll still get the 7,500 points which are worth $100. I wish every card would pay me $100 each year to keep it for another year. If only the AMEX Platinum had a value that was so easy to unlock, I might have kept it.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary