Southwest Airlines Credit Card Review

For those of us playing the credit card points game, especially for travel rewards, it’s a good rule of thumb not to go for airline-specific cards due to the limited reach of their benefits, specifically in regard to points.

Today I’m looking specifically at the Premier credit card in this Southwest Airlines credit card review.

Generally speaking, points on an airline card can only be redeemed either with that airline or its partners, and point multipliers only apply to purchases made with companies associated with that particular airline. 

If you’re looking to stretch travel points – quite literally, to the ends of the Earth – you’ll want to look into a transferable points card.

Cards issued through banks themselves (such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Capital One, etc.) will transfer to a multitude of airlines, often at 1:1 ratios, and can include perks like lounge access – something that no Southwest card will offer. When you see an influencer flying business class to exotic destinations paid for entirely through points, they’re using a transferable points card.

Credit Score Eligibility

It’s recommended you have a FICO score of at least
670 before applying for the Premier card.

Note that Southwest credit cards are subject to Chase Bank’s 5/24 rule,
meaning if you’ve taken out five cards in the past two years,
chances are you won’t be approved.

That being said, there are travelers out there who are very loyal to Southwest; I doubt there are official numbers on this, but I’ve met more people who rave about Southwest more than any other US airline.

While I’m not their biggest fan, I’ll often look to Southwest when flying with a lot of luggage due to their generous bag policy. If you’re loyal to the airline or a heavy packer who likes to avoid baggage fees, the Southwest Premier card is worth taking a look at. 

Snapshot Verdict

With a $99 annual fee and relatively lenient credit score requirements, the Southwest Premier Card can be a nice option for those who frequently fly Southwest to begin with.

This card offers some great airline-specific and achievable perks, such as a companion pass. But for those looking to use their points for travel on other airlines and/or outside of Southwest’s fairly limited route network, a transferable points card is probably the way to go.

New Cardholder Promotion

Southwest is currently running a special for those who open a new account. As a new Southwest Premier Card cardholder, you’ll be treated to 30,000 bonus points plus a companion pass, so long as you spend $4k within three months of the account being opened.

The companion pass is good until February 28th, 2025, and the 30,000 points could be enough for a roundtrip flight based on when and where you travel.

The landing page to apply for the card will lead you to believe that this promotion will only last x amount of days. However, from my research this is scarcity marketing, and the promotion is actually run quite frequently.

Southwest Premier Credit Card Benefits

Southwest Premier Credit Card

The most attractive perk of this card, in my opinion, is the companion pass. Once earned, this pass allows you to add a companion to an existing Southwest reservation completely free of charge, so long as there’s space on the flight.

The draw of this benefit cannot be overstated; this is literally a free ticket for anyone of your choosing to travel with you on the same flight. 

Oftentimes, an airline will advertise that they offer a companion pass, but it’s nearly impossible to obtain and is more of a marketing ploy than anything else. To achieve this without the Premier Card, you would have to fly at least 100 one-way flights or earn 135,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year to qualify for the companion pass.

This easily translates to spending over five figures solely with Southwest and/or taking about two flights a week on the carrier, which is simply not a viable possibility for the overwhelming majority of their customers.

With a Southwest Premier Card, however, the requirement to obtain the pass is to spend $4,000 within three months of opening the account. This is around the normal spending amount for an average person within that time frame.

Of course, this requires financial discipline and good money management.You must ensure that you neverget into financial difficulty to meet any credit card’s spending requirements for points.

But if you’re able to sensibly achieve this, obtaining the companion pass is a valuable reward. And let’s not forget that meeting this spending requirement will also grant you 30,00 bonus points on top of the points you’ll accrue from using the card in the first place.

Additionally, this card provides an anniversary bonus of 6,000 points and 1,500 TQPs (tier qualifying points) for every $5,000 spent annually. And what do tier-qualifying points get you?

Well, when you’ve earned 35,000 TQPs you qualify for the prestigious A-List status, which is the only reward tier in Southwest’s frequent flier program. This status grants travelers priority check-in and boarding, a dedicated customer service phone number, and a 25% point earning bonus on Southwest flights.

Like any other travel rewards card, point-earning multipliers can apply depending on the purchase being made and the company it’s being made through. Here are Southwest’s Premier redemption ratios:

How Much Are Southwest Points Worth?

Approximately 1.3 each.
That’s a mid-range value compared to other airlines,

and on the lower end of the spectrum compared to transferable points cards.

Should you have any friends looking for a travel card, there’s a generous referral program. Send your friend a unique link tied to your account to apply for the Premier card, and once they’re approved, you’ll receive a bonus of 20,000 points, with a limit of five people/100,000 points per year.

When flying Southwest, cardholders are provided with two early bird check-ins per year (a system that automatically checks you in 24 hours before your flight, providing a better boarding position), and 25% back on inflight purchases, which on Southwest is essentially just alcohol.

Southwest Premier card holders will also enjoy perks such as no foreign transaction fees and fraud protection provided through Chase Bank, the card issuer.

Southwest Premier Credit Card Drawbacks

This card has two main drawbacks: the first being the $99 annual fee, and the second being that point redemption is limited to Southwest flights exclusively.

While it’s nearly impossible to get out of an annual fee for a rewards card, at least if you plan to use it long term, there are ways to balance that fee out. This will of course depend on the card used, the point value, and other benefits associated with the card.

Though it’s up to each of us as to what we can consider as valuable benefits for the annual fee, there are other cards out there with a similar fee that I would say get more bang for your buck.

Because this card accrues points that can only be redeemed for flights on Southwest, this comes with some major restrictions that you’ll want to consider before applying.

Notably, Southwest doesn’t have a very extensive route network. The airline only operates within North America, the Caribbean, and Hawaii, and lacks flights to Alaska and Canada.

This significantly limits how far these points can physically go, and if your goal in the points game is intercontinental travel, then the Southwest Premier Card probably isn’t for you.

Coupled with being restricted to Southwest’s network, you’re subject to falling victim to one of their mass cancellations. These situations can arise with any airline, though Southwest seems to be in the news for this a lot, and the word ‘scandal’ is frequently thrown around when it happens.

The reasons behind these cancellations are often within their control and they seem to happen during busy travel periods, leading to responses from the Department of Transportation directed at Southwest specifically. This is a risk anyone takes when flying Southwest, cardholder or not, and should be considered when deciding to commit to them by taking out their credit card.

The Fine Print

The Southwest Premier card is issued by Chase Bank and is subject to their terms and policies. The APR ranges from 21.49% to 28.49% based on creditworthiness, and a penalty APR of up to 29.99% should any payments be missed.

These rates are fairly standard for mid-range travel cards such as Southwest Premier, but for those with outstanding credit there are lower interest rate options available with transferable point cards.

On top of the $99 annual fee, there’s a fee of $5 or 5% for balance transfers and $10 or 10% for cash advances, depending upon which amount is greater. Late and returned payment fees are $40.

There is no fee for going over your credit limit, though like any credit card, approval for exceeding your limit is decided by the issuing bank.

Can’t Find Southwest’s Pricing & Terms?

This information proved somewhat difficult to find during my research, so should you want to review it before submitting an application, it’s right here:
Pricing and Terms (

Point Redemption

The point redemption process on Southwest is straightforward and not unlike other airlines when booking. There are also options to redeem points for merchandise and Southwest gift cards.

Unlike some other airlines, the cost in points of a Southwest ticket is directly related to the cash value of the flight. This makes the process easier on point users when booking, as there’s no constant toggling between price in dollars and points to find the best deal. The cheapest flight by dollar amount will cost the least amount of points, and vice versa for more expensive flights.

Having point redemption tied to the cash value of a ticket also allows point users to take advantage of Southwest’s frequent sales, and roundtrip flights can run under 30,000 points per person depending on the route.

Since the welcome offer includes 30,000 bonus points and a companion pass, if you play your cards right this could equate to round trip air travel for two people simply by using the Premier card on everyday purchases for three months. Travel points win!

Tickets booked though point redemption are also subject to Southwest’s “transfarency” philosophy/policy, meaning no fees for changes or cancellations

What I also love about Southwest is that if the price of your flight drops after booking, Southwest will credit the point difference to your account.

This process isn’t automatic, however. You’re in charge of watching the flight price and taking action should it fall below what you paid, but if and when that occurs, simply call Southwest customer service and they’ll provide the credit.

Alternative Southwest Cards

If you want to stay within the Southwest card family but the Southwest Premier Credit Card isn’t for you, there are a few options you could consider:

Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus

The lowest tier of Southwest cards. There’s a lower annual fee of $69, though point earnings are substantially lowered.

There’s a maximum 2:1 dollars spent to points-earned ratio, including on purchases through Southwest, and anniversary points are cut in half to 3,000/year. There is still the ability to earn a companion pass, though the qualifications remain the same.

There ARE foreign transaction fees with this card, and there is no ability to earn TQPs towards A-List status based on spending. This card does still offer two early bird check-ins per year and 25% back on inflight purchases, as does the Premier Card.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority

The highest tier of Southwest cards for personal use. Though there’s a higher annual fee of $149, this card includes an annual travel credit of $75, so for those who frequent Southwest the fee can balance itself out.

There’s a slightly higher anniversary bonus of 7,500 points, and point-earning ratios are the same as the Premier Card. Qualifications for the companion pass remain the same.

Instead of early bird check-in, this card offers four upgraded boardings per year (subject to availability), guaranteeing a boarding position of A1-15. Cardholders earn TQPs on spending at the same rate as the Premier card, and receive 25% back on inflight purchases.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business

A card for business owners who travel frequently on Southwest. For $199, this card offers higher point-earning ratios in certain categories (4:1 on Southwest purchases, 3:1 on hotels) and 9,000 anniversary points.

The welcome offer doesn’t include a companion pass, but instead offers 80,000 points if the $5,000 spending requirement is met within three months. This card also offers TSA-precheck reimbursement, inflight Wi-Fi credits, four upgraded boardings per year, and all other benefits (less the companion pass) that Southwest cards offer.

Alternatives Outside of Southwest

If you’re looking for a wider variety of airlines to redeem points with but still want to have the option of redeeming on Southwest, you are by no means out of luck. Take a look at these options:

Chase Sapphire Reserve® card

Chase Travel Rewards Suite

As Southwest cards are backed and issued by Chase, there’s a slew of cards offered by Chase that have a point transfer ratio of 1:1 with Southwest.

These include the Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, Freedom Unlimited and Freedom Flex cards. Each of these cards come with their own respective fees and point-earning ratios, and are great options for Southwest fans who want to use credit card points for travel beyond North America.

Marriott Bonvoy American Express

Marriott Bonvoy points earned through use of their American Express cards are available for transfer to Southwest, albeit at a less desirable ratio. The Marriott Bonvoy Bold, Boundless, Bevy, and Brilliant cards will transfer points to Southwest at a 3:1 ratio, and those points are frankly better spent at Marriott properties.

Still, the option remains should you ever need it as a Marriott Bonvoy cardholder.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I would mostly recommend the Southwest Premier Credit Card to those who are already loyal to Southwest and don’t intend to travel outside of their route network.

What sets this card apart is the companion pass. If you frequently have a travel buddy and are able to sensibly meet the spending requirements to get the pass, then this card is worth your while. For solo travelers like me, however, this isn’t really a factor that comes into play, as it’s a benefit that would rarely be used.

Though the Southwest Premier Credit Card isn’t bad by any means, it’s more of a niche fit and there are better options on the market that are far less restrictive. If you’re looking for credit card points to take you across the world, save the hard inquiry and look elsewhere.

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