The Southwest Priority card is one of the most value-packed airline credit cards around — one benefit alone cancels out $75 of the annual fee

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Alyssa Powell/Business Insider
  • If you fly Southwest Airlines even once or twice a year, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card offers major benefits that can improve your flying experience and save you some money.
  • Every year you’ll get a $75 travel credit and 7,500 Rapid Rewards points, plus up to four upgraded boarding slots.
  • It earns 2 points per dollar spent on Southwest flights and at its hotel and rental car partners, and 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else.
  • The card also provides some helpful protections, including delayed and lost baggage reimbursement, and purchase protection.
  • Read more personal finance coverage.

When it comes to customer-friendly perks and policies, Southwest is among the most generous US airlines. It allows two free checked bags, and free flight changes. If you fly Southwest even one or two times a year, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card can further improve your travel experience, with benefits like an annual $75 travel credit and upgraded boarding up to four times per year.

The card earns Southwest Rapid Rewards points that can help you book your next award flight faster, both on your everyday spending and as a bonus each year after your account anniversary. It does have a $149 annual fee, but as you’ll see, it could be worth it.

Keep in mind that we’re focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It’s important to practice financial discipline when using credit cards by paying your balances in full each month, making payments on time, and only spending what you can afford to pay back.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card details

Annual fee: $149

Sign-up bonus: 40,000 Rapid Rewards points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months

Points earning: 2 points per dollar spent on Southwest Airlines and its hotel and rental car partners; 1 point everywhere else

Foreign transaction fee: None

Sign-up bonus and points earning

You’ll earn 40,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening with the Southwest Priority card. This is the card’s standard sign-up offer – we’ve seen higher ones of up to 60,000 points, so you could score more rewards if you wait, but there’s no guarantee when or if that offer will come back.

In addition, you’ll earn 2 points per dollar spent on Southwest Airlines and its hotel and rental car partners (this list includes most major US hotel and rental car companies, plus hotels booked through Southwest Hotels and Rocketmiles) and 1 point per dollar spent everywhere else. And every year, you’ll receive 7,500 bonus Rapid Rewards points for your account anniversary – that’s worth $112.50 according to The Points Guy!

Annual fee and other charges

The Southwest Priority card has a $149 annual fee, and no foreign transaction fees, so you don’t have to worry about extra charges when you travel internationally. With the annual $75 travel credit and the annual 7,500 Rapid Rewards bonus points, the card basically pays for itself if you take full advantage of these benefits.

If you have to carry a balance from month to month, this is not the credit card to use. You’d be much better off with a card that offers an intro APR period so you can pay down your debt without accruing interest.

Top Southwest Priority card benefits

$75 Annual Southwest Airlines travel credit

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card has a $75 annual travel credit, which is valid for any Southwest purchase except upgraded boarding and in-flight purchases. Just buy a Southwest ticket, pay with the Priority card, and get a $75 credit back on your credit card statement automatically with no hoops to jump through.

If you’ll spend at least $75 on Southwest flights anyway, this annual credit is an easy way to offset the $149, effectively bringing it down to $74.

Upgraded boardings and discount on in-flight purchases

This card will reimburse you for the purchase of four upgraded boardings with Southwest every year. This is different from Southwest Early Bird Check-In, which you purchase at booking or add afterwards; upgraded boarding is sold at the gate when there is extra space available in the A1-A15 boarding group.

Since Southwest seating is famously first-come, first-serve, upgraded boarding can be a great way to avoid a middle seat. This normally costs $30-50 per flight, but with the Priority card you won’t pay anything for the first four Upgraded Boardings each year.

The Southwest Priority card also offers a 20% rebate on in-flight purchases – including premium drinks, Wi-Fi, movies, and messaging – when you pay with your card.

You don’t get a free checked bag with this card, but you don’t need one, because Southwest is the rare airline that offers two checked bags for free.

Accelerated access to Companion Pass and A-List status

The Southwest Companion Pass is perhaps the most famous deal in travel: earn 125,000 qualifying points in a calendar year, and the person you pick can fly with you on any Southwest ticket (paid or award) for just the cost of taxes and fees. The points you earn from using the Southwest Priority card – including the sign-up bonus! – count toward the Companion Pass qualifying requirements.

If you’re aiming for Southwest’s A-List or A-List Preferred elite status, this card can also help you move up to the next level. For every $10,000 in eligible net purchases on the card, you’ll earn 1,500 Tier Qualifying Points (TQPs), up to 15,000 points per year. This is the only way to earn TQPs other than flying on a paid Southwest ticket.

Other travel benefits

If you use this card to pay the full cost of a car rental, you can forget the rental company’s collision insurance: the Southwest Priority Card offers automatic theft and damage protection on most rental cars in the U.S. and abroad. In the US, though, this coverage is secondary to your personal car insurance. Other cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offer primary car rental insurance in the US, so you don’t need to file a claim with your personal insurance first.

When traveling, your luggage is also covered: if you use the Priority card to pay for your flights and your bags are delayed over six hours, you’ll be reimbursed for necessities (up to $100 a day for three days), and if your bags are lost or damaged, you’re covered for up to $3,000 per passenger.

Purchase protection and extended warranty

Nearly anything you purchase will be covered against damage or theft for 120 days, up to $500 per claim and up to $50,000 per account. And if it has an eligible manufacturer’s warranty of three years or less, paying with this card will grant you an additional year of warranty coverage.

Redeeming your Southwest Rapid Rewards points

Southwest Rapid Rewards points are easy to use: Just visit southwest.com, search for a flight, and click the Points button to see prices in points instead of dollars.

With Rapid Rewards, there are no blackout dates and no seat restrictions; as long as there’s a seat available for purchase, you can book that seat with your Rapid Rewards points. The number of points you’ll pay depends on the price of your ticket, so if you also have access to other rewards programs, make sure to compare prices to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

Other cards to consider

The Southwest Priority card is the best choice for frequent Southwest flyers who can take advantage of the $75 annual Southwest credit and four upgraded boardings per year. If you want to earn Southwest points but you don’t know if the $149 annual fee is worth it for you, there are some other options to consider.

First, there’s the Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Credit Card, which has a lower annual fee of $99. It earns Southwest points at the same rate as the Priority card (2x points on Southwest and eligible partner purchases and 1x point on everything else), but it offers a lower annual bonus of 6,000 points, and it doesn’t offer the annual Southwest credit or the upgraded boardings. If you want to use credit card spending to work toward Southwest A-List status, the Premier card allows you to earn 1,500 TQPs for every $10,000 you spend, up to 15,000 TQPs per year.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card is the entry-level personal card in Southwest’s lineup, with a $69 annual fee. The main difference is that this card doesn’t allow you to earn TQPs toward Southwest status, and you get a lower annual bonus of 3,000 points. This is the only card of the three to charge a foreign transaction fee.

Read more: We compared Southwest’s 5 credit cards to help you find the best fit for you

And don’t forget that you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Southwest, so if earning enough rewards to book free flights is your main concern, a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred could make sense. It’s currently offering a sign-up bonus of 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months, and it earns 2x points on travel and dining. There’s a $95 annual fee, and no foreign transaction fees.

If you want a more premium card, there’s the $450-a-year Chase Sapphire Reserve, which offers up to $300 in annual credits toward travel purchases, and earns 3x points on dining and travel (excluding the $300 credit).

Bottom line

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority credit card is great for anyone who flies Southwest. Even if you only travel once or twice a year, the annual $75 travel credit and the 7,500 bonus miles are worth more than the annual fee, and you’ll get to enjoy the other perks like upgraded boarding and in-flight discounts. And if you’re a frequent Southwest flyer, you’ll get even more benefit from those perks, plus the card can help you reach A-List status or a Companion Pass that much sooner.

Click here to learn more about the Southwest Priority card.