If you’re looking for one of the best rewards credit cards for domestic airfare, look no further than the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card. Named the third-best airline rewards program for 2015-16 by U.S. News and World Report, the Southwest Rapid Rewards program offers a slew of handy perks that are essential for frequent flyers or leisure travelers in the U.S.
While the ongoing rewards this card offers are just okay, the long-term benefits you can gain from securing the signup bonus and joining this rewards programs are well worth it. Furthermore, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is a great card to pair with our top pick among all travel cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, as we’ll explain in a bit.
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card Overview
Although Southwest is mostly known for its diverse array of domestic routes, the airline added a number of international destinations throughout 2014 and 2015. New routes include Caribbean hotspots such as Nassau, Punta Cana, San Juan, Los Cabos, Montego Bay, Cancun, and Aruba, with plans for flights to countries like Belize and Costa Rica.
Fortunately, flights to these international destinations can also be booked with points, with many round-trip international fares coming in under 25,000 Rapid Rewards points total. And if you’re interested in domestic travel only, you’ll find plenty of value with the Rapid Rewards program. Due to their frequent sales, you can often find one-way flights to cities like Atlanta, Los Angeles, Boston, and Chicago for less than 10,000 points per person.
Here are some other benefits that help the Southwest Rapid Rewards program stand out:
- No blackout dates or caps on award fares: With Southwest, if there is a seat on the plane, it’s yours.
- Free checked bags: Get up to two free checked bags under 50 lbs. per person.
- Fare-based award pricing: Cheap flights allow you to book award fares for fewer points.
- Companion passes: Your companion flies free* after you earn 110,000 Southwest Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year or fly 100 qualifying one-way flights in one calendar year.
*Government-mandated taxes and fees must be paid on all award and regular fare tickets.
Tips for Using the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
- Pair it with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Since points transfer from the Ultimate Rewards program to Southwest, you can pair this card with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for superior earning ability, then transfer points later.
- Get the business card, too: Sign up for both the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card and the business version of the card in order to double your sign-up bonus.
- Redeem your points for other rewards: If you don’t like to fly the friendly skies, you can still benefit from this card. Use your points to book hotels or rental cars, or redeem them for gift cards.
Why You Might Like It
- You travel in the U.S. and to the Caribbean often.
- You need to book award seats for your entire family and want unlimited award availability.
- You live near a Southwest Airlines hub.
Why You Might Not Like It
- You don’t live near a Southwest hub.
- You rarely travel in the United States or to the Caribbean.
- You don’t want to pay an annual fee or won’t use the card enough to warrant paying one.
Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card: How It Works
By signing up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, you will put yourself on the fast track to earning free flights all over the United States and the Caribbean. Personally, I find the Southwest Rapid Rewards program to be the best among domestic airlines for families for several reasons, including:
- Unlimited award availability: With other airlines, finding award availability for more than a few seats on the same flight can be a challenge. With Southwest, on the other hand, there are no blackout dates or award caps. If there is a seat on the plane, it’s yours.
- Companion passes: My husband and I have both earned the Southwest Companion pass for the past three years, which means we have been able to add our children as our “companions” all this time. With the companion pass, you only have to pay taxes and fees on your companion’s award flight, which means you can save those extra points for later.
- Points are easy to earn: Since Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Southwest at a 1:1 ratio, earning points is easy. Just sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for superior earning capabilities and the option to transfer points to Southwest at any time.
- Free checked bags: I love the fact that Southwest lets you check up to two 50-pound bags per person for free. Since checked bags typically cost at least $25 each with other airlines, this perk alone can help a family of four save $200 on round-trip domestic or international travel.
Best Ways to Use the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
Although the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card is valuable, it works best if paired with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. With both cards in your wallet, you can use the Southwest card for Southwest purchases, but still earn Southwest points by using the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for all of your everyday spending. One thing to note about this card, however, is that the annual fee is not waived the first year like it is with many other offers. Although the annual fee is well worth it, you should definitely consider the prospect of paying $69 to have this card for the first year.
Other Choices to Consider
Although the Southwest card is the best option for domestic travel, it still makes sense to research your other options. The following resources can help you in your search:
You can also explore the many other travel rewards cards we offer by sorting and filtering cards through our best rewards credit cards directory.
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