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We’ve known for sometime that a new premium Southwest Priority Credit Card was on the way and now it’s finally here. It’s loaded up with some interesting benefits like a travel credit, upgrade boardings, and a new tiered sign-up bonus.
But how does it compare to the Southwest Premier Card or even the Southwest Plus Card?
This article will take a detailed look to see how this new Southwest card compares to some of the established Southwest credit cards.
Southwest Priority Credit Card
First, here’s the entire rundown of highlights for the Southwest Priority Credit Card.
- Bonus spending:
- 2X Rapid Rewards on Southwest purchases
- 2X Rapid Rewards on hotel and car rental partner purchases.
- 1X Rapid Rewards on all other purchases
- $75 Southwest annual travel credit
- 7,500 anniversary points each year
- Four Upgraded Boardings per year when available.
- 20% back on in-flight drinks, WiFi, messaging, and movies
- No foreign transaction fees
- Earn tier qualifying points towards A-list Status
- $149 annual fee applied to your first billing statement
Not your typical premium card
When we think of premium travel rewards credit cards, it’s usually a card with a hefty $400+ annual fee that offers airport lounge access among other valuable travel perks. But this card is different.
Southwest doesn’t have an airport lounge network so there’s no surprise that lounge access is not a perk here. Instead, the additional value justifying the “semi-premium” price is going to come from the travel credit, upgrades, discounts, and the anniversary points.
These are benefits that could be very worthwhile to Southwest flyers but may not be as attractive to people who don’t normally fly Southwest.
I’ll discuss all of those in detail below.
Southwest Priority Credit Card Features
- Earn 40,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months from account opening
The new Southwest Priority Credit Card picks up on the trend that many other new credit cards are going with and offers a tiered sign-up bonus meant to provide you with an incentive to use their card.
The 40,000 Rapid Rewards after spending $1,000 in the first three months is a good offer but it’s also an offer that you usually can find with the Premier or Plus cards (which often even have better offers).
There have been public offers for the other Southwest cards for 60,000 Rapid Rewards in the past, so I struggle to see how this tiered sign-up bonus is that special.
With that said, this new card might mean that future sign-up bonuses are going to be different for the other Southwest cards. It might be less common for them to offer those sweet 60,000 point offers.
Luckily, you can still get the Southwest business card at 60,000 Rapid Rewards after spending $3,000 in the first three months right now.
- 2X Rapid Rewards on Southwest purchases
- 2X Rapid Rewards on hotel and car rental partner purchases.
- 1X Rapid Rewards on all other purchases.
This is probably the most disappointing aspect of the Southwest Priority Credit Card for me.
The Southwest Priority Credit Card offers the same bonus spending rates as the Southwest Premier and Southwest Plus. It seemed like this area was an easy way for the Southwest Priority Credit Card to make itself more attractive but that’s not the case.
In any event, I would look to Chase cards to earn Ultimate Rewards which can then be transferred to Southwest at better earning rates.
For example, I use the following Chase cards to rack up rewards:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x on dining and travel)
- Chase Freedom Unlimited (1.5X on every single purchase)
- Chase Freedom (5X on quarterly purchases)
- Chase Ink Cash (5X on office supply stores, telecommunications, and 2X at gas stations)
Those cards earn me way more points that could be transferred to Rapid Rewards than if I used my Southwest card.
$75 Southwest annual travel credit
The $75 Southwest annual travel credit will be issued on a cardmember anniversary basis.
It will automatically be applied to your account when your Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Priority Card for purchases (excluding Upgraded Boardings and inflight purchases). It’s not clear to me yet whether or not you can use this credit for Southwest EarlyBird.
It’s interesting that they made this the opposite of an airline incidental credit which we’re so used to seeing. It would have been nice if upgrades and in-flight purchases for wifi were covered but because flights are so cheap on Southwest, $75 can actually go pretty far at times.
Ultimately, this credit helps to offset the $159 annual fee down to $84, which makes this card much more attractive.
7,500 anniversary points each year
The Southwest Priority Card earns 7,500 anniversary points each year on your account’s anniversary. All of the Southwest cards offer anniversary points each year and this bonus is 1,500 more Rapid Rewards than what the Premier offers and 4,500 more than what the Plus offers.
If you value Southwest Rapid Rewards at 1.5 cents per point, then 7,500 anniversary points amounts to $112.50 in value received each year.
So with the $75 travel credit and the $112.50 in annual Rapid Rewards, that’s value at $187.50 received each year from the perks which already offsets the annual fee.
Four Upgraded Boardings per year when available
The Priority Card will offer you four upgraded boarding positions which are upgrades to Business Select boarding (A1-A15).
If you’re not aware, Southwest doesn’t offer a traditional business class or first class experience. They offer something called Business Select, which allows you to receive priority boarding.
This means you can grab the seats at the front of the airplane or within the emergency exit rows where the seats have a little more leg room or where you can grab a row with only two seats.
The amount of seats with more legroom/privacy depends on whether you’re flying on a 737-700 or 737-800. You can find out more information about the different types of seats in my Tips for Flying Southwest.
The amount of money it costs to upgrade depends on the length of the journey but you usually pay $30 to $50. So getting four upgraded boardings per year when available could be worth anywhere from $120 to $200. That’s quite a bit of value.
I know a lot of people don’t care for Southwest since there’s no true business class but I’ve always enjoyed upgrading and then grabbing one of the couple seats in the emergency exit row so Brad and I have our own row.
So I wouldn’t sleep on this benefit if you fly Southwest, but if you don’t usually fly with them, this isn’t exactly a very enticing upgrade benefit.
It’s worth noting that when you upgrade you’re usually not given the other Business Select perks like a free drink.
20% back on in-flight drinks, WiFi, messaging, and movies
Even though your Southwest $75 credit is not good for in-flight purchases, they do offer you a 20% discount on many of these purchases which is nice.
The Premier and the Plus do not offer this benefit.
No foreign transaction fees
Both the Southwest Premier and the Priority Credit Card do not come with foreign transaction fees. But it’s worth noting that the Southwest Plus Credit Card does come with foreign transaction fees.
Earn tier qualifying points towards A-list Status
Both the Priority Card and the Premier Card offer the same earning structure toward A-List status. Again, I thought this was another area where the Priority Card could have stood out a little.
You’ll earn 1,500 tier qualifying points (TQPs) for each $10,000 in purchases up to $100,000 in purchases annually which equal 15,000 TQP. TQPs can be used to count toward qualification for Rapid Rewards A-List or A-List Preferred status.
You need 35,000 tier qualifying points or 25 qualifying one-way flights per calendar year to qualify for A-List Status. A-List Members enjoy:
- Priority boarding
- Priority check-in and security lane access
- 25% more Rapid Rewards points earned on each flight (A-List Preferred receives a 100% bonus)
- Free same-day standby
- Dedicated A-List Member phone line
$149 annual fee
The Southwest Priority Credit Card comes with a $149 annual fee. Compare that to the Premier which has a $99 annual fee and Southwest Plus which comes with a $69 annual fee.
As you can see, it’s very easy to offset the $149 annual fee with the perks offered by this card. For that reason, I think it’s going to make a lot of sense to upgrade to this card in the future for the long-term game.
The Southwest Companion Pass
The Southwest Companion Pass allows a partner to fly for free with you for up to two calendar years. All you have to do is pay the fees (which are usually $5.60 for domestic travel) and they’ll be able to ride along for free.
In order to earn the The Southwest Companion Pass you need to earn 110,000 Rapid Rewards in a calendar year.
This card could make getting the Southwest Companion Pass much easier for some people.
By the time you hit the 65,000 Rapid Rewards sign-up bonus, you’d have 80,000 Rapid Rewards and if you do any kind of regular flying with Southwest, that would put you in a good position to earn the pass.
But if you’re thinking about going for the Southwest Companion Pass right now, I would hold off because until later in the year or early next year so that you could maximize the time that you’ll have the pass and be able to travel.
You also need to be aware of the restrictions discussed below regarding getting the sign-up bonuses for multiple Southwest credit cards.
Not available to all
It’s important to remember the new rules for Southwest credit cards that don’t allow you to pick up a sign-up bonus if you’ve received a sign-up bonus from another Southwest credit card in the past 24 months.
The terms and conditions explicitly state:
The product is not available to either (i) current Cardmembers of any Southwest Rapids Rewards® Credit Card, or (ii) previous Cardmembers of any Southwest Rapid Rewards Credit Card who received a new Cardmember bonus within the last 24 months. This does not apply to Cardmembers of the Southwest Rapid Rewards Business Card and Employee Credit Card products.
That last sentence is very important since the Business Southwest credit card is excluded.
That means that if you’re striving for the Companion Pass then one of the best things that you can do is go for the business card and one of the personal cards. Remember, the business credit card is offering 60,000 Rapid Rewards after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months right now.
Subject to 5/24
It’s also worth noting that the new Southwest Priority Credit Card is subject to Chase’s 5/24 rules, so if you’ve opened 5 or more credit cards in the past 24 months you won’t be eligible for the card. You can read more about 5/24 here and about other Chase application rules here.
Priority Credit Card vs Premier vs Plus
Here’s a chart breaking down some of the major differences for these cards.
|Features||Southwest Priority Credit Card||Southwest Premier Credit Card||Southwest Plus Credit Card|
|Sign-up Bonus||40K for $1K spend in 3 months||40K for $1K spend in 3 months||40K for $1K spend in 3 months|
|Bonus Earning||2X on Southwest, hotel and car rentals||2X on Southwest, hotel and car rentals||2X on Southwest, hotel and car rentals|
|Anniversary Bonus||7500 Rapid Rewards||6000 Rapid Rewards||3000 Rapid Rewards|
|Travel Credit||$75 Southwest annual travel credit||None||None|
|Upgrades||Four Upgraded Boardings per year when available.||None||None|
|In-flight Discount||20% back on in-flight drinks, WiFi, messaging, and movies||None||None|
|Foreign Transaction Fees||None||None||3%|
|Points towards A-list Status||1,500 TQP for each $10K in purchases up to $100K||1,500 TQP for each $10K in purchases up to $100K||None|
Is it worth it?
Right now the Southwest business card is offering a bonus of 60,000 Rapid Rewards after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. So if I were looking for a solid Southwest sign-up bonus, I’d probably go for that card if I had a business. (Read about tips for getting business credit cards here).
The other Southwest cards offer just as easy of a way to pick up 40,000 Rapid Rewards and in the past have offered bonuses of 50,000 and 60,000 for much less spend. So you might want to hold off on the personal cards for now unless you plan on putting a lot of spend ($15,000) on the Priority Card.
The Priority Card’s benefits will clearly offset the annual fee for a lot of people, so I think it’s a great travel rewards card for Southwest flyers. It’s just that you’ll want to consider whether it might be worth going for a Premier or Plus card first and then upgrading to the Priority so that you end up earning the easiest sign-up bonus option.
The Premier and Plus have offered higher sign-up bonuses in the past but now that the Priority is offering a new tiered structure up to 65,000 it makes me slightly nervous that we might see different bonuses for both the Premier and the Plus in the future.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.