Do You Know Which of the 4 Southwest Credit Cards Are Best for You?

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Update:   One or more card offers in this post are no longer available.  Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.

I’ve written a lot about the Southwest 50,000 point cards and why this is the best time to get the cards, especially if you want to earn a Companion Pass.  And why it is the #1 offer in my Hot Deals tab.

All 4 versions of the Southwest credit cards currently offer 50,000 Southwest points after spending $2,000 within 3 months.  Readers often ask about the difference between the Southwest cards and which of the cards they should get.

Southwest 50,000 Point Card

We Earned the Companion Pass Thanks to Southwest Credit Cards and Now Emily Flies With Me for Free (~$10 in taxes & fees)!

The 50,000 point offer is only available for a limited time.  But it’s usually offered every 3 to 4 months.

What Is the Southwest Companion Pass?

Link:   Southwest Credit Cards

Link:   Southwest Companion Pass

Emily and I LUV our Southwest Companion Pass!  It is one of the best ways for folks to save money on airline tickets for travel within the US and the Caribbean beginning July 1, 2014.

Why?  Because a companion can fly with you for free whenever you fly on Southwest.  And it doesn’t matter if you pay for your flight with points or cash – your companion flies free (~$10 in taxes and fees) either way!

You have to earn 110,000 Companion Pass qualifying points within 1 calendar year (January 1st to December 31st) to get the Companion Pass.

50,000 Point Southwest Premiere & Companion Pass

Signing Up for 2 Southwest Credit Cards Is the Fastest Route to Earning the Companion Pass

The 50,000 point bonus from the Southwest credit cards count towards the Companion Pass, so it’s very easy to earn the Southwest Companion Pass!

And Southwest has clarified that the 50,000 point sign-up bonus does count towards the Southwest Companion Pass.  Just be sure you don’t make these 3 mistakes that could cost you the Companion Pass.

Premier Cards vs. Plus Cards – What’s the Difference?

There are 4 versions of the Southwest card.

Link:   Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Link:   Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Business Credit Card

Link:   Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Link:   Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Business Credit Card

The Southwest Premier personal card & the Southwest Plus personal card both offer 50,000 Southwest points when you spend $2,000 within 3 months.  Here’s a table on the differences between the 2 versions.

 Southwest Premier CardSouthwest Premier Business CardSouthwest Plus Card
Sign-Up Bonus Points50,00050,00050,000
Spending• 2X Southwest points with Southwest
• 1X Southwest points on all other purchases
• 2X Southwest points with Southwest
• 1X Southwest points on all other purchases
• 2X Southwest points with Southwest
• 1X Southwest points on all other purchases
Anniversary Points6,0006,0003,000
Foreign Transaction FeesNoneNone3%
Annual Fee$99$99$69

1.  Annual Fee

The annual fee is NOT waived for the 1st year on either the Plus or Premier version of the Southwest credit card.  With the Southwest Premier card you will pay a $99 annual fee.  You will pay a lower annual fee of $69 with the Southwest Plus card.

But the extra $30 in annual fees for the Southwest Premier card could be worth it because you’ll avoid foreign transaction fees and get an anniversary bonus of Southwest points which almost makes up for the annual fee.

2.  Foreign Transaction Fees

The Southwest Premier card has no foreign transaction fees is on the list of no foreign transaction fees cards.  That said, I’d rather put my spending on other no foreign transaction fee cards such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred because I like the flexibility of being able to transfer points to different airlines and hotels (including Southwest), when I want to.


Just Say No to Foreign Transaction Fees!

You will pay a 3% foreign transaction fees on the Southwest Plus card.  So leave the Plus card at home when traveling!

3.  Anniversary Bonus

You get bonus points each year you keep your Southwest card.  The Premier version gets you 6,000 bonus points every year, while the Plus version gets you 3,000 bonus points.

6,000 points gets you ~$100 (6,000 Southwest points x 1.67 cents per point) in Southwest flights if redeemed before March 31, 2014 and ~$85 (6,000 Southwest points x 1.42 cents per point) when redeemed after March 31, 2014.

The Premier cards have an annual fee is $99, so the effective annual fee is quite low.

3,000 Southwest points gets you ~$50 (3,000 Southwest points x 1.67 cents per point) in free flights before March 31, 2014 and ~$43 (3,000 Southwest points x 1.42 cents per point) after March 31, 2014.  But the annual fee is $69.

Paying $30 more in annual fees for the Premier version to get 2X the amount of points when you pay each year’s annual fee is worth it to me.  If you don’t plan on keeping the card beyond 1 year and the other benefits of the Premier card don’t interest you, the Plus cards could make more sense.  But do what makes sense for you!

4.  Possible A-List Status = Early Boarding and More

You can earn A-List qualifying points (Tier Qualifying Points) from spending on the Southwest Premier cards but NOT on the Plus cards.  

These Southwest Tier Qualifying Points count towards A-List and A-List Preferred (top tier) elite status on Southwest.  You get A-List status after you’ve flown 25 one-way paid flights on Southwest or earn 35,000 A-List qualifying points in a calendar year.

To become an A-List Preferred member you have to fly 50 one-way paid flights on Southwest or earn 70,000 A-List qualifying points in a calendar year.

The 50,000 point sign-up bonus does NOT count towards A-List or A-List Preferred status!  You earn 1,500 A-List qualifying points (up to 15,000 per year) for every $10,000 you spend on the Premier card.

So you’d have to spend $100,000 to earn 15,000 A-List qualifying points, and then earn the remaining 20,000 Southwest points by flying.  But if you’re a Big Spender, that could be worth it.  But for most folks, this isn’t worth it.


Earn Points Towards Priority Boarding and Earning Bonuses With the Southwest Premier Card

A-List status (both A-List and A-List Preferred) gets you:

  • Priority Check-in
  • Early boarding
  • Bonus points on paid flights (25% for A-List and 100% for A-List Preferred)
  • Priority security lane access (where available).

Want Special Perks?  Fly 25 One-Way Flights on Southwest

As an A-List Preferred member you get free Wi-Fi so you can work (or play on Facebook and Twitter) while you fly!

Bottom Line

You currently get 50,000 points on the Southwest credit cards.  The Southwest Premier card gets you more benefits such as a higher anniversary bonus, tier qualifying points, and no foreign transaction fees.  But you pay a higher annual fee of $99.

The Southwest Plus card has a lower annual fee of only $69, but you get a smaller anniversary bonus and you’ll pay foreign transaction fees.

Emily and I LUV our Southwest Companion Pass!  We use it all the time and think it’s the best deal for travel within the US and the Caribbean starting July 1, 2014.

Now’s among the best time to apply for any of the Southwest credit cards because all 4 versions offer a 50,000 point sign-up bonus which currently counts towards the Companion Pass.  And if you earn the companion pass in 2014, it is valid until the end of 2015.

But I wouldn’t worry about missing the offer, because I’m pretty sure that the 50,000 point offer will back again.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Neither the responses below nor the editorial content on this page are provided or commissioned by the bank advertisers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertisers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers’ responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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41 responses to “Do You Know Which of the 4 Southwest Credit Cards Are Best for You?

  1. Darius – what should be the timing of applying for a personal and business SW card? Thanks for all the help you are to new frequent fliers!

  2. I’m a little confused about earning the companion pass. In order to earn it, I have to earn 110,000 miles in 1 calander year? So if I get approved for 3 of the 4 cards, do I automatically earn the companion pass? Lets say I get approved for 2 cards and meet the minumum spends. Can I then manufacture 10,000$ in spending (1 point per 1$ spent) to get the 10,000 additional points needed? Thank you!!

  3. Darius, great blog!

    Question: I have had southwest premier for roughly six months now. In terms of getting the card again, what would be my best bet? Cancelling and reapplying? Trying to apply for the plus?


  4. Anyone booking flights with money – I will book for 25% off so I can use the 50,000 points I have in my account.

    Gift cards are worth $500 but points get around $900 in flights.

  5. Daraius,
    Do you recommend obtaining all 4 SW cards in order to get 200,008 points, essentially doubling that amount by having a companion?

  6. @ bob

    Yea that’s how it works. Although, technically if you already met the 2K spend on each card you would only have to spend an additional 6K.

  7. @bob Yes, and yes….

  8. Twice in one week? The main article? Man is this going to disappear.

  9. Everyone can agree that the Southwest companion pass is a great deal.
    However, as far as earnings per $ expended using any of the Southwest credit cards, the return is currently only 1.67 cents and will further drop to 1.43 cents per mile after devaluation.
    Wouldn’t be do better buying our Southwest tickets outright using a Barclay Arrival card and pocketing 2.2 cents per mile? Additionally we would be earning Rapid reward points buying a revenue ticket.

  10. The Big Easy Traveler

    Many of you may know the way to A-List without spending $100k. If I am correct, and please bear with me if I am not. The 1st 15 A – List positions are for A-List preferred, their top flyers. The next 15 A – List positions are for those that purchase Early Bird ($12.50 per flight). Positions A 30-60, this is where I land every time, are for those that check in at exactly the 24 hour mark before departure. I hope this is helpful for someone.

  11. At the end of the post you mention the offer likely repeating. But I must be missing when this one expires – can somebody advise when it does?

  12. Sorry Daraius, I’m done. This was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back. Thanks for everything you’ve taugh tme, but this will be the last time I will be visiting your blog. There is plenty more to write about other than the CP. It’s almost a constant on here. Same content, same pictures… literally nothing has changed about the CP. Chase UR points STILL don’t count towards it. You still need 110k points in a calendar year to obtain it. The cards still aren’t churnable. Nothing. Has. Changed. Your blog wasn’t always like this. I get that you want to put out content every day, but I roll my eyes when every couple of posts is CP information. Best of luck to you.

  13. That’s weird, someone posted with the same name 8 minutes before me… Trust me, I wasn’t asking when the offer expires. Already have the CP

  14. @Big easy – actually, A1-15 is for folks that purchase the most expensive fares(business select). A16 is where A-list preferred start, followed by A-list and once they’re all prioritized boarding of the 24 hour folks begins. Of course, we are all behind the travellers from previous segments and the pre-boarders who take the bulkhead seats.

  15. I’m the other Steve. Guess our parents both liked that name.

  16. Steve— Oh how we will miss you so much. Please, don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

    Anyways- Currently at 102,000 for the CP— has anyone had any experience with the new Rapid Rewards Dining? I have found that on the website there are a couple restaurants and lounges that I frequent out here in Vegas that you could earn 3x Rapid Rewards on.

    On top of this– You don’t even need to have one of the Chase SW cards. From what I understand, you could link your Barclays Arrival card to the RR Dining and be getting your typical 2.2 return on the Arrival card and still get the 3x RR.

    Let me know if any of you are doin’ this and we can shoot some ideas back and forth. I’d like to have the CP in my hands within the next month or two.

  17. I have the PLUS Business and Personal cards, and have received a Companion Pass which will expire at the end of 2014.

    Assuming that the programs will remain as-is, would it be possible to apply for PREMIER Business and Personal cards at the end of this year, and work towards obtaining another CP expiring at the end of 2016?

  18. Chance–I’ve used the RR dining. I think we got around 2,000 bonus miles for our first two dines in addition to the 3x points for dining. Plus they’ll keep giving you specials where you can earn 500 or 1000 bonus points by dining by a certain date. We use our Marriott cc for this since it gets 2x for dining. We also use the dining programs through AA and United, which give 5x points once you reach a certain status.

  19. Scott-

    Thata boy- Sounds awesome. I may just rely on that to get the rest of the points for my CP. Did you just link your cards to the RR dining program and go to said restaurants? Or do you have to find the restaurants on the RR Dining website and enroll in each specific one?

  20. I currently have the Premiere personal card, so yes I got the 50K points. However, I called Chase the other day to see if this works, they shot me down saying this 50K points is only available once per Southwest account. Is this true for anyone else?

  21. Was approved today for both the personal & business premier. I’m very excited because I see many trips to Mexico & the Caribbean on miles and the companion pass through 2015. Darius, how do you maintain the companion pass beyond 2015? If you have 110K miles in your account on Jan. 1, 2016, does that extend the companion pass or do you have to acquire an additional 110K miles?

  22. If I apply for the Southwest business card, can I treat the annual fee as business expense? it is kinda like bank business service fees, which can be deducted.

    • @Kay – Some folks do it on the same day and some folks do it after 3 months. I’d apply for the personal card first and then the business card.

      @bob – If you get 3 out of 4 cards, you will get 150,000 points which is enough for the Companion Pass. You can earn the remaining points by spending on the card or using these tips.

      @josh – There are 4 versions and some folks manage to get the bonus on different versions. Or you can have your partner apply for the card.

      @Steve Latour – That will be tough to do. I’d rather get 2 cards now, and the other 2 cards when it is time to get the Companion Pass again.

      @moonlite – Of course.

      @Steve – Not sure when it will expire, but it usually comes and goes every 3 to 4 months. This offer has been around since early January.

      @Steve – I still get lots of questions, comments, and emails on the Companion Pass. Thanks for stopping by and all the best.

      @Chance – I don’t have recent experience with Rapid Rewards dining, but usually the base points count towards the Companion Pass. See this post on more ways to earn the remaining points for the Companion Pass.

      @DaveO – That’s what many folks do.

      @David – Congrats! You have to get 110K Companion Pass points in your account to get the Companion Pass. You could apply for different versions of the cards in 2015. Or have your partner apply for the cards instead.

      @Amy – I’d ask your accountant, but you can usually deduct legitimate business expenses.

  23. Steve "not those guys:"

    Does the 1,000 pt bonus for using TurboTax count towards the companion pass? You can use the free version of the software which makes it points for free if you have simple taxes.

  24. I just made a purchase at Walmart through the SW RR shopping portal, and the 900 points I earned counted towards my companion pass! I’m sure I’ve read that before, but I always go through Chase’s portal; with this knowledge, I’ll have my companion pass in no time!

  25. So in @DaveO (and my) cases- should we cancel the two cards we already have before trying to apply for the two cards we haven’t gotten yet? Or have people had success opening and keeping 4 sw cards simultaneously?

  26. So to apply for the additional two cards (already have cp expiring at the end of this year) should I cancel the two sw cards I currently have first? Does anyone have experience with this? Thanks!

  27. No such luck for me. I applied for both the business and personal cards. Got immediate approval @ 12k CL for the personal. Business card said “needs further review”. I called the reconsideration line for business, and he told me it was auto-declined, but he would review it and see. He asked a ton of questions, reviewed my report and then still turned me down. Said that the initial decline was for “too many apps”, even though I had only applied for these two cards, then after review he said i have too much credit out on my cards today. I think the problem is that I pay off my AADVANTAGE card every month, but I don’t do so before the statement cycles, so it always shows a 4-6k balance on it..

    So.. Should I pay it off before the statement closes and try again next month or will I need to wait a few months before applying again? Really want to get the additional card so I can get the 100k points, I’ve already got close to 10k RR points posted to my account this year so all I need are the two cards to make it! 🙂

  28. Patryce Hackshaw

    I have the SW premier reward visa, I have 60,000 points, can I apply for the SW plus card to get the other 50k points to get the companion pass? Do they give you a second card even if you have the other? Do I have to hold those points until I get the total 110,000 before I can use them to get the companion pass? I am just trying to understand how the point thing work. Thanks 🙂

  29. Please Help – I just applied for the Chase Southwest Plus business card and got “approval pending”. Then I remembered I already signed my business up with Chase 6 months ago on the Chase Ink Business Card (which is probably why my approval is pending for the Southwest card). Can I get advice on how to get approved for the Southwest business plus card at this point?

  30. I should also add, can you have 2 business cards with Chase associated with the same business? Is there something I can tell them that will let me do that?

  31. Darius
    How do you know that the card will qualify for the companion pass? When you blogged about this last fall, I waited as I had gotten a 50,000 miles bonus offer in the mail. However, when I called I was told that I could get a card with 50,000 bonus miles but it would not qualify for the companion pass. Today, when I clicked on from you site for the card, I did not see anything indicating the card would qualify. Also, thank you for your continue posting on the SW cards as not all of us are savvy travelers and are still learning.

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  35. I have called Southwest multiple times to check and they said that whether the ‘current offer’ is 25,000 points ($1000 spent) or 50,000 points ($2000 spent), you can get the 50,000 if you spend $2000, you just have to call and request it. So basically, no need to wait around until the 50,000 is offered, just apply and call once you spend $2000 and you will get the 50,000!

  36. What is considered a Companion Pass Qualifying Purchase? Aside from 50K points per approved CC, does the purchase have to be a travel or flight related purchase? Can it be a regular day to day purchase to fill up the other 10K points needed?